Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’

Inspecting the Prospects – The Cueto Deal

 

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been keeping an eye on Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds deadline for quite some time, but you can’t blame a Cincinnati native and long-time Reds fan for being a homer. The deal that finally happened on Sunday, which resulted in the Cincinnati ace landing in Kansas City to anchor the Royals’ rotation in their push towards the playoffs, was something that was anticipated for months. Unfortunately, my prediction from this offseason, which had him landing in Boston, flopped about as much as the Red Sox have this season. Still, Cincinnati is left with a lot of question marks, especially since management isn’t done making moves. If you’re like me, you understand that this deal needed to happen so that the Reds could regroup and be competitive in a couple of years. If you’re pissed off because the Reds just traded their ace and have no one readily available to take on that role – you may want to take a step back from the ledge.

The Reds are headed towards a new era, and likely one with several years of trying to figure things out, resulting in 90 or more losses per season; however, Sunday’s deal was a tremendous start in showing that they are capable of righting the ship quickly. Here is some reaction from the experts:

The "major" piece in the deal, LHP Brandon  Finnegan Courtesy: kansascity.com

The “major” piece in the deal, LHP Brandon Finnegan
Courtesy: kansascity.com

About Finnegan:

“…Coming to the Reds, there is no reason he shouldn’t be given another chance to lengthen out into a starting role. Finnegan has the arsenal of a starting pitcher and while he is short, he has some present strength. If Finnegan moves back into a starting role, he needs to work on regaining the feel for his changeup. As a reliever, he’s largely junked the pitch but it was above-average at times when he was pitching as a starter in college. This year Finnegan has largely focused on using his 92-95 mph fastball and his slider which flashes above-average.” – J.J. Cooper, Baseball America

“…Finnegan’s changeup is obviously going to be the separator there, as far as any hope of starting goes. It’s a genuinely strong pitch, able to generate whiffs and ground balls against right-handers in its limited exposure to date. He has an excellent sinker/slider combination, although neither have yet passed the MLB test in more than a single trip through the order. If he can wield that change as a weapon against righties in larger samples, he’s a starter, and probably a good one.” – Baseball Prospectus

The "Wild Card" in the deal, LHP John  Lamb Courtesy: royalrevival.blogspot.com

The “Wild Card” in the deal, LHP John Lamb
Courtesy: royalrevival.blogspot.com

About Lamb:

“…He now sits 88-93 mph, but he’ll touch 95 occasionally. More importantly he’s added a cutter that has quickly become a pitch that compensates for his still fringy curveball. His changeup isn’t as good as it was pre-injury but it’s an average offering as well.” – J.J. Cooper, Baseball America

“…Though Lamb still can hit 96 mph on occasion, he has lost a couple of ticks off his fastball and usually works from 89-93. His changeup isn’t the weapon it once was, so he has come up with a low-80s cutter to keep right-handers at bay. He also has a soft curveball that wasn’t much of a factor before he got hurt.After battling his control and command in his first two Triple-A stints, Lamb has thrown more strikes and was doing a better job of keeping the ball down in the zone in 2015. He won’t be the frontline starter he once projected to be, but he could help the Reds in the near future.” – Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

“…He works with a 90-92 mph fastball, and he still possesses a plus change that has excellent deception from arm speed with some downward movement to it as well. The curve will never be much more than a 45 offering—and he’ll likely need to add some velocity to it. The key is the development of his cutter, which many scouts attribute his 2015 step forward to. If it can continue to be another weapon for him, he stands a good chance to be a competent back-end starter.” – Baseball Prospectus

The piece with the helium, LHP Cody  Reed Courtesy: milb.com

The piece with the helium, LHP Cody Reed
Courtesy: milb.com

About Reed:

“…With a better finish to his delivery, he developed the ability to locate more consistently down in the zone, allowing his 92-95 mph fastball (which touches 97 mph at its best) to play better down in the zone. It has late life when he elevates it as well. Reed flashes an above-average slider that he can now throw for strikes as well as using as a chase pitch. And his once fringy changeup has improved to become an average offering.” – J.J. Cooper, Baseball America

“…Reed works with a 90-94 mph fastball that peaks at 96 and has some sinking and cutting action. He has greatly improved his changeup this season, and at times it’s his second-best offering. Reed always had the athleticism to repeat his delivery but struggled to do so before 2015. Now he’s more aggressive and filling the strike zone with ease, showing the potential to become a mid-rotation starter with three solid-or-better pitches.” – Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

“…The improved control gives him a chance to start, but of the three arms acquired, this is the one who is the most likely to end up in the bullpen.” – Baseball Prospectus

In Cueto, Kansas City is getting a dynamic starter who has managed to go 60-31 with a 2.51 ERA (3.33 FIP), 1.05 WHIP, and 7.7 K:9 since the start of the 2011 season, covering 808 innings over 121 starts (6.7 IP/start). He’ll likely take Yordano Ventura‘s rotation spot, as he was just shipped to Triple-A prior to the injury to Jason Vargas, and he’ll be exactly what the team needs, an ace, while the Royals’ defense will only make him look better than he did in Cincinnati.

Being left-handed and breathing is an excellent way to score an opportunity in baseball. The fact that the Reds were able to get three left-handed pitchers who can touch the mid-90’s with their fastballs for three months of Cueto is a coup. This deal was very even, and even though Cincinnati will need to wait and see what happens with these young arms, the Reds did just as well to get the pieces that they needed as what the Royals did in getting the ace that they needed.

Cincinnati fans need to understand that this is just the beginning of several changes. If Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Phillips, and Marlon Byrd are still with the team on August 1st, Walt Jocketty is doing it wrong. This team hasn’t won a World Series since 1990, and those players aren’t going to bring another to Cincinnati. Scrap it and start over. While it is painful to go through a process, just remember that things could be worse, even if we may not be able to say it much longer – Thanks, Cubs!

What Kind of Prospects Can Cueto Bring Cincinnati?

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Johnny Cueto will not be a Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher come August 1st. The question is no longer if but when the right-handed ace gets traded by Cincinnati, and, just what is he going to be worth?

Cueto, a free agent after the season, will be owed less than $5 million over the rest of the season. He will not net the team that receives him a draft pick if he leaves in free agency, so does that mean the Reds won’t receive a generous package for him?

For comparisons sake, there have been a few free agency bound starters who were traded over the last several years:

Jon Lester was dealt by the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland Athletics, along with Jonny Gomes, last season for Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance (Round B) pick. Cespedes, an All-Star last season, was under team-control for 2015 ($10.5 million), but he was dealt to Detroit over the winter for RHP Rick Porcello, who was under control for 2015 before signing a four-year extension. Lester, 30 at the time of the trade, was a year older than Cueto, yet, he had six seasons with 190 or more innings pitched in his career, while Cueto only has two. Lester would leave Oakland for a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs after the 2014 season.

Courtesy: mlbdailydish.com

Courtesy: mlbdailydish.com

Zack Greinke was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 for Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena. Segura headlined the deal, ranking No.55 overall (by both MLB.com and Baseball America) prior to the 2012 season. He earned an All-Star appearance in 2013 and was a fixture at shortstop for the Brewers by August after the deal. Greinke was 29 at the time of the deal, the same age as Cueto, and had reached 200 innings in three seasons during his career at the time of the deal. Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million deal with the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2012 season.

CC Sabathia was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and a player to be named, who became Michael Brantley. LaPorta was the supposed prize of the package, as he ranked the No.23 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season. Sabathia would go on to sign his eight-year, $182 million deal with the New York Yankees after having shown himself as a dynamic workhorse with seven seasons with at least 180 innings pitched and a Cy Young award by the age of 27, when he was traded. The Indians have benefited most from Brantley, who was an All-Star for the first time in 2014, but LaPorta hasn’t been in the majors since 2012 and is now out of organized baseball after compiling a .238/.301/.393 line over 1,068 career plate appearances in MLB.

It is anyone’s guess as to what Cueto is actually worth; however, these deals provide a sort of blueprint for what the Reds could be seeking. Below are the names of some teams who are rumored to be interested in trading for the Reds’ ace, and some prospects who may interest Cincinnati.

Kansas City Royals

Could the Reds snag Mondesi in a deal with the Royals? Courtesy: Fox Sports

Could the Reds snag Mondesi in a deal with the Royals?
Courtesy: Fox Sports

Raul Mondesi – ranked 27th by Baseball Prospectus, he has moved quickly through the minors and has more glove and speed than offensive production to this point; however, he has projectability in his ability to hit the ball. He would be a tremendous get for the Reds, though, they may have him spend some time in the minors to let his game even out a bit.

Miguel Almonte – Almonte doesn’t have eye-popping numbers like some prospects have in the minors, but he would be a solid addition to the Reds rotation by mid-2016. He has three solid offerings, including a change that he can use as a punch-out pitch. He was ranked as the No.56 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2015 season.

Scott Blewett – A 6’6″, 19-year-old right-hander, Blewett possesses electric stuff. He is only in the short season South Atlantic League, so he is a project, but he has the kind of fastball that would make him a nice additional piece in a possible deal including either of the two players above.

Jorge Bonifacio – This 22-year-old outfielder hasn’t lived up to his potential to this point, but he has a dynamic arm for right field and plenty of power potential. He was rated as the No.90 prospect in baseball prior to the 2014 season, but saw his stock fall a bit due to some struggles in Double-A. Now repeating the level, Bonifacio has 18 doubles and 15 homers. Again, he isn’t a centerpiece in a Cueto deal, but he would be a solid piece.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Chris Anderson – The big (6’3″, 235 pounds) right-hander has the makings of an innings-eating, mid-rotation starter. He was a first round pick in 2013 out of Jacksonville University, and he would be someone who could help the Reds by the middle of the 2016 season, having already made 17 starts at Double-A. He has three potential above average pitches in his fastball, slider, and change.

Jose De Leon – The 22-year-old right-hander has catapulted himself into prospect watcher’s eyes by striking out 251 batters in just 171 innings since the start of the 2015 season. Ranked as the No.7 prospect in the Dodger system by Baseball Prospectus prior to the season, he will give Julio Urias a run for the money in a race to Los Angeles, and may have performed his way out of becoming a piece in a trade.

Toronto Blue Jays

Is Norris worth giving up for a run in Toronto? Courtesy: Jays Journal

Is Norris worth giving up for a run in Toronto?
Courtesy: Jays Journal

Daniel Norris – The 22-year-old left-hander jumped four level, all the way to Toronto, by dominating at every stop last season. His reward was five starts to begin April with the Blue Jays before being sent down to work on his craft. He hasn’t dominated in Triple-A this season, but he has the stuff to be an asset in Cincinnati. He would be a tremendous addition, though his No.17 prospect ranking by MLB.com prior to the season could make him a long-shot.

Jairo Labourt – The 21-year-old lefty looked solid in the Futures Game. He has a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s and can miss bats (9.8 K:9 last season), but he needs to work on his command (5.2 BB:9 this season). He would make for an interesting project.

Anthony Alford – After giving up football, Alford has taken off this season. In 20 games since being promoted to High-A Dunedin, he has a .349/.406/.523 triple-slash with 10 extra-base hits and six stolen bases. As a center fielder with tremendous athleticism, he could take over the gig if Billy Hamilton continues to lack the on-base skills necessary to utilize his speed in the near future.

 

All-Star Sunday in Cincinnati

20150712_140910I was seven in 1988, the year that the All-Star Game was last played in Cincinnati. I don’t remember any of the area’s festivities, but I remember that Terry Steinbach hit a home run that cost the National League the game, which was devastating as a Reds’ fan. Today, at the age of 34, I was able to go to Great American Ballpark to enjoy All-Star Sunday, thanks to a Father’s Day gift from my wife and daughter.

It was a great day for baseball, especially since we were under cover when the pop-up showers finally arrived. The initial experience upon walking in wasn’t too bad. The gates opened at 1:00, on time, and the early-arriving fans moved through ticketing and security quickly. We immediately headed towards left field, hoping to watch batting practice and, perhaps, land a ball from a prospect. Batting practice for the opposing team is open to the public for Reds’ games, and early-arriving fans can partake in tracking down balls hit into the stands without any problems. Unfortunately, the ushers weren’t allowing that today. They refused anyone without a ticket for that area to enter the section. After being turned away and heading to our regular seats, we watched batting practice with an empty left field seating area; in fact, the whole stadium remained nearly barren until about an hour into the Futures Game. As a fan who attends many games throughout the season, changing operating procedures without any announcement seemed pretty Bush League. Luckily, we were able to move on from that.

You're gonna do this now??? Right before the game???

You’re gonna do this now??? Right before the game???

The festivities were interesting prior the to Futures Game starting; however, just before the game started, the Budweiser Clydesdales were brought out for a lap around the warning track and field, stomping up the dirt and requiring a quick dragging, leading to a slight delay. The introductions were great, as the youngsters were called out and the few in attendance occasionally acknowledged that a game was about to start. Tony Perez (World) and Ken Griffey, Sr. (U.S.A.) received the loudest cheers from fans for their years of service and the never-ending love of the “Big Red Machine”.

Lucas Giolito started the game and looked very impressive. He was the biggest name that I wanted to see at the event. He didn’t disappoint with his fastball that sat 95-98 and a pretty sick looking breaking ball. Giolito is going to make the Nationals even better whenever he reaches the majors, adding to that already impressive rotation.

The Reds fans in attendance got a great look at the kind of talent that is going to be a burden for them in the future. Division-rival Pittsburgh has Josh Bell on the rise through the minors, and he showed off his power with a shot to right:

The World roster struggled to plate their baserunners throughout the day, scattering 10 hits and scoring just an unearned run. They had several impressive players, but the range of guys like Orlando Arcia (Milwaukee shortstop) and Raul Mondesi, Jr. (Kansas City shortstop) was incredible, including Arcia’s sick play up the middle:

However, it was the powerful sticks of the U.S.A. roster that overwhelmed the World on Sunday, as game MVP, Middletown, Ohio-native, and Chicago Cubs’ catcher Kyle Schwarber, led the club to a 10-1 victory:

Overall, the players who impressed me the most were Giolito, Astros’ RHP Mark Appel (sat 95-97 with fastball), Blue Jays’ LHP Jairo Labourt (chubby babyface with mid-90’s heat), and Reds’ LHP Amir Garrett (who had an easy delivery and hit the mid-90’s).
If you’re interested in guys who will continue to gain helium in the prospect world in the coming months, I would be all over Rangers’ OF Nomar Mazara, Rockies’ OF Raimel Tapia, Nationals’ SS Trea Turner, and Phillies’ SS J.P. Crawford, as well as all of the others mentioned above.

After the Futures Game, we got to hear two songs from Billy Currington, a country singer, who didn’t really impress due to the strange acoustics that the stadium provided. That mini-concert allowed the fence and bases to be installed for the Celebrity Softball Game, which was entertaining for a little while, but, after the American League team dropped 12 runs in an inning, made an early-exit to the garage and a drive home quite welcoming.

Great American Ballpark looks great and is always a great place to watch the game. The club spent a lot of time and money on recent upgrades, including the new right field HD Jumbotron, to make this event special. With rain in the forecast, the fact that they forgot a retractable roof is kind of sad.

I’m sure that the Reds will make this event special. The thing that I’ll take away from this, however, is that they pretty much blew the whole concept of this being a fan event when they chose to restrict access for batting practice when it was advertised on MLB.com as a public event. Fortunately, the talent was able to save the day…but with the Reds looking at a potential fire-sale over the next month, they can’t say that for their day-to-day operations going forward. Cincinnati came together for a big event that covered the whole town with baseball excitement. Here’s to hoping for growth for the game and not just for the owner’s pocket!

Trade Deadline Doom and Boom

mericaAs we celebrate Independence Day in the United States, we feel that pounding in our chests from the explosions high above, while many of us listen or watch our favorite baseball teams and eat apple pie. It is the epitome of America in a single day, but many of us are reminded that our teams just aren’t doing enough to win. Some of our favorite teams will be seeking help to improve their chances of winning, while others will begin dumping talent to build a winner next year. With less than four weeks remaining until the non-waiver trade deadline, where does your team stand? Does the additional Wild Card opportunity continue to lead to many clubs standing pat? Who needs what and who could be on the market?

The standings tell an interesting story. In the American League, there isn’t a single team more than six games out of the Wild Card hunt. The Oakland Athletics feature a 38-46 record after some huge deals this winter haven’t truly materialized as Billy Beane hoped; however, the A’s are 13-7 over their last 20 games, so they may not be as willing to deal a Ben Zobrist or Scott Kazmir (both free agents after the 2015 season) to continue the club’s unending rebuild and collection of controllable talent. With other woulda-coulda-shoulda-been contenders just ahead of Oakland in Seattle, Boston, and Chicago, the American League could see plenty of clubs reloading rather than rebuilding when the deadline approaches.

In the senior circuit, the National League has its share of contending teams, but they also have four clubs sitting 11 or more games under .500 (Miami, Colorado, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia). Another team that is on the border of Wild Card contention could be Cincinnati, who sits six games out in the Wild Card; however, with the St. Louis Cardinals leading the Reds by 15 games, the team may need to begin looking into dealing Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and/or Jay Bruce to get back on the same page as their NL Central foes. Even if the Reds aren’t sellers, names like Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dan Haren, and Mat Latos will likely head elsewhere from the four bottom-feeding clubs.

So, where could these names end up? Who are the contenders likely to make deals or stand pat?

Buyers

BARF!!! Courtesy: Twitter.com

BARF!!!
Courtesy: Twitter.com

St. Louis Cardinals

It isn’t an even year, so the Giants won’t be taking the World Series championship. That leaves the Cardinals, who have the best record in baseball, locked-in and ready to seek another title, utilizing the “Cardinal Way”, aka computer hacking, to make it happen. Though they continue to win games, St. Louis is without Matt Adams and Adam Wainwright for the entire season. With Jaime Garcia continuing to struggle to stay healthy, St. Louis could be in the market for another bat or arm. Stephen Piscotty could get a look if Mark Reynolds isn’t the option at first, but the Cards would be wise to shore-up the rotation a bit – just in case another injury strikes. They’re again loaded and talented, and they could take advantage of their strong farm to improve their chances once again.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are just three games out in the AL East and 1.5 games out in the Wild Card. With their lineup featuring so many capable sluggers, they just need some pitching to get over the hump. Toronto continues to develop strong pitching prospects, so they could offer some of that talent to acquire an arm for a big push down the stretch. The Blue Jays’ 4.59 starter ERA ranks 26th in MLB, and you have to wonder if Hamels, Kazmir, or Cueto could help the pitching staff enough to allow Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion to do their thing with the bats.

New York Mets

The Mets’ pitching staff is too good for the club to run out a lineup of Triple-A and MLB bench quality players on a nightly basis. While the club isn’t going to deal their entire farm system and start from scratch, the Mets would be wise to deal some of their young pitching depth to acquire some semblance of an offensive weapon. The Troy Tulowitzki rumors were a big thing earlier this season, but that wouldn’t be enough to help this lineup on its own, especially when he’d be replacing one of the Mets major producers, Wilmer Flores (11 2B, 10 HR, leads team with 34 RBI), at short.

Standing Pat

Chris Sale is untouchable, right?

Chris Sale is untouchable, right?

Chicago White Sox

Chicago would probably burn again if the White Sox trade Chris Sale. At just five games out in the Wild Card, the team isn’t going to fold after spending big on Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and David Robertson in free agency this past winter, and they still have Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu to produce in the lineup, along with a deep, strong rotation with Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Rodon, Jose Quintana, and John Danks joining Sale in the group. If the White Sox do anything, they could afford to get a second baseman, as the team has received a .193/.239/.232 from the keystone position this season, easily the worst in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are somehow managing to compete in the AL East this season, even after dealing with many injuries to their rotation to start the season. When Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi are on the shelf at the same time, you, likely, wouldn’t expect the Rays to still be just three games out in the division and 1.5 games out of the Wild Card. While Tampa Bay could make a few upgrades, they aren’t really in a position to deal from their minor league system due to continued financial limitations, while they are likely to get production from a healthy Moore, Smyly, and Odorizzi in the second half, who will join Cy Young consideration worthy Chris Archer to squander the opposition and win plenty of games.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks already made some noise by dealing (giving away) a player whom they drafted last year, and signed for $2.7 million, Touki Toussaint, along with Bronson Arroyo‘s remaining contract, for 26-year-old utilityman Philip Gosselin. Even without Kevin Towers running things, no one knows what Arizona is thinking. Dave Stewart is now running things for Tony LaRussa out west, so Lord only knows what is going to happen here. However, this club has a superstar in Paul Goldschmidt, an underrated star in A.J. Pollock, and some very nice young pitching in Rubby De La Rosa, Chase Anderson, Robbie Ray, and Archie Bradley. They would be wise to see what this group would do and to not GIVE AWAY good young talent like the club has been doing for the last several years (see Trevor Bauer, Justin Upton, and Tyler Skaggs).

Sellers

Indeed... Courtesy: Philly.com

Indeed…
Courtesy: Philly.com

Philadelphia Philles

Whatever the club can manage to pry away to get rid of Ryan Howard and/or Chase Utley would be wise. This team is 27-55 entering play Saturday, well on their way to the first overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. It has to be a miracle that Ruben Amaro, Jr. is still employed. He may be a great guy, but he has ruined this franchise for years to come. If the club can deal Hamels and get great prospects WHILE dumping Hamels salary and allowing the team to start fresh next winter, it would be wise to do so. Dealing Jonathan Papelbon to a contender would also be a great move, as a highly-paid closer on a team that doesn’t win games is an absolute waste of time and money.

Cincinnati Reds

I mentioned before that the Reds could stand pat, but they need to deal Cueto and get value out of him, as I wrote recently.  Jay Bruce’s production could make him hard to deal, but the club has Marlon Byrd under contract next year (vesting or team option at $8 million) with Jesse Winker showing he isn’t over-matched in Double-A to fill in the spaces around Billy Hamilton. Perhaps there is a match with the White Sox with Brandon Phillips, though his contract is as steep as his age. The Reds are more likely to play on the moon than get a team to take on Joey Votto‘s contract, so they’ll need some cheap, controllable pieces to collect and pray for production from. With a payroll that continues to be labeled “small-market”, the Reds are in serious danger of being awful in the next couple of seasons without acquiring near-ready talent.

 

 

 

The Cueto Quandary

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

After Wednesday afternoon’s eight-inning gem against the Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds’ right-hander Johnny Cueto is the proud owner of a dazzling 2.54 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP over 15 starts and 104.2 innings. Since the start of the 2014 season, he has a 2.43 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over 348.1 innings, winning 25 games and making the Reds and their fans wonder if they invested in the wrong arm when the club signed Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal in February 2014, especially with Bailey on the shelf after Tommy John surgery.

Now, the question becomes – where does he end up?

For fans who want him to stick around, it remains very unlikely for the club to re-sign their ace. After watching Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw cash-in, Cueto will be the second best option in free agency (3rd if Zack Greinke opts-out) to Tigers’ left-hander David Price this winter. He should easily eclipse $25 million annually, as teams like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels will be looking to fill holes and become more unreasonably deep (on paper) than their counterparts. If (or when) Cueto leaves through free agency, the Reds would receive a compensatory draft pick, which is no sure thing to develop into a star.

Where will Cueto land?

Where will Cueto land?

Therefore, trading Cueto for prospects continues to be the club’s best option. The club would receive quality, close-to-ready prospects in return. While those players are no sure thing to develop, either, it would provide the club with talent that could be plugged in immediately, or sooner than later, to begin the organization’s rebuilding process. While it seems painful to trade away a talent and watch him lead another team to success, it is even harder to see him walk out the door and leave fans and the club with nothing but a view of his backside. Imagine being a Cleveland Cavalier fan when LeBron James left for Miami and knowing that he wasn’t coming back – as it isn’t likely that Cueto would ever opt-out and sign for less to return to Cincinnati. The agony!

The Cueto Quandary has hurt Reds fans deeply because he is a homegrown talent. Signed in 2004 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic, Cueto only spent 358.1 innings in the minors before making his debut, at the age of 22, in 2008. He gradually became more successful before injuries derailed his ability to rank right alongside the best pitchers in baseball. In 2011, he made the jump to ace-caliber production, only to have his season start and end with shoulder issues. He was healthy in 2012; however, he developed the same injury that he had to finish the 2011 season in 2013, which limited him to just 11 starts. Finally pitching a full season again in 2014, Cueto reached career-best numbers in innings (243.2), strikeouts (242), and hits per nine (6.2, which led MLB), while receiving his first All-Star game appearance and finishing 2nd in NL Cy Young voting. Since the start of the 2011 season, this is what Cueto has done:

58-30 (117 starts), 2.53 ERA (3.36 FIP, 153 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP, 782 IP, 667:199 K:BB, 7.1 H:9

"Former

Losing this kind of homegrown talent only reminds Cincinnati of how hard it has been for the club to develop their own arms. Outside of Mario Soto, the Reds haven’t found much success when it comes to signing international free agents and developing them – unless you count Aroldis Chapman here. You have to go back nearly 50 years to get to Gary Nolan (drafted in the 1st round in 1966) and Jim Maloney (amateur free agent signee in 1959), to find pitchers who were signed and developed by the Reds and found as much success as Cueto has in his eight seasons with the Reds.

Perhaps that pain is why it is so hard for Bob Castellini and Walt Jocketty to pull the trigger on a deal. After the club shipped off right-handers Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos this winter, it shouldn’t have been long before Cueto was dealt, as well. With the Reds toiling in mediocrity, 36-41 (six games out in both the NL Central and Wild Card), is now the right time? For a team whose longest winning streak (four games) occurred in the first four games of the season, there may not be a better time. Cueto is pitching well, he is healthy, and he continues to pitch himself out of the Cincinnati budget.

There may be another Cueto down the line in Cincinnati, but the Reds went from June 16, 1988 until April 3, 2008, all of 7,231 days, before Soto become Cueto, so expect another lengthy wait for the next real ace in Cincinnati. For a team that seems to be unable to develop their own pitching talent, the Cueto Quandary is a difficult dose of reality. Say your goodbyes and hope for a great return. “Johnny Beisbol” will be pitching for another team at some point this month.

 

30 Shades of Hot: Take Notice of These Scorching Players

Over the last month, some players have inflated their production to incredible levels. With all of the excitement from the NBA and NHL Playoffs, the Supreme Court, and…the Women’s World Cup…perhaps you’ve missed it. Below are some players who are getting back on track or having career seasons.

Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?  Courtesy: USA Today

Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?
Courtesy: USA Today

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Last 30 days: .394/.525/.713, 6 2B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 15:27 K:BB, 5 SB

You could argue that Goldschmidt has been the best player in MLB this season, even though he ranks 3rd in WAR (4.3) behind the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (5.1) and the Indians’ Jason Kipnis (4.6). Goldy has compiled a .354/.473/.654 line to go along with 15 doubles, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a league-leading 59 walks (17 intentional). While the Diamondbacks sit at 35-37, they are just 4.5 games out of the Wild Card hunt. Goldschmidt will continue to be pitched around as the primary source of fear within the Arizona lineup.

Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .354/.381/.770, 14 2B, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB

Frazier is the Reds’ Ambassador for the upcoming All-Star Game in Cincinnati, utilizing his friendly personality and love of Frank Sinatra to become a beloved figure in Reds Country. He is becoming a beloved figure around baseball, especially fantasy circles, due to his incredible power outburst over the last month. Frazier has been the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR, 4.1), as he has become an asset not only for his bat, but his slick glove at the hot corner.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

Last 30 days: .333/.416/.818, 3 2B, 15 HR, 30 RBI, 5:13 K:BB

“Prince Albert” has found the stroke that made him such a force in his Hall of Fame worthy time in St. Louis. After averaging “just” 25 home runs, 91 RBI, and an .810 OPS in his first three seasons for the Angels, many thought the days of 40 home runs, 121 RBI, and 1.037 OPS, his average year in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, were long gone. Pujols currently leads the AL in bombs (23), and will continue to be a part of the two-man wrecking crew that the Angels have with him and Mike Trout in the order.

Giants' 2B Joe Panik - career year or start of something special?  Courtesy: goldengatesports.com

Giants’ 2B Joe Panik – career year or start of something special?
Courtesy: goldengatesports.com

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

Last 30 days: .336/.405/.542, 10 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 12:12 K:BB, 2 SB

Panik likely wasn’t on your list of players who could post a .300/.400/.500 season, but he has been that player over the last month, and very good over the entire season. Panik’s .310/.380/.463 line, 19 doubles, six home runs, and 141 wRC+ (2nd among second basemen in MLB) aren’t all that different from his .296/.365/.403 line over his minor league career, yet, he has nearly reached each of his season-long projections that were set forth by Steamer and ZiPS. His 2.8 WAR has allowed him to show more value than the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Kolten Wong, Brian Dozier, and Jose Altuve. Panik was a first round pick out of St. John’s University in 2011. At just 24, he has shown himself to be quite productive, and, if all else fails, he has a slick glove at second.

Justin Turner, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Last 30 days: .361/.418/.639, 6 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 11:7 K:BB

Based on 190 plate appearances, Turner is the 15th most valuable position player in MLB (2.9 WAR). He is having an excellent month, while continuing to shine in the opportunities that he is provided, which are coming in bunches since the Dodgers traded Juan Uribe. While Corey Seager continues to mash in the minors, it is likely Jimmy Rollins at short who is more likely to be replaced than the do-it-all Turner. A career .260/.323/.361 hitter over his first five seasons (2009-2013, 926 plate appearances), the 30-year-old third baseman has hit .334/.400/.526 triple-slash over 512 plate appearances since the start of the 2014 season, with 33 doubles and 17 home runs.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Texas Rangers

Last 30 days: 2-0, five starts, 0.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 31 IP, 26:10 K:BB, .193 BAA

Gallardo looked like a lost cause early this season, posting a 4.05 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in his first five starts for the Rangers. With the way that the ball flies out of Arlington, it was only a matter of time before the Mexican hurler’s numbers would look even worse. However, that hasn’t been the case. Since May 1st, Gallardo has a 2.51 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 61 innings, including his impressive run of starts over the last 30 days. While the velocity and strikeout totals continue to dip, Gallardo is finding more success by cutting back on his curve and increasing the use of his slider and change. We’ll see if he can continue to stay hot as Texas heats up.

Braves' RHP Williams Perez - will the league catch up to him?  Courtesy: foxsports.com

Braves’ RHP Williams Perez – will the league catch up to him?
Courtesy: foxsports.com

Williams Perez, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Last 30 days: 4-0, six games (five starts), 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1 save, 32 IP, 20:15 K:BB, .219 BAA

Who? Unranked by Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com prior to the season, the 24-year-old has moved quickly through the Atlanta system since reaching full season ball in 2013. He jumped to Triple-A to start the season and made five starts before joining the Braves bullpen. He made all of two appearances before he joined the rotation – minus a random save opportunity on June 13th. In his seven starts, Perez has a 2.14 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. While the walks would need to come down for him to become a more valuable option, Perez has youth and results on his side to this point.

Nate Karns, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 1-1, six games (six starts), 2.65 ERA 1.26 WHIP, 34 IP, 31:12 K:BB, .238 BAA

Karns has stepped up to take on a major role while the Rays battle health issues that have landed Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, and Drew Smyly on the disabled list for extended time this season and Matt Moore continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old late bloomer, drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, had shown some impressive strikeout skills in the minors (10.3 K:9 over 449.1 minor league innings), but, though he hasn’t reached those numbers to this point, he has certainly shown that he can get major league hitters out. Over 15 starts, Karns has a 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP to go along with his 8.2 K:9. The Rays continue to have a process to maintain success, even after losing Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers from their front office. Karns, acquired by Friedman and Company in February of 2014, looks like a solid, long-term option for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

2015 Season Previews: Cincinnati Reds

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Cincinnati Reds

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 79-83 (5th in NL Central, 21st in MLB)

Manager: Bryan Price (76-86 in one season with Cincinnati)

Top Three Players: 1B Joey Votto (4.1), C Devin Mesoraco (2.9), RHP Johnny Cueto (2.7)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Joey Votto

Votto hasn’t been the same player since his 2010 NL MVP, or so it seems. As a native of Cincinnati, all that I hear on talk radio is how Votto isn’t worth the money and he doesn’t swing enough. It is an argument that continues to play out, as Votto continues to walk and get on base, but he also continues to see his home run totals dip. For all of those who thought that last season was so awful, due to his .255 average, they forget that he got on-base at a .390 clip. As long as Votto is patient, fans and fantasy players should be, too. He is the most intelligent hitter to play in MLB since Tony Gwynn, and it is a matter of time before he stays on the field and finds his MVP-caliber stroke again. Those who take a chance on him will, likely, be rewarded. He isn’t going to miss 100 games again. He’s in shape, the Reds were cautious last season because they weren’t competitive, and he instantly reclaims the title as the Reds best player when he suits up on Opening Day.

Can Iglesias take on a major role in his rookie season?  Courtesy: Cincinnati.com

Can Iglesias take on a major role in his rookie season?
Courtesy: Cincinnati.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Raisel Iglesias

Iglesias is a 24-year-old right-hander from Cuba whom the Reds signed to a seven-year, $27 million deal last June. Despite being just 5’11”, the Reds seem likely to try the youngster as a starting pitcher, though his long-term role may be in the bullpen. Iglesias was a reliever in Cuba and had some pretty miserable statistics based on his control, but he has very good stuff, a four-pitch mix with a sweeping breaking ball that could be a strikeout pitch if he is able to gain some command. The Reds have a couple of things going for them in how they develop Iglesias – they’ve had success with short starters (see Johnny Cueto) and they’ve groomed relief pitchers into successful starters in recent years (see Tony Cingrani and Michael Lorenzen). Iglesias is more likely to open the season in the bullpen than the rotation, but he is certainly someone to watch based on his stuff and the Reds need for a strong set-up man after watching so many crash and burn in the role in 2014.

Offseason Overview: Cincinnati had a busy, yet, somewhat confusing offseason. They needed to trim some payroll after a miserable season that saw attendance drop, so they needed to move some talent to accommodate that need. They dealt RHP Mat Latos and RHP Alfredo Simon, acquiring affordable, young pitching in RHP Anthony DeSclafani and RHP Brandon Crawford, while adding solid depth in the infield by acquiring INF Eugenio Suarez. However, despite the sudden youth movement, the Reds then traded prospect RHP Ben Lively for OF Marlon Byrd. They finished off the winter by signing RHP Burke Badenhop, who had a fantastic season in Boston in 2014, to shore up the spotty bullpen. So…they got a little younger and cheaper, then got a little older by getting Byrd, who is under contract through 2016 and will turn 38 in August. They kept their core together and must assume that they will get more out of Bruce, 2B Brandon Phillips, and Votto in 2015, but they didn’t truly address their rotation, which became quite slim after dealing away 40 percent of the 2014 rotation, only signing LHP Paul Maholm to address the losses.

The Verdict: Walt Jocketty continues to make deals as the GM in Cincinnati, but he isn’t making the additions necessary to get the team over the hump. After the 2013 season, Dusty Baker was fired, Shin-Soo Choo left via free agency, and the Reds gave Billy Hamilton the center field job – that about sums up their offseason last year. Sure, Jocketty moved payroll and acquired depth, but DeSclafani isn’t going to replace the ability of Latos, and both he and Crawford are better suited for relief roles. Ownership and management is hoping for more of the same out of Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, with improved offensive output from Bruce, Votto, Phillips, and Hamilton. If everything clicks offensively, they may be able to score enough to beat the opposition, but they can only count on Cueto, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey on three of every five days. Someone will need to come out of nowhere to give the club 60 good starts in the No.4 and No.5 spots in the rotation, and that talent isn’t on hand. It will be a long season in Cincinnati, and their projection by PECOTA, specifically last place in the NL Central, seems perfect.

Where the Reds Stand

RedsI like to say that I love baseball and that I don’t have a favorite team, but the fact of the matter is that I was born and raised in Cincinnati and I can’t help but hope for the best for my hometown Reds. It’s hard to say that I’m disappointed in a team that won more than 90 games in three of the last five seasons, but a season without a championship isn’t an absolute success, and the Reds haven’t won the World Series since 1990. They, along with 28 other teams, get to look up at the San Francisco Giants until next Fall, but are the Reds in a position to contend in 2015?

The club finished with 76 wins in 2014, finishing 14 games out of the NL Central and in 4th place in the division. While the Cardinals reloaded by acquiring OF Jason Heyward from Atlanta, the Pirates continue to get better with experience and tremendous, young talent, and the Cubs finally opened their wallets and brought in LHP Jon Lester to anchor an incredibly gifted, young roster, the Reds were making changes in their own way. The Reds haven’t been as desolate as they were last offseason, when they basically added Skip Schumaker to the mix after losing Shin-Soo Choo to the Rangers. There was some wheeling and dealing being done by GM Walt Jocketty, but the direction of those deals was a bit odd.

Reds' LF Marlon Byrd

Reds’ LF Marlon Byrd

The addition of OF Marlon Byrd, who has 49 home runs and an .800 OPS over the last two seasons, is an improvement over what OF Ryan Ludwick had done over the same time period (11 home runs and a .666 OPS); however, he’s 37 years old and his strikeout rate jumped to a career-high 29 percent while he posted an inflated .341 BABIP. The Byrd acquisition came after the club dealt Alfredo Simon to Detroit for RHP Jonathan Crawford and INF Eugenio Suarez, and RHP Mat Latos to the Marlins for C Chad Wallach and RHP Anthony DeSclafani. Both Simon and Latos were due to become free agents after the 2015 season, so the deals made sense for the Reds if they were heading into a rebuilding mode, but the deal for Byrd didn’t make much sense for a rebuilding team, as they traded a solid, young arm in Ben Lively to the Phillies to acquire Byrd.

Personally, the deal with the Tigers appears to be a steal. Simon never pitched the way that he had in a starting role prior to the 2014 season, and his FIP (4.33) says much more about his performance than his 3.44 ERA and 15 wins show. The fact that the Reds received the Tigers 1st round pick from the 2013 MLB Draft, Crawford, was pretty impressive, but Suarez, who rose quickly through the Tigers system and looks like a solid middle infielder to build around, in addition to Crawford was a coup.

The deal with the Marlins was a little less impressive, in my opinion. Wallach looks like a catching-version of Kevin Youkilis, posting solid K:BB rates in the minors, but DeSclafani was solid throughout his minor league career (3.23 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 354.1 IP), but wasn’t able to miss as many bats upon his promotion to the Marlins, when he had a 6.27 ERA (3.77 FIP) and allowed 10.9 H/9 IP. DeSclafani looks like a decent back-end starter, but you’d think Jocketty could have received more for Latos than that, given the insane money that will be thrown at pitchers on the free agent market.

Courtesy: Dayton Daily News

Courtesy: Dayton Daily News

Still, after the deals, the Reds are out in baseball purgatory. While they acquired a couple of arms in their trades, they still only have three starters worth trusting in the rotation: Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake. Tony Cingrani is an option, but outside of the questions about his secondary stuff, you have to wonder if his shoulder will continue being an issue after it cost him some time in 2014. Outside of those four, the Reds have more question marks in the rotation, as David Holmberg, Dylan Axelrod, Daniel Corcino, and Cuban import Raisel Iglesias bring unknown skills and suspect resumes to a potentially lengthy Spring Training competition for the No.5 spot in the group.

In addition to the questions in the rotation, the Reds have to address their depth. Suarez is a very nice option to fill-in at second base and shortstop, likely a much better option than Ramon Santiago was when he was asked to take over for Brandon Phillips‘ lengthy DL stint in 2014. Brayan Pena was impressive when pushed into an unfamiliar role, filling in at first base when Joey Votto was out for so long with his knee injury, but he wasn’t productive enough to offset the loss of the team’s franchise player.

Reds OF and speedster, Billy Hamilton

Reds OF and speedster, Billy Hamilton

Speaking of the franchise player…who is it? Can Cincinnati count of Joey Votto? Is Jay Bruce ever going to find consistency? Is Johnny Cueto going to re-sign, and, can the Reds afford to sign him OR afford to let him leave? Is Devin Mesoraco the future of the franchise? Can Billy Hamilton hit enough to become a difference-maker to the franchise?

The Reds still have a lot of talent, but they have a lot of questions to answer, as well. Jocketty did a nice job in acquiring more arms and additional depth in his flurry of deals, but if 2015 is the last year that the team will have Cueto and a couple of other solid arms to pitch the club to a division title, did he do enough to win now? Are they trying to win now?

The offseason isn’t quite over and there are still some starting pitchers who could be solid additions to the roster (RHP Chris Young, RHP Kyle Kendrick, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP Franklin Morales), but they certainly aren’t going to be in on RHPs Max Scherzer or James Shields.

If things break right, the Reds should be competitive enough to make a run in the NL Central, but there will be a lot of luck involved in those breaks. While Cincinnati was spoiled in the 1970’s, it just hasn’t been the same for those of us who were born after 1980. One title in a lifetime doesn’t seem like a lot, but at least it hasn’t been since 1908.

Will Trading Johnny Be Bad?

The Reds aren’t good, finishing with a losing record while facing a fall from contention in 2014, nursing a prolonged absence from their superstar, Joey Votto. So, with this season lost and little room on the payroll, what will the team do to improve? Likely…nothing. Ownership clearly didn’t have any intentions of improving the roster, at least not at the cost of…a cost. Last winter left a lot to be desired, as the loss of Shin-Soo Choo led to the promotion of Billy Hamilton, yet, there was little to nothing done to off-set the loss of offensive production between those two players, as the Reds can only take solace in the fact that Choo wasn’t nearly as productive in 2014 with the Texas Rangers as he was in 2013 with Cincinnati. The addition of Skip Schumaker wasn’t enough, and the loss of Choo on top of two trade deadline (2013 and 2014) with no movement whatsoever leaves the Reds in a situation that isn’t favorable for the club’s future.

Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

Now, with Homer Bailey paid handsomely with his extension, the Reds are unlikely to see a large enough increase in payroll to allow the team to add an offensive weapon, and with Jay Bruce‘s horrific season and the questions surrounding Votto’s health hovering over the future of the franchise, it appears time to sell off the pieces that the club can move and hope for the best with some young talent.

Enter Johnny Cueto.

Heading into Friday night, Cueto has made 100 starts since the start of the 2011 season. They have been very good:

51-25, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 661.1 IP, 553:178 K:BB

While Cueto doesn’t have the innings over the last four seasons that Mike Leake or Homer Bailey have, he has shown the consistency that neither have presented, and, while Mat Latos has top-of-the-rotation stuff, his injury history and ability to handle his emotions have played a role in his inability to become an elite pitcher in MLB. Cueto, however, continues to improve, and with another season with 200 innings (his second, 2012 being his other), the 28-year-old right-hander has done enough to emphasize his value to the rest of the league.

The Cincinnati Reds have a team option on Cueto for 2015, as they can pay him $10 million to keep him or $800,000 to buy him out. That option is an easy decision, but Cueto is the lone player on the Reds who has positive value in trades, as Votto and Bruce certainly aren’t worth dealing considering the loss of market value and the remaining money on their contracts.

Cueto is a bargain. While $10 million seems like a lot of money, consider that Tim Lincecum will earn $18 million in 2015, Ubaldo Jimenez will earn $12.25 million in 2015, and Edwin Jackson will earn $11 million in 2015. Even a single year of control would have tremendous value for the Cincinnati Reds in a potential trade, and with so many question marks for the club offensively (as they rank 28th in MLB in runs scored), dealing from their strength, starting pitching, is necessary, and getting the most value out of their strength would force a trade of the club’s ace, Cueto.

So, who would be interested?

Boston Red Sox: Piecing together a rotation, especially if they are unable to make a deal with Jon Lester in free agency. They also have plenty of outfield depth after signing Rusney Castillo and trading for Yoenis Cespedes. Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley would be excellent pieces to start a deal, and acquiring a young arm, like Henry Owens or Anthony Ranaudo, or infield prospect from their loaded farm system could be very lucrative and beneficial to the future of the organization.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are loaded with offensive talent, but they don’t have much pitching depth in their system, especially in the upper minors and the majors. Cueto would be an excellent piece to anchor the rotation, but it is fair to question if the Reds would trade Cueto in-division, as well as whether the Cubs can trust all of their existing young pieces enough to be competitive by adding Cueto.

Reds RHP Homer  Bailey

Reds RHP Homer Bailey

Baltimore Orioles: The O’s may be looking to get Cueto for one final push before the makeup of their current, AL East winning club begins to fall apart. After the 2015 season, both Chris Davis and Matt Wieters will be free agents, and it is fair to wonder if either would be non-tendered after the 2014 season, joining Nick Markakis in the land of confusion, as their right fielder is owed $17.5 million or a $2 million buyout (which appears to make his days in Baltimore numbered). If the Reds want pitching depth, the Orioles have it, but they could have some interest in Jonathan Schoop as a starting piece, as well.

It would be unfortunate to see Cueto leave Cincinnati. He has been fantastic during his career when he is healthy, which has been the leading factor in his ability to fly under the national radar. Cueto would certainly be missed in the Reds’ rotation, but the club is in desperate need of offense, and after signing Bailey, they won’t be able to extend their ace. Did they extend the wrong pitcher? In my opinion…absolutely. I’d much rather pay Cueto $20 to $22 million per season than to pay Bailey the $10 million that he will earn in 2015, let alone the $18 to $25 million he earns annually between 2016 and 2020. Cueto has proven to be capable of greatness, and his time in Cincinnati needs to come to an end so that the team can return to greatness at some point in the near future.

How the Reds Are Setting Up Votto to Fail

Joey Votto hasn’t played a game for the Cincinnati Reds since July 5. Battling a quad injury in his left leg, the four-time All-Star has watched his team fall out of contention, as the Reds have gone 12-25 since the All-Star break and 19-28 since he last suited up. His teammates picked him up early on, winning seven of nine games heading into the break, immediately following Votto being placed on the disabled list, as the club was just 1.5 games out in the NL Central before the break.

Then…it all fell apart. The offense has the lowest OPS in baseball in the second half (.596, 13 points lower than the next worst team), while the starting pitching, formerly the club’s greatest strength, has fallen off, including having to battle the depth chart due to an injury to Homer Bailey.

At ten games back going into Wednesday night’s battle with the Chicago Cubs and just 30 games remaining, there isn’t much left to play for this season, and there isn’t much left for Joey Votto to prove.

The recent news of Votto returning to the field and completing “baseball activities” is great. He has been out for so long and the offense is suffering. A healthy Joey Votto makes the Reds worth watching. A healthy Joey Votto makes the ten years and $213 million look much less unreasonable, and his ability to produce at his 2010 MVP levels would make it a bargain…
But…we don’t know if that Votto is ever coming back. We don’t know just how bad this quad injury is, and whether rest is or was the correct solution. The Reds allowed Votto to sit on the disabled list for nearly two months to rest his injury, while setting him up for a September return. Over those two months, fans weren’t updated on his injury, his treatment, or his future outlook, but was it really the fan’s rights to know that?

Votto swings? Who knew!!

Votto swings? Who knew!!

Here is the problem with how the Reds have handled the Joey Votto situation:

1) No one knows the true extent of the injury. Is it the quad, the knee, a ligament, a tendon? What is wrong with him and can it heal with rest or would a surgery have been more appropriate? What if rest didn’t work and another surgery knocks him out of action for a third or half of the 2015 season?

2) The Reds didn’t communicate the status of their superstar, which has left fans and media alike wondering what is going on. When Votto finally made an appearance, the media nearly ripped his head off and this was his response:

“Let’s make it clear here. This is a real gray area and I feel like I’ve been the one in the crosshairs. I’ve been injured and this is something I’ve had hanging over me in the general population, with the fans. The question is whether it is toughness or playing through pain or playing hurt sort of thing. I’m injured. And I’ve played injured. I went on the disabled list because I’ve been injured.  I’m trying to be un-injured right now. So the second I’m capable of playing, and no longer injured, I will be back on the field. In the meantime, you can assume I’m injured. I shouldn’t get any sort of different treatment (from the fans). I’ve noticed little comments here and there, just a general perception that this is something I elected to do, that I elected to be hurt. I didn’t elect to get injured. I’m injured. What can I do?”

The organization left those who follow the team out to dry, but not nearly as much as they left the face of the franchise out to dry. Why do that to your top asset, whether you agree with the contract or not?

3) Votto is now coming back in September. He is going to prepare to return to the team WITH the team, as there isn’t going to be a minor league rehab assignment with the minor league season nearly over. With a game and an approach built on timing, the Reds are, once again, setting Votto up to fail. He has a .390 on-base percentage this season in 62 games, but the focus remains on the six home runs and .255 batting average that many still, unfortunately, consider the only valuable measurables when it comes to determining player value. If the fans and club weren’t happy with his production before the injury, how are they going to be satisfied with Votto returning to the lineup in September after 60 or more days away from live, Major League pitching?

Votto1It doesn’t make sense for Votto to return in 2014. He has nothing to prove and he is only going to hurt himself more by coming back. The expectations that he has to live up to in a “small-market” like Cincinnati seem quite outrageous, and it’s very unfortunate that a very good player with a very useful skill-set continues to be ripped apart for accepting a life-changing contract that the team was responsible for offering.

Joey Votto is a fantastic player. He needs to get himself right to truly help the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, the rest of the team and management didn’t do their part in 2014. Replacing Shin-Soo Choo‘s production with a rookie speedster (Billy Hamilton) and veteran utility-man (Skip Schumaker) didn’t do the trick, especially when the club’s top player was unable to take the field. Joey Votto didn’t help the Reds in 2014, but neither did Walt Jocketty or Bob Castellini. It’s time to put the blame elsewhere and let Votto get himself right for 2015 and beyond. There is much more riding on his knee in 2015 than this wasted 2014 season.

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