The Worst Reds Trade of My Generation

This was a bad trade, but my generation has its own Courtesy:
This was a bad trade, but my generation has its own

When the Cincinnati Reds traded Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, Dick Simpson, and Jack Baldschun in December of 1965 because he was “old”, they were likely surprised when he went on to win the Triple Crown in the American League the next season for the Baltimore Orioles. It is a deal that still makes Cincinnati fans nauseous. However, for those who weren’t around then, we have our own version of that deal. It is a deal that rips out the heart of my generation of Reds fans, or, at least, it very well should.

The deal that has made me sick for the last several years was trading away Edwin Encarnacion AND Zach Stewart (who didn’t amount to anything but was a top ten prospect of the club’s at the time of the trade) along with Josh Roenicke (eh…he had a couple of solid seasons as a reliever) for one player – Scott Rolen.

At the time that the trade was made, the Reds were 45-57, 10 games out in the NL Central. They had Rolen under contract through 2012, and, after the 2009 season, Rolen restructured his contract, agreeing to a deferred signing bonus, to give the Reds some financial flexibility for spending. Still, what did they get in the deal?

Great glove. Great attitude. Great teammate. Courtesy: zimbio
Great glove. Great attitude. Great teammate.
Courtesy: zimbio

People who loved the trade will point to the 2010 season. The Reds won the NL Central and lost in the NLDS. Rolen was an All Star, he finished 14th in NL MVP voting, and he won his 8th and final Gold Glove award at third base. His leadership and personality were things that were mentioned often during his time with Cincinnati, and he was beloved by owner Bob Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty, who were both a part of the Cardinals during Rolen’s time in St. Louis.

However, for people who weren’t big fans of the deal – like me, I saw a player getting acquired on the downside of his career, adding payroll to a team that “couldn’t afford to sign” so many other talented players over the years. Then, my fears came true when Rolen played in a total of 157 games the next two seasons, posting a .244/.301/.397 line over 599 plate appearances. For all of the immeasurable positive things that he brought to the clubhouse, he wasn’t bringing it to the field. The Reds regressed immensely in 2011, going 79-83, before seeing Todd Frazier take over in 2012 and put up impressive numbers in his rookie season. Rolen’s career was over.

The ball takes flight off of his wing...a lot. Courtesy: Twitter
The ball takes flight off of his wing…a lot.
Courtesy: Twitter

Which brings me to the biggest problem with this trade – Edwin Encarnacion. Since the trade, this is all that Encarnacion has done:

  • 3,772 plate appearances
  • .868 OPS
  • 210 home runs
  • 600 RBI
  • wRC+: 134
  • Two-time All Star
  • Top 15 in AL MVP voting three times

Encarnacion turned 33 this past January. At the time of the trade, he was 26 years old, having come off of a productive season (2008 – 25 home runs and 68 RBI); however, he was struggling mightily in 2009 and had become a liability with the glove at third. Still, at just 26, it didn’t seem like a wise deal, and there was always the opportunity to move him to another position, such as the outfield.

When you add in the types of contracts that Encarnacion has had over the last several years, it stings more. He will have earned all of $48,175,000, including this season, since 2010. Since 2010, the Reds paid guys like Rolen $23,625,000 and Ryan Ludwick $17,000,000. Hindsight is 20/20 but when you acquire and trust aging players during a time that steroids aren’t able to be used due to stricter testing, these are the results.

I absolutely hated dealing Edwin Encarnacion in the deal for Scott Rolen, and I relive that deal each and every day like today – when Encarnacion knocks two homers and drives in five runs while Scott Rolen is retired…not playing baseball…and not helping the Reds become a better team.

Sure, we don’t know if Encarnacion would have blossomed on the Reds, but, if you’re a Reds fan, how nice would he look between Votto and Bruce today?


Dodgers Can’t Dodge Confusion

crawfordbeckettgonzoMoney, and lots of it, has been thrown around in the Los Angeles area since Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers to the Guggenheim group last season. The trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford out west was just the beginning, as the team spent $159 million on Zack Greinke, bid against themselves by giving Brandon League $27.5 million to (possibly) steal the closer’s job from Kenley Jansen, and $61.7 million (including the $25.7 million posting fee) on Hyun-Jin Ryu, a 25-year-old, seven-year veteran of the Korean Baseball Organization.

With the addition of Greinke and Ryu, the Dodgers have a loaded starting rotation; however, is it too loaded?

greinketruebluelaClayton Kershaw will lead the group as the ace and even before signing and acquiring Greinke, Ryu, and Beckett, the team still had Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and Ted Lilly signed for the 2013 season.

But, you have to wonder whether the Dodgers spent money in the right places this winter. Surely, there wasn’t a large market of free agent third baseman, but is Luis Cruz the real answer there in 2013? The club had Hanley Ramirez playing there last season, but they’ve moved him back to shortstop, even with Dee Gordon, who struggled in 2012 as a rookie but can change a game with 56 stolen bases in just 143 games, still with the organization and probably going to Triple-A.

HanRamThe club had pursued Scott Rolen before he decided to take some time to think about his options after the Cincinnati Reds moved on from the veteran. He could still become an option if the club doesn’t move Ramirez back to third or actually go with Cruz all season. Based on Free Agent Tracker, the only remaining free agents at the hot corner are Rolen, Orlando Hudson, Adam Kennedy, and Miguel Cairo…not really the cream of the crop.

The issue becomes, is any team willing to part with a third baseman that could actually improve the Dodgers lineup?

Jordan Pacheco, Ryan Wheeler, or Chris Nelson could be a decent fit, and the Colorado Rockies seem to be a team constantly in need of starting pitching help, but as the team is finding its identity, why would they take on a veteran when they could give a rotation spot to Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, or Tyler Chatwood?

With the Arizona Diamondbacks acquiring Martin Prado, could Matt Davidson, a slugging third base prospect, become expendable? While it would be a nice addition, the Diamondbacks are loaded at pitching right now, with Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Randall Delgado, not to mention Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, and a soon-to-return Dan Hudson, so why would they need another arm?

deegordonWhile the Dodgers may want Ramirez at short, he’s probably better off at third so that the club can play Dee Gordon and see what they have in the 25-year-old, but the abundance of pitching will still be an issue. Can they keep Harang, Capuano, and Lilly in a relief role? Should they deal the veteran starters for any kind of minor league depth, considering the current state of the farm system for the Dodgers?

It’s great to have a lot of money, but that doesn’t change the fact that each team keeps 25 players active and has a 40-man roster…nothing more. While the additions of Greinke and Ryu could lead the Dodgers to the World Series, they were a part of a series of questionable moves considering the pieces that were already in place and the money that was spent.

Giants AT Reds, Game 5

Game 5 of the NLDS series between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds will take place on Thursday afternoon at 1:07 (if the Oakland A’s beat the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night) or 2:07 (if the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night). Kind of confusing for those who hold tickets, but this is what to expect…

Mat Latos is officially starting on Thursday for Cincinnati. Latos came in for Johnny Cueto in Game 1 due to Cueto’s oblique strain, which he suffered after tossing eight pitches. Latos tossed four innings on Saturday night, allowing one earned run (2.25 ERA), but he was not considered for the Game 4 start because: 1) Latos had never pitched on three-days rest, and 2) Latos has been battling the flu.

Matt Cain, the loser of Game 1, will take the ball for the Giants in Game 5. Cain allowed three earned runs over five innings (5.40 ERA) at AT&T Park on Saturday. The Giants were 22-10 in Cain’s 32 starts in 2012, and while Cain managed to go 16-5, he lost back-to-back decisions twice this season.

Dusty Baker will probably go back to Ryan Hanigan behind home plate and Scott Rolen at third, especially after Todd Frazier failed to impress the veteran-loving manager with his 0-for-3, one RBI performance on Wednesday.

Bruce Bochy would be wise to stick with Joaquin Arias at short and Hector Sanchez behind the plate, as their eight-run outburst in Game 4 was a far cry from the team’s performance in the first three games. Arias is 3-for-6 with two doubles and three runs, while Sanchez was 1-for-2 with two walks in Game 4, his first opportunity of the postseason.

After going 12-for-95 (.126) with four runs in the first three games, the Giants were 11-for-33 (.333) on Wednesday.

Cincinnati scored 14 runs in the first two games of the series, but have scored four runs in the last two games, while going 13-for-68 (.191) as a team.

With the potential 10:07 AM PT starting time, you have to consider how San Francisco will function. The Giants were just 32-32 in day games in 2012, while Cincinnati was 39-17.

Cincinnati fans are weary of the potential collapse after waiting nearly 17 years between postseason wins. Their dreams of watching the Reds clinch the series at home will come down to a single game, now.

San Francisco is riding high and has the momentum. Their big night could leave their fans wondering if they saved any offense for Thursday’s deciding game.

Game 5. Thursday afternoon from Great American Ballpark. The MLB postseason at its finest.

Scott Rolen…Please Retire

Rolen’s play is no laughing matter

When Mike Schmidt retired on May 29, 1989, these were his words:

“Over the years, I’ve set high standards for myself as a player, and I always  said that when I couldn’t live up to those standards I would retire.  I no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to  hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases. I feel like I  could ask the Phillies to keep me on to add to my statistics, but my love for  the game won’t let me do that.”

Mike Schmidt is a Hall of Famer and a well-deserved Hall of Famer, at that. If he can retire in the middle of the season after a terrible, non-performing start, why can’t others? Manny Ramirez retired last season, but that was mainly due to his Performance-Enhancing Drug suspension. It is time for Scott Rolen to walk away.

Rolen has been a tremendous player, having won the Rookie of the Year in 1997, eight Gold Gloves, and making seven All-Star appearances. However, he hasn’t been worth a roster spot since the beginning of the 2011 season, hitting just .220/.258/.365 with 27 doubles, two triples, eight home runs, 52 RBI, and a 69:19 K:BB in 381 at bats. He has been on the disabled list for 132 games due to injuries since April 21 of 2011.

The fall began in 2005 when Rolen first dealt with left shoulder issues, which he missed 101 games due to. Rolen was 30-years-old that season, and now, seven years later, he has been on the disabled list or missed games due to the same shoulder nine different times, a total of 253 games.

Prior to 2005, Rolen was Hall of Fame worthy, .280/.374/.518 with 296 doubles, 28 triples, 226 home runs, 831 RBI, and 91 stolen bases over parts of nine seasons, including his 130 at bat 1996 cup of coffee.

It is another sad example of a “what-might-have-been” scenario. I like to think of Mickey Mantle’s numbers without his knee issues, Grady Sizemore’s numbers without nearly three-and-a-half years of injuries at the age of 29, or Tony Conigliaro before taking a pitch to the eye. Unfortunately for a contending team like the Cincinnati Reds, they can’t afford to give at-bats to a player who is a shell of his former self.

Scott Rolen is not the player that Todd Frazier is, whether he possesses tremendous leadership qualities and is a loveable, Dusty Baker-kind-of-veteran. In fact, take a look at this:

Player A: .282/.354/.472, 15 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 10 SB, 53:27 K:BB in 248 AB

Player B: .278/.345/.556, 13 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 1 SB, 52:18 K:BB in 180 AB

Player A is Bryce Harper and Player B is Todd Frazier, so who is your Rookie of the Year in the National League? While Harper is an All-Star and is just 19-years-old, Frazier has been just as productive, if not more so, in 60+ fewer at-bats. Frazier is 26 and toiled in the minors as a former college pick before getting a shot this season. They aren’t anywhere near the same player, but neither is Scott Rolen compared to what he was and what Frazier is now.

Rolen needs to look at what Mike Schmidt said when he retired over 13 years ago. To take a step back and humbly admit that you “no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to  hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases.” Everyone sees it and it is time for Rolen to look in the mirror and see that it is, indeed, time to step away for good. His leadership qualities may have more value to a franchise when he isn’t on a 25-man roster, anyway.

2013 Cincinnati Reds

Looking ahead to next season, though the Reds are currently in first place in the NL Central, the Reds have some interesting roster issues to address. Not only do they have arbitration eligible players who can increase payroll significantly, but they’ll have key players with extensions kicking in. Take a look at guaranteed contracts for 2013:

Joey Votto: $17 M

Brandon Phillips: $10 M

Jay Bruce: $7.5 M

Johnny Cueto: $7.4 M

Aroldis Chapman: $2 M

Bronson Arroyo: $11.5 M

Sean Marshall: $4.5 M

Ryan Madson: $2.5 M buyout OR $11 M

Nick Masset: $3.1 M

Ryan Hanigan: $2.05 M

Ryan Ludwick: $500K buyout OR $5 M

Jose Arredondo: $1.2 M

If the Reds buyout Ludwick and Madson, they have $69.25 M locked into 12 players, with only 10 of them returning. If they take on the contracts of both Ludwick and Madson, it goes up to $82.25 M for 12 players. However, it doesn’t end there. The following players are eligible for arbitration after the 2012 season:

Pre-arbitration – players who can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum:

Logan Ondrusek

Sam LeCure

Devin Mesoraco

Zack Cozart

Jordan Smith

Todd Frazier

Arbitration-eligible – players who can be non-tendered or signed through arbitration and receive a raise, with 2012 salaries listed in parenthesis:

Homer Bailey ($2.4 M)

Mat Latos ($550K)

Bill Bray ($1.42 M)

Wilson Valdez ($930K)

Paul Janish ($850K)

Drew Stubbs ($527,500)

Mike Leake ($507,500)

Chris Heisey ($495K)

Alfredo Simon ($487K)

The Reds would be wise to let Homer Bailey walk by being non-tendered, as he shouldn’t be getting a raise considering the inconsistencies that he has shown. He would earn between $3.5-4 M in arbitration. Valdez and Janish are veteran utility players who can be replaced with others who can play defense and not hit…just like them! Stubbs, Leake, and Heisey should all still be affordable in their first year of arbitration, but Latos could be an issue. He will get expensive quickly due to his early success, though it wasn’t with the Reds.


Scott Rolen

Miguel Cairo

Willie Harris

So, buyout Ludwick and Madson and keep Heisey in left and Chapman at closer and go from there.

Catchers: Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco

1B: Joey Votto

2B: Brandon Phillips

3B: Todd Frazier

SS: Zack Cozart

LF: Chris Heisey

CF: Drew Stubbs

RF: Jay Bruce

Starting Rotation:

Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and OPEN


Jose Arredondo, Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon, Logan Ondrusek, Sean Marshall, and Aroldis Chapman



Clearly, the Reds would need to fill the bench with about three players: a utility infielder, a super-utility player (infield and outfield), and a good fourth outfielder. They will need to look to free agency to fill those roles. The following players will be free agents and would be worth a look for the Reds:

Jose Lopez – Lopez can play first and third comfortably and second if or when needed. He has done so for the Cleveland Indians in 2012. He is making $800K in 2012 and will be 29 in 2013

Scott Hairston – Hairston may end up on the expensive side of bench players, as his power and versatility will be very valuable on the open market. He currently has an .840 OPS with 10 HR and 31 RBI in just 157 at bats for the New York Mets. Hairston is making $1.1 M in 2012 and has played all three outfield spots this season and some second base in his career.

Grady Sizemore – Injuries MIGHT be gone when he hits free agency after the 2012 season. Sizemore hasn’t had a healthy season since 2008. He is making $5 M in 2012 but hasn’t played in a single game. An incentive-laden contract is a necessity for Sizemore to prove his worth and as a former gold glove caliber center fielder, he can handle all three outfield positions…if healthy.

Ryan Theriot – Theriot is making $1.25 M for the San Francisco Giants while playing primarily shortstop. He played left field late in a game and has played second, short, third, and outfield in recent years.

The open rotation spot should be left to Tony Cingrani, the young left-hander out of Rice, who has dominated the minors this season to the tune of a 7-2 record, 1.47 ERA, 86 IP, 109:21 K:BB, .196 BAA, 0.95 WHIP, including a 15 strikeout, eight shutout inning outing on Wednesday night. It’s worth seeing what you have there. Alfredo Simon or Sam LeCure could fill the number five spot if the Reds don’t sign another veteran arm like: Aaron Cook, Kevin Correia, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Marquis, Joel Piniero, or Chris Young, who could all be cheap options.

It’s never too early to wonder what your team will look like in the future. Maybe Billy Hamilton moves to center and Drew Stubbs or Chris Heisey becomes the team’s fourth outfielder? As the season goes on, trades could be made involving Cingrani or Hamilton to upgrade for 2012, as well. Regardless, the Reds look like an excellent team for this season and could get better by cutting some of the dead weight, namely their entire bench and Scott Rolen.


Reds Seem Comfortable in the Two Hole

Jeff Kent made a living hitting in front of Barry Bonds, averaging a .297/.368/.535, 29 HR, and 114 RBI line over six seasons.  Joey Votto is having the same effect this season for Cincinnati, as the player hitting directly in front of him have gone .356/.406/.576 line, as teams continue to pitch around Votto, who is tied for the Major League lead in walks with 13.

Zack Cozart is now leading off for the Reds after raking .350/.409/.575 in 40 at bats in front of Votto.  He isn’t doing well at leadoff yet, walking once but going hitless in his first 8 at bats.  Drew Stubbs moved up in the order to 2nd when Dusty Baker moved Cozart to leadoff.  He is only hitting .538/.571/.846, going 7 for his first 13 there.

Take a look at production by batting order for the Red thus far:

Batting #1 14 62 5 8 1 0 0 0 3 14 .129 .169 .145
Batting #2 14 59 10 21 3 2 2 7 3 12 .356 .406 .576
Batting #3 14 49 7 14 3 0 1 8 13 14 .286 .429 .408
Batting #4 14 57 6 9 2 0 1 3 4 9 .158 .226 .246
Batting #5 14 55 7 12 3 0 3 6 4 16 .218 .262 .436
Batting #6 14 56 3 13 4 0 2 13 3 10 .232 .283 .411
Batting #7 14 52 5 13 3 2 0 4 3 9 .250 .291 .385
Batting #8 14 49 4 13 1 0 0 2 6 6 .265 .345 .286
Batting #9 14 46 1 7 1 0 0 4 1 17 .152 .167 .174

Obviously, having performed well since the recent moves, the lineup may stick for a while.  If Brandon Phillips is hitting 4th between Votto and Jay Bruce, this lineup would remain one that fans can’t complain much about.  However, if Baker continues putting Ryan Ludwick or Scott Rolen in the 4-spot, when they’ve gone a combined 4 for 42 with 1 RBI (.095), this doesn’t make sense.  The Reds need Phillips healthy and he has been hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season.  He has a .333/.333/.667 line in just 9 at bats at #4.

If Phillips isn’t playing and the Reds want production, they need to bat Votto in front of Jay Bruce at 3 and 4.  Bruce has struggled to a .229/.250/.458 line in the 5-spot without protection behind him, striking out 13 times in 48 at bats.  Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were both left handed hitters and seemed to hit well batting back to back in the Yankees order in the late 1920’s.  I wonder if Miller Huggins and his three championships and six pennants had a book on how to put lineups together like managers today?