Cold Stove

The Opposite of Moneyball

If you’re tired of reading about the Reds’ disastrous off-season, here’s a sympathetic heads-up to skip this post. Suggestions: Review your notes about wRC+, turn on the Olympics, read this or listen to this.

But otherwise, you’ve received fair notice.

Yesterday we learned there is an enormous gap between what the Reds are offering Homer Bailey and what the pitcher wants for a contract extension. If the Reds have come to the conclusion that they’d rather work on extensions for Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, I get it. (Although if that’s the case, I’m not sure it’s a great idea to have Bob Castellini say at a caravan event that it would be a “huge disappointment” if the Reds let Homer get away.)

But if the Reds are genuinely trying to sign Bailey, then what’s up with the Grand Canyon-sized split? Bailey’s performance isn’t a mystery to the Reds. There are plenty of roughly comparable contracts out there. How could the valuations of the two sides be so far apart?

Let’s look at the context. Since the Reds traded for Shin-Soo Choo on December 11, 2012, the organization has made these decisions and key judgements:

 Assigned Aroldis Chapman to (again) pitch only 63 innings in 2013, mostly with two- or three-run leads, on his way to a league-average save rate.

• Failed to implement a Plan B to replace their clean-up hitter, Ryan Ludwick, who suffered a severe shoulder injury on Opening Day.

• Did nothing at the 2013 trade deadline. In the middle of a pennant race, the Reds were the only team in the major leagues that couldn’t figure out a single way – large or small – to improve their club.

• Declined to block the Pirates from acquiring Marlon Byrd. Walt Jocketty reportedly explained at one of the caravan events that he didn’t want to take on Byrd’s contract and that he didn’t think Pittsburgh would select the outfielder. Hmm. That month of Byrd’s contract would have cost $116,000. And I learned that fact reading one of the reports detailing that the Pirates, in fact, did select Byrd. In case you missed it, Byrd hit .318/.357/486 for Pittsburgh, leading them to the NLDS.

• Meanwhile, the Reds waited for Ryan Ludwick. After returning, the left-fielder predictably hit .240/.293/.326. In the marbles-on-the-table, season-ending series between the Pirates and Reds at GABP, Ludwick went 0-for-9 and Byrd went 6-for-9.

• The Reds didn’t make a bullpen move at the deadline; they instead relied on Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton’s return. Marshall made five appearances in September, pitching a total of three clean innings. One of those in a 10-0 win over the AAAstros. Broxton pitched 3.2 innings after June 15, none in September.

• Misanalyzed or misrepresented the market for Choo. As the 2013 season ended, Walt Jocketty said they would compete aggressively, do everything they could, to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo. Then they apparently came nowhere close to doing that. How could they have even entertained the notion while at the same time pleading poverty (there really isn’t much more we are in position to do) over much smaller moves?

• Botched the trade no trade trade to the Yankees no trade of Brandon Phillips in a way that surely maximized the ongoing discomfort and resentment.

• Once again, assigned Chapman to the bullpen for 2014. Joey Votto should put his Spanish lessons to good use and let Chapman know that the correct answer to the question: Do you prefer to start or pitch from the bullpen? is “Lo que el equipo necesita.” (Whatever the team needs.)

• Concluded (seriously, based on what evidence?) that Billy Hamilton can lead off and play centerfield for the Reds.

• Told reporters they were a few details away from a deal with Grady Sizemore. Then weren’t.

That’s a bleak year of organizational decision-making and execution.

Back to the situation with Homer Bailey. It goes without saying that we don’t the know the details and press leaks are often designed to influence the final stages of negotiations. Maybe Homer’s demands are objectively unreasonable because, in contrast to what he’s stated publicly, he really doesn’t want to play for the Reds. There’s always a chance they’ll announce a deal tomorrow.

But another real possibility is that the Reds are blowing this one, too.

Given the past year, my confidence is at a low point. Underestimating the Choo contract, overvaluing Phillips’ worth in the trade market, undervaluing Grady Sizemore, overestimating what relief pitchers are worth, the list horrifyingly goes on. You wonder what has happened to the ability of the Reds’ front office to come up with accurate values for players, to anticipate the market and then to execute a reasonable negotiation. The last twelve months have fueled a growing perception that they are no longer functioning as a modern baseball operation.

Is that serial failure playing out once again in the negotiation with Homer Bailey?

121 thoughts on “The Opposite of Moneyball

  1. …And yet, despite all this, we are talking about a team that has made the playoffs 3 of the last 4 years and are on track to make it 4 of 5 this year.

    I get it, the Reds have blundered their way through administrative tasks. But show me a team that hasn’t misevaluated situations/talent/contracts, etc? There are none.

    Now, with that said, it’s great that the Reds have become a perennial playoff club, but they ARE working with a window to win (read: Votto and Bruce’s prime years), and these does seem to be a lack of urgency to capitalize. I’m disappointed with the Reds this offseason, sure, but this is still a playoff club even without upgrades.

    Now, if the midseason trade deadline comes and goes this year with no moves, then yeah, I will agree the Reds are inept and squandering their golden opportunity to capitalize on the young talent that they have in their prime years.

  2. If they can’t sign Bailey by Opening Day they simply HAVE to trade him. If they’re anything like in contention by the trade deadline (and with 2 WC spots that means rocking a roughly .500 record…yay) then they won’t be able to make a move then. The only thing that could be worse than the last 12 months of Reds management would be losing Bailey and getting nothing but a draft pick out of it. Unfortunately, now that Bronson “Plan B” Arroyo is off the market I’m not sure who would take Bailey’s rotation spot. Which leads me to believe that we will, in fact, watch Bailey leave next year and get practically nothing in return. And the odds of us being serious contenders this year are so ridiculously slim that I can’t even entertain the idea that at least we’ll have a shot at watching him leave with a ring.

    This organization is teetering on a cliff. I already expect us to be also-rans in 2014 and I don’t see any real hope on the horizon in 2015 and beyond. Chapman might not even be a serious trade commodity anymore. The cupboards are bare in the minors outside of Stephenson. 2013 was our year…I think the window might just be closed. You almost have to wonder if Votto could be traded in the next couple years or if that contract will be too much to get any return from him. Otherwise I’m afraid we’re going to be looking at 5-6 years of “Joey Votto and the AAAll-Stars.” What a waste of a career THAT will turn out to be.

  3. I take your point that we’re talking about a team that has been a post-season contender. That said, I’d rather compare their decision-making to those of similar organizations, like the Cardinals, Nationals and Diamondbacks. My point is more than just that the Reds have made a mistake. They have had a season’s worth of nothing but misjudgments. So it doesn’t dismiss my point to say (rightly) that every organization makes mistakes.

    I’d like to nit pick on your first sentence. I don’t view what the Reds did last year as make the post-season. They lost the play-in game to the post-season. They didn’t have a home post-season game. So I’d say they have made the post-season twice in the past four years.

    I’d also disagree that they are on track to make it to the post-season this season. There’s not a rating/ranking that I’ve heard of this pre-season that has the Reds in the post-season. The Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves and Nationals are consensus picks. That leaves one wild card spot for the Reds to compete with the Diamondbacks, Pirates, Giants, Phillies and the like. The Reds weren’t a post-season team last year and I wouldn’t bet on it again this year, at least based on what we see now.

    • @Steve Mancuso: If they don’t re-sign or trade Bailey, I’d say the window is closed. They aren’t good enough this year to seriously contend – Hamilton will need at least a year to grow into this role and Mes still needs some grooming. Not to mention the entire left side of the field is a potential disaster offensively. If they can re-sign Bailey then they can come back in 2015 stronger and probably be contenders again. If they trade him, they can bolster the offense and make up for the dip in pitching. But if they just coast through his contract year and let him go for nothing, the 2015 club will come back MUCH weaker than even the 2014 club and there really isn’t any help in sight.

      • @eric nyc: You’re much to unequivocal. The general consensus, right now, is the Robert Stephenson will be a front-line MLB starter in 1 or 2 years. Given that, re-signing Bailey is not a requirement. Nor is trading him. I get the motivation to trade him for a bat, and I’d back it up, but it would have to be a pretty good bat to make the team substantial better. What is more likely is that, value-wise, it would be a wash that would simply make the team more balanced.

        As for the argument that they can’t seriously contend, I don’t see how you come to that conclusion. The pitching staff is elite top to bottom (Mike Leake is the fifth starter. He’s a 3-4 on most teams, the rest of the guys are all 1-2 type pitchers.) I think many people are underestimating how elite their run-prevention is because Cincy is more used to offensively-centered teams.

        The offense is that problem. It will probably be below average. However, one thing that several have pointed out to me is that there aren’t any obvious candidates on the roster to play worse than they did last year, but there are a whole lot who are decent bets to be better. And by a whole lot I mean: Votto, Bruce, Phillips, Mesoraco, Frazier, and Ludwick. That is 3/4 of the starting lineup that either because of age (Bruce, Frazier, Mes) or injury (Votto, Phillips, Ludwick) that has a real chance to improve.

        Will they all improve? No. But the odds are in the favor of improved performance from that group. Cozart is what he is. Hamilton is a question mark, but most of the projections, at least, are reasonably optimistic on him.

        This isn’t a perfect team, but they are certainly serious contenders.

        I know you don’t typically put stock in this kind of thing, but it’s worth noting that last year, the Reds were generally unlucky and the Cardinals were lucky. So much so that Baseball Prospectus continued to insist all the way to the end of the season that the Reds should have had the better record.

        This is a team that over-performed in 2012 and under-performed last year. They are likely not as good this year. But they could still very easily win 90 games. Choo is important, but he’s not as important as healthy Cueto, Votto, and Phillips.

        • @Jason Linden: I put plenty of stock in the “luck factor” in the sense that the 2013 club were about 4 or 5 games below their Pythagorean expectation I believe. That’s fine. But I see the team this year being weaker than last year’s team, so even if they net out to their projections that will probably put them right around where they were record-wise last year. Maybe that’s good for a WC spot, maybe it isn’t. Either way, a WC spot isn’t really something to shoot for. I don’t consider a team whose ceiling is likely a WC battle to be a serious contender for a championship.

          Stephenson very well might be ready in a year and in 2-3 be at Bailey’s level now. I’m high on him. So if you believe that, then you have to trade Bailey now. Because the odds of us seriously contending in 2014 are slim at best so you’re looking at Bailey as a rental. Beyond Stephenson, even if you like a couple OF prospects in the farm system you have to admit that we don’t have much depth there. These extra draft picks will be years away from contributing. Possibly even to the point where we’re starting to see the beginning of Votto’s decline. I’m not saying the Reds are goign to suddenly turn into the Astros, but the league is just getting more competitive and we dont’ seem to be doing anythign to improve. We weren’t good enough last year, it doesn’t look like we’ll be good enough this year, and there’s not a lot to look at and hope that we’ll be on the same level as the Dodgers, Nats, Braves, Cards, and even god forbid the Cubs when they start spending like the big boys in the next year or two.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I’m going to nitpick with your nitpicking, Steve. The fact is, the Reds made the playoffs last year by definition. MLB considers the wild card game a playoff game. The situation is not the same as it was when the Reds played a play-in game in 1999.

      As a Reds fan who lives in Pittsburgh, I understand the disappointment from that game, believe me. But it was a playoff game, and the Reds have made the playoffs three out of the last four years.

      • @AndyS: I know MLB calls it the playoffs (post-season, actually). But the NCAA calls the March Madness play-in games the first round of the tournament. That doesn’t mean that’s how I have to look at it.

        I was just saying that to me, making the play-in game isn’t anywhere nearly like making the post-season. The post-season is where you get to play in a series and you get at least one game at home. What happened in 2012 was the post-season. Even 2010 was the post-season.

        That one-game play-off last year wasn’t the post-season (to me). You have to win that game to get into the post-season.

        Either way, the Reds had such a disappointing year (at least finish) that they fired the manager and finished behind both St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the division. No way I’m grouping that in with 2010 and 2012 in terms of accomplishments.

        • @Steve Mancuso: You’re entitled to your own opinion, Steve. You’re not entitled to your own set of facts. I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that.

          The fact is the Reds made the post-season in 2013. That they fired their manager and didn’t get a home game is completely irrelevant. You can say the Reds have made the post-season two out of the last four years if you want to, but that’s factually inaccurate and only serves to make you (and by extension, this website) look ignorant, petulant and whiny.

        • @AndyS: Andy, I said four times in my comment that this was just the way I looked at it. I acknowledged the “fact” that MLB gets to define the game the way they want to. Just like the NCAA with March Madness. I’ve explained my reasoning and will take the risk of coming across as ignorant, etc.

          The broader point is this. When evaluating a manager, organization, players etc. and one says they’ve “made the post-season three out of four years” it implies a level of success that I don’t think is warranted if the team, in fact, loses the play-in game. No matter what it’s called, the outcome is the same.

          If you want to characterize last year’s Reds outcome as a successful season, go for it. It’s your right. All I’m doing is expressing my *opinion* that I don’t feel like it was. Maybe that’s petulant and whiny. Given Dusty Baker’s current employment status, I’d guess Bob Castellini probably sees it my way, fwiw.

        • @AndyS: That’s how this got started. I was responding to a comment (not yours) that used as evidence to partly exonerate Walt Jocketty that the Reds had made the playoffs 3 of the last 4 seasons. My nitpick was to say that I look at it as 2 of the 4 and I explained that was the way I looked at it. Then you jumped in.

          If you think the 2013 season was a disappointment/failure, I’m not even sure what your point is insisting on referring to it in the most favorable description.

        • @Steve Mancuso: It’s not about the “most favorable description,” it’s about the most accurate description. It is flat out incorrect to say the Reds didn’t make the post-season last year. My dispute is not with the conclusions you’re drawing but with the facts you’re stating.

          People confusing their opinions with facts, which is what you’re doing, is a constant pet peeve of mine.

        • @AndyS: MLB post season is made up of playoff series. A one game play in is not a series nor is it a playoff. Mancuso is right, its a play in. No different than Reds vs Mets in 1999.

        • @vinthelip: This is factually incorrect. The MLB post-season setup was changed in 2012. The wild card games are considered part of the post-season. There is no rule or regulation anywhere in the MLB post-season setup stipulating that only “series” count as the post-season.

          Here’s the MLB post-season schedule from last year, that includes the wild card games:

          http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/ps.jsp

          Here’s the Reds’ franchise history on baseball reference that shows the 2013 wild card game under the “Playoffs” column, and doesn’t show the 1999 game in that column.

          http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/

          You cannot dismiss facts because you don’t like them, or because they conflict with the narrative you’re trying to build, as Steve has tried to do. The Reds made the post-season in 2013. This statement is in no way controversial, nor is it an attempt to put a positive spin on events. It simply is.

        • @vinthelip: Vin I totally agree. I said it last season, the Reds DID NOT make the playoffs. The qualified for a play in game established by MLB as a farce to jack up media hype and costs. I also believe the Reds received participation ribbons also for their grandious accomplishment last season, maybe Andy missed the parade?

        • I’ll say it yet again, since it seems some posters here are having trouble understanding what I’m trying to get across here.

          It doesn’t matter whether you think the wild card game counts as the post season. It counts.

          It’s not a matter of opinion.

          Despite the fact that Scooter has now joined Mancuso in assuming that I’m making some kind of value judgement here, I’m not. I have made no statements about whether the 2013 Reds deserve to be called a post season team. That’s not what I’m saying here. The fact is, they were a post season team. That’s literally all I’m saying, and it’s provably true.

          It also doesn’t matter why the wild card game exists. You may well be right that it was added to raise more money. The same could be said about the NLCS and NLDS, of course, not to mention the World Series itself. But that’s beside the point.

          You can get as snarky as you want in denying true, verifiable facts. But it doesn’t change the truth.

  4. I’m picking up what this post is putting down. I understand and agree with all tenants. IF the Reds cannot resign Homer by opening day, you move him, even if it is just for prospects. The harsh reality is that this team will contend for nothing barring some serious breakout years for Mesoraco and Cingrani, a huge leap forward from Frazier, an unexpected bout of luck for Cozart that lasts roughly 155 games, and/or a rookie of the year campaign for Billy Hamilton, this team is not going to be doing too much. And I’m not even bringing up Ludwick because it just depresses me.

    But the future, for me, is not nearly so bleak. Even if we keep Homer, Stephenson will be in the rotation next season. His upside is that of Homer, and more. There is evidence to suggest that both Phil Ervin and Jesse Winker will be fast-tracked this year, with a chance to become MLB players by mid-2015. An outfield of Ervin-.300+ OBP Hamilton-Bruce is a pretty solid outfield that we can get excited about. Even a Winker-Ervin-Bruce outfield is an exciting prospect. I know that we all want to contend this year, but that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

    The Reds have drafted well (outside of Nick Travieso, who faces a make or break year), and that’s one area they’ll continue to do well. With 2 first rounders this year (I’m calling the comp round an extension of round 1, like they used to), the system will have it’s upgrade and things will start feeling more whole again. I’m not cool with what we are about to witness in 2014, but the closing window speak is not something I believe in.

    • @hermanbates: Like I said, as long as you re-sign or trade Homer before Opening Day. If either of those things happen, I think we’ll be fine long-term. If not, it’s going to leave a serious hole in the organization that won’t get filled quickly. Even if Stephenson is ready to come up next year and be a contributor, the farm system will be EXTREMELY weak for at least a few more seasons.

    • @hermanbates: I agree with this sentiment. Basically it’s like this: With or without Homer Bailey, the Reds aren’t in a great position to win the WS this year. Keeping him makes this year’s team better, and if he leaves you get a good draft pick. But if you trade him now you can get more prospects than just the draft pick, and they will be closer to the majors.

      I don’t think that the Reds should pay Bailey $17+ mil per year, and that’s probably what he wants. So I would just say that 2014 isn’t looking like our year (barring breakouts all over the place) and restock the farm a little.

      Next year Hamilton will have a year under his belt, Ludwick will be gone, Stephenson will probably be ready, the and I think the future will be a lot brighter.

  5. This post reminds me of seeing a title of one of the few ESPN articles that makes me wish I paid for insider. It was an opinion piece on why the only correct move for the Reds right now is to trade Bailey before the start of the season; which allows for some extra cash due to a “loophole” in the CBA.

    The closer we get to the season, the more I think that might be a valid opinion. The Reds are playing the “poor kids” card, so I think the chances of locking up a core of Votto, (Phillips?), Bruce, Cueto, Latos, and Bailey are all but shot. If that’s the case, then selling high on Homer to a contender with the ability to lock him up for 4+ years could seriously help extend the Votto/Bruce/Latos/Cueto Window. I was wrong about Homer a few years ago… I now am forced to realize him as the top of the rotation talent he is. As such, I think the Reds should get all they can for him; which means selling high and possibly deciding that 2014 is a small rebuilding year; while the core in still in tact to make a run at 2015.

  6. Given the reports concerning Homer, I suspect that a deal is not likely to work out. To be honest, this does not disappoint me in the least. He is very, very solid, don’t get me wrong. He is a power pitcher who throws a splitter and, this side of PED-era Roger Clemens, those guys don’t typically pitch deep into their 30s. Plus, I covet the draft pick that Bailey will bring following his rejection of the QO. So, there is a case to be made for standing pat, all mistakes aside, at this point.

    However, with the lack of progress in the Bailey talks and the lingering concerns about hard/hurt feelings in the Phillips situation, I propose that it may be time to consider some very radical action. My contention is this. The Reds cannot ever be in a situation in which they are “all in” or that this year will be their “best chance,” etc. If they find themselves in such a situation, they should move some of the pieces that make this year “their year” in order to have more viable chances at the postseason in future years. If I were Walt, this is what I would consider.

    *Deal Homer to the Yankees for Gardner and Pineda. I’m thinking the Yankees would do this deal in a heartbeat. Garder will likely warrant a QO at the end of the year and Pineda should be serviceable in a fifth starter’s spot. Plus he will be cost-controlled for several more years.

    *Send BP to Toronto (or another team in need of a 2B) in a three-way deal with Seattle that brings a pitching prospect from Toronto and Nick Franklin from Seattle. The Reds get younger and save money.

    *Explore the possibility of moving BHam, Chapman, and a minor leaguer or two (not named Bob Steve or Ervin) for that “power bat” that we have clamored for. Of course, Stanton would be nice, but that is not likely to happen.

    *If nothing along these lines materializes, hang on to Billy and the prospects and move Chapman for two or three solid prospects. I would rather have a Johnny Wholestaff bullpen with a better minor league system than a league average save conversion rate with Chapman. This would also leave Price with a four man outfield (Gardner in LF and CF).

    With all of this being said, the “safe” move is just to stand pat at this time. Perhaps, however, it is now time to consider something a bit less safe.

  7. I’d like to point this out, as well. What if, and it is entirely possible, though improbable, Robert Stephenson does at AAA what Corcino did? Or he gets hurt? You don’t have much depth beyond him anyway, and of that depth, what if Holmberg also struggles in his first year in a new organization?

    I’m starting to get sick of watching the Reds inaction. Even IF the Reds win the WS this year without making any moves in the regular season, I would almost chalk it up to Jocketty getting lucky, rather than any sort of foresight (that’s not to say I wouldn’t be happy they won the WS). At this point, all I’m seeing from him is a lot of hope, rather than expectations. You can’t possibly say that Mesoraco will be ready for sure. You’re hoping. The same goes for everybody else on the team. You’re hoping Phillips has a bounceback year, you’re hoping that Cueto stays healthy, and you’re hoping for breakthroughs from Frazier and Cozart.

    Before anyone objects, I understand that many teams HOPE about their players; however, few of them pin EVERYTHING on those hopes. And that’s what I’m seeing from Jocketty right now.

    Just as a point of argument, I’d say that the things that you can solidly EXPECT are as follows: Votto will have a great season. Maybe not MVP, but great. Cingrani will likely post around a 3.5 ERA barring exceptional circumstances. Latos and Bailey will be solid number 1 and 2s. Leake will be solid. The bullpen will be alright (although bullpens ARE volatile). Jay Bruce will have a solidly above average season (with the HOPE being that he posts an MVP one this year).

    And yes, I understand that I’m setting myself up to be torn apart. These are just my feelings and opinions on the team.

    • @rhayex: Those are valid points, though Stephenson is talked about in ways Corcino never was.

      Otherwise, yeah. I’m pretty much with you with the caveat (which you can draw from my post above), that generally, the roster is filled with more spots that are likely to improve than are likely to deteriorate.

      • @Jason Linden: That’s the optimistic view. I don’t totally disagree with you. I expect a healthy BP to be more productive at the plate this year. I hope to see Votto get his slugging back up and be in MVP form again. I’m always on the lookout for that one killer season from Bruce that I really believe is lurking in him somewhere. If Hamilton can get his OBP north of .320 (big if) then he could come very close to wiping out the dropoff from losing Choo. I’m not as high on Mes as a lot of people, but I’d welcome him surprising me. I can’t get too excited about Frazier, Cozart, or Ludwick no matter how hard I try. I’m optimistic about Price and hope that maybe some better in game management might get us an extra couple wins. But even with all of those things, I don’t see us REALLY pushing the Cards for the division. And like I said above, it’s hard to think any WC team is a serious contender anymore. I hope I’m wrong. I’m really not trying to be an outright pessimist, but I think my line of thinking is probably in the majority.

        • @eric nyc: For the record, I’m not expecting crazy seasons from any of those players. Rather marginal improvements from 2-4 of them that add up over the course of the season.

          I more think that people are pressing the panic button a little too hard. This was a very healthy team in 2012. It was not in 2013. Anything in the middle is an improvement and will go a long way toward making up for the only real loss of the offseason (Choo). I haven’t looked really closely yet, but right now, I’d put them around 90 wins, which is three less than they “should” have won last year. Of course, with the right or wrong breaks, they could easily end up somewhere else.

        • @Johnu1: It CAN. But it probably won’t in a division with the Cardinals. And I think it’s fair to say 90 wins is the ceiling for this team as it’s constructed right now, so going into 2014 hoping to win the NL Central with 90 wins means a LOT of things have to break our way.

      • @Jason Linden: Yeah, I’m a pretty big prospect watcher. I know that Stephenson is the best pitching prospect for the Reds since at least Bailey. The problem though is that the current MLB team is, like I said, full of a lot of guys you are hoping on.

        You have enough solid positions that you know (for the most part) what you’re going to get, that the Reds are easily over .500. The problem is, for them to take the next step and go deep into the playoffs, they need multiple at least above average (in some cases, AVERAGE) seasons from the guys they are banking on (Cueto, Ludwick, Hamilton, Phillips, Frazier, Cozart, etc.).

        Like I said in my previous post, every team has the kinds of guys the Reds have; that is, players who you are counting on to improve and help lead the team. It’s just more painful when Jocketty DID have the opportunities to improve the team, but decided they weren’t worth it (probably understandably, in many cases).

  8. I saw a Homer Bailey extension not happening the last shutout he threw. It sealed him not getting an extension here. So why did it take until 4 days before pitchers and catchers to report before it finally became obvious to Walt?

    They really messed this up big time. They needed to ride the Mariner’s big spending wave earlier and see if they could work some kind of Bailey for Franklin trade. Or see if they could get a bat for Bailey from someone else.. but now that they waited until Arroyo FINALLY got a contract (The $9.5m Arroyo will make in 2014 will be roughly the same as what Bailey will make through arbitration anyway) it’s too late. You could have paid Arroyo the money Bailey is going to get for this year and picked up a bat in the process. Sure Arroyo might not have Bailey’s pure stuff, but Arroyo is going to go out there 32-33 times, put up a 3.8 ERA, and eat up 200 innings, and play GG type defense. I’ll take that and a hitter. Then unload Phillips for anything you can get. Clear that money off the books and pick up some medium talent prospects to make room for Franklin.

    But now they can’t trade Bailey, because who do you replace him with in the rotation? Stephenson isn’t quite ready, nor is Holmberg, or Corcino.

    Opportunity missed. Badly.

    • @ToddAlmighty: So now you get 1 year of Bailey (good), but after that all you get is a draft pick, which may help you in 4 years, or simply may never help you (bad).

      Though I have no idea how the Reds keep talking about how they were going after Choo, and now they’re going after Bailey.. but they don’t have the money to give anyone from outside the team. Not even $900k or whatever it was Sizemore got before potential incentives.

      • @ToddAlmighty: The talk about pursuing Choo was just PR for the casual fans. Anyone with any real understanding of the finances involved knew the Reds were never anywhere close to being serious contenders for him. And that’s fine – I still think his LHP splits make him a bad investment for $100+ million but only a deep AL team with 4 quality OF’ers (like the Rangers) could afford to take that on. I have no problem with letting him go.

        But yeah, you simply can’t ride Bailey’s contract year and hope we get lucky. It’s just not smart. If you’re high on Stephenson (and I am) then you have to trade Bailey now. Fill out the farm system with some prospects that can contribute in a year or 2 rather than the 4 that draft picks will take. If you do trade him, though, you’d better be damn sure you can extend Latos and I hope they’re working on that already. Contenders have at least 2 aces anymore and a lot of them have 3 and even 4. Washington arguably has 5. Within the next 5 years, I’d think just about any serious contender is going to have at least 2 starters in their rotation with $100m+ contracts and that could be a very low estimate. I wonder sometimes if Walt is bristling at the dollar amounts and not thinking enough about how the revenue will be increasing over the next 5-10 years.

        • @eric nyc: I agree completely with your Choo analysis. Moreover, I suspect that Walt and his team now understand that there will be no signing Bailey either (which is fine as far as I am concerned).

        • @eric nyc: Just looked it up, and since 2000, the Reds have had 7 supplemental first round picks….

          -3 have made it to the Majors, but only 1 (Todd Frazier) played in the majors for the Reds.
          -2 are no longer in baseball.
          -1 never made it out of the minor leagues.
          -3 are currently in the Reds minor league system (Lotzkar, Winker, Gelalich).

          So even if you don’t count the two 2012 supplemental picks of Winker (very promising) and Gelalich (hit .245/.331/.300 in a full season at Dayton) since it’s too early to actually expect any results from them…. you still have 5 supplemental first round picks from 2000-2009. One got a whopping career 0.5 WAR as a starting pitcher for three other teams, one never made it out of the minors, one had an 8.05 ERA last year as a relief pitcher in A+-AA, one is spending more time in the minors than the majors for another team and just got traded a second time, and the final one is Todd Frazier. A very very solid, if not spectacular starter.

          Not exactly inspiring to think of what the Reds might get as compensation for Bailey leaving after 2014. Should have shopped him for a bat to help the team now/the next few years while Arroyo was still an option.

        • @Bill Lack: My bad, thanks for the heads up. So two didn’t make it out of the minors. I guess I overlooked him getting released somewhere. I guess he’s in the Ranger’s minor league organization now.

        • @Johnu1: I knew he was going to cost north of $100m and there was no way we were going to pay that much. So did just about everyone else, including Jerry Crasnick and his twitter followers I would imagine. And hey look…That’s exactly what happened.

      • @ToddAlmighty: The continued obsession with Grady Sizemore amazes me. He seems to be the poster child for complaining about the front office. The guy hasn’t hit a ball in 2 years and we’re convinced the front office knew enough to overlook that — but is apparently too ignorant as a group to make any other useful deals.

        • @Johnu1: Sizemore was another (public) miscalculation for the Reds. The point of this post wasn’t to criticize not signing Sizemore, although I’ve done that elsewhere. It was to give another example of where the Reds seemed to misjudge what it takes to sign a player. If that happens once or twice, it’s understandable. If it happens for twelve months or more, it suggests the possibility of a pattern. And that’s what I was doing. Suggesting a pattern, with the Sizemore episode as one data point.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Please tell me WHO the Reds SHOULD have signed.

          Sizemore is the symptom of the malady here. A name comes up, he’s a free agent and we all start licking our chops when somebody “tweets” that Walt is talking to the guy.

          First off, we believe the “tweets” way too often. I will be on record as saying there is far too much trust in what “sources” tell people who “tweet.”

          Once we get past that, a lot of this hand-wringing will end and we can at least establish a context.

          The problem here, as I see it, is that the wizened group believes that the team Cincy will field this year is somehow inadequate. We look at numbers, some of which are closely guarded secrets, and formulate the notion that this team can’t compete.

          To that, I say: Baloney!

        • @Johnu1: Please read more closely. The original post and my subsequent comments directed to you and others are not about who the Reds should or should not have signed. They are about the Reds seeming to miscalculate the market and other mistakes in judgement. Those are two different things.

          1. Reds decide not to try to sign Choo, too expensive (fine).
          2. Reds say they will compete aggressively to sign Choo, end up tens of millions of dollars off in terms of value (not fine).

          1. Reds decide not to try to sign Sizemore, too injury prone (fine).
          2. Reds say they have Sizemore essentially signed, then lose him (not fine).

          Etc. One or two things like this happening is not an issue. An entire year going by where this is all that appears to happen is another.

          The Reds were the only organization who at the last trade deadline couldn’t figure out a single way to improve their team. They couldn’t find one trade partner. Same thing happened at this year’s winter meetings and off-season.

  9. If trading Bailey could improve the team, they would have already made the deal

    I do not think teams are willin to pay the Choo price for one year rental players.

    Would you take Stubbs, Didi and a minor league reliever for a number 1 starter like Homer who you have to pay market rate for at year end?

    I actually think the Reds were a worse team after the Choo trade

    So for all the action everyone wants, I am happy that they did not screw up the team worse this offseason. No trade action is an improvement in my book

    I am not sure Walt is as good as trades as the guy he replace

    So like the doctors are taught…first do no harm

    Looking forward to seeing the boys in Goodyear next month

    • @reaganspad: Are you suggesting there’s literally no market for a top end starter with 2 no hitters under his belt? I mean I don’t know what the return looks like exactly because I don’t have Walts phone bugged but I have a hard time believing a guy who is realistically commanding $120m can’t return at least 3 top shelf prospects. You can look at the market any given season and say it just want there for so and so (BP) but front of the rotation starters? The Yankees alone would sell the farm.

      • @eric nyc: @eric nyc: the market for bailey is probably like the market for BP

        And I would rather have one year of bailey and a pick than one year of Gardner

        The guy who has value is Leake who has 2 years of control

        No way bailey is worth more than Choo was

        And the Yankees have no farm to sell

        And if Walt could have gotten 3 top shelf prospects Homer would already be wearing another uniform and Bronson would still be a Red

        • @reaganspad: Apparently you know a lot more than every single one of us does.

          I don’t know how you compare the market for Bailey and BP. One is a defensive infielder in his 30s who has never been much of an offensive asset and the other is a front line starting pitcher in his prime with 2 no hitters to his name. That’s just an insane comparison. Bailey is a gold mine in terms of prospect value.

        • @eric nyc: To say that Phillips has never been much of an offensive asset is overstating it. He won’t hit like George Brett, but he’s hardly Izturis.

          And no … I don’t know more than anyone else, but I do watch a game from time to time.

        • @Johnu1: I am a big BP fan and yes, that probably was overstating it re: his offensive contributions. And I’m on record as saying I think he’ll be a valuable offensive contributor in 2014. But if you think the market for BP is the same as the market for a 27 year old front of the rotation starter with TWO no hitters under his belt then I just don’t know what to say to you. That’s crazy. I don’t know what games you’re watching form time to time but in the MLB elite starting pitching is a lot more valuable than a 33 year old middle infielder with roughly league average offensive numbers.

        • @eric nyc: At what point did I discuss the relative values of the two players? All I wrote was that BP is a better player than you claim. You’ve even agreed with that.

          If you want to posit a position and claim I have established an opinion about Bailey, all you are doing is reiterating your belief that Phillips is bad and Homer is good. I never once even attempted to evaluate those contracts but if you insist I did, it’s unfortunate.

          So I do know what to say to you. Discuss the point, and try not to interject topics not in evidence.

        • @Johnu1: You said “the market for bailey is probably like the market for BP.” And I maintain that is Crazytown. I’m not comparing the two players, I’m comparing their relative value on the trade market and the only reason I’m doing that is because YOU brought it up.

        • @eric nyc: John did not say that, I did

          Again Eric, if the market for Bailey is what you say it is, he would already have been traded and Bronson would have been resigned.

          Since his market is like Phillips, (since teams will wait one season to sign him for a draft pick versus giving up 3 top level minor leaguers) and the Reds do not want to trade him for one year of a player like Gardiner, you keep him.

          Homer cannot pull in a Bartolo Colon return to the expos

        • @reaganspad: Oops, was responding to the wrong person then.

          I still don’t buy your logic. Walt has pretty much admitted to actively trying to trade BP and not being able to find a partner. So there was no market for BP. Up to this point, all we’ve heard is that Walt has been doing everything he can to extend Bailey. For all we know he hasn’t even talked about trading him with anyone. Maybe that’s naive (I’m sure Walt has contingency plans for contingency plans) but I would guess that if Bailey was actively shopped the way we shopped BP, there would be quite a larger market for him.

        • @eric nyc: OK Eric, how about this guy?

          “Doug Gray
          Posted February 9, 2014 at 8:47 PM

          Here is what I know…. a team like Tampa Bay has always traded guys heading to free agency. Yet David Price is still planning on being in spring training with them, so my guess is that the trade market simply isn’t there right now to move a guy like Bailey for proper value.”

          What he said…

  10. Mostly what I saw were a couple of screen clips from Jerry Crasnick and the rest of the scribes telling us about Homer Bailey’s career. Didn’t seem like much there that I find credible.

    I tend to be cynical about Twitter feeds and screen clips.

    But it’s hard to create news unless you are willing to invent it.

  11. Yep, this club is right back to the level when they ran out the likes of Elmer Dessens, Jimmy Haynes and Brandon Larson. It’s painfully obvious that some of you need to find a new team to root for. Honestly, I don’t see how some of you can even remotely enjoy following baseball.

    • @bart756: I remember those days all too well. I think there are those around here that have gotten a taste and have higher expectations now. I see a good team in the Reds. I see a team with a good chance for a playoff run. I see a team that should win 88-91 games. Of course, with the right moves, this team could be an even better team. I also don’t think 91 wins passes the Cards for the division. While I disagree with much of the hand-wringing in the comments and don’t feel we must trade Bailey. And while I don’t feel that 2014 will be a lost year. I do agree with the premise of the original post. Walt has made some drastic miscalculations this year. He’s in the last year of his contract and there is a good chance that if the Reds don’t make a deep run in the playoffs, winning at least a playoff series, his run as Reds’ GM will end.

  12. In practicing first do no harm, not trading BP a one year rental CF and a middle inning reliever with one year left on his contract was good practice. There was an article recently where Bill James listed BP as a top 5 second baseman. Yes, he is approaching or in the age group where players decline, but who do you replace him with? And, if you make the trade, the two players you picked up are gone the next year.

    Filling one hole in the line-up by creating another while weakening the fielding doesn’t help much. All trade scenarios I’ve seen on this site list multiple trades as a solution. How do you know if you take step 1, the next team will agree to step 2?

    Walt’s in a bit of a jam with the lack of organizational depth and the uncertainty on the ML roster. He’s saddled with the Ludwick contract, looking at Cueto’s return, hoping Hamilton is ML ready (or capable), counting on Mes stepping up as the starting catcher, anticipating internal improvement from Votto and Frazier, and hoping for a bit of a bounce back in BP’s hitting. Some of these things will probably work out. Which ones remains to be seen. But the situation puts him in evaluation mode and no single trade provides enough answers to guarantee success.

    Maybe there is a trade for Bailey which will bring some good prospects, but it will come at the expense of contending this year. If he pitches well and the Reds don’t contend, he can still be traded later in the year. Plus prospects are just that, no sure thing. Look at the Latos trade which broke strongly in the Reds favor. I would rather wait and see what happens with the rest of the question marks first.

    • @MikeC: I buy this side of the discussion.

      Ludwick and Heisey are going to play LF. Not sure, but the whole long list of affordable free agent LEFT fielders doesn’t include anybody who’s that much better.

      The big trick is Hamilton.

      After that, if folks are content to start molding the team for 2018, I need to remind you that someday you get too old to start wishing for next year.

      If Bailey goes, he goes.

      • @Johnu1: It’s not 2018, it’s 2015. The Reds went all in in 2013 and it didn’t work. It’s not surprising that they aren’t in great shape to win the WS in 2014, that’s the risk of going all in. With some careful planning and good execution, the Reds could be in great shape for 2015 because they still have a really nice core group of players.

        My read of this post was to say that the past year of the Reds decision making did not put us in a good position to win this year, and it would be nice if they started planning for the future.

        • @al: They did NOT go all in. That was a lie. If you go all in, you replace Ludwick in June, and you make trades at the deadline.

        • @jessecuster44: I agree that they poorly executed their “all in” year. So let’s just say that they made a lot of short-term moves that hurt the future in order to win in 2013. They traded minor leaguers and they signed big contracts. And we didn’t win, which is too bad, but it’s time to move on.

          If you make those kind of moves, it’s not surprising that the next year you’re not in great shape to win the WS. My take is that with a “reloading” year, rather than a full “rebuilding project,” the Reds could be right back to being ready to win next year.

        • @al: Going “all in,” which was never a phrase I’ve used, would suggest that there was no way to fail … considering the ace of the staff pitched 61 innings last year, or 3 fewer than the closer pitched, considering the closer was under-used.

          There isn’t any reason this team can’t win this year and the continual beefing about it on this board has really gotten old. Why in heaven’s name do you people even follow the Reds?

  13. It’s tough not to read Steve’s timeline and draw the conclusion that the front office has become a step slow and a tad too conservative.

  14. I am surprised Bob doesn’t replace this GM whose team has won 97 & 90 games the last two seasons, with someone random dude from the interweb. It seems to me 90 to 97 wins is an abject failure. Of course this is sarcasm.

    Everything will be fine again. If not for Dusty’s unimaginable strategy down the stretch, I am confident this would have been a playoff team last year. Remember, on paper it was better than the 2012 team. The sky will not fall and the Reds will be in the playoffs again this year. Mark it.

  15. Steve – are you saying the Reds made a mistake by not resigning Choo? If so, I really disagree. I think the Rangers dramatically overpaid for Choo (whom I love) and I think one of the absolute best moves of the offseason was the Reds NOT overpaying for Choo. Sometimes the best moves are the ones not made, which seems to be forgotten around here.

    I also think that it took guts to fire Baker which was a HUGE off season move and I believe will be a big factor (along with being more healthy) in the Reds being a significant contender for a championship. The anti-Jocketty crowd seems to never mention this move.

    Is Jocketty perfect? Absolutely not, and the organization needs to build some depth to be sure, but I think not signing Choo to an albatross of a contract and firing Baker made for a pretty productive off season. I hope that they can extend one of the pitchers before Opening Day to make it a darn good off season.

    48 Days……can’t wait!

    • @Kyle Farmer: I’m saying that back in September, October and November, the organization made several statements that they were going to be highly competitive in the Choo market. I remember hearing (but couldn’t find) Walt Jocketty say something like he was very optimistic that the Reds could resign Choo. Then, it turned out they were apparently a LONG ways away from the offers Choo was receiving. My point was that the Reds seemed to misanalyze the market for Choo. I wrote this “You wonder what has happened to the ability of the Reds’ front office to come up with accurate values for players, to anticipate the market and then to execute a reasonable negotiation.”

      Firing Baker was a big step, although I’d categorize it as necessary, but nowhere near sufficient.

      You question “Is Jocketty perfect?” implies that all humans (because all are fallible) have performed equally as GMs. The point of my post is that not only is Jocketty not perfect, he (the Reds’ organization) has gone over a year making one bad decision after another based on the poor valuation of players.

      • @Steve Mancuso: I think you may be putting a little too much stock in public statements by Jocketty. Of course he’s going to say they’re going to try to get a deal done, and of course he’s going to say he’s optimistic about it. Every time he makes a public statement he has to consider how it will sound to fans, current members of the roster, potential future members of the roster, and various agents. There’s no evidence to suggest he misread the market whatsoever.

        • @AndyS: His repeated statements are evidence. You might judge them to be unreliable evidence, but they are public statements. Obviously, you have to take those kind of things in the proper context. But notice in December, when it became clear what the competing offers to Choo would be, that Jocketty quickly switched to “I think we have to move on from that.”

          And if Jocketty knew in October and November that the Reds really weren’t going to compete aggressively for Choo, why would he set the organization up to look like a failure by saying the Reds were going to “do everything they could” to sign him and that he was increasingly optimistic it would happen? I don’t agree that “of course he’s going to say…” when he knows it isn’t true.

          My broader point is the pattern. In isolation, you can take each one of these decisions and debate the merits or maybe that Jocketty was massaging the message for PR reasons. But when you add them all up over the past year, it makes me begin to wonder if the Reds’ ability to value players has gone awry. That’s what I wrote.

      • @Steve Mancuso: So, you believe that Jocketty’s public statements regarding Choo accurately reflect the position of the front office? I guess I expect a little subterfuge for the benefit of the public in such situations. I always assumed that some club would overpay for Choo and was pretty happy that the Reds didn’t take the bait so to speak. Maybe I’m too cynical.

        I agree with you 100% about Homer, he is far more valuable for 2013 than any trade the Reds could make. I hope he has a tremendous year, wins the Cy Young, and the 7th game of the World Series for the Reds. And then I hope he signs somewhere in the AL!

  16. Trading Homer Bailey, either before Opening Day or at the 2013 trade deadline, will only take place in the context of a decision by the Reds to pack it in for 2013.

    Unless Homer is willing to sign a long-term contract with another team as part of the deal – and that seems a little unlikely – the fact that he’s got only one year to free agency will limit his value to those teams who are strong contenders in 2013. And those teams are only going to trade away prospects, not players who are helping them in 2013.

    So if you favor trading Homer right now, then you have to essentially be giving up on 2013.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I think that’s what most of us in the pro-trade camp are saying. Fact of the matter is, even with Bailey I don’t think we’re going to be serious contenders in 2014 so I’d much rather take a one year hit if it means restocking the farm system. Otherwise we could be looking at a much longer rebuilding process. If you’re against trading Bailey, it means you seriously think we are WS contenders this year and that’s just hard to see with this roster. Everything would have to break our way.

      • @eric nyc: You’re right that how you view the Reds’ chances in 2014 would be a significant factor in how you view this situation.

        I see a team that had major injuries and had to overcome horrific field management that still made it to the Wild Card game last year. For me, it’s not a stretch to believe that a healthy, well-led Reds team could be playing deep into October this year.

        Therefore, I’m all for keeping Bailey even though I think there is no shot at signing him and that the effort to extend a pitcher should be focused on Latos.

        • @Kyle Farmer: It’s certainly not inconceivable. I don’t think the Reds are going to be BAD in 2014. But I think they’re a weaker team than the 2013 club. Like I said above, that club underperformed and won 90 games. I think this team projects to be about a 90 game winner if they stay healthy. 90 games MIGHT get you into the WC game. So you’re gambling an awful lot on the chance to play another 1-game play in if you don’t trade Bailey. And even if we made it past that, I just don’t think we stack up offensively with the other teams that are likely going to be in the playoffs so a deep run seems very unlikely. Trading Bailey now is the safe bet.

        • @Kyle Farmer: I think you’re overstating the injuries the Reds suffered. Every team had injuries, many worse than the Reds. Cingrani was a decent replacement for Cueto, Ludwick was never going to be very good, BP wasn’t actually that much worse than he has been recently, and the bullpen was still great.

          If we had lost Latos, Bailey, Votto, Bruce, or Chapman, then we could complain.

        • @al: BP had his worst year as a Red since 2006 by a pretty sizable amount. I think it’s safe to say injuries played a big part in that. I agree with your overall point, especially with regards to Cueto and Cingrani, but losing Ludwick on Opening Day was pretty bad luck. I don’t think it’s fair to just say “He wasn’t going to be very good” after the 2013 year he had. No way of knowing, but clearly the shoulder was a problem even after he came back. I think it’s safe to say NOW he probably isn’t going to be very good, but going into 2013 there was every reason to expect him to at least be a solid contributor and instead we got literally less than nothing out of the LF spot, WAR-wise.

        • @al: If anything, I’ve understated the injuries. Both Hanigan and Meso suffered from injuries during the season which I didn’t mention. And, while it might be your opinion that Ludwick was going to be terrible, we don’t know that. Losing your clean up hitter on Opening Day was a major blow.

          Cingrani was awesome, but let’s keep in mind he was also hurt for the stretch run. As was Latos, who I think would have given the Reds a much better start than Cueto in the Wild Card game.

          And, I continue to believe that Votto’s knee bothered him in some manner for most, if not all, of last season.

          This team was crippled by injuries last year and still won 90 games and went into the last week of the season with a chance to win the division.

      • @eric nyc: I think this team can compete for a divisional title.

        With Latos, Cueto, Bailey … that team can win a short series, then a couple long series.

        That puts them in the World Series.

        Just like 1990.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I’m not sure what trade value Homer Bailey really has here in February. The only teams that would be interested would be the very high payroll teams, and maybe the Cubs or Astros. His one-year rental status, ala Choo, pretty much precludes any other team from giving up any contract of value for him, at least a guy who would help the Reds in short order. A high-payroll team would need to offer a very highly regarded near-ready prospect, or else an excellent, controllable young major leaguer, and I just don’t see who. The Astros or Cubs have strong enough farm systems, whereby they may want to give up some excellent prospects to cement a front-line starter for when they get good in 2015.

      The trade deadline may present a different circumstance.

      • @Big Ed: The problem is, if we’re anywhere near .500 at the deadline then we won’t move Bailey because we’ll still be hoping for a WC spot. We would have to absolutely TANK the first half of the season to be completely out of it by the deadline and I don’t see that happening. Imagine how bad it would look if we ended up a game or 2 out of the WC spot and then watched Bailey walk. Ugh.

        As for who would want to trade for him, I’d think any of the high payroll teams would love to have him. The Yankees have some good prospects – and even with Tanaka I think they’d jump at adding a reasonably priced Bailey for a 1 year rental. I’m sure you could find someone. He doesn’t cost that much for 2014 and someone out there thinks they’re a starter away from contending.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I’m not sure I would agree with this. If the Reds could flip Bailey for a fifth starter type and, for example, Brett Gardner, they could come out on top in the WAR department in 2014. Gardner would allow Price some flexibility in the outfield in the event of a Ludwick injury, BHam cannot hit his weight, or with a three man/two spot arrangement in which Price plays the matchups. If we think in terms of 2013 bWAR, Gardner was a 4.2 and Bailey a 3.2. If we then add the value of the outfield flexibility (which is inherently unquantifiable, I know), which could include avoiding a repeat of the 2013 LF situation, the luxury of having BHam on the bench in pinch running capacity (he was worth .7 WAR in September alone), and having a guy (or two) with OBP skills in front of Joey, I think trading Homer is not really conceding 2014 at all. Then, if the Reds could get anything above league replacement out of the fifth spot in the rotation, that value is simply bonus.

  17. The elephant in the room is the 40% of our payroll tied up in the bullpen. If we would move Chapman to the rotation, we’d feel fine trading Bailey for a bat. If we traded Chapman, we’d have the money to pay Bailey.

    I was indifferent watching Chapman last season. I do believe I’ll probably feel hostility this season.

    • @Sultan of Swaff: I think the outlay for Chapman was based on something that evidently isn’t going to happen and when the pitching coaches agree that he should be in the bullpen, I gotta go with that.

      But the expectation of him being a starter was justifiable for the money. The mis-evaluation of his mental makeup isn’t anybody’s fault.

      Broxton is the albatross. Still, he’s a quality relief pitcher.

      I will be curious about how Price and Pico use this bullpen.

      • @Johnu1: The Chapman indecision directly led to the Broxton contract, too. And it also influenced the Marshall trade and extension. The whole thing snowballed and is hamstringing the club. I could stand to just have Chapman taking up too much money as an average closer, but the way the entire thing has been botched is just inexcusable. I agree with you that, at this point, if Price says he shouldn’t be starting then he shouldn’t be starting. I read that profile of him this weekend lounging around his mansion in Florida, not getting out of bed until 4 PM, chain smoking Marlboros by the pool, not even particularly enjoying the sport of baseball. Frankly, I kind of don’t want the guy in the clubhouse after reading that.

    • @Sultan of Swaff: Agreed. The Reds systematically overvalue relief pitchers and because of that they have way too much money tied up in the bullpen.

      If the Reds moved Chapman to the bullpen, they could trade Leake, who would potentially have more value (at least appeal to a larger number of teams) because of two years of team control. If the Reds traded Chapman, which they should do instead of wasting him in the bullpen, they could certainly acquire a huge bat. Chapman is probably the most valuable trade commodity on the major league roster.

      • @Steve Mancuso: Does he really have that kind of trade value anymore? A year or two ago you could have gotten Stanotn straight up for Chapman. There was still hope that you could convert him to a starter. Now he’s just an average closer with some freakshow ticket sales appeal. I still think Miami is the place to shop him because that appeal is the highest there and they need to start filling up that ridiculous stadium, but I don’t think he could get you the bat you need straight up. Which means further looting our already stretched farm system. It might be worth it to trade him for prospects while he still has a couple years of team control just to get his salary off the books.

        • @eric nyc: Agree that his value has somewhat diminished. But he still offers three more years of team control. All it takes is one other team who is going to take advantage of his talent and make him a starter. (Wish it was the home team.)

          Here’s a crazy stat: Chapman has pitched 198.2 innings for the Reds. That’s roughly a full season for a starter. He has 324 strikeouts! And also a 2.40 ERA and 2.27 FIP.

          (Yes, I know his stats wouldn’t be the same if he was a starter, I just thought the stat was interesting.)

          Even as a reliever, he earned 3.3 WAR in 2012. That’s a $20/year million payday now.

        • @Steve Mancuso: I think the starting ship has officially sailed. If anyone was going to do it, you’d think it would be Price. Chapman has been pretty clear that he doesn’t want to start. From everything we’re continually learning about his mental makeup, I don’t think FORCING him into a starting role would work out well for anyone. So any trade value for him would have to be as a closer. Yeah, he’s a good closer, but he’s not the BEST closer. And even the best closer probably isn’t worth a big time major league middle of the lineup bat straight up.

      • @Steve Mancuso: Chapman is probably the most valuable trade commodity on the major league roster.

        More valuable than Votto to a large market team that could afford him (or his home town, if it is not quite large market in US terms)?

        More valuable than J.Bruce (under team control for 4 seasons (age 27 thru 31) at just under $12M per year mean)?

        If Chapman was already an established starter, maybe, but given that he isn’t I doubt it (3 years of team control, $$$ on the back end unknowm).

  18. Regarding the affordability of Homer Bailey. Keep in mind that the Reds are going to pay him more than $9 million this year, maybe $11 million if Homer wins at arbitration (which I doubt will happen). What’s the most his AAV could be, $18 million? That’s way on the high end and may be more in the $15-16 million range. So it could be that the long term contract bumps payroll around $5-8 million.

    Now, you can say that Homer isn’t worth that much money, or that a long-term contract has risks, but those are separate arguments. To say that the Reds “can’t afford” HB is not right, in my opinion.

    • @Steve Mancuso: There is still the possibility, one that I am leaning towards believing, that Homer simply doesn’t want to stay here and so is asking for a ludicrous contract he knows we won’t give him. If/when he does sign a contract next year with someone, we can’t just look at the numbers and say “We could have afforded that!” because we don’t know that he would have taken that from us.

      I don’t know exactly what the alleged acrimony is between Homer and the Reds. Maybe it’s overblown. But that quote a couple weeks ago when he was asked if he wanted to leave and he gave the lukest of warm “To say I want to leave is not accurate” responses didn’t sound like a guy who wanted to retire in a Reds uniform.

  19. I know that this may be crazy, since they had a lot of success last season. But if you are going to question the success of our players (Reds), you also have to question the success of the Cardinals players. To be honest, I am not sold on that team reproducing what they did last season (ESPECIALLY OFFENSIVELY). Sure, they have Yadier who will put up good numbers. And sure they have a whole bunch of good prospects (Taveras, Wong), but they are no better than Bruce was entering the league. I think that losing Carlos Beltran is going to hurt a lot. Plus, Matt Holliday isnt exactly a spring chicken and who truly believes that Matt “Who Again” Carpenter is going to hit like Ty Cobb. I know they have a good, young rotation (that I have trouble questioning). I just think that at least offensively, there are a lot of question marks for them, especially when it comes to an aging Holliday, replacing All-Star numbers from Beltran, and another breakout year from Carpenter.

  20. Chris Welsh said in our recent interview that if Homer decides he wants to stay here, he will…if his agent has a ton of influence, he’ll go elsewhere for more money (making the point that the agent was representing 3 people (Homer, himself, and the next guy he wants to sign)).

  21. Excellent post, Steve.

    This has been touched on in the comments, but the next major concern is whether they are waiting to long to extend Latos (and possibly Cueto). Looking at the market, a long term extension for Latos would have been a whole lot cheaper last year. It will be unmanageable if they wait until next season- which is exactly what we are seeing with Homer. They need to be proactive and working on this right now. I haven’t even heard extension talk mentioned publically with Latos.

    With Cueto, the team is going to have a lot more information than us regarding his long term health outlook. If they are optimistic, this is the perfect buy low opportunity (one everyone will be regretting if he comes out and pitches well).

    These are the next two major opportunities for the Reds to show that they have a reasonable plan. It would be nice to right the ship here.

    • @Kyle: Great point about Latos and the timing. They need to get that done this offseason to get a discount. My guess is they really have to wait until Homer’s negotiation is done, one way or another. If they sign Homer, it gives them more leverage with Latos. But it also sets a salary point.

      That dynamic is also probably affecting the Bailey negotiation. They know that Latos (and Cueto) will be looking at what Homer gets. But market value is market value. The Reds have to pay it for someone, whether it be Bailey, Latos and/or Cueto.

  22. Just to chime in further, I disagree with trading Homer right now. I’d see what you can get out of this season and only look to trade him if the Reds falter. Winning seasons don’t come along that often for small market teams (as all of us know), so they should still be in win now mode IMO.

    I’d be looking to trade Chapman, although I agree with an earlier comment that the Reds have not maximized that opportunity. Look at what closers got on the market this year- the one area that no one overpaid for.

    To be a winning small market team, you have to be smarter than most (and have some good breaks). The Reds have not shown that this is the case.*

    *With that said, Jockettey did a masterful job in setting this team up for 2013. It didn’t go how we wanted it but he did a fantastic job with the roster last year.

  23. I read so many people on this blog for “trade for this” or “trade for that”. Trading simply isn’t that easy. You have to have a trading partner interested in what you have, a partner who has something that you are interested in. For example, we might be interested in Stanton. But, who ever said the Marlins were interested in anything we have to get for Stanton?

    Similar can go for contracts. It’s not unusual to see players change their mind, even at the last second, signing for the money instead or signing to play with a winner instead. Just consider Sizemore. Since we don’t know exactly of what the timeframe was, it could have been us all along for Sizemore. Then, all of a sudden, the most recent WS Champions call you up wanting to offer you a contract. There’s not many who would turn something like that down.

    As for Homer, I don’t read it as “we” are the problem. I read it as “the other teams” giving out the contracts they are giving out as being the problem. I mean, really, Lincecum getting that kind of money?! And, if Homer thinks he can get it elsewhere, he will go for it.

    I said before, if I was a competing GM wanting Homer, there’s no way I give away some prized players just to get Homer for one year then having to give away 8 figures to keep him after that. I would just as rather stick to my guns, wait for next year when Homer becomes a FA and give up at most a draft choice instead, banking on the Reds not being able to re-sign him.

    And, getting a real 4-hole hitter, I would love to see that. But, then, there’s no way I have $7 million (in Ludwick) sitting on my bench nor at home doing nothing. When it comes to that, we were just unfortunate with Ludwick’s injury, just like Cueto’s in the NLDS a couple of years ago, or Madsen’s a couple of years ago, or all the pitching injuries a couple of years ago. If there was a capable “Plan B” out there, they would have probably already signed with someone else and actually starting the entire time.

    Don’t get me wrong. I would have liked to see some different things going on as well. I would have at least liked to see Homer “or” Latos re-signed by now. I would have liked to seen us let Ludwick go and sign a FA to take his place (but signing Ludwick for what we did get him for after the season he had I felt was a steal).

    I mean, bottom line, we will hopefully be getting 3 top notch pitchers back healthy for a full season. Hopefully, Hamilton will progress with his batting. Hopefully, Ludwick will take some batting tips from Votto. Hopefully what Price worked with the pitchers the last couple of years will work with the regular players as well. I’m not feeling so bad about this season. I still think we will be in contention. What was it, in 2012, we won about 91 games? In 2013, on paper, we should have won about 97 games? I foresee this team still in the high 80’s, like 88-90 wins. And, that can be (not will be) enough to get to the post season. And, I believe what Steve Mancuso has said before, you never know what can happen in the post season.

    • @steveschoen: It does take two to make a trade. It also takes a somewhat realistic valuation of players. That the Reds haven’t been able to come up with trading partners in the last 12 months, for either large or small trades, is part of the evidence that maybe they are systematically failing to correctly value players. Add in the misses on free agents (Choo, Sizemore) and possibly now Bailey and maybe there’s a common thread. When you say the problem with Homer is the other teams, isn’t that the market? Isn’t that saying that the Reds don’t understand the way the market is changing?

      The Reds were loaded heading into 2013, clearly pointed toward the World Series. They had traded two pieces for one year of Choo. When your projected clean-up hitter goes down on Opening Day, likely for many months if not effectively for the entire year, you have to make a big move to stick with your plans of competing for the World Series. Such a move was changing your mind about Chapman, moving him to the rotation and then trading three years of Mike Leake for a big-time right-handed bat. At least that was my idea at the time.

      • @Steve Mancuso: It is of course possible that the Reds are correctly valuing their players, and teams like San Francisco with Lincecum and Texas with Choo are over-valuing players. Economists will tell you that the winner of an auction like a free agent situation is likely the person who has most overvalued the player; every other team didn’t think Choo was worth as much as the Choo. (Assuming everything else, such as personal preference and state tax rates, are thrown out.) As I’ve said with Sizemore, unless you know the details of the incentives offered by the Reds and Red Sox, it is hard to compare the contracts. The Red Sox, with more resources, likely just outbid the Reds.

        And is “enormous gap” now a objective term? How do we know the agent isn’t just spinning the situation, trying to gin up the angst in the fan base and getting some extra Benjamins for his client?

        But I agree with one sentiment. Any team that valued Ludwick at anything over replacement value doesn’t know how to value players.

        • @Big Ed: Ludwick’s contract after 2013 was fine. If he hadn’t hurt himself in the first 30 minutes of the season and put up anything close to his numbers in 2013 he’d have probably been worth about 1.5 WAR which would have put his $7 million salary right where it should be. If anything, it was a team friendly contract to keep it to 2 years because he probably wanted 3.

  24. Why all the continued doom and gloom here. I mean really why not just sit back and enjoy the game? We have some incredible talent on this team, and they have new leadership running the day to day operations, why not sit back, see what happens before jumping off the cliff?

  25. It is still possible that the Reds could trade Bailey before spring training is over. They brought in Jeff Francis and Chien-Ming Wang to compete for starting jobs. If one of the 2 impresses during spring training, I could see the Reds trading Bailey, especially if a potential contender loses a starter for the season to injury (this happens at least one per season). A team would get desperate and would be willing to overpay.

  26. Chris Cotillo/MLBDailyDish via twitter…

    #Royals have placed Emilio Bonifacio on unconditional release waivers. He will have 48 hours to be claimed.

    Absolute salary dump by the Royals. Bonafacio is now available for a waiver claim, but so was Byrd last season.

    • The teams WITHOUT claims ahead of Cincinnati:

      Bosox; Cardinals; A’s; Braves; Buccos; Tigers; Rays; Indians; Dodgers; and Rangers

      There are a lot of teams out there that could use Bonafacio with claims before Cincinnati.

  27. And so what if Bailey plays for the Reds all 2014 and goes free agent? Extending him would have cost the Reds $18mm/year going forward, and the odds are that by the end of that contract, he wouldn’t have been worth it. Homer and his agent are smart; they want “market” (“biggest sucker”) money, so the Reds by extendning him would have paid “market” for him in the future. Instead, they have $18mm/year to spend otherwise (Latos, Cueto, Real Leftfielder). Why is that bad?

    And if the market value for Homer’s expected production this year is $16mm, and the Reds get him for $9-11mm, isn’t he providing excellent value this year? Good management, especially for mid-market teams, is finding good value in players. Plus, the Reds would get a draft pick (which I concede Jocketty is a good candidate to waste).

    Finally, if Homer gets hurt this season, and all starting pitchers are good candidates to get hurt, then the Reds have done themselves a favor by not extending him.

    • @Big Ed: I mean if you don’t think Bailey is worth $18 million then yeah, that’s a bad contract. I think he is. And any long term contract for an elite player is going to have some back end years that don’t look great. You think we’re going to be happy about paying a 40 year old Joey Votto $25 million? You have to make the judgement call…Latos is going to cost just as much as Bailey. Maybe more.

  28. @Steve Mancuso:

    It does take two to make a trade.

    The Latos and Choo trades are 2 good examples of teams getting together and trying to benefit both teams. Those situations are just hard to make happen unless teams are willing to be realistic. Then there’s the other side of the coin…
    @Hunt4RedsOctober:

    I could see the Reds trading Bailey, especially if a potential contender loses a starter for the season to injury (this happens at least one per season). A team would get desperate and would be willing to overpay.

    If this situation comes up and a team is willing to deal from desperation, I would certainly hope that Bailey, Latos, Cueto or Leake would be available for the right return coming the Reds’ way.

    The Old Cossack is completely comfortable holding onto Bailey this season and getting a cost controlled ‘ace’ caliber pitcher for one year at below market value, even if the only return is a comp pick in 2015. The Reds have a legitimate (not necessarily good) shot at making a playoff run in 2014. Let’s see how it plays out and hope for the best, unless WJ gets and offer he simply can’t refuse. If the SSS is available, I would still like to see Burnett in a wishbone C to provide rotation depth and flexibility to make a big trade without sacrificing 2014 by downgrading the starting pitching staff.

    • @Shchi Cossack:
      “The Old Cossack is completely comfortable holding onto Bailey this season and getting a cost controlled ‘ace’ caliber pitcher for one year at below market value, even if the only return is a comp pick in 2015.”

      That’s exactly the situation the Reds faced with Choo last year – a good player at a below market price for one year. The difference being that it cost the Reds a couple of players to get into that position with Choo.

      Small market teams need to get additional value out of their contracts so they can compete with the big spenders. Bailey represents that type of value this year.

      • @MikeC: I do not disagree with you at all in principle or concept. As that relates specifically to Bailey, is where our opinions diverge…somewhat but not entirely.

        If WJ can get a good return for Bailey, I have no problem trading Bailey. The caveat is that good return. The reason I am comfortable in not trading Bailey relates to what I envision from the Reds in 2014. The 2013 season was a spectacular bust after WJ set up the Reds to make a serious push for the WS by adding Choo without sacrificing any necessary or valuable players. It didn’t work and we’ve already debated to death why it didn’t work…water over the dam.

        Why did the Reds have such success in 2010 and 2012? Superior pitching and Joey Votto! In 2010 and 2012, Votto posted an OPS+>170 for both seasons. I believe Joey is healthy and hungry going into 2014 and is ready to Votto again! The other factor contributing to the Reds success was superior pitching and Bailey is certainly a superior pitcher. The Reds could field 3 of the top 10 starting pitchers in the league for 2014 with Cingrani not far behind. With Price leading the team, I believe a successful season would likely translate into a deep playoff run. That’s the only reason I am comfortable holding onto Bailey this season. That’s also the reason I want WJ to sign Burnett if at all possible. With Burnett in the starting rotation, the Reds have much better starting pitch depth and real flexibility to trade Bailey for the right offer without sacrificing a run in 2014.

  29. This sums up exactly my feelings on this offseason. I don’t want to pile on, but I’m starting to see why St. Louis let Jocketty go.
    As usual, an excellent post, Steve.

    • @beens999: I said earlier

      Wayne was better than Walt at making trades and adding talent on the margins

      Maybe Walts strength is building the farm system…..

  30. Nice job Mancuso but you forgot two things…

    1. Dusty Baker is gone after wasting our time the past two years.
    2. The Reds will lead the league in one thing over the next couple years — supplemental picks (notice the sarcasm please)

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