2014 Reds / Hot Stove

Monday morning reading

Two new lengthy articles about the Reds in the etherverse. Warning, they won’t pick up your Hot Stove spirits.

Veteran baseball writer, Richard Justice, jumps belatedly into the Joey Votto “great or amazingly great?” debate. Justice comes down on the side of amazingly great and has harsh words for anyone who suggests Votto should change his approach at the plate.

The thinking goes that if Votto swings at more pitches out of the strike zone — in other words, if he gets away from one of the things that makes him so good — he’ll get more RBIs. This advice is about as wrong-headed as it gets. Votto has 3,790 plate appearances in his seven big league seasons. He has done things one way virtually the entire time. This is who he is. He should not be changing now. He’s plenty valuable to the Reds NOT making outs. If he starts swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, he’ll hurt the Reds. Rather than going up, his RBI total might go down, although this (again) is a function of time and place.

I’d rather watch reruns of Real Housewives of Atlanta than rehash this debate for the millionth time. But the article is out there. And it will make you sad (if you agree with it) as soon as you remember that both the Reds’ general manager and field manager have talked about wanting Joey Votto to change his batting approach.

And of the two, that’s the feel-good article.

Mike Pietrello at FanGraphs just posted a detailed analysis of the Reds current outfield, with Ryan Ludwick in LF and Billy Hamilton in CF.

Now, we have the Reds left field situation as being the worst in the bigs. We have the Reds center field collection as being the worst in the bigs. And despite the fact that Bruce is still regarded as a top-ten right fielder, that makes for a pretty terrifying outfield for a team that has won at least 90 games and made the playoffs in three of the last four years, and expects to do so again in 2014. … As it currently stands, the Reds outfield has fallen from a plus group to a potential anchor in the span of a year, causing a big enough gap that it might single-handedly keep the Reds out of the playoffs in what’s suddenly a very dangerous NL Central.

In summary, the Reds seem unwilling or unable to take any steps to address the gigantic glaring problems with their offense. But they seem eager and determined to screw around with the single best part of it.

Sigh. I’m suddenly feeling an overwhelming sense of, you know it …

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107 thoughts on “Monday morning reading

  1. “As it currently stands, the Reds outfield has fallen from a plus group to a potential anchor in the span of a year, causing a big enough gap that it might single-handedly keep the Reds out of the playoffs in what’s suddenly a very dangerous NL Central”

    Additionally, we have the Brandon Phillips show; the Aroldis Chapman show; the possible issues at third and SS; the lack (again)of a bench; and whatever else I’m forgetting. The glass may not be any different today than it was last week, but the closer we get to Spring Training, I’m looking at it as half-empty instead of half-full.

  2. Let Joey be Joey. But bat him second to get him more plate appearances, and get an accomplished hitter to put behind him to take more advantage of his on-base percentage. Then Bruce fourth and on down the batting order.

    There have been too many off-seasons and trade-deadlines where Walt has done nothing, so I can’t profess optimism that we won’t stand pat yet again. But I can hold out hope that dominoes might start to fall when the Japanese pitcher finally signs.

  3. So, other than proposing a bunch of bubble-game fantasy trades involving 7 or more players and 3 or more teams, what precisely do we do with this epiphany?

    • @Johnu1: Do the Mariners still have Nick Franklin who got his job taken by Cano? That’d be a good start. Him and last I heard the Phillies were still shopping Domonic Brown. Wouldn’t mind adding a 22-year-old Franklin and a 26-year-old Brown to both improve the lineup and make it younger.

      Both are available in trade last I heard too.

        • @LWBlogger: Gotta give something to get something. There’s plenty of talent in the farm system, just not at the AAA level yet. Either way, young talent with years of control (Franklin not a FA until 2020, Brown not a FA until 2018) is vastly better than prospects anyway. One’s a major league ready contributor, the other may or may not work out.

          Look at the Latos trade. Some people were crying that they traded away so many prospects for Latos. The Reds ended up getting 4 years of control over Latos (his first season he went 14-4, 3.48 ERA in 209 innings with 4.3 WAR, his season season he went 14-7, 3.16 ERA in 210 innings with 3.8 WAR) and what did the Reds end up giving up?

          Yonder Alonso: .273/.348/.393 with 1.4 WAR his first year and .281/.341/.368 with 1.2 WAR his second year. Also, if he didn’t get traded, then Frazier wouldn’t have owned all of baseball when Votto got hurt, driving the Reds to that huge winning streak (which he did playing at 1st base) then since the Reds hadn’t seen Todd Frazier tear it up at 1st in 2012, they’d have probably ended up with Rolen or Hannahan starting 3rd in 2013. Scary.

          Yasmani Grandal: Had a good 2012 hitting .297/.394/.469 in 226 PA, but then.. oh wait, he hit that well because he was roiding out. 50 game suspension, wrapped up in that big scandal, and then followed it up hitting .216/.352/.341 in just 108 PA last season. Guess those PEDs sure helped him look better.

          Brad Boxberger: Respectable 2.72 ERA over the last two years, but only in 49.2 innings. Would the Reds have picked up Simon and his 148.2 innings over the last two years if they still had him?

          On top of all of that, they’d probably still have Volquez starting Opening Day or something, haha.

          ….my point I am trying to make is, sure you have to trade away some tempting prospects in exchange for young major league level talent with multiple years left of control, and people might freak out as soon as the trade is made because of how much it seems like you’re giving. But prospects are just that, prospects. They have no guarantee to work out in the majors.

          Pretty much as long as it’s not Stephenson, Hamilton, or Ervin, trade em if you need to in order to get Franklin and Brown. Throw Chapman into the trade to make it tempting if you need to since he’s not going to be a starter here.

        • @ToddAlmighty: I liked the Latos and Choo trades. Why? One, trading for a proven, quality top-of the rotation starter is a good thing. Two, the Reds needed an upgrade at the top of their order and when all is said and done, I think Cozart will be a better SS than Didi overall. I still have questions about Didi’s bat.

          Alonso – Wasn’t a good LF and was stuck behind Joey Votto at 1B.
          Grandal – Good hitter but questions about his skills behind the plate. I thought the Reds traded the right guy between he and Mes.
          Boxberger – A really nice arm but it was a bullpen arm.
          Volquez – Moved as part of something for value. Needed a change of scenery at minimum. Some risk in trading him but Latos was the real deal as a starting pitcher for a couple years.

          I like Brown and Franklin but at what cost to get them? Brown would be an upgrade right now but would Franklin be an upgrade over BP right now? If the Reds could get Brown at the cost of the right prospects then great but are we sure that there’s a trade to be made there?

        • @Johnu1: Seattle is currently in a huge decline in attendance. That’s why they signed Cano in order to try to bring a huge name to attract the fans. If you include Chapman with some mid-tier prospects for Franklin, I think Seattle would take the deal. They have a starting 2B already and in their hunt for star power, you’ll be hard to trump Mr 106.

          Not even from a baseball production perspective, just a simple fan excitement one. I even know Chapman being a closer is a huge waste, but that doesn’t change the fact I generally stop multitasking and focus all my attention to when he pitches. It’s exciting. That’s what Seattle needs and is looking for most.

        • @ToddAlmighty: Meh, it’s still a bubble-gum card trade, relating to my initial post. Multiple players, multiple teams, seems like a lot of fun. It it was this easy, somebody would already have thought of it.

        • @Johnu1: Nope, talking about two team trades here. Nick Franklin for Chapman and Corcino or something like that. Unless by “multiple teams”, you mean 2.. in which case, if you have a problem with a two team trade, then you’re not going to get very many trades done by trading with only yourself. Lol

          2 teams, 3 players can only be more simplified by 2 teams, 2 players. There’s nothing bubble-gum card trade about that.

        • @ToddAlmighty: It’s still just you saying that we ought to trade this guy for that guy and get this guy from somebody in exchange for these guys. These “trades” happen in bubble-gum land.

        • @Johnu1: Alright, then why don’t you propose a trade that’s not from “bubble-gum land”… or are you just saying that we shouldn’t talk about trades at all? Was Stubbs and Didi for Choo in a 3 team trade bubblegum land?

          I just don’t know what your problem is talking trades. If a theoretical trade where the Reds acquire an extra position player another team doesn’t need anymore isn’t something we’re allowed to talk about, what CAN we discuss?

          I’m trying to not get angry, but I am getting unclear on what we’re allowed to talk about in the offseason now. Or are you just trolling?

        • @Johnu1: Are free agents “bubble-gum land” too, and thus not allowed? Or is it just any and all trades, regardless of players, regardless of teams?

        • @ToddAlmighty: Personally, I think that Seattle would jump on a Chapman-Franklin trade, as Franklin is still “unproven” AND he is blocked.

        • @ToddAlmighty: Wait! You’re both right! We Reds fans, afflicted as we are with ennui, need to speculate about trades this off-season. The off-season is only off because the games aren’t played; possible player acquisitions are what we think about now. On the other hand, it seems to be more difficult to make trades than we realize, and the ones we’d like (Kemp for a third string AA catcher) aren’t going to happen anyway. There’s no way that WJ doesn’t want to upgrade the roster, but in his position, the trade must have a chance of making sense, and doing something even if it’s wrong isn’t in that category. Hamilton as the worst centerfielder in baseball is, by the way, pure speculation, and must be based on viewing the game as solely about offense.

  4. FWIW, here’s the comment I posted on the what I posted on the mlb.com Justice article. At least people here will read it.

    This is an excellent article, and Votto should not change his approach as a hitter. But when it refers to slugging pct., it should mention that in 2013 Joey’s dropped below .500 (to .491) for the first time in his career. This had nothing to do with his plate approach – he slugged .600 in his 2010 MVP season with the same approach, in particular wrt not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

    Fans who watch Votto often, scouts, etc. noticed that Joey was not driving the ball as he has in the past. And scouts noticed that he wasn’t using his legs as well, due to the knee surgery he was recovering from. Even if you ignore RBIs, Joey’s power numbers were down across the board – the drop in slugging pct. was due mainly to a drop in extra base hits. In 2010, Joey had 75 xbhs, including 37 HRs, in 547 ABs.

    In 2013, he had 57 xbhs, including 24 HRs, in 581 ABs. This was the first time in his career he had fewer than 1 xbh per 10 ABs.

    In the RBI discussion, people have mentioned that he will take a walk rather than expand the strike zone to hit a sac fly. This had NOTHING to do with his drop in RBIs from 113 in 2010 to 73 in 2013. In fact he had 6 sac flys in 2013 compared to 3 in 2010. The drop in RBIs was mainly due to his hitting fewer HRs and doubles per ABs, which has nothing to do with walks.

    In 2014 Joey’s knee will have recovered, and – if he stays healthy – he will put up similar power numbers to what he has through his career. And he’s a good bet to lead the NL in OBP for the 5th straight season.

    • @pinson343: The thing is, pinson, it is exactly to do with his approach. As I have been posting, it’s just that the other teams have learned how to minimize his effectiveness, aka pitch around him, pitch him where he is more likely to hit weak singles than drive the ball, etc. And, in turn, Votto needs to make the proper adjustments back.

      People keep talking about “changing approaches”. I entirely agree. Votto doesn’t need to come out and make himself into someone who’s going to try to hit 50 HR’s and drive in 150 RBI’s consistently each year, something he isn’t. But, even Votto himself has said he makes adjustments during the season, during the off season, etc. Any player at that level worth their pay will make adjustments. It isn’t “changing an approach” by making an adjustment to counter the adjustments made by the other team. I said before, if Votto doesn’t look to make an adjustment to maximize his ability to drive in runs, like swinging at 1-2 more pitches you know are coming right down the middle early in the count, per game if not during a “specific” AB per game, then the adjustment should be made by the manager to move him to the 2 hole.

      People really need to realize, adjustments are a part of the game. Whoever spun this into “changing an approach” is simply making a mountain out of something just just isn’t there, not even a molehill.

      • @steveschoen: Of course Votto changes his approach in the sense of adjustments as a season goes on and even within a game and within an AB. He talks about that all the time.

        The debate as I understand it is whether he should start swinging at pitches that he thinks are balls. He won’t change that approach and he shouldn’t.
        He’s firmly in the Ted Williams school of hitting – has committed much of Williams’ book to memory. People complained about Wiliiams not expanding his strike zone according to the situation and they were wrong.

        • @pinson343: That’s just it. That’s never been it. If anything, it’s been people would like to see him swing at the pitches (some people may use the term “balls”) that come down the middle of the plate early in the count.

    • @pinson343: I saw it on there. I thought it was really insightful, and I knew it had to come from someone who posts here. It was the only post that I read that actually looked thought out, actually.

    • @pinson343: I like your comment, too. My fear, however, is that we all assume that Joey’s knee will be fully recovered in 2014. No reason to assume that, is there? Some knees never fully recover.

      • @greenmtred: Unfortunately, I know that statement is true from experience. Votto said he felt more like himself late in the season, so that makes me think that his knee should be close to 100%.

    • @pinson343: Pinson…I agree with all that you said. Well stated. I agree with what Steve said, about Votto being more aggressive early in the count. He watches a lot of hittable strikes go by. To me, it seems as if he is a “guess hitter”. Maybe all great hitters are, I don’t know. But if he’s looking inside, and the pitch is away, it’s an auto-take. People at RLN need to stop grumbling about wanting Votto to not change. I want him to change in this manner: I don’t want him to swing at more balls outside the strike zone, I want him to swing at more strikes.

  5. The Reds really do need to pick up an OF bat, even if it’s only a platoon hitter, something like a LHed bat to complement Ludwick in LF and come off the bench. But if Ludwick is healthy, the OF will not be “terrifyingly” bad.

  6. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens, which is what makes baseball great, they actually play the game. As we saw in the NFL on Sunday, anything can happen in sports. Lets remember that numbers can only show or predict a percent of what might happen…

  7. I think Jocketty realizes that there are still holes to fill. I would also agree that things should loosen up pretty soon on who has what and what people need. I do not agree that this is a team that will be frighteningly bad. I see bounce back years from Ludwick and Frazier and continued improvement from Cozart. I also would not think that Votto will hit with the same kind of power numbers as last year. If Phillips is still with the club this season, I would think that if healthy he will hit better as well. With the pitching that is assembled and the depth in the high minors that has been signed this winter, I would also say the Reds pitching is top notch. If they are not as strong offensively, then they will just have to win more low scoring games. I do not think this is a major problem.

    Any news on Grady Sizemore’s attempted comeback? If he can still play and gets signed, he would make a good one year bridge to 2015.

      • @pinson343: So what you are saying is that we cannot support other people’s statements? All we are supposed to do is complain? OK…the Reds made too big of an announcement that they wanted to trade Phillips. I do not think that Jocketty wanted to trade Phillips, Castellini did. Phillips is still a valuable piece on this team and letting it become common knowledge that he was on the block may have made him harder to trade. In addition, who wants him enough to give equal value
        Equal value is an important consideration in any trade and getting Nick Franklin for Chapman and a prospect is not equal value. Chapman for Franklin and a prospect is equal value.
        Lets look at Dominic Brown. He has a break out season and the Phillies want to trade him? Why?
        Ludwick had a career in 2012? Maybe a comeback year, but not a career year. He is older, that is true, he also has been forced to work hard to get his shoulder rehabbed and therefore might be stronger. Two years ago, there were the same questions about Ludwick and he came out and had a fine season. No one knows what a new batting coach will do for him, or for that matter, for anyone on this team. For years the problem with the Reds offense has been pinned on Jacoby. Last year, the Cards changed hitting coaches and they go crazy with hitting with runners on base. Maybe a new hitting coach makes them all hit like Vada…

  8. I really think it is unrealistic to expect anything close to the production Ludwick put up a couple years ago. Even if he is healthy and his timing is good (big ‘if’), I think that season was more of a career year than a measuring stick for performance. If our hopes rely on Ryan having another career year, we may be in trouble.

  9. Doom and gloom. The season is lost and spring training hasn’t started yet :mrgreen:

    On a more serious note, while the off-season has been entirely underwhelming, I think it’s a little premature to throw the Reds chances in 2014 out the window. The Cards are better but the Pirates look to be pretty much standing pat and could lose Burnett. As it stands right now, I think the Reds are an 87-92 win team. It’s perhaps not the team we want but it isn’t quite all doom and gloom as they have a legit shot at the playoffs with that record. Once in the postseason, anything can happen.

    • @LWBlogger: I could easily see this team go below .500 if injuries happen to the pitching, and position players don’t improve. On the other hand, if Cozart, Frazier, and Mesoraco take steps forward, the pitching is as good as it can be, Phillips goes out and proves his critics wrong, and Hamilton gets onbase at a .350-.400 clip, they could easily be WS favorites. It’s a crapshoot every season for a team like the Reds.

      • @rhayex: *It’s a crapshoot every season for a team like the Reds, because we don’t have a lot of margin of error in the front office’s decision making. We can’t go out and buy players to plug holes in our lineup like other teams can; it’s hard enough to sign our own players to extensions (see: Bailey, Latos).

      • @rhayex: I think we can safely already assume that last bit of player possibilities won’t happen for Hamilton. His OBP was .308 in AAA. I’d call it a success if he has a .330 OBP in 2014 seeing as how he’ll be going against the Kershaws/Grinkes/Burnettes/Wainwrights rather than the Greg Reynolds/Daniel Corcinos in AAA.

      • @rhayex: I don’t think we can expect all those things to happen, especially Hamilton putting up such a high OBP. I’m not even sure he’s MLB-ready. I think, realistically, we can expect some marginal improvement from one of Frazier and Cozart. I also think BP will put up production somewhere between his 2012 and 2013 numbers. Hamilton’s OBP should be between .300 and .320 but he could fall on his face too. I think Mes catching 110-120 games is a nice upgrade offensively and doesn’t give up as much defense as many folks seem to think. Like I said, I see this team as an 88-92 win team. It isn’t as good as most of us would like but it may be good enough. Certainly good enough to not want to throw in the towel already.

        • @LWBlogger: Personally, I’m pessimistic about the Reds chances next year. I see a season where things go wrong, and they end up missing the postseason. While I’m hopeful for the other things I mentioned, I think it’s a joke to think Hamilton is ready for the majors after his season last year. I don’t know how Jocketty has been able to sell him as ready, but he’d make a good politician with the way he can spin things.

        • @rhayex: Well, I got the paperwork for my season ticket package renewal. I did a Flex Plan in 2011 and 2012. I did a 20-game mix last season. I split the package with my dad, going to half the games with him and splitting the rest. I haven’t renewed yet this year and am not sure I’m going to. I’m not sure that I’m pessimistic but I certainly feel that this team is no better than last year’s team at this point. While I love going to games and will likely go to several games even if they are significantly worse than last year, I don’t think I want to commit to a plan this year. Who knows, maybe if season ticket sales lag it will make the front-office more likely to bring in some more talent?

        • @LWBlogger: Actually, I think the opposite might happen, with the front office going back to the “We don’t have the money because fans aren’t coming” routine, despite the enormous influx of cash baseball is currently receiving. I don’t know. The more I’ve hoped this offseason, the more I’ve been let down. I used to be a huge Jocketty supporter, but after this offseason, I’m on the fence on if he’s the right man for the job anymore.

  10. First of all, most of all these baseball pundits don’t know any more about baseball than any of us, do. Not that we don’t know anything, for many of us do. It’s their profession to simply do what they do, which is write on what’s going on in baseball.

    But, like, the second one talks of how our LF is not worst in the majors? Is he calling Ludwick the worst LF in the majors now? Granted, I’m not the biggest Ludwick fan out there. But, I never felt he was the worst. Is he referring to it as such since Ludwick was injured last season so we had to role out most whoever we had, hoping one got hot to carry us? Does he really think we are going to be in the exact same position in left field again? The second guy is just looking to sell papers.

    As for the first guy, I agree, Steve, no need to rehash it again. Every player in the league can tell you they make adjustments, every year, every month, game, series, if not AB and pitch. For, if they don’t, the book gets out on them and the rest of the league learn how to contend with them, minimize that player’s effectiveness. Maybe not get him out, but, for instance, learn where not to pitch and and where to pitch him, etc. Thus, they all make their adjustments. And, the batters look to make adjustments right back if they can. The first one specifies “If he starts swinging at pitches out of the strike zone”; I don’t remember one person specifying that. It was, if anything, that some would like to see Votto swing at more pitches period. A thousand more per season? Of course not. It dealt always with the 1-2 pitches Votto would seemingly get that would come right down the middle of the plate early in the count that Votto wouldn’t swing on. “Even if” someone meant for Votto to swing more at what’s outside the zone, it’s not like a hitter can only hit balls in the zone. Votto’s hit plenty well outside the zone, also. The first guy is reading something into people’s critique’s of Votto that just hasn’t been there, again probably just to sell some papers.

  11. The way I see it:

    2014 Votto > 2013 Votto (slugging should improve)
    2014 Catching > 2013 Catching (Mez Mez Mez)
    2014 Cozart > 2013 Cozart (His OBP cannot get worse, right? Right!?)
    2014 Bruce > 2013 Bruce (He’s trending in the right direction albeit slower than most of us would have liked)
    2014 LF > 2013 LF (see Cozart reasoning)
    Toddfather/BP = toss ups.
    2014 Pitching > 2013 Pitching (i.e if it stays health… e.g. Wrap Cueto in bubble wrap)

    It’s not unreasonable to think that a slight upgrade in some of the above, all of which are reasonable, could mostly offset the loss of Choo’s 5.2 2013 WAR. Most importantly, pitching which is what wins ball games. Therefore, I don’t think us getting worse is the source of everyone’s negativity, rather STL and PIT getting so much better.

  12. There are hitting approaches that need to change on this team, but Joey’s is not one of them. In fact, Jay Bruce has emerged as a Star by hitting like Joey. Jay needs to continue hitting like Joey. Love his use of Left Field

    Now, we just have 6 others who need to hit like Joey. If two of those do, Frazier and Cozart, we will win 94 games and I am not in a panic.

    Shumaker is going to be an interesting pick up as he has a nice approach from one side.

    The Billy Show is coming to a home ballpark near you. His approach is very important and I like how they are talking with him about bunting now. Unlike Stubbs who should have learned how to bunt, Billy HAS TO. His late season drag bunt were putting smiles on my face.

    If Phillips is moved back to the 2 hole again, he will have to change his approach (again). I like him in the 2 hole because he does a great job of hitting the other way. I could see Billy scoring from first on a Phillips single to right field if the right fielder is not on his toes. Phillips is actually a good 2 strike hitter who will see a lot of fastballs in the 2 hole

    Ludwick will have to change his approach back to what he did in 2012 where his walk to strike out was 1/2.5 versus 1/3. Those extra balls put in play by him are critical because he is in a RBI spot.

    Mesoraco has already been changing his approach. He just needs to continue to let the game come to him. I think Mesoraco is ahead of Frazier and Cozart in approach at this point and may beat them to the break out season. I really like the way Devin takes an at bat. His results will bloom with 450 abs this year

  13. I think the math for most teams is:

    Win 16 a month, go to post-season.
    Win 15 a month, maybe.
    Win 14 a month, you might be a seller at deadline
    Win 13 a month, you ARE a seller.

    From .500 to the playoffs is about one win every 2 weeks. It’s 8 games over a period of 26 weeks.

  14. What about the Reds making a serious effort to obtain the Phillies Cliff Lee?? He has 2 more years, at $24M per, on his contract with an option year for 2016. Could put Chapman, one year of Homer Bailey, and throw in a Lutz or Soto maybe. Chapman would enable the Phillies to trade Papelbon. Which it sounds like they want to very badly. It gives the Phils some salary relief, alot if they can trade Papelbon. Reds get a bonafide LH top of the rotation SP for 2, maybe 3 years.
    This wouldn’t be a budget buster for the Reds. What Bailey and Chapman get in arbitration would be only about $7-8M less than Lee for 2014. And Lee’s 2015 salary won’t be far off of Bailey’s 2015 salary, wherever it will be. And then add Chapman’s 2015 salary to that and it could be a bargain for the Reds.

    • @WVRedlegs: Cliff Lee is great, but I feel like their issue is batting, not pitching. If we’re making a trade with the Phillies, I would rather get 4 years of Domonic Brown to replace that monstrosity in LF.

  15. Domonic Brown is finally coming into his own.
    I would like to have another RF to play LF. That usually, but not always, means a better defensive OF.
    Would the sun come up the next day after Opening Day if the Reds have a LH hitter in the #3, #4, and #5 holes?
    Getting Cliff Lee would be Phase 1 of “All In 2014-2015″. Rememeber Cincy hosts the 2015 all-star game.
    Now, Phase 2 would be BP and Leake to Toronto for Jose Bautista (another RF to play LF) and Casey Janssen (closer).
    Now, Phase 3 is to fill the hole I created by shipping out BP. A 2B that is a prototypical #2 hitter. Nick Franklin, please. May have to give up YorRod to get him.
    Phase 4, sign Arroyo to a 1 year deal.
    Though, I would be a bit hesitant to put two youngsters like BHam and Franklin at the top of the lineup, I am comfortable with them there with a following of Votto, Bautista, Bruce, Mes, Frazier, and Cozart. By mid-season those two could be working like clockwork at the top of the order, scoring lots of runs.
    And a rotation of Lee, Latos, Cueto, Cingrani, and Arroyo would stack up well against STL and PIT, and LAD and WAS come playoff time.

    • @WVRedlegs: Yeah, having lefties bat 3, 4, and 5 would probably be like if the Ghostbusters crossed their streams… but I will go ahead and say this. If the Reds pick up Nick Franklin, I want them to bat him leadoff and go with Votto at 2.

      I like Franklin/Votto/Bruce/Bautista/Frazier/Mesoraco/Hamilton/Cozart/Pitcher in your scenario more than I like Hamilton/Franklin/Votto/Bautista/Bruce/Mesoraco/Frazier/Cozart/Pitcher. Franklin isn’t a big base stealer, but he had a .440 OBP in AAA in 2013 to go with his .310 OBP in AAA in 2012 (Both were partial seasons). So even if you average those two out, I still like the chance his OBP will be higher than Hamilton after Billy put up a .308 OBP in almost an entire season in AAA last year.

      Plus if you put Hamilton batting 6th or 7th, Cozart hits a fair share of doubles. Even if Hamilton is at 1B, those doubles can easily be an RBI with Hamilton’s speed. You can also easily ask Hamilton to steal a base without having to worry about possibly opening up first base for Votto to get intentionally walked and his bat be nullified. Also say Hamilton gets a hit, steals second, steals third. Who better to sac fly in a run than Cozart, who led the NL in sac flies last season? He’s also a pretty legit bunter if you really want to go that route. Then you’re also not having to worry about creating an out with runners on base by getting caught stealing while Votto is at the plate.

      At least that’s my two cents. I like the rest of those ideas though. Where did Bailey go though in your scenario? Was he who the Reds would trade for Lee?

    • @WVRedlegs: So would this be a softball defense with Brown, Bautista and Hamilton joining Bruce in the outfield? or did you pass on Brown WVRedlegs?

      That also leaves Ludwick and his 8.0 mil on the bench

      If you trade for 2 outfielders, Hamilton probably starts at second base.

      I do not see this scenario occurring

      I could see one of those trades occurring

    • @WVRedlegs: “Votto, Bautista, Bruce, Mes, Frazier, and Cozart.” That lineup would make me smile a little bit. If it was possible to put Bautista between Joey and Jay, it would be a fearsome threesome. As for the defense question, my short answer is: ‘Who cares’. Was this team better defensively with Choo in CF? Absolutely not. Was this team better all around with Choo in the lineup? Absolutely. Don’t see it happening, but I guess that is what fans are supposed to think about on New Year’s Eve. Not too much else happening but to gather around the stove.

  16. I thought these comments posted to the Fangraphs article on the Reds outfield were interesting.

    From a Cardinal fan who seems to be more positive on the Reds outlook than most of us right now:
    “…the Reds have become a rather trendy pick to disappoint in 2014. But as a Cardinal fan, I have to disagree. Cueto/Cingrani will be better than Arroyo was; the aforementioned Hamilton is, I think, somewhat underrated right now; the clubhouse could well be energized by the managerial change; and Jocketty, who usually has something shrewd up his sleave, has become baseball’s forgotten great GM thanks to Cincy’s dismal playoff performances.”

    From a guy who believes strongly that Hamilton’s fielding range and base stealing abilities can make up for the drop off in hitting from Choo:
    “Choo’s defensive numbers graded out at -14.6 runs above average.
    Hamilton’s 2.89 AAA Range Factor isn’t just good, it’s better than every single AAA or major league starting CF last season by a fairly wide margin. (It’s also the highest Range Factor number among AAA CF starters for at least the past five years.)”

    “Choo’s baserunning score was -0.6.
    Hamilton will have a monster number here, obviously.
    Oliver’s 11.3 RAA BsR would mean Hamilton be pretty much Jacoby Ellsbury on the basepaths. Hamilton’s minor league numbers (and anecdotal and scouting reports) indicate a baserunner far more aggressive than that. So, too, do his limited major league numbers. Over his professional career, Hamilton has scored, on average, 48% (!) of the time he gets on base. 2013 Ellsbury averaged 38%. Add to that an extra 40 or so stolen bases, and Hamilton’s BsR number should be much, much higher. (Fwiw, Henderson scored 41% of the time he was on base in 1983.)

    In total, if you add Hamilton’s aggression on the basepaths to his 80%-ish success rate, you’re looking at a BsR over Henderson’s 14.0 1983 season. Which is, on the surface, quite ridiculous. But there it is.”

    Well, I hope they are both right. While I agree that Cingrani/Cueto should easily better Arroyo, there has to be concern over durability. As far as Hamilton goes, I anticipate him being challenged to put up an .300 OBP. Yet his speed could make him exceptional if he could even reach a .320 OBP.

    • @MikeC: YES THIS!

      I think CF will be the least of our problems. LF needs to be the focus, and to that end, I want Chapman traded for a cost-controlled player who will man that position for the next 5-6 years.

      • @Sultan of Swaff: And more to the point, it’s interesting these two articles were placed in the same post. In Votto and Hamilton, you will have two guys who completely shatter the conventional wisdom about what it means to be a valuable player. Both will create value in such unconventional ways that it will make old school heads explode.

      • @Sultan of Swaff: While that would be nice, 5 or 6 years is not necessary. Two to three years would suffice. The Reds have two guys coming up that will fit nicely into the field: Phil Ervin and Jesse Winker. Winker had a .379 OBP at Dayton while Ervin had a .425 OBP between Billings and Dayton. Both are due to start the year at Bakersfield.

      • @Sultan of Swaff: I think @TC:’s estimate of 2-3 years may even be conservative and that creates a budget issue. Can the Reds really afford to simply eat Ludwick’s $8.5MM contract for 2014 and his $4.5MM buyout for 2015 if they bring in a better option for LF, especially considering that Ludwick may have a reasonably productive season in 2014 & 2015? I do think if WJ can manage a really good 2-3 year option for LF, that would fit nicely with both the short-term and long-term needs of the Reds. I keep coming back to Joey Bats as the best option for both teams to fill needs for both teams. It seems like a Leake/Phillips/Ludwick/Ondrusek for Bautista/Norris, with the Reds kicking in a few $MM, deal should come close to working. Of course, WJ would have to ink a starter (Hello Mr. Burnett or Mr. Arroyo. Are you interested in going to the WS for the next 2 seasons?) and come up with a plan for 2B (OK HenRod, you wanted a chance to prove you belong on a big league roster? Plant yourself at 2B in GABP and make your case.) Shoot, while he’s on a roll, maybe WJ can swap out Heisey/Soto for Denorfia, allowing Hamilton the time in AAA he needs to make a big splash in the bigs when he’s really ready. If Hamilton proves he’s ready later in 2014, bring him up and turn him loose.

        cf Denorfia/Schumaker
        1b Votto
        lf Bautista
        rf Bruce
        c Mesoraco
        3b Frazier
        2b Rodriguez
        ss Cozart

        • @Shchi Cossack: I am in the minority on this, but Bautista has always smelled a little fishy to me. No power, low average, middling to lower end player, then suddenly at age 29 during his third year in Toronto he becomes a triple crown threat. He follows it up with another great year, then boom, settles back, close to what he’s always been.

          No accusation, just fishy.

  17. I’m firmly entrenched in the “if you can improve your ball club, you have to do it” camp, and the Reds are being left behind here. This is a city where the playoffs aren’t enough anymore. We’ve gotten there. We have to MOVE in the playoffs. An uninspiring team that got spanked in the play-in game that gets worse is not moving the Reds in the direction of moving in the playoffs. The Reds are slowly increasing payroll, but here’s the thing: like all bubbles, this MLB TV deal bubble will burst. The Reds are going to feel the affects of that whether they take advantage of the money now or not. Next years team is not just going to get better. Cozart is what he is: above average defensively with good pop, no on base skills and not a great contact guy. Frazier is a toss-up. I would imagine he’s somewhere in the middle of what his two seasons were, but we won’t know until he’s put in a bit more time. Hamilton is going to be a relatively sizeable downgrade from Choo, one of the truly elite players in the game, IMO. Ludwick shouldn’t be starting 100+ games for a playoff team. And BP’s decline will continue because that’s what declines are: steady progressions of incremental downgrading. And the bench will be what the bench has been: a steaming pile of garbage. That leaves the rotation and bullpen (pitchers are never a sure bet for health), first base (Votto is an MVP candidate year in and year out), right field, and catcher as the only spots of hope of serious production. And that’s putting A LOT on Mesoraco’s shoulders. If you can make your club better you do it. If the Reds are convinced that they are as good as they can be, they’re both delusional and awful at their jobs.

    All of that said, I’m still not hopeless. Something inside of me feels like Uncle Walt has something cooking, and it might be substantial. There’s no way Castellini is happy with this offseason, and he shouldn’t be. There’s still time, and I think something is coming.

    • And BP’s decline will continue because that’s what declines are: steady progressions of incremental downgrading.

      Ha. steady deviations. Whatever.

  18. First, this is a good team. If you don’t think so, I can’t help you. Unfortunately, however, the Reds are in the NLC where good isn’t good enough anymore.

    CARDINAL: The Cardinals were two steps ahead of the Reds last year. With the loss of Choo and Arroyo, the Reds took two steps back while the Cardinals have successful remained tight even with the loss of Beltran. They may have even taken one step forward. We’ll see. Regardless the Cardinals are the class of the division once again.

    PIRATES: The Pirates were one step behind the Reds last year, but the difference turned out the be the difference between Baker and Hurdle. The Pirates have done very little this winter unless you consider signing Volquez and Barmes big signings. But they lost Jones and McKenry. There have been lots of little deals, but nothing greater than rearranging deck chairs. The big improvements for them seem to be in the players they have graduating from the system. Names to watch for are Oscar Taveras (though I have no idea where he’ll play in a a crowded outfield), possibly Francisco Lindor (because they need a better SS than Barmes), righty stud Taijuan Walker (their answer to Robert Stephenson). Just as a side note, they’ve got a deep system filled with very scary talent hovering in the mid-levels of their farm system. They look to have taken once step back just like the Reds.

    BREWERS: Where to begin with the Brewers? They’ve still got a great core in Braun, Segura, Hart, Lucroy, Gomez, and Gennett. They are a very dangerous offense when healthy and off suspension and a better than average defense. The problem is their pitching. Until they solve that, they will continue to stare up at the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds.

    CUBS: I’m tell you, watch out for the stupid Cubs. They have the best defense in the NLC, and while it may not seem like it, an quickly improving pitching staff. Their offense in middle of the road and slowly improving. They are one year away. One year from challenging the Reds and Pirates. (Not so much the Cardinals yet).

    • @TC: I might be misreading your post but I do not believe Tavares, Walker, or Lindor will be in a pirates costume anytime soon.

      • @cgramanFC: I’ll add that Hart is no longer with the Brewers either.

        Overall, I agree with TC that as it sits now, the Reds are a couple steps behind the Cards and are on par with the Pirates.

    • @TC: Yeah TC, I think you’ve been mixing your oatmeal and cream of wheat this morning! Hart will also not be in the Brew Crew core, but your overall points are valid. The Reds do have a good team. Hurdle did drive the Bucos to a successful season in 2013 while Baker impeded the Reds from having a successful season in 2013. The Birds are the class of the NLCD and have probably distanced themselves a little more from the Bucos and Reds. The Brew Crew won’t win without a major pitching overhaul. The Cubbies are closing fast and furious. If the Reds intend to compete for the NLCD title, they must make a significant improvement to the lineup or simply hope that things fall together for a seasonlike 2012 (no injuries to the pitching staff; big comeback years from Votto, Ludwick & Phillips; big seasons from unproven players in Frazier, Cozart, Mesoraco and Hamilton; continued, steady improvement by Bruce). Otherwise the good team at GABP will be competing with a hald dozen other good teams for a wild card playing game.

    • @TC: Ahh, oops! Those aren’t even Pirate’s prospects. User error while looking up their farm system. They have Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco and Nick Kingham competing for positions this year.

  19. “First, this is a good team. If you don’t think so, I can’t help you. Unfortunately, however, the Reds are in the NLC where good isn’t good enough anymore.”

    This statement sums it all up Ladies and Gentlemen. Can we compete? Sure. And if everything breaks right, if the Cards and Bucs have some issues that last long stretches, then yes, we have a genuine post season shot. And as TC pointed out, these aren’t the only three teams in this division. Personally, I’ve thought the Brewers severely underacheived for a couple of seasons. The Stupid Cubs are quietly getting better. Do I think they are some threat? No. But there are no easy series wins in our division anymore, and that may be problematic for someone come September. When I look at our roster I feel like I am tasting a pot of my chili that is missing something. Can’t quite figure out how to improve it with what I have in the spice rack, but it definately could be better. It’s OK as is. It will fill me up, but if I have spent all this time making it then I should be more satisfied with the outcome. This team has come a long way from having Eric Milton at the top of the rotation. Maybe I just have to simmer a little longer.

  20. Tavares=Cards, Walker=Mariners, Lindor=Indians.

    Pirates to look out for are Andrew Lambo 1B/OF, Gregory Polanco OF, Jameson Taillon SP, and Tyler Glasnow SP.

    • @WVRedlegs: Yeah. Thought I was looking at Pirates prospects and was looking at all prospects. (Started to break into a cold sweat when I read those names.) Taveras should have given me pause. I should have remembered he was with the Redbirds.

  21. Certainly, WJ isn’t sitting on his hands or just teiddling his thumbs. Early opportunities obviously didn’t work out the way he had hoped. Maybe he misread the market or the Reds simply weren’t in a position to make a significant move early. Now he has to wait for the market to shake out, then try to seize that opportunity to put the Reds over the top for 2014 & 2015. WJ made the right move when he grabbed Latos and WJ made the right move when he grabbed Choo. Hopefully he has another gem up his sleeve this offseason. I really hope that WJ is not placing all his hope for 2014 in the Hamilton basket and Ludwick resurgence, but that is how the situation looks right now from the outside looking in,

  22. I think many purported experts vastly underestimate Billy Hamilton. Some unfortunately lump him with other real-fast-black-center-fielders (RFBCFs) like Willy Taveras and Corey Patterson. I do not believe the comparison is apt, and not solely because Hamilton is a degree faster, with better game speed, than any other player in this generation.

    Hamilton is from Taylorsville, Missisippi, a town of about 1,500 some 60 miles from Jackson. He did not play elite level summer ball like a California or Texas or Florida kid would have, because it wasn’t available to him. Instead, he was a 3-sport superstar, averaging more than 20 points a game in hoops, signing a football scholarship as a wide receiver with an SEC school, and being drafted early by the Reds. Unlike the typical RFBCF, he is an elite athlete rather than simply fast. By baseball standards, however, he is still very green, with far fewer at-bats than others his age. He still has an enormous upside as he gains experience. For example, 2013 was his first year as a centerfielder, and as somebody noted above, his defensive metrics are off the chart. Becoming one of the best defensive centerfielder in baseball in one year is a helluva accomplishment.

    Similarly, Hamilton is still learning to switch-hit. A natural right-handed hitter, he first hit left-handed at Dayton in 2011, and improved to hit .300 in the second half of the season. He still has perhaps only 1300 ABs in his life hitting left handed. And those who lament his .308 OBP in AAA last year need to remember that it was .410 in High A and AA as a 21-year-old in 2012, when he wasn’t learning a new position. And finally, he is still pretty scrawny, and will only get better as he gets older and stronger.

    Applying mechanical formulas to project minor leaguers may work 85% of the time. Hamilton, though, is an outlier on many fronts, so I take any projection on Hamilton with a huge grain of salt. He may well need some more time in AAA, but he and the Reds may be better served by letting him learn at the major league level.

    He’s going to be fun to watch.

    • @Big Ed: Almost 100% agreement from the Old Cossack. Hamilton has initially struggled, adapted and improved at every level he has played. From all reports, he is a serious and willing student of the game. His personality and enthusiasm is as dynamic as his physical capability. I believe he will continue his development (he made progress at AAA in 2013) and succeed in 2014…at AAA and will be ready to take on major league pitchers and catchers with relish in 2015 or possibly even later in 2014. I also think his development will be hindered by throwing him into a full time major league role, or especially a part time major league role, in 2014. But we all know, opinions are like…everybody has one.

    • @Big Ed: Excellent post. There are still a lot of questions on if BHam is MLB ready, and if he is that, is he MLB ready to hit leadoff for a contender? This question alone makes me very curious how Spring Traning is going to go.

      • @preach: .190/.261/.254 was BHam slash line in Winter ball. Granted, it was only 69 plate appearances, and it’s hard to judge anything because of inconsistencies in officiating, guys working on things, etc; but it isn’t the outcome I was hoping for. Of course he was also 6 for 6 in stolen bases.

    • And finally, he is still pretty scrawny, and will only get better as he gets older and stronger.

      And slower.

  23. I think it all comes down to how much of Choo’s WAR they can replace in CF. The Reds had a number of players with off years last year and not many with career high years who we might expect to contribute more in 2014.

    Of course we have to remember that the 2013 team’s collective talent only got us to a one game playoff, unless we consider the Dusty factor to be that high.

    Choo’s WAR was 4.2 in 2013, what are the chances we can replace or exceed that loss of production between Hamilton, even an average LF year, improvements at C, 3B, SS, 2B, and even a possible bounce from Votto?

    I don’t think it is all that bad if the chips fall right, but I believe the Reds improve their chances a lot if they can land even one good outfield talent. In that respect Chapman should be the trade chip because Hoover can easily replace his production. I don’t think we’ve seen Bruce’s ceiling yet either.

    • @Jason1972: Agreed on all points. As the roster stands today…

      Will 2014 Votto > 2013 Votto? Yes and 2013 was pretty darn good.
      Will 2014 Bruce > 2013 Bruce? Maybe a little, but 2013 was pretty darn good.

      Will 2014 Price > 2013 Baker? Yes.
      Will 2014 catcher > 2013 catcher? Yes.
      Will 2014 Ludwick > 2013 LF? Yes.

      Will 2014 Frazier > 2013 Frazier? ???
      Will 2014 Cozart > 2013 Cozart? ???
      Will 2014 Phillips > 2013 Phillips? ???

      Will the 2014 starting pitchers remain healthy enough to be better than 2013? ???
      Will the 2014 relief pitchers remain healthy enough to be better than 2013? ???

      That’s a lot of ??? for 2014.

  24. The Cardinals have gotten better. Perhalta improves their SS position, especially offensively where their SS position has been the one black hole of their offense outside of Furcal before he went down. Moving Carpenter to 3rd improves their offense there while not effecting their defense much. Ellis at 2B is an excellent defender and will be a good stop-gap to assist Wong in his transition to their everyday 2B of the future. Ellis was an excellent, cost-effective signing. They can replace Beltran by moving Craig to RF, with Jay/Bourjos providing good defense in CF (and Jay taking over RF in late inning defensive switches). Adams replaces Craig at first. Holiday is a poor defender (and their OF defense will be poor overall whenever Jay and Bourjos are not both in) but their infield defense should at least be average with great D from Molina.

    The Pirates lose Byrd, Morneau, and possibly Burnett. All key contributors to their play-off push and late season momentum. Not to mention losing Jones as well. They are banking on improved consistency from Liriano and their bullpen. BP’s tend to be erratic in production from year to year, so here’s hoping those career years from their BP guys come back down to earth. If they don’t re-sign Burnett, their offseason is looking pretty blah, just like ours.

    All in all, I would agree with the assessment that the Cards took a step (or two or three) forward, from where they were already the class of the NLCD, and the Reds at best have stood their ground, and the Pirates appear to have taken a step or two back. The Reds only stand their ground if we get healthy seasons from Cueto and Cingrani as well as the rest of the rotation. I believe that Cueto/Cingrani are going to be an improvement over Arroyo. I also believe the C position is going to be better overall, at least offensively. I expect BP and Frazier to be slightly above league average players (both a small bump in production) and for Ludwick to improve our overall LF situation. Our defense should be very good all around and hopefully Cozart will be more productive batting later in the order. But unless their are extended periods of injuries to the Cards, I still see us battling for a WC spot. And at the end of the day, a one game WC game is not a ton to get excited about.

  25. Simple question:

    Are we talking about being in contention all summer?

    Or are we talking about taking a 12-game lead into September and coasting?

    Either way, the fans will be excited. That is what baseball always has been.
    Having a chance.

    At the end, you either are a playoff team or a team that missed it.

    The 2014 Reds are a contender for a divisional title.

    That works for me.

    • @Johnu1: I agree John. We are talking about a playoff team that loses Arroyo and Choo but gains Ludwick, Shumaker, Hamilton and Cingrani/Cueto.

      That is still a playoff team. The starts by Cingani/Cueto more than make up for Arroyo. That is improvement over 2013.

      Ludwick is already an improvement in LF, regardless of everyone’s fear that he is done. He is better than what we had last year.

      The big question to me is how much game that Shumaker brings. I think we will be surprised by his impact, enough so that the Billy Show could be delayed until July.
      In platoon, this is Heisey’s last chance to prove that he is more than a backup. That could be huge motivation for him, and a new hitting approach with a new coach could be a big deal for him. Maybe not, but he could stand improvement

      Lastly, I do not see Bailey as an 11-12 pitcher in 2014. He has gotten better each year and this is a contract year for him

  26. So if we can get Marshall and Broxton healthy for 2014 and they pitch to their historical stats, our 110 innings over 4.0 ERA from 2013 should also improve. Of course that means that Logan Ondrusek (4.09) may be outside looking in.

    And it also means that Jonathan Broxton might have to have a number smaller than 310 pounds on his bio. For a guy with his injury history, he should come to camp at 260-270

    • @reaganspad: I think you just hit it on the head. If Marshall and Big Brox can pitch to capacity and shorten games, thus saving starting arms, we will be successful. If you don’t have the offensive dynamo of a lineup, you need to have solid pitching from rotation to back end. These guys were signed to be “elite set up men” and occasional closers, so if they pitch a lot we should be in good shape.

  27. Thanks preach;

    I am really fine with the team as it stands to “improve” on 2013. one move I would have liked to see Walt make is the one that the DC’s made:

    added outfield depth by signing Nate McLouth

    I am looking forward to January as I think there will be some fun headlines (not blockbuster) as we put this team together again for 2014

    Good Health is critical for a Happy New Year. Cheers everyone!

  28. The general quality of hitting produced from the Reds’ minor league system has been disturbing. A lot of swing early and swing often approaches have been promoted from the minor league system to the major league team. The quote reported by Sheldon yesterday,

    “We were really impressed,” Reds player development director Jeff Graupe said. “Obviously, all the physical ability he [Phillip Ervin] has is the first thing you see. But over time, seeing the consistent quality of his at-bats was the most impressive thing for me.”

    makes the Old Cossack give pause and harbor hope for better offensive production from the Reds’ minor league prospects going forward. That quote from the man in charge of player development is the first quote I have seen that reflects an updated hitting philosophy within the organization. More of this at every level…please :idea:

  29. I keep checking this blog seeking encouraging signs about the Reds, and I keep not finding them.

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