2014 Reds / Aroldis Chapman / Hot Stove / Reds - General

An interpretation of Jocketty and Price on Chapman

By now, you’ve probably read or heard about Walt Jocketty’s comments yesterday regarding Aroldis Chapman’s role for the Reds in 2014. In case you haven’t, here’s what he said:

“We feel we have the depth in our rotation now that we can continue to keep him in the bullpen. That’s probably the plan going into Spring Training. We’ll have him prepare for Spring Training like he has in the past. He’ll come in and pitch a lot of innings in Spring Training, so he could go either way. In all likelihood when we get to Spring Training, we’ll make a decision. I would think he’ll continue to be our closer.”

You may not have seen Bryan Price’s comments later in the day. Here’s what he said, according to C. Trent Rosecrans:

“We’ve had some internal dialogue on that, so I don’t think it’s something I feel comfortable saying this is exactly what we’re going to do. I have my opinion on it, I know his value for us the last couple of years has been as a closer, the question is what role with our team would best serve and how long it would take to transition to a starter. He’s found him way into a comfortable position, but I do think we can utilize him some more instead of a guy that’s maybe a single-inning guy now that he’s done this for a few years. I think there’s ways we can get more value out of Aroldis, not necessarily by starting, but keeping him in the bullpen. I think there’s a bit more dialogue to have in the organization before we put a stamp on what his role is.”

My opinion on this topic is well known. The Reds should try Chapman in the rotation. He has the best arm on the team. It is being wasted in the closer role. And as a closer, Chapman has not been dominant, measured by save-conversion, he’s been roughly league average for two years. The reason he’s perceived as an elite closer are the strikeouts. They’re baseball crack.

What really puts the ‘mania’ in Chapmania are the strikeouts. That’s our real obsession, the dominant whiff. The hard truth is this: Aroldis Chapman’s ninth-inning strikeouts are baseball’s version of crack. Except it’s spelled with two (or often three) Ks. As fans, we deeply enjoy experiencing those strikeouts. Dusty Baker did, too. Those helpless swings by our (often hated) opponents make us crazy happy. You could even say we’ve started to crave them. And like every psychological dependency, this one comes at a cost. Chapman’s strikeouts have become a powerful narcotic that desensitizes us to certain realities, like his league-average save rate.

At first glance, the comments by Jocketty and Price yesterday are discouraging. Especially maddening is Price’s reference to “how long it would take to transition.” Translation: The Reds’ past mistakes will compound into the future.

Sure, one can find plenty of wiggle room in the two statements. Jocketty says “probably” and it “could go either way.” Price’s statement contains even more ambiguity. He doesn’t want to say publicly what they are going to do. He wants “more dialogue” before a final decision is made.

Allow me a spoonful of wishful thinking mixed with the powder of reading between the lines before heating.

If the Reds plans include trading a starting pitcher (Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, even Tony Cingrani) and moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, they certainly wouldn’t say so out loud right now. It would weaken their negotiating position and stir up controversy about which popular pitcher was going to be sent packing. Not to mention that the expected trade may never materialize. See the BP saga.

I’m not claiming that the Reds have already decided to move Chapman to the rotation (even though signing Brayan Peña could be interpreted as an indication of that), only that it is way too early in the process to expect the Reds leaders to say anything other than what they did.

Please note, neither Jocketty or Price said, “Aroldis Chapman is going to be the closer.” If they’ve reached that conclusion, why not come right out and say it?

A major addition to the Reds’ lineup could come via a splashy free agent signing, like Shin-Soo Choo. The other route is through a trade. If Brandon Phillips is off the table, or not attracting much value, the main chip the Reds have is starting pitching.

I still believe Walt Jocketty will make a big move this off-season. Something breathtaking. You don’t fire a manager who wins 90 games and then give the next guy the same team minus one of the club’s best hitters (Choo).

When that thunderbolt hits, expect it to change Jocketty and Price’s answers to the Chapman question.

124 thoughts on “An interpretation of Jocketty and Price on Chapman

  1. Like you, I believe logic dictates that Walt will do something big this offseason. Rather than think that what Walt and Price recently said indicates BP will be with the Reds and Chapman in the rotation, I believe what they said indicates that there is a likelihood that the former will be traded and the latter may well be in the rotation.

    IF most believe (and I believe this to be the case) that Cano will ultimately sign with Seattle, the Yankees have to find a second baseman. Of course, though there are other options, BP will probably be one of the few that would satiate Yankees fans. To Walt, this may be a rhetorical leverage tool.

    As far as Chapman is concerned, the fact that they left the proverbial door open concerning how they will prepare him in spring training indicates that they are at least open to trading a pitcher.

    Of course, as identified in the original post, the surest indication that Walt will make a big move is that he knows he has to do something substantive after firing a manager with the record that Baker had.

    • @Drew Mac: But if I’m the Yankees, why don’t I just sign Infante and not give up player(s) in a trade? He doesn’t even cost me a draft pick as he didn’t get a qualifying offer.

      Also, it appears that Cano may still be an option for the Yanks. The M’s say they are done. May be a negotiating ploy but it seemed to be a pretty definitive statement from their GM.

      • @LWBlogger: The Yankees will prefer Phillips for two reasons. First, it will make the loss of Cano easier to stomach with their base….BP is a “name” player with hardware….he will do very well in NY. Second, BP is a better player than Infante and will guarantee the Yankees to have an economical (for them) solution at 2B over the next several years.

        If anything, this whole situation is sad commentary on the economics of baseball. The Yankees Pujols Cano (who can blame them) so they can overpay on McCann and Ellsbury.

  2. I agree that Something Big is very likely to happen in the off season, and the starting pitching staff is the most likely place for it to happen.

    You might argue that the team is only a single long-term injury away from a long-term starter problem. This year, it seems, there is no Cingrani available to step into a Cueto’s shoes.

    Still, few clubs go with a total of *6* starters. And, after a few spring trainings, I suspect the team knows all it needs to know about Chapman’s starting capabilities. Either he has the pitches to go 6-7 innings without total reliance on his fastball or he doesn’t.

    The bullpen is strong. There are other people who can close.

    Lots of noise out there about a Phillips trade. How about a Phillips-Bailey trade? Maybe a three-way? Or, two separate trades?

    Chapman in the rotation, a new second baseman, and a new guy in centerfield who steals a lot. Interesting.

    • @justcorbly: First: I agree with the evident consensus that Chapman should be tried as a starter. But…it could easily be a terrible mistake to trade an established starter to make “room” for him in the rotation. I’m going to suggest, heresy of heresies, that it’s possible that Price, Jocketty and Baker before them, actually know a good deal about baseball and pitchers. It follows from this that they may understand, as we don’t, that Chapman, despite the triple-digit fastball, isn’t likely to succeed in the rotation for reasons physical or psychological. Trade Bailey, Chapman fails=disaster of a season.

  3. As much as it frustrates me, I doubt that Chapman will ever leave the bullpen; that train has left the station. As much as there are great arguments for moving him, I just think there is too much baseball conventional wisdom supporting him as closer, and I don’t think Walt or Price will go that much against the grain. At best, Price might use him more in multiple-inning situations and perhaps even in (gasp!) tie ball games, but not to start a game.

    • @francisp: Price’s statement doesn’t bother me at all. He made the statement “We’ll see” after Jocketty made it sound like a done deal.
      He also emphasized getting more value out of Chapman, and using him for multiple innings. That would be a far cry from Dusty.

      • @pinson343: It would seem that, with no stress to confuse them, that these guys would be o the same page with the media in the first week of December. A standard “we haven’t made a decision” would cover both of them.

      • @pinson343: Agreed, Pinson, but isn’t it odd that Dusty would always say “We’ll see what happens” whenever Price or Walt appeared to indicate that Chapman would have a shot at the rotation?

        Here, Walt says “We’ll see,” and it could mean he’s leaning the other way.

  4. MLBTR says that the Mariners will go 10 yr./$230M for Cano and the Yanks won’t go above $170M. Cano flew out to Seattle today. Looks like Cano is about to become a Mariner. Chips are falling righteously for the Reds. Can trade BP to NYY and then get 2B Nick Franklin from the Mariners.

  5. So they want a way to transition him from reliever to starter? How about middle reliever as the beginning of the season, which means utilizing him when 1) a starter loses it early, and 2) the starter is in a shitload of trouble? Sure beats bringing him in with none on in the ninth inning. I mean how good does a pitcher really need to be be to come on in that situation and get three outs without giving up any runs? Anyone who can’t do that on a consistent basis probably shouldn’t be in the majors, right?

  6. Deja Vu, right?

    Chapman is never going to the rotation. Never.

    He doesn’t want to. They can’t force him to be an effective starter.

    And I’m pretty sure everyone here used up all their wishful thinking points when they decided BP was getting traded.

    • Chapman is never going to the rotation.Never.

      They can’t force him to be an effective starter.

      I believe this is where even Price threw in the towel during ST last year.

  7. “Measured by save-conversion, Chapman has been league average.” And measured by won-lost record, Homer Bailey last year was less than league average. I know, it’s a team stat. Save conversion rate isn’t such a great stat either. It depends a lot on circumstances other than how well the pitcher has pitched. I kept hearing that when CoCo’s K/9 dropped but his save rate remained high. Was Valverde really the best closer in baseball in 2011 when he had a 100% save conversion rate and was walking 4.2 per 9 with a declining K/9 rate ? His downfall was predictable.

    Why is Chapman’s K/9 viewed as crack when I hear all the time that the only stats under a pitcher’s control are K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 ?

    Speaking of which Chapman’s BB/9 and HR/9 were both a lot higher in 2013 than you want from a closer. And here’s where Steve and I converge. Chapman has not been an elite closer, and has not developed his potential as a pitcher, because of lack of command of his pitches. And Price has repeatedly said that the only way for Chapman to improve his command is to pitch more innings. He will be pitching more innings in 2014, it will be interesting to see how many.

    • @pinson343: I think the strikeout buzz for the home crowd is pretty electric. I think some fans are actually disappointed that the 9th is sometimes just 3 routine outs. On the road, the K-crack is clearly not even a discussion.

      Honestly, AC’s problems when he loses are just not paying attention or worse … actually trying to get K’s.

      Outs, just any old outs, will do nicely.

      Actually, almost anybody can get 3 outs in an inning most of the time.

    • Save conversion rate isn’t such a great stat either.

      Actually, it’s much better than you think – because it directly fits how these players are used.

      Aroldis Chapman giving up 3 baserunners and a run in 1 IP is a lousy outing. But his manager put him into the game with a 3 run lead and only asked him to preserve the W. It’s the same thing he’d ask of any clown who happened to be annointed “Closer.”

      Unlike the matter of Joey Votto’s RBI, this is an instance where it’s perfectly appropriate to evaluate the player in the context of the team’s stated demands. Mostly because Chapman only pitches at the end of the ball game, so his performance is uniquely binary — either he succeeds and the team wins, or he fails and they lose.

    • Pinson, I think you are mischaracterizing the argument against Chapman closing. No one is saying that he isn’t a better closer than other guys, as you suggest his K rate and other statistics show that he is. Rather, the argument is that because of the small sample size even the best closer doesn’t equal many more wins than an average closer. This argument is supported by his league average save conversion rate. For Chapman’s excellent stuff to be a difference maker, he simply needs to throw more innings.

  8. If Chapman becomes more old school closer and pitches two innings per appearance, his inning count doubles. Instead of 60, now he’s over 100. Marshall and Broxton will be 7th inning guys and close games when Chappy is unable.

    Jocketty is happy, Price may not be but still can live with doubled production, Fans still get their crack, Aroldis is happy staying closer. Politics, gent. That’s what it’s coming down to.

    I still wonder what would have happened if Madsen didn’t get hurt.

    • @preach: yep, i was recently thinking about the same thing about Madsen injury, along with “What If” Cueto stays healthy and same for Votto. grrrrr, . Reds will make it all right in 2014. I hope, lol.

  9. The only way AC makes the rotation is if one of the other 5 guys do not make the rotation. So if it’s an issue of AC winning a rotation spot, that isn’t going to come until Goodyear. No point penciling in anyone until then. If the Reds deal one of their rotation guys, maybe … but these comments all but make me fairly secure in believing that Homer Bailey isn’t going to be traded.

  10. Are we certain that Chapman doesn’t want to be a starter ? If so, his agent or someone should show him these two transactions from this offseason:

    Joe Nathan: 2 years, $20 million

    Tim Lincecum: 2 years, $35 million

    • @down with dusty:

      I don’t think you’re factoring how hard it is to pitch 200 innings. Let’s be completely realistic about the role that Aroldis will play for this team in 2014. In my opinion, think Scott Sullivan circa 2000 plus several strikeouts and minus half a run on the ERA. To me, this is clearly Price’s plan for Aroldis. To even try and stretch him out into a starter now is a bad decision. How could we possibly expect him to reach even 150 innings this year? With the uncertainty of how many innings we can squeeze from Cingrani and Cueto (hopefully 300, possibly 350?), how can we add even more questionable innings? With Bronson leaving, we’re probably best served to try to move Homer and keep Leake. Young, controllable pitching is and seemingly always has been the most precious commodity in baseball, but the discrepancy of monetary commitments between free agents and skilled rookies is a joke (expect another strike the next time union contracts are up for negotiations). Price has stated clearly that he is well aware that the best pitchers should pitch more often. The question then becomes, how often is that? With Aroldis, at this point, and with the championship caliber club that we have (argue if you want, but you know you we have the pure talent to do it), you use your assets as effectively as you can. For me, that means Aroldis pitching 100+ innings out of the bullpen.

      I want to win the Series next year and I think, with this team, that should be our goal. If we have to choose between Choo and BP, the choice is obviously Choo. I expect Brandon to be traded during the winter meetings.

      Walt’s got a big winter planned. His job is on the line, but he’s also older and not looking for another place to work. The Reds will be his last job. His contract is up after this year. He wants to prove to the Cardinals that they made a mistake replacing him and his owner wants to win badly.

      Can’t wait to see what he does, but I expect to like it. He’s proven himself time and time again on the trade front.

  11. I don’t see Chapman in the rotation at the beginning of the year because he won’t be able to go from 60 innings last year to 180+ in a full season of starting. What I could possibly see is the Reds use him regularly as a 1+ inning pitcher and occasionally stretch him out to 3+ innings when the situation presents itself.

    He would probably have 80 innings under his belt by the end of August. The Reds could move him into the rotation in September, looking for 5-7 inning starts. This would add another 25 – 35 innings, bringing him to 105 – 115 innings for the year. He could be used as a starter in the post season then and be ready to move to a permanent position in the rotation in 2015.

    • @MikeC: I think Chapman could. He is not some 20-22 year old. He is fully mature player who will be 26 start of 2014 season. The White Sox young ace, Chris Sale, went from 71 relief innings at age 22 to 192 innings over 29 starts and 1 relief app the very next year and followed up last year with 214+ innings/30 starts. So has and can be done.

      But like others have stated, i feel the chapman starter option has sailed for the Reds.

    • @MikeC: One creative option is to have Chapman be your 5th starter and piggyback another pitcher with him. Of course you run the risk of mismanaging your BP, but I trust Price to take care of that.

      Let’s say that Chapman starts, and goes 4-5 innings per start, depending on pitch count (which is really the factor here. I mean 3 innings on 30 pitches is not the same as 3 on 50). Then a designated guy, for instance Chad Rogers, Alfredo Simon, maybe even later in the season Stephenson, takes over for the next 2-4 innings. Then the late inning guys take over as they would with any other starter. In fact, you may get a consistent 7 innings out of that spot between the two guys.

      Since Chapman’s the 5th starter, and the Reds will have off days, he can be skipped on occasion, and no one is pitching on short rest. Chapman pitches 28 starts at 4.5 innings per start, that equals 120 innings. That certainly appears doable.

      The downside is that you essentially have a 6-man BP 4 out of 5 starts. But, again, I believe Price will be able to juggle that.

  12. This isn’t the place for this, but I just saw that Votto launched a PTSD foundation that will contribute funding for treatment in Cincinnati and Toronto. He has a long statement posted on the Enquirer website. It is incredibly well put together (not surprising). Votto has to be one of my favorite athletes I’ve ever followed.

    • @Kyle:

      If only he would be more aggressive at the plate…I kid. Feel like we’re pretty lucky to have this guy on our favorite ball club.

    • @Kyle: I like the fact that he is open with his own struggles. In the macho athlete culture, such problems are rarely shared publicly, and when they are shared it is usually in a “look what caused this athlete’s downfall” manner. This guy is some kind of tough to be frank about his experiences as openly as this. I like it.

  13. Linking up this thread and the thread just behind it about BP, it seems folks are having a bit of difficulty accepting that a couple of the perceived “Dusty problems” weren’t actually Dusty problems, they were organizational decisions.

    I thought it was particularly noteworthy on the BP situation that the Rosenthal piece said that the it was the Reds ownership and not the Reds front office that had wanted to move BP to begin within.

    The way the salaries are starting to break on the FA front, the Reds are not going to replace Choo and BP by trading BP to free up 12.5M over the next 4 years. In fact BP suddenly looks a little bit like a bargain, especially if his fall off would turn out to be largely related to his wrist injury in June.

    • @OhioJim: The way the salaries are starting to break on the FA front, the Reds are not going to replace Choo and BP by trading BP to free up 12.5M over the next 4 years.

      That’s 12.5 per year over 4 years I meant

    • @OhioJim:
      When you look at what $12.5/year for 4 years will buy on the FA market, it’s questionable whether the Reds could even get Phillips for that figure. If the Reds can make a real improvement by moving Phillips, so be it. I don’t mind his GG defense coming back next year.

      A slight improvement in his hitting isn’t unfathomable. We saw how much he dropped after the wrist injury last season. He also tries to hit to the postion he bats. Batting 4th, where he doesn’t belong, he was trying to produce RBI’s. This is what Dusty encouraged. Put him in the right spot in the lineup where he can hit more suited to his capability and his results will improve.

      • @MikeC: But, then, what position would that be? 4-hole? He swings for the fences too much and doesn’t have that kind of power. 2 hole? He’s a double play waiting to happen and doesn’t allow a baserunner enough time to steal a base. Leadoff? Doesn’t get on base enough. 3 hole, or any other hole? Then, who do we move into that position he leaves? I don’t look at it that BP can hit in any position anymore. I look at it as he doesn’t fit any position very well, just like Frazier and even Ludwick. Can he fill in and be serviceable in a position? Sure. But, ideal? I haven’t liked him in the 4 hole since his 30-30 season.

  14. I find much more here to be encouraged, than discouraged, about. The important thing here is that the management needs to disabuse itself of the notion that a 70 inning closer is more valuable than a 200 inning starter, right? More innings=more value. We are all on the same page with this, and I think Price is too. Here’s the money quote “I do think we can utilize him some more instead of a guy that’s maybe a single-inning guy now that he’s done this for a few years.”

    And Price has said this before. He wants Chapman pitching more innings. But if it is a fallacy that the 9th inning is more important than any other, it is equally a fallacy that the 1st inning is. It shouldn’t matter whether Chapman gets more innings out of the rotation or the bullpen, only that he gets more innings.

    So, if he becomes the kind of guy who can pitch 3 innings about 1.5-2 times a week, that’s 120-150 innings. You wouldn’t have gotten any more than that out of him his first year as a starter anyway. Plus, now you have the flexibility to keep your starters on a shorter leash (everyone is capable of a bad day) without taxing the rest of the bullpen. Having a guy in the pen who can go 3-4 with dominant stuff is a blessing not a curse, and it’s not like there is anyone in the rotation that we are dying to replace.

    Plus this way you have him stretched out for September/October…or if somebody gets hurt…or if you feel like making a splash at the deadline. Maximum flexibility.

    • @preach: Nothing new here, move along.

      If it makes us feel any better, Cardinals fans are having the same discussion about Trevor Rosenthal–“he’s got such a good arm, he ought to be a starter.”

  15. I think I would prefer an answer like “We’ll think about that but right now that is not our focus.” or “Right now we are working to improving the team. Once we have all the pieces we’ll see how they fit together.” or “I’d prefer not to provide any answer since guys at Redlegnation will parse ever word to find hidden and unintentional meanings.” or even “I have 20 questions I need to figure out before I get to that one.” or my favorite “This again? Didn’t this get old like 2 years ago?”

  16. In other news, the Mariners and Robbie Cano have agreed to 10 years $240MM. I wonder how long it is going to take the Yanks to come asking about BP? He seems to fit right up their alley…ageing veteran with too high of a contract. I sure am glad that the Reds won’t be paying $20MM to a 41 year old Cano. Good Grief.

    • @DreadtheRed91: Well between the Ellsbury signing and Cano not signing, trading Gardner for Phillips will fill the hole at 2B for the Yanks and give the Reds a CF.

      It makes sense, but who hangs up the phone on that deal? Who adds more? Who takes on salary from BP?

      • @rfay00: I don’t know that it is a good trade even if Gardner were not a one-year rental. It might be, but I’m puzzled by people who seemingly suddenly are denying how good a player BP is–a deserving gold glove winner at a position for which the Reds have no viable alternatives. He’s too good to trade for a player who is gone in a year. He may be in decline, but he’s still valuable and probably will be beyond next year.

  17. Well, the first domino has fallen. How long before BP in pinstripes, Gardner (and someone else from NY?) in red, either Leake or Bailey in Seattle, and Franklin in Cincinnati as well?

  18. I don’t get why smart baseball people limit a tool’s use by limiting it to a narrowly defined role. “Closer” is a frame of mind rather than a real role (and once that idea was adopted, then came the “hold,” essentially esoteric stats). They have a mighty weapon in Chapman. why not just call him a “fireman” and keep him available in the late innings if they are not going to start him. I’d love to seem him come in and kill a bases loaded rally in the 7th. That doesn’t give him the elite swagger of closer, but makes him available when needed, a lesson Dusty never took.

    (His value as a starter is a question mark, I’d guess, making a trade of an already established starter a gamble.)

  19. My thoughts on what I think should get done:

    BP for Gardner no kickers – Yankees should be OK with this due to the fact that Gardner has one year of control and BP’s salary is like toilet paper to them. Reds suffer by only getting a rental.

    Travieso and Lutz for Franklin and a major league reliever – Lutz is a future big bat for them. Franklin fills the hole. Travieso builds their minor league pitching even more and we get a reliever so Ondrusek can be traded to the Astros for a player we never will hear of again.

    The question now is how do you fill the LF gap?

    • @rfay00: How about a three player approach to CF and LF? Gardner plays everyday, with Ludwick and BHam splitting time as well. Gardner can play LF and CF and BHam can play some CF as well. BHam could also be very valuable as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.

        • @rfay00: Well, Dusty’s gone and I believe Price is cerebral enough to understand that numbers can be useful. As far as I am concerned, I would want BHam available at 2B, Frazier in LF, and even Bruce in CF as well. Let’s make this roster more versatile.

  20. I’d try and make a 3 way trade–

    BP to the Yanks
    Yanks send a prospect to the Mariners
    Mariners send Franklin to the Reds

    • @Sultan of Swaff: I thought about that one, too. I just don’t think it’ll happen, as the Yankees won’t want to fill their 2B hole in any trade involving the Mariners. I could be wrong, especially if Cashman has his way of not letting personal feelings affect decisions, but if Yankees ownership steps in, I don’t think it’ll happen. The Yankees probably aren’t feeling very happy with the Mariners right now for stepping in and disrupting their plans.

    • @Sultan of Swaff: I’m starting to be convinced that the Yanks are going to stick with Johnson handling the lion’s share of second base duties and making a run at someone like Choo. That would really help offset the offensive difference Cano makes and bolsters their outfield. It could make Gardner more available, but I’m wondering what else besides Phillips could be used to pry him away?

  21. Don’t assume the Reds can get Nick Franklin by default now. The Reds have to be aggressive. The Rays want Franklin if they trade David Price to the M’s. WJ has to get busy now.

    • @rfay00: Infante is too inconsistent for me. He had a good year which he’s keen to have from time to time. But he can have equally mediocre years as well. Plus, he’s the same age of Phillips and will require roughly the same contract. I’d prefer Phillips over Infante for the same contract.

      • @TC: I think Infante will not cost as much as anticipated. Just a hunch. I also think that with Schumaker on the bench, second should be just fine with them both. I also think that Infante’s versatility in this time of position uncertainty makes him very attractive. I would certainly explore the option seriously.

  22. One of the factors impinging on small and medium market teams is that they do not have the fionancial resources avaiable to just eat a bad contract, so when tjhey sign a player as a FA or sign an extention, they are stuck with that player if things go wrong. That’s the real inequity. If a large market team signs a player to a bad contract, then they just go out and sign another player and eat the bad contract.

    Unless WJ can move Ludwick’s contract, Ryan Ludwick is the LF for the 2014 Reds. That’s not intended as bashing Ludwick and his contract. Ryan Ludwick is no more responsible for his 2013 performance than was Ryan Madson in 2012. The Old Cossack thought both FA signings were outstanding values when the contracts were signed, but because of an injury, the contract just turned out bad.

    Ryan Ludwick is NOT a top of the order hitter and the Reds NEED top of the order hitter(s). Ryan Ludwick is a middle of the order slugger and he hits RH. Ludwick will play LF and hit in the middle of the order for the 2014 Reds.

    BTW…

    Henry Rodriguez is slashing .271/.338/.350 in the Venezuelan Winter League and is slashing .293/.370/.366 over his last 10 games.

    Billy Hamilton is slashing .227/.284/.293 in the Dominican Winter League and is slashing .244/.277/.311 over his last 10 games and last played in 11/25.

    HenRod is ready to play at the major league level. Hamilton is not ready to play the the major league level. The Reds need a top of the order CF and Gardner of Choo fill that bill.

    • @Shchi Cossack: I don’t understand the organizations angst with giving Henry Rodriguez a chance if we end up trading BP for an outfielder. All Henry has done in the minors is hit through every level, which is exactly what the team needs right now. I know there has been a concern with his defense, but the second half of 2013 saw him clean up his errors to a great extent. Why not give a prospect like Rodriguez a chance before turning to a trade or FA signing to fill the 2B hole (assuming BP is traded)?

      • @MrRedlegs3900: You get no argument from the Old Cossack. I agree with every point you made and have been pounding that table for a while now. In fact, HenRod’s defense is fine at 2B and always has been. It’s when he plays SS & 3B that his defense has suffered. HenRod seems to be suffering from ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome. HenRod could also be a top of the order hitter in the lineup. I like to see home-grown talent at least get a chance.

  23. I still don’t see all this angst over getting a left fielder. We already have two, actually, or 12, depending on who happens to get called up in May or June.

    My thinking is that the Reds will not trade Homer Bailey until they have an idea what exactly he is worth.

    I also think they need to be working real hard at getting Hamilton and Hen-Rod up to speed. These two guys are going to make the big club soon.

    As for dealing Phillips to the Yanks, we should know that in a week. I would guess that he won’t be … just because I am right about 10 percent of the time.

        • @reaganspad: Hamilton’s winter league numbers mirror his AAA numbers and that represents a total of . 22 PA doesn’t even qualify as a SMALL sample size compared to over 600 PA in AAA & 2013 Winter League. We all want to see Hamilton in GABP and dominating games with his speed and electricity, but he simply isn’t ready and forcing him to the bigs before he is ready is one sure way to impede if not halt his development.

        • @Shchi Cossack: Hey Old Cossack and Matt….Look, if you guys are going to bring stats and facts into a discussion of my feelings about who I want to be rookie of the year next year in the national league, fine. but this might send me to my counselor.

          I have been dealing with my feelings with regard to the Reds for many years and the optimism of the off season is my high point (along with those tantalizing 10 game wins streaks where everyone just knows they turned the corner).

          Please try not to damper my enthusiasm with your realism

        • @reaganspad: I feel your pain and share your angst. My excitement and anticipation has ebbed and flowed several times a day this off season. I also want to see Hamilton staring in GABP. I was in the stands screaming my heart and soul out during September, every time an opportunity unfolded for Hamilton to enter as a pinch runner and change the outcome of the game. When Hamilton does make it to the show and sticks as a starting CF or 2B, I will meet you at GABP and buy you a beverage of your choice to celebrate.

        • @reaganspad: Listen, no offense was intended, and as you may have seen, had I seen Cossack’s post already before I posted, I wouldn’t have added on. I don’t object to anybody believing Hamilton can make it fine next year, I was just reacting to the idea of 22PA > 1yr… I didn’t read it as an opinion: “I’d like to believe what he did in Sept will something like will happen again, even if it was only….”

          When I read: I put more on his big league numbers this year (small sample) than I do on Winter League (also a small sample)… I thought you were introducing the numbers as a significant point and was just reacting to the logic. But shoot, if Billy just clicks in the Bigs, then so be it. I’m a little skeptical is all.

        • @reaganspad: I don’t know… it’s almost not even fair to call his big league numbers a sample at all… 22 PA’s is is like sub-atomic level sample size. Almost nothing makes sense at that level. If it’s possible, I think I fall in the camp of giving Billy another year at AAA. He’ll be able to steal whenever, but he’s got to find some consistency at the plate.

        • @Matt WI: Hamilton’s numbers are against Houston. But I do again like to refer back to my comment about it being time the Reds got Hamilton up to speed. Pidding away another year in AAA might work or we might actually realize that we hired a new hitting coach. There are dozens of people out there who can maximize the skills of a guy who needs to make the ball bounce twice on the dirt to turn it into a double.

          What is such a big deal about a slash line is that it doesn’t show what I want it to show — that somebody in the organization has realized since LAST MARCH that Billy Hamilton needs to know how to steal first base.

          And all I am reading is what he’s done in a winter league, which I am quite sure doesn’t spend a lot of time teaching the fastest guy in baseball how to bunt.

          But I am sure that we will find an adequate .228 hitter to play CF while Hamilton gets “ready” to play in Cincinnati.

        • @Matt WI: You know what, Jay had a very good session on bunting from when he was in a Pitt shirt. It is on the main Reds site, about 13 minutes long and better than anything I remember hearing from Jacoby

      • @preach: Why the heck not? Hamilton was an incredible weapon late in the season, when he was used. If you tell me that there isn’t room for Hamilton’s speed on the 25 man roster, it’s like telling me that Chapman should only be used when the Reds are up 1+ runs in the 9th.

  24. I do think Chapman is better as a closer. But, I am interested in seeing “the experiment” of Chapman as a starter. If we try it, I believe we should try pitching him alternating with another pitcher, like Cingrani. Cingrani at most has pitched only 146 innings, I believe it was. Last season, I believe he pitched only about 100 innings. They could alternate starts while the other pitches out of the pen a couple of times. That way, I believe we could control their innings pitched a lot better as well as keeping either one in the pen just in case.

    As for BP, I’m for trading him for all the reasons everyone has said. However, I don’t think we should trade him unless one of two reasons (preferably both):

    1) We have a plan B for 2nd base
    2) We fill in another hole we have. Filling in one hole while creating a hole at 2nd I believe would/could work as a wash. And, getting rid of BP’s “me” attitude I believe would be a positive for the clubhouse.

    I can understand if Uncle Bob wants to trade him. If I was in his position, I’d probably have let him go already. But, you can’t run a business on emotion. I’d look to trade him. But, I would follow the conditions I described.

    • @steveschoen: Cingrani had 151 innings in 2012. He had 104 last year with the Reds and 6 starts and 31 innings at Louisville and of course he was hurt last year or would have had 175 ish.

      I can see him baring injury getting 175-180 this year.

      As far as Phillips, hard to trade a middle infielder during the season. You kind of have to plan on those guys (unless injury of course). Phillips is 5/10 after 2014 meaning that he controls what is said and done

      • @reaganspad: Sorry I didn’t count Cingrani’s 2012 major league 5 innings 2 years ago. I did miss his minor league innings last season. But, like John said, with his injury, you may not be able to count on him getting to 175 next season. We would have to see.

        The thing is, we could still have him in there as well as seeing if Chapman can start or not. If Chapman doesn’t fit it, it would be an easy transition for Cingrani to take the starter role regularly.

        As for BP, I never said trading him in the middle of the season. I was referring as to now, during the off season.

  25. Cano with a 10yr/$240m deal with the Mariners. Yankees back in play for Phillips? They now need a 2nd baseman, also read/heard the Yankees need starting pitching. Those are 2 things the Reds have.

    Need to work out a 3 team trade with the Yankees and Dodgers. Kemp from the Dodgers and money from the Yankees. Make it happen!

    • @ToddAlmighty: I posted this someplace else (I lose track, forgive me), but I really think the Yanks are going to stick with Johnson at second most of the time and try to pick up Choo or Beltran, probably Choo (cry). That should offset most of the offensive loss felt by Cano. What that may do is make Gardner even more available, but I don’t know what we would have that would interest the Yankees, besides a middle of the rotation guy which they seem to be lacking. I don’t follow them very much, but as I recall after their top two, it’s kind of a crapshoot.

  26. In 2013, Choo produced a 4.2 WAR and has averaged 4.8 WAR per a 162 game season. In 2013, Gardner produced a 4.2 WAR and has averaged a 5.0 WAR per a 162 game season. Both OF are LH. Choo is entering his age 32 season. Gardner is entering his age 31 season. I believe those are the two best options to lead off and play CF in GABP for 2014 unless WJ gets very creative and brings in someone like Adam Eaton.

    I think the best option might be to cash in the comp pick for Choo in 2014 and trade for Gardner, then cash in the comp pick for Gardner and the comp pick for Bailey in 2015. It does takes two to tango but Gardner is an excess OF for the NYY and I do not believe that Cashman wants to settle on Kelly Johson as a starting 2B. Johson was signed for his versatility, considering the hospital ward that the NYY call an IF. A GG 2B with a 4 year contract for a 1 year OF rental seems like a pretty good basis for a trade.

    CF Gardner
    2B Rodriguez
    1B Votto
    RF Bruce
    LF Ludwick
    3B Frazier
    C Mesoraco
    SS Cozart

    That’s a lineup that could go to war in the NLCD and wouldn’t require giving up any starting pitching.

    SP Cueto
    SP Latos
    SP Bailey
    SP Cingrani
    SP Leake

    Let Chapman pitch from the bullpen, just get him 100+ high leverage innings, use his blasted slider :!: and get that changeup developed.

    • @Shchi Cossack: I like the idea of prioritizing draft picks. This is really the first time that baseball has given teams the opportunity to stockpile picks (though the NFL and NBA allow for the trading of picks) and, thought the MLB draft is a bit more uncertain than are the other two drafts, I believe clubs are going to soon realize how valuable these extra picks are.

      In addition to wanting to avoid a bad last half of a contract, this is why I want to sign elsewhere. Moreover, this is another reason why Gardner is so attractive. Given the Yankees have the luxury of not really counting on draft picks, this is why they may well see Gardner as expendable. In addition, Gardner is precisely the kind of player who will reject a QO after the season (provided he is healthy). Also, when Homer leaves, there is another pick. Also, this is why there may be no better time than the present to trade Leake. He will not be the kind of guy who will reject a QO out of hand (especially if he regresses in some way).

      Now, regarding HRod, I really don’t think he will ever get a chance in the show with the Reds. I could be wrong, but his last season and a half at AAA were very underwhelming and I believe that the brass is just very cool toward him at this point. Perhaps he ultimately goes somewhere else and hits .300. I just don’t think he will do anything like that in Cincinnati.

    • @Shchi Cossack: I am not too excited about that lineup. I guess Gardner is better against lefties than Choo, but much weaker against righties. Plus the guy has a career .381 slugging. Brutal lack of power.

      Then you follow that up with Henry Rodriguez who hit .274/.319/.335 last season in the minors. Then you have Ludwick batting 5th, and I don’t want to rely on him for anything.

      Gardner (.381 career slugging)
      Rodriguez (.335 slugging last season in minors)
      Votto (.491 slugging last season)
      Bruce (.478 slugging last season)
      Ludwick (.326 slugging last season)
      Frazier (.406 slugging last season)
      Mesoraco (.362 slugging last season)
      Cozart (.381 slugging last season)

      That just seems weak…. really really REALLY weak. Even more so considering 6 of those 8 played in GABP last season where cheap HRs are totally a thing.

      • @ToddAlmighty: I also just don’t really see it as an improvement over last season’s lineup, which is what the Reds need to do if they expect to win anything. Improve.

        • @ToddAlmighty: An improved lineup probably doesn’t have to do a ton more to be better. These averages are probably what they are going to be. I’d settle for a few more doubles, as if you could actually order them. Just a little more productive contact could add a run or two every so often.

          What mainly seems important to me is how the Reds attack the starting pitcher in the first inning. I thought that aspect of the game was badly addressed, as if it can easily be fixed.

          But a run or two in the first inning can give the starter an extra inning and save the bullpen.

          Without a leadoff guy in sight, that’s kind of a big deal, IMO.

        • @ToddAlmighty: I’m not clear on what the Reds could do to improve on last season’s lineup. They have evidently lost Choo (though the Yankees have signed Beltran, so they may not be suitors anymore), and it seems unlikely to me that trading BP will result in better performance from that position. Weakening themselves defensively and trading starting pitching to tread water offensively does not get them into the WS.

      • @ToddAlmighty: That’s part of the issue though. The Reds have relied on the HR so much that when it comes time just for some small ball (a couple base hits, a walk or two), they totally are unprepared for it.

        I’d much rather see the lineup use the field more effectively and drop more base hits and doubles into the outfield gaps instead of swinging for the fences every at bat. Let’s face it, a double and a basehit by the 1 and 2 hitters, and it’s probably a 1-0 game right off the bat. Not to reference the evil Redbirds, but they know how to do it. Game on the line, needing a run or two – they stretch their ABs, wait for their pitch, and do what needs to be done. Take the walk to lead off? Sure. A base hit to right field, probably 1st and 3rd with no outs now. Next hitter comes up, sac fly to center field, run in. Game is either over, or its a tie game and not a single ball hopped the fences in the outfield. Meanwhile, I see it too often with our guys being a run or two down and everyone up there is hacking to put one over the fence and wind up with lazy flyballs, pop ups, grounder etc.

        I’m hoping that a new hitting philosophy comes with the new hitting coach and that may get these guys to get back on their strengths and forget how swinging for the fences if isn’t really a part of their skill set. Just my two cents though. :)

      • @Johnu1: My only guess is they are taking the Red Sox approach to the last offseason. Sign many players to mid range deals versus dumping big bucks on one guy. In this case it’s not signing Cano but getting Beltran, Ellsbury, McCann, and Kuroda for about the same price.

      • @Johnu1: It seems to me that this is the Yankee formula: sign a bunch of declining, expensive veterans, plug them in situationally, sign some more if that doesn’t work, and win sometimes. This is doable if you have $200+ million a year to spend.

  27. And now there are but two FA sluggers remaining…Choo & Cruz. The teams seeking top shelf hitting and teams that can afford top shelf hitting from the FA market are dwindling. The BIG players in the FA market for premier FA bats are pretty much stocked or not participating at this point.

    That leaves limited suitors remaining for the big bats of Choo & Cruz: TEX, BAL, DET, ARI & CIN…two premier corner OF & five teams, not quite a 50/50 chance.

  28. Wouldn’t be intersting if Boras ends up outhinking himself and doesn’t end up getting Choo his big raise? Of course, he just had big name clients sign contracts, so he probably doesn’t care as much as Choo might.

    This is really getting interesting.

    Maybe I’ve been wrong about Phillips, and he may end up in pinstripes. I really, really hope someone here will tell me “I told you so.”

  29. Oh, and assuming Choo had a pleasant stay in Cincinnati, and because of the draft pick involved, it may be better than the 50/50 odds someone referenced above.

    • @preach: Except that on the occasion of the Elsbury signing, Jocketty seemed to be saying the Reds did not have the chips to play at that table; and there seems to be doubt Choo will sign for less.

  30. Just for fun, I checked out the projected Yankee lineup and bench. The following is from New Jersey.com:

    1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF

    2. Derek Jeter SS

    3. Carlos Beltran RF

    4. Mark Teixeira 1B

    5. Brian McCann C

    6. Alfonso Soriano DH

    7. Kelly Johnson 2B

    8. Brendan Ryan 3B

    9. Brett Gardner LF

    The bench

    Eduardo Nunez INF

    Austin Romine C

    Franciso Cervelli C

    Ichiro Suzuki OF

    Vernon Wells DH

    I dunno guys. If I was the Yankees I wouldn’t trade for Phillips. I could be (and often am) wrong though.

  31. The fact that the Reds have not really moved on a Choo replacement would anchor me to a thread of hope that the negotiations are still somewhere continuing.

    Walt doesn’t have to be Albert Einstein Jocketty to know that this offense can’t function without somebody who can at least replace Choo’s numbers. So far, the only upgrade has been Schumaker over X.P.

    If Hamilton isn’t ready, and all I read from the Reds is that he isn’t, do we really want Chris Heisey in CF all season?

    • @Johnu1: It would be very difficult to replace Choo’s numbers, and the availability of good centerfielders is limited, which is probably why the Reds haven’t replaced Choo. Doesn’t mean that they have much hope of signing him, though, and this situation would almost certainly replay with Gardner next year if we got him, which is why I don’t like the idea. Substituting Gardner for Choo and subtracting BP doesn’t put the Reds over the top and into the WS; it probably doesn’t even keep them treading water.

      • @greenmtred: I suppose this time next week, this will all seem odd, but I don’t see that trading BP for a rental CF is even close to sound strategy.

        But this is more than just an adequate CF. This is a member of the batting order, regardless if he hits leadoff or not. The problem seems to be, and maybe this is unavoidable, but that the way this team’s roster has been constructed, the only place the CF CAN hit is in the leadoff spot. We’ve tread the same path for so many years that there’s a groove in the ground.

        I have no problem with the CF being the leadoff guy except it seems like that’s on the company policy manual, its mission statement.

        Either way, that’s what we have. I still think Choo is in the running to return.

    • If Hamilton isn’t ready, and all I read from the Reds is that he isn’t, do we really want Chris Heisey in CF all season?

      Definitely not. Truth be told, Derrick Robinson would have probably been better as a 4 or 5 day a week CF than Heisey because of Robinson’s superior defense. Offensively they are pretty much a wash aside from Heisey’s occasional power which has been largely off the bench and is likely the reason he was kept over Robinson following the Schumaker signing.

      • @OhioJim: Agreed. Heisey is bench. Period. I don’t want him starting anymore than one day a week unless it’s an emergency. Right handed bat off the bench, pinch runner, late inning replacement. That’s his role.

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