GM for the Day: Cincinnati Reds

I live in Cincinnati and rooted for Eric Davis and Barry Larkin growing up, so this one is a little closer to the heart than my other GMFTD posts, so…DEAL WITH IT!  The Reds are in an interesting “on-their-way” and “toiling-in-mediocrity” combination.  Having won the NL Central in 2010, going 91-71, they reverted back to their overmanaged selves under Dusty Baker, going 79-83 to finish 3rd in the Central.  Baker is now 322-326 (.497) since taking over in 2008.  They have a foundation of young talent in the Majors with several pieces on their way to the Majors.  However, there seems to be some confusion on what to do with who they have right now.  That is where I, and my extreme hatred for everything that Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker stand for, come in.

Current 25-man roster:

Catcher: Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco

1B: Joey Votto

2B: Brandon Phillips

3B: Scott Rolen

SS: Zack Cozart

LF: Chris Heisey

CF: Drew Stubbs

RF: Jay Bruce

Bench: Paul Janish (INF), Juan Francisco (3B), Yonder Alonso (1B/LF) and Dave Sappelt (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Edinson Volquez

Relief Pitchers: Nick Masset, Aroldis Chapman, Bill Bray, Logan Ondrusek, Jose Arredondo, Sam LeCure and Carlos Fisher

Rumors were flying about the Reds trading Yonder Alonso to the A’s for Andrew Bailey (http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/11/reds-talking-about-andrew-bailey-deal.html), but that would have been dumber than telling Alonso that he couldn’t play LF anymore.  As the GM of the Reds, this is what I would look at:

1) Chris Heisey is overrated.

Chris Heisey has 480 AB in his career.  He has 26 HR and THAT is reason for people to be excited about.  However, he has struck out 135 times, 25.3% of his AB.  He mashes, but only against RHP, posting a .288/.346/.539 career slash, with 22 of his 26 HR against RHP.  He is just a .180/.246/.300 hitter against LHP.  He is an opposite platoon partner.  Should the Reds look for a left-handed hitter that rakes against LHP?  Is that possible?  How do you platoon for Heisey, especially if you had Yonder Alonso as his platoon-mate in LF?  Alonso has a .337/.388/.526 slash against RHP and just .136/.208/.273 against LHP.  For all of the love that Heisey gets as a potential long-term option for the Reds, he strikes out just a little less than Drew Stubbs (career 28.9% K-rate, which gets Stubbs hatred in Cincinnati) and he’ll be 27-years-old on Opening Day.  Not really a guy to build around at this point, but he could provide a really awkward platoon for you.

2) Yonder Alonso’s long-term value is being overlooked.

Joey Votto doesn’t want to sign an extension, so he won’t be in Cincinnati long.  Who plays first when he is gone?  Alonso, right?  Nope.  Alonso seems to get thrown under the bus for his defensive inefficiencies at every turn.  He certainly isn’t a Gold Glove outfielder, but he is still learning how to play the outfield.  Alonso isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015 due to the Major League contract he signed coming out of college.  He is the type of player that a “small-market team” needs to keep.  Due to revenue sharing and TV contracts, teams need to knock off all of that “we don’t have the money” bullcrap, but if you want to be a cheap bastard of an owner, you keep guys like Alonso.  Put him in left on Opening Day, let him rake and if you want to trade someone, trade Votto and his “small-market crippling” contract, which will pay him $17 million in 2013.  See what you have.  Don’t give him away when you clearly don’t have a long-term direction.  Simple as that.

3) Don’t pay a closer $10 million + per year when you have a dominant closer in-house.

Certainly, Aroldis Chapman could be an absolutely DOMINANT closer.  His 105 MPH fastball isn’t going to be anything but a 96 MPH fastball as a starter.  His slider will be disgusting for an inning, but what about at the 96th pitch of the game?  What about his off and on control issues?  Not a big deal as a relief pitcher, yet, absolutely devastating to your bullpen when you have a guy going three innings every five days, see Dontrelle Willis and Rick Ankiel.  You have enough depth at starting pitcher right now that you’ll be sending Travis Wood to the Minors to start the season and the Reds have gotten away with starting guys like Dontrelle Willis, Pete Harnisch and Pete Schourek as reclamation projects in the past, so just snag a guy like Zach Duke, Rodrigo Lopez, John Maine, or Kyle Davies on a Minor League or incentive-laden deal.  You also have a closer in the making in Brad Boxberger coming through the system quickly, probably arriving in 2012, so you can stretch Chapman out later.  Get value out of him while you can.  When he is a free agent, he won’t be re-signing with Cincinnati’s “small-market” money.

As the GM for the Reds, I don’t do a whole lot.  I do, however, make sure that if my manager doesn’t play the pieces that are key to the future, that I’ll be sticking a toothpick down his peehole and firing him.  I’m going young because I trust the guys that I have seen.  Cozart has done enough in Triple-A to get a full look, and Paul Janish is a good enough backup to keep the spot warm if he struggles.  You have a very talented, young 3B who needs to learn some defensive skills, and who better to train him than the aging Scott Rolen?  You have a potential masher in LF, and while he may be a liability in the outfield, you have to see what you have.  You have a lot of talent in the rotation, they just need to not shoplift (Leake), throw more strikes (Volquez), stay on the field (Bailey), and keep the ball in the ballpark (Arroyo).  They are capable of winning the NL Central with this 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Devin Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan

1B: Joey Votto

2B: Brandon Phillips

3B: Scott Rolen

SS: Zack Cozart

LF: Yonder Alonso

CF: Drew Stubbs

RF: Jay Bruce

Bench: Chris Heisey (OF), Juan Francisco (1B/3B), Paul Janish (INF), Dave Sappelt (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo (in that order, phase out Arroyo as the #5 starter since he’ll be gone after 2013 or if you can find some sucker to take on even a portion of his contract)

Bullpen: Aroldis Chapman, Nick Masset, Bill Bray, Logan Ondrusek, Sam LeCure, Jose Arredondo and Brad Boxberger

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