How the Cincinnati Reds Ruined Their Window

Over the last nine games of the season, the Cincinnati Reds were 2-7, including their National League Wild Card loss in Pittsburgh, which would be their fifth loss against the Pirates in the nine game span. Needless to say, after a disappointing collapse in the 2012 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, the collapse at the end of the 2013 season wasn’t pleasing to the fans, or the front office. Dusty Baker was canned shortly thereafter, replaced by pitching coach Bryan Price, who, in his first year as manager, has been dealt with the task of rebuilding a roster with a lot of question marks into a perennial power, all the while continuing to look up at the St. Louis Cardinals, who have built a system of winning from within.

Now, the Reds must replace their lead-off hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, who only managed a .423 on-base percentage and 107 runs scored while reaching base 305 times by hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch, after watching Choo run to the Texas Rangers in free agency for seven-years, $130 million.

BruceCertainly, it wasn’t within the budget to re-up with Choo at $18.7 million per year, not with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips combining to make $33 million in 2014, $38 million in 2015, and $45.5 million in 2016, that is, of course, if one of them isn’t traded. The Reds have long had a payroll between $80 and $100 million under current owner Bob Castellini, but is it time to start questioning what the long-term goal of the franchise is, after sputtering around the free agent market while trying to replace their best lead-off hitter since Joe Morgan and Pete Rose were flapping and flopping around Riverfront Stadium. Whether television contracts and Major League Baseball Advanced Media revenue will allow the “small-market” Reds to increase their payroll further is a valid question, but with Matt Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake under team-control through 2015, and Homer Bailey headed towards free agency after the 2014 season, how else can the team remain contenders, especially with St. Louis constantly reloading and the Chicago Cubs reaching their contention window, just as the Reds is becoming questionable?

This offseason was difficult, clearly. The Reds couldn’t be in on Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, or any other big-name free agent, but with very little money to spend, GM Walt Jocketty could have been more active in the trade market, or at least the minor league free agent route. Dick Williams, the VP of Baseball Operations, told me during the Reds’ caravan that the club lost out on Grady Sizemore due to his relationship with one of Boston’s trainers, who had been with Cleveland during his time there. While Sizemore wasn’t a lock to produce, or stay healthy, he fit the bill as a low-cost centerfield option. He wasn’t a leadoff hitter, though, at least he hadn’t shown those skills since his last somewhat healthy season, 2009. Which left the club with little choice but to give their in-house candidate, Billy Hamilton, the job.

The issue with Hamilton, though, is that, though he has otherworldly speed, is he capable of thriving long-term in center, a position that he has been playing since the start of the 2012 season. His experience in Triple-A left a lot to be desired, as he posted a .256/.308/.343 triple-slash, stealing 75 bases and scoring 75 runs in 123 games for Louisville. We all know about his brief September audition, when Dusty Baker allowed him to receive all of 22 plate appearances, while Baker pinch-ran him often to allow the speedy Mississippian to accumulate 13 stolen bases in 14 tries.

In addition to plugging Hamilton into center, here is the laundry list of exciting moves that the Reds have made this winter:

October: Signed LHP Trevor Reckling and RHP Timothy Adleman to minor league contracts; signed OF Jason Bourgeois to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training;

November: Signed LHP Manny Parra, 2B Skip Schumaker, and C Brayan Pena to major league contracts; Signed OF Mike Wilson, LHP Nick Schmidt, and RHP Ross Ismail to minor league contracts; Signed C Max Ramirez, LHP Lee Hyde, and 3B Rey Navarro to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;

December: Signed 3B Ruben Gotay and RHP Trevor Bell to minor league contracts; Invited non-roster RHP Jose Diaz and 2B Kristopher Negron to Spring Training; Signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang, C Corky Miller, and SS Argenis Diaz to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training; Acquired LHP David Holmberg from Arizona for Ryan Hanigan;

January: Sign RHP Bob Keppel, RHP Sean Black, OF Thomas Neal, LHP Jeff Francis, 2B John Tolisano, and 2B Hernan Iribarren to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training;

So, the club lost Shin-Soo Choo, Xavier Paul, and Derrick Robinson from last season’s 90-72 squad, so why should fans feel like this offseason is a failure?

Well, Choo’s production won’t be replaced by Hamilton, speed or no speed. Even if Hamilton increases his on-base percentage to .340 over 600 plate appearances, he doesn’t have the patient approach that Choo had, and, while he can move himself from base to base with his wheels, he just won’t be on as often. If Choo’s production is a clear downgrade, where are they upgrading?

Mesoraco1Is Devin Mesoraco set for a breakout season, replacing the putrid production that Ryan Hanigan provided in 2013? Is Todd Frazier going to post an .829 OPS, as he did in 2012, or something similar to his .721 OPS from 2013? Is Zack Cozart even worth starting anymore, given his career .680 OPS over 1,256 plate appearances? Ryan Ludwick had a nice 2012 and his 2013 was ruined due to his Opening Day shoulder injury, but was he ever worth a two-year, $15 million extension, especially when you consider it was back-loaded with an option for 2015, making him guaranteed $13 million, including his 2015 buyout? Brandon Phillips, 103 RBI or not, saw his OPS fall to .705 in 2013. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce seem like locks for success, but Bruce continues to be one of the streakiest players in all of baseball, while Votto’s patience seems to have overtaken his ability to actually produce at his 2010 MVP level ever again.

As far as the rotation, it remains pretty deep, but once you get past the top five, there are question marks. While that wouldn’t be a huge deal for most clubs, you have to remember that Johnny Cueto only had one full season and he immediately got hurt in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Bailey, Latos, and Leake are very good options, and Tony Cingrani was impressive, even with just one good pitch, but having Wang, Francis, and nothing else as fallback options is rough, which may lead to the club rushing top prospect Robert Stephenson if there was an injury in 2014, not to mention how the rotation is going to function if Bailey leaves via free agency or Cueto’s 2015 option isn’t picked up. Who will be starting games and why don’t the Reds have options waiting like the Cardinals?

The bullpen is still built to dominate, as Aroldis Chapman is as shutdown as it gets. A full season of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, a former closer in his own right, serving as a setup man, and J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, and Alfredo Simon rounding out the group helps the Reds bullpen look tremendous for another season…but a bullpen doesn’t have a lot of value if they aren’t protecting more leads than deficits.

The Reds haven’t been active enough. The Reds haven’t drafted enough high-ceiling talent. The Reds haven’t had enough success on the international market.

Braun1The Reds are a lot like the Milwaukee Brewers, locking up talent for just a little while, and then watching that talent and the contention window fly way in the breeze. You see, the Brewers were a competitive team until Prince Fielder left. They traded a lot of good, young talent to acquire Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia to help them contend. They bought in to that window and went for it. It is hard for a small-market to commit a lot of money to talent like Greinke and Sabathia, only to watch them leave for big-markets once they hit free agency, but the revenue that comes with a playoff run or a World Series title would alleviate a lot of those dollars. The Brewers, then, went into quite a funk the last several seasons, and they have yet to recover, but the worst part is that their farm system is terrible. If Ryan Braun doesn’t rebound, the club still has Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, but the rest of the organization is quite barren.

The Reds are a lot like the Brewers because they haven’t had many successful recent drafts. While a lot of the key names on the major league roster are homegrown, there isn’t a whole lot of depth currently in the minor league system. The Reds did trade a couple of solid young players (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger) to acquire Mat Latos and Choo (Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs), but outside of Stephenson and Hamilton, much of the high-level talent was in Low-A or the Rookie levels last season, specifically Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, and Nick Travieso.

So, what will happen when 2015 rolls around without an Oscar Taveras waiting to take over left field for Ludwick? Who fills the rotation without a Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon ready to step in for A.J. Burnett? Who will push Todd Frazier at third base without a Kris Bryant or Javier Baez?

While the Reds and Brewers have weaker farm systems and question marks at several spots, the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates have done it right. They have managed to stay active and have taken risks with draft picks to make sure that they are getting the talent necessary to maintain solid depth within their organization. Sure, the Pirates and Cubs have had higher picks due to their lack of success over the years, but the Cardinals have a lot of talent and they haven’t had a season below .500 since 2007, while making the playoffs in 11 of the last 18 seasons, including four World Series and two titles.

PujolsThe conservative nature of the current regime in Cincinnati may not look awful as the Reds compete in 2014, but when Chicago, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have their high-level minor league talent stepping in within the next two to three seasons, Reds fans will forget about the nightmares that Albert Pujols used to bring, and will instead be kept awake by Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Gregory Polanco, Oscar Taveras, and others who will make their names in the depths of the thriving systems in the rest of the National League Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers and Reds will continue to cry small-market when they have, instead, chosen to be smarter at the right times.

There are still names on the free agent market that can help the Reds contend, but none of them will make them as good as they were last season, in 2012, or in 2010, when Cincinnati has reached the playoffs. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point to scrap what has been built. Instead, run out there with what you have and hope for the best, which, apparently, was Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini’s plan all offseason.


Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Basemen

Below you’ll find the rankings for 1B for the 2012 season.  You’ll see 2012 projections in italics. 

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 

.344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB in 572 AB

.327/.431/.596, 49 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 579 AB

How can one of the best hitters in baseball get even better?  Adding Prince Fielder to the lineup.  The Tigers are going to need run production with Cabrera playing some 3B, as their defense may become as ugly as the Patriots secondary.

2. Albert Pujols, Angels

.299/.366/.541, 29 2B, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 9 SB in 579 AB

.313/.389/.563, 36 2B, 34 HR, 112 RBI, 5 SB in 599 AB

Pujols had a “down” year in 2011.  If only everyone could look so good when they’re so “bad.”  He’ll rebound with health, and he’ll maintain that health with the ability to DH on occasion.  His lineup is filled with vets, but it shouldn’t hold him back THIS YEAR.  I still don’t think he’s going to be worth the contract by 2015 or 2016…ARod style.

3. Prince Fielder, Tigers

.299/.415/.566, 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 1 SB in 569 AB

.315/.426/.588, 43 2B, 35 HR, 119 RBI, 1 SB in 559 AB

Prince isn’t losing anything by moving away from Ryan Braun’s protection with Miguel Cabrera filling that role nicely.  He immediately makes Detroit a contender with his arrival, especially since they were already there before he got there.  Scary good with the Comerica Park gaps.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

.338/.410/.548, 45 2B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 1 SB in 630 AB

.327/.422/.553, 39 2B, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 1 SB in 614 AB

Gonzalez will have a full season of a not-God-awful Carl Crawford to drive in, and he’ll be comfortable in Fenway to start the year, so he won’t lose a month of power like he did at the start of 2011.

5. Joey Votto, Reds

.309/.416/.531, 40 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 8 SB in 599 AB

.329/.426/.569, 36 2B, 38 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 587 AB

Votto is a very patient hitter in a lineup that lacks patience.  He’ll take pitches and lose RBI’s due to guys not getting on around him, and walking about the same number of times that he strikes out.  He’s going to step up his production as he heads towards Free Agency after 2013, developing a market for himself early.  He’s in a great ballpark, Great American to be exact, to make it happen.

6. Eric Hosmer, Royals

.293/.334/.465, 27 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB in 523 AB

.287/.362/.501, 31 2B, 26 HR, 89 RBI, 14 SB in 598 AB

Hosmer had a strong rookie season and is only going to get better.  2012 will be the first signs of what he is capable of, but his numbers will continue to climb from here.  He has power and is athletic enough to continue stealing bases.  He could eventually become a Ryan Braun clone at 1B, with fewer stolen bases.  I have him high on the list because he showed what he is capable of in the 2nd half of 2011.

7. Mark Teixeira, Yankees 

.248/.341/.494, 26 2B, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 4 SB in 589 AB

.253/.339/.513, 28 SB, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 2 SB in 594 AB

Teixeira’s AVG and SLG have fallen significantly in the last several seasons, and his high strikeout rate suddenly screams that he is on the decline, as he can’t keep up with fastballs like he used to.  With that being said, he is still mashing.  I have a slight bounceback coming, but he isn’t capable of the high averages and power like he used to be.

8. Michael Young, Rangers 

.338/.380/.474, 41 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 631 AB

.318/.372/.468, 37 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 5 SB in 639 AB

Young just keeps hitting.  He led the league in hits last year and continues showing the ability to be versatile, which has a lot of value in various fantasy formats.  Look for more of the same with a solid lineup around him, even as he continues aging.  He showed no signs of breaking down last year.

9. Freddie Freeman, Braves 

.282/.346/.448, 32 2B, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 571 AB

.294/.357/.467, 34 2B, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 584 AB

With a name this bad, you’d think there was no way that he would be a successful baseball player.  Maybe a plumber or sales guy…however, Freeman is very young and is a polished hitter.  He’s hitting better than previous super-prospect Jason Heyward  has to this point, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues to do so in coming years.  He may never hit 30-35 homers per season, but he will do more than enough to be an asset in fantasy and for the Braves.

10. Michael Morse, Nationals

.303/.360/.550, 36 2B, 31 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB in 522 AB

.286/.342/.549, 34 2B, 33 HR, 107 RBI, 1 SB in 571 AB

Morse came out of nowhere, kind of, to post very valuable fantasy numbers in 2011.  He has tremendous power and a long swing, which still will make his susceptible to slumps and strikeouts.  The Nationals are improving around him, though, so he should continue to build value.  He will ultimately be a first baseman, but he will patrol left field to open the season.  He could move to first if or when Adam LaRoche’s next injury strikes, but he’ll certainly be there by 2013 for good. 

11. Billy Butler, Royals 

.291/.361/.461, 44 2B, 19 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB in 597 AB

.314/.379/.501, 41 2B, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 1 SB in 599 AB

12. Ike Davis, Mets 

.302/.383/.543, 8 2B, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB in 129 AB

.291/.372/.538, 32 2B, 28 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB in 586 AB

Davis was headed towards a breakout prior to the ankle injury that he suffered in 2011.  Imagine the capabilities in an offense that is relying heavily on him, especially after the fences were moved in.  This is the year.

13. Lance Berkman, Cardinals 

.301/.412/.547, 23 2B, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 2 SB in 488 AB

.283/.394/.527, 21 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 1 SB in 506 AB

He won’t hit as well with added pressure to perform, but he should maintain health by moving to first.  He’s aging, even if he posted a solid season for what seems like the first time in years in 2011, so don’t think he is going to get a whole lot better than last year.

14. Ryan Howard, Phillies 

.253/.346/.488, 30 2B, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 1 SB in 557 AB

.247/.339/.479, 23 2B, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 0 SB in 486 AB

Decline City.  Major injury + drops in OPS over the last few years = the NL version of Teixeira with a whole lot less to offer.  Howard will miss the first month, but he’ll still post solid power numbers.  He isn’t a top of the line bat anymore, and he and his teammates are aging quicker than Benjamin Button, only the opposite way.

15. Paul Konerko, White Sox 

.300/.388/.517, 25 2B, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 1 SB in 543 AB

.309/.392/.524, 28 2B, 33 HR, 110 RBI, 1 SB in 564 AB

There’s no way that Konerko can’t be better in 2011 because Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, and Gordon Beckham will be better around him.  He’ll drive in more runs and see more pitches.

16. Mark Reynolds, Orioles

.221/.323/.483, 27 2B, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 6 SB in 534 AB

.232/.331/.489, 26 2B, 39 HR, 91 RBI, 4 SB in 541 AB

17. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 

.250/.333/.474, 9 2B, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB in 156 AB

.259/.341/.510, 28 2B, 25 HR, 84 RBI, 7 SB in 533 AB

18. Yonder Alonso, Padres

.330/.398/.545, 4 2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 88 AB

.309/.389/.508, 36 2B, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 1 SB in 531 AB

19. Gaby Sanchez, Marlins

.266/.352/.427, 35 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 3 SB in 572 AB

.271/.354/.449, 37 2B, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 2 SB in 576 AB

20. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies 

.284/.346/.459, 29 2B, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB in 529 AB

.279/.339/.453, 31 2B, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 8 SB in 559 AB

21. Carlos Lee, Astros

.275/.342/.446, 38 2B, 18 HR, 94 RBI, 4 SB in 585 AB

.271/.341/.439, 36 2B, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 2 SB in 591 AB

22. Justin Morneau, Twins

.227/.285/.333, 16 2B, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB in 264 AB

.264/.326/.411, 21 2B, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 0 SB in 403 AB

If he stays on the field, he’s still going to have to adjust and be consistent.  Chris Parmelee may be the best Twins first baseman to own going forward.

23. Justin Smoak, Mariners

.234/.323/.396, 24 2B, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 0 SB in 427 AB

.271/.359/.489, 31 2B, 22 HR, 83 RBI, 1 SB in 568 AB

This is the year, guys!  Smoak stays healthy, has help with Montero coming over, and he develops.  He’s still just 25!

24. Aubrey Huff, Giants

.246/.306/.370, 27 2B, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 5 SB in 521 AB

.261/.326/.409, 31 2B, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 4 SB in 535 AB

25. Carlos Pena, Rays

.225/.357/.462, 27 2B, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB in 493 AB

.231/.379/.491, 26 2B, 29 HR, 84 RBI, 2 SB in 519 AB

26. James Loney, Dodgers

.288/.339/.416, 30 2B, 12 HR, 65 RBI, 4 SB in 531 AB

.281/.341/.421, 34 2B, 14 HR, 70 RBI, 3 SB 546 AB

27. Casey Kotchman, Indians

.306/.378/.422, 24 2B, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 2 SB in 500 AB

.311/.386/.441, 31 2B, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB in 562 AB

28. Adam Lind, Blue Jays

.251/.295/.439, 16 2B, 26 HR, 87 RBI, 1 SB in 499 AB

.255/.310/.441, 18 2B, 29 HR, 84 RBI, 1 SB in 512 AB

29. Mitch Moreland, Rangers

.259/.320/.414, 22 2B, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 2 SB in 464 AB

.265/.329/426, 29 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 3 SB in 520 AB

30. Todd Helton, Rockies

.302/.385/.466, 27 2B, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 0 SB in 421 AB

.294/.376/.459, 24 2B, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 0 SB in 432 AB

GM for the Day: San Diego Padres

The hiring of Josh Byrnes as real GM and the theft of the front office by Theo Epstein in Chicago was just the beginning of the Padres offseason.  The trade of Mat Latos to Cincinnati for four very good pieces was followed up by the trade of the team’s top prospect (2011) to Chicago, when they sent Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner and slap hitting outfield prospect.  The influx of talent in the deal with the Reds was the team acknowledging that they can get by without an ace in Petco Park, but they needed to find some guys who could rake there.  That is where Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal come in.  And, while Edinson Volquez has been awful the last couple of seasons when he wasn’t injured, he could become an ace in Petco.  The Padres are loaded with some solid prospects throughout the system, but it will be interesting to see what they do with them and how those prospects adjust to the cavern of offensive death that San Diego calls a home ballpark.  Building around Cameron Maybin and Yonder Alonso seems to be the best option at this point for the team, as far as the offense goes.  This is their current 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Nick Hundley and John Baker

1B: Yonder Alonso

2B: Orlando Hudson

3B: Chase Headley

SS: Jason Bartlett

LF: Carlos Quentin

CF: Cameron Maybin

RF: Will Venable

Bench: Jesus Guzman (1B/3B), James Darnell (3B/OF), Logan Forsythe (INF), Chris Denorfia (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Cory Luebke, Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Dustin Mosely and Edinson Volquez

Relief Pitchers: Huston Street, Luke Gregorson, Andrew Cashner, Joe Thatcher, Ernesto Frieri, Josh Spence and Anthony Bass

The Padres have a lot of things that they could do.  Signing Free Agents isn’t really one of them.  They have a lot of talent on the way, some they probably won’t have room for.  While they have James Darnell ready to take over at 3B or left field, they would need to wonder where he’s going to end up when Jedd Gyorko is ready in mid-2012.  It’s a problem many teams would like to have.  Darnell will be 25 this month and posted an OPS of .953 in Double-A and Triple-A in 2011, while Gyorko will be 23 for the entire 2012 season and he posted a .952 OPS between High-A and Double-A in 2011.  Add in that current 3B Chase Headley is just 28 this season and while he only posted an OPS of .773, his .773 OPS was the highest of all Padres with at least 300 at bats.  Sad.  If Headley could play anywhere else but Petco, like all of the Padres, his 2011 Road OPS of .864 shows the kind of player he could actually be.  The acquisition of Carlos Quentin was nice for fans who want to see some runs, but you have to wonder if Petco will destroy his value, as well.

Pitching seems like a crapshoot.  Aaron Harang was able to post a 14-7 record with a 3.64 ERA in 2011 after posting an 18-38 record and 4.71 ERA for Cincinnati from 2008-2010.  Cory Luebke moved from the bullpen to the rotation and became the Padres ace, posting a 5-9 record with a 3.48 ERA from July on when he was a starter full-time.  If the Padres are able to have Tim Stauffer (3.73), Dustin Mosely (3.30) and Clayton Richard (3.88) continue to pitch effectively, and the offense gets a little bit of life from the influx of acquired talent, the Padres could be a lot better than the 71-91 that they were in 2011.

I would change a couple of things right now.  I would put Carlos Quentin in right, move Chase Headley to left, and give James Darnell a shot to see what he can do before he is pushed off of third by Jedd Gyorko.  If Darnell flops, he could become trade bait or a nice bench bat.  This puts the best offense on the field.  I would also go ahead and put Yasmani Grandal on the Opening Day roster.  He’s only played 49 games at Double-A or higher, but he has a very advanced approach and John Baker isn’t going to make your team better now or any time in the future.  Grandal might make Nick Hundley better by providing competition and keeping him fresher.  The middle infield is aging quickly, as Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett become the players that no one wants to take on, as evidenced by Winter Meeting trade talks that went nowhere as the Padres hoped to shave payroll.  They could get help at 2B with Cory Spangenberg in the next year, but SS is going to be an issue as their top SS prospect was just drafted last year, Jace Peterson.  Rymer Liriano is the prospect to watch.  He could obliterate pitching in the California League and become a monster propsect in 2012.  He is a future star in the outfield, Petco or not.

Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, stolen from the Rangers for Mike Adams, could make an appearance in San Diego in 2012.  Erlin is a lefty with amazing Minor League stats whose control and repertoire will make him valuable to the Padres.  The pitching staff is fine right now with who they have.  I would love to see how Edinson Volquez does after another year to recover from Tommy John.  I still feel that the deal with Cincinnati was a total robbery by San Diego, as the Padres got a potential star at first and catcher, as well as a solid bullpen arm to go along with the veteran, Volquez.

After pulling a few strings, this is the 25-man roster I would have heading to San Diego:

2 Catchers: Nick Hundley and Yasmani Grandal

1B: Yonder Alonso

2B: Orlando Hudson

3B: James Darnell

SS: Jason Bartlett

LF: Chase Headley

CF: Cameron Maybin

RF: Carlos Quentin

Bench: Will Venable (OF), Chris Denorfia (OF), Jesus Guzman (1B/3B) and Logan Forsythe (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Cory Luebke, Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Dustin Mosely and Edinson Volquez

Relief Pitchers: Huston Street, Luke Gregorson, Andrew Cashner, Joe Thatcher, Ernesto Frieri, Josh Spence and Anthony Bass

Right in the Ace

If you could please explain yourself, Walt...

Wow.  When I saw that the Reds acquired Mat Latos, I was pretty pumped.  He’s a front-end of the rotation type with some pretty good stuff.  Latos is under team control until the end of the 2015 season and will be arbitration-eligible next year.  He just turned 24 and holds a career 27-29 record with a 3.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 429 2/3 IP.  While I saw one Reds fan react that he “has a losing record, what a horrible deal,” the peripherals on Latos’ stats show that he has great skills and probably just suffered from that fact that the Padres suck and they can’t score runs in Petco Park.  With that being said, this deal was an absolute fleecing by new Padres GM Josh Byrnes, who bent over Walt Jocketty and stole the old man’s decency without any KY Jelly.  This deal was DREADFUL for Cincinnati on so many levels.

Level One: Cincinnati uses the “small-market” card more than Al Sharpton uses the “race” card.  You worry about how you’re going to move on or be able to function when you’re paying Joey Votto $17 million in 2013?  Well, who are you going to replace him with now?  Yonder Alonso may have been a horrible outfielder, we know this from the 24 chances he had to field in 16 games there in 2011.  That’s a great use of judgment.  That would have been like saying Hitler had good ideas in when he appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933 before seeing what he actually became…ok, so not that drastic but give me a break!  Alonso isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2015, he can’t become a Free Agent until 2018, and you give him up in the deal?  Sure, he could have bombed since he struggles against lefties and “can’t field”, but who plays first when your “small-market” team can’t afford to re-sign Votto?

Level Two: Edinson Volquez won 17 games in 2008, had elbow issues and was shut down in 2009, more elbow issues in 2010 followed by Tommy John surgery and came back in 2011.  Elbow issues followed by Tommy John surgery result in a pitcher taking 12-18 months after surgery to regain their form, and, especially, their control.  Volquez’s control never came back last year, but it was due to.  The fact that he was tossed in based on his most recent results was absolutely asinine.  Volquez’s fastball was 93.6 mph on average in 2008 and was sitting at 93.4 last year.  While his ERA and WHIP has increased, he was still a work in progress.  The Reds did a good thing by not locking him up long-term, but they shouldn’t have given up on him for nothing.

Level Three: Yasmani Grandal just turned 23 in November.  He played at three levels in 2011, posting a .305/.401/.500 slash, ripping 31 2B and 16 homers.  He wasn’t in the Reds plans due to the presence of Ryan Hanigan (who is signed on the cheap) and Devin Mesoraco, another slugging catching prospect who just arrived in Cincinnati late last season.  Grandal and Alonso alone for Latos is pushing it.  They are both top prospects, having been honored by Baseball America as the #3 and #4 prospects in the Reds system this season.  The Reds aren’t the Rangers, Rays or Jays as far as the strength of their system, but they have elite-level talent in Mesoraco, Billy Hamilton, Alonso and Grandal.

Level Four: Who is your closer next year?  Nick Masset?  Bill Bray?  Maybe it could have been the kid who will be 24 next May and posted a 93/28 K/BB and 2.03 ERA over 62 IP last year between Double-A and Triple-A…Brad Boxberger.  Young guys can sometimes dominate as closers.  Need examples?  Neftali Feliz and Craig Kimbrel.  BAM!  No more evidence needed.  You want to build a solid bullpen with a “small-market” payroll?  You give opportunities to guys like this and you don’t give someone like Francisco Cordero a four-year, $45 million deal like the Reds did in 2008.  You could have signed Votto and Bruce to a Ryan Braun (8-year, $45 million) or Evan Longoria (6-year, $17.5 million) lockdown, long-term deal to avoid the arbitration process and keep them on your roster.  Unfortunately, the ultra-conservative nature of the city and folks of Cincinnati would have probably flipped out at such a notion.

Mat Latos is good and has the potential to be an ace.  Unfortunately, the Reds got railroaded in the ace in this deal.  Their aces will be sore and fans want to hunt down the ace of Walt Jocketty when Votto leaves and they have a journey-man first baseman because the team traded their future for an short-term answer.  If you have such a problem locking up Free Agents, do you think you should be mortgaging the future on those short-term solutions.  I don’t believe so.  However, I am a lowly blogger and someone with white hair is in charge of the Reds, ruining the franchise by listening to Dusty Baker and making decisions based on his expertise.  Horrible trade.

Dust off “The Book”

More Dusty Baker fan mail via my brain…

Yonder Alonso started at 3B on Monday night against Philadelphia.  He played all 9 innings…he didn’t have to field a ball.  However, he did have to catch a ball thrown by Ryan Hanigan six times after strikeouts during the game.  Shocking.  I didn’t think he could play defense.  But…Alonso did go 0 for 4, so he deserves a couple of days out of the starting lineup…though, he did get two plate appearances after coming in as a DEFENSIVE replacement in the 6th inning, taking the pitcher spot in the lineup as part of a double-switch.  Tonight, though, he’s out of the lineup again.  Why?  Because Cliff Lee is on the mound.

Dusty goes by “the book,” you know, that old, out-of-date “how-to” guide.  Basically, if you’ve ever seen a Dummies Guide To _______ at your local bookstore, this is how you manage baseball games.  Yonder Alonso can’t hit Cliff Lee.  Three-Quarters of Major League Baseball can’t hit Cliff Lee.  Yonder Alonso CAN hit left-handed pitchers.  He has a .313 average against them this season at Triple-A in 112 at bats, but he is just 1 for 6 in Cincinnati, which is the same sample size that doesn’t allow Alonso to play left field more frequently, having just six chances there, too.

I am just a lowly blogger but I still know something.  Yonder Alonso is one of the best eight guys on the team.  If you won’t play him in left, where Adam Dunn and Jonny Gomes have played miserably over the last decade, why would you put him at third, a position he hadn’t played since high school?  It’s as if Baker and Walt Jocketty are doing everything they can to screw the guy up.  They are doing one of two things: 1) Over-managing and over-thinking things by using “the book,” or 2) saving Alonso from reaching 150 at bats so that he can win Rookie of the Year in 2012.  The Reds didn’t do this to Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn.  If it is about switching positions, maybe Votto should go to left, Pete Rose played five different positions that he was an All-Star at.  Votto isn’t moving though, because, as he says, Alonso hasn’t proven that he can hit Major League pitching…and Votto is a good first baseman.  Didn’t Albert Pujols play third again this season for St. Louis?  Isn’t Joe Mauer playing more games away from catcher?

It seems like the Reds have a lot of people who are more determined to do things “their-way” instead of what is good for the team and what the fans want.  The fans want a reason to go to the park.  A talented young player does that.  Apparently, ownership doesn’t care about that either.  That’s what has killed the Cincinnati Bengals.  I guess that is just how Cincinnati is.  As long as the bottom line isn’t in the red, it’s working.  Forget about the fan.  The choice of a few will continue to make the choice of the many, the fans suffer.  Just like government.  What a crock!

Yonder Alons…OH…he isn’t playing?

Another Reds rant because it is my blog…deal with it.  I don’t really care for Dusty Baker, if you haven’t been reading or you don’t know me.  I wasn’t a fan of his shenanigans in Chicago with the young pitching, I’m not a fan of his toothpick, and I am not a fan of his veteran loyalty.  With that being said, he was the luckiest S.O.B. on the planet last season, when everything he did went right.  It’s unfortunate because it gave hope to Reds fans.  This season hasn’t gone his way, though.  He forced the Reds to keep Ramon Hernandez at the trade deadline because he didn’t want Devin Mesoraco gaining experience in a playoff run…how has that worked out now that the Reds are 13 1/2 games out?  But that isn’t it…Now, Baker has really crossed the line and become dumber than any manager that I have ever witnessed in Cincinnati, even the one who gambled on games didn’t do things this STUPID.

Yonder Alonso is 24-years-old.  He is a first baseman long-term because he is not very fast, smooth, or any other desired adjective that goes along with an outfielder.  However, there isn’t a DH in the National League and Joey Votto has earned the right to stay at first.  Therefore, you HAVE to move Alonso.  Left field is the easy choice, especially because you have Bruce in right and Stubbs in center, but even more so because you can afford to have him there.  Baker can’t stand that Alonso has made some defensive mistakes in left.  Alonso has played 29 innings in left – 6 chances, 5 putouts…1 error.  How in the HELL are you going to judge the future of a player on 6 chances when you are nearly 14 games out on August 24th?  Alonso didn’t start either game in a double header today, clarifying his doghouse reputation that he has earned by making ONE error in left field in 29 innings and SIX opportunities to get an out.

Alonso can afford to make a mistake here and there defensively when MIGUEL CAIRO is hitting fifth at any point in a season for your team.  Alonso can’t afford to be on the bench when he is hitting .448/.529/.759 in 29 at bats.  It’s a small sample size but you’re going to waste your time putting Fred Lewis and Dave Sappelt in the lineup instead?  Sappelt is a decent 4th outfielder long-term, I don’t want to rip him apart, but Alonso is the real deal with the bat.

Look…if Boston could put Manny Ramirez in left field for 8 seasons with the Green Monster behind him, I think that Yonder Alonso can play left in Cincinnati.  Want to know who else played an UGLY left field?  Jonny Gomes.  He started 253 games for the Reds in the outfield from 2009 until he was given to the Nationals in July.  He played below league average defense there, posting 12 errors in those 253 games and a .985 fielding percentage.  The future of Cincinnati Reds baseball depends on the bats of young players and the arms of young pitchers that are developed in the system.  Walt Jocketty isn’t going to hand out a six-year, $120 million deal to anyone while the G.M. of a small market like Cincinnati.  Dusty Baker isn’t going to be here in 2013, but guess who is…Yonder Alonso.  Get his ass in the lineup, Baker – you and your career .985 fielding percentage aren’t one to judge someone else’s deficiencies in the outfield.