Editorials

You Know Who I Work For, Right?

That would be Bob Castellini. Owner. The man in charge. The Boss. The top dog. The big cheese. The head honcho.

If that fact’s been forgotten of late, it was driven home once more by Walt Jocketty shortly after the 4:00pm draft deadline passed the other day. No matter what is expected of the Reds’ GM—and let’s face it, everything is expected—lost in the discussion has been that Jocketty makes decisions at the behest of a man who is not only the owner, but also first and foremost a committed fan who has his own ideas about how this team should be constructed.

Sometimes I feel like I’m tied to the whipping post.”   —Allman Brothers Band

Around these parts, the discussion of late has dissolved into a pie fight. Those who suggest the game has passed Jocketty by—or who foolishly intone a perceived inability to value players properly, as if he droolingly stumbled upon Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon and Shin-Soo Choo and Aroldis Chapman and Brayan Pena and on and on, who draw the paint-by-numbers outline of Jocketty as aging lone wolf making decisions in an echo chamber of one—are attempting to pass off a crudely drawn stick figure as master portrait.

Walt Jocketty was hired to execute a plan. A plan conceived by a new owner who pledged to, among other things, bring championship baseball back to Cincinnati. A plan that has been built foremost upon two pillars: (1) a core group of reliable, fan-friendly players and (2) run prevention. The core part of the construction has put the Reds into a somewhat of a money constraint, mostly because of the contracts handed to Joey Votto, which was necessary in my opinion; Brandon Phillips, which was not; and Homer Bailey, which, given the escalating pitching salaries around the league, was necessary if the Reds hoped to contend in 2014. Keep in mind that at least two of these three contracts were owner-driven.

If we can dial back the rhetoric for a moment, set aside our perfectly understandable disappointment that there has been no white knight added to the roster as August burns away and we wait for Left Distal Quad to resolve itself; and instead examine what went on at the trade deadline, we can perhaps realistically begin to understand WHY no moves were made—but more importantly, what single decision COULD be made—that might change this franchise’s fortunes significantly in 2015.

But in order to have a meaningful discussion, we all have to agree on a foundational baseball truth:

Pitching is the dominant currency of the game

Strikeouts are up. Dingers are down. Steroids are in the rear view mirror. Velocity is king. Starting pitchers throw harder than ever for six innings, then hand the ball to a conga line of high velocity relievers who prefer heat over deception. Whether the name is Jumbo Diaz, who—at 30 years old—feels like he stepped out of the Tomb of the Unknown Reliever, or the high wire circus act that is the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman, the song remains the same in the late innings: The Heat is On. Despite the fact that some of the biggest stars taking the mound—Harvey, Fernandez, Tanaka, Strasburg and, Matt Cain just the other day—are blowing out their elbows at a record rate, pitching finds a way to dominate. Batting average is down to .252 in major league baseball, the lowest it’s been since 1972. Add to that the fact that for all the lip service to plate discipline, far too many players in the game swing with impunity and view strikeouts as an acceptable cost of doing business at the plate—and you have a perfect storm for pitcher dominance.

Let’s start with the obvious fact that trades are enormously difficult to pull off. Sure, the Reds could have gone after Martin Prado, but how much does a player who was league average over the past two years really help a team, and who wants to pay him $22M for the next two years besides the New York Yankees’ accountants?

Deals often get made because there’s a gap in the value of a player between competing GMs—where each values the same player differently. Now, the proliferation of information, the availability of video, and the easy access to all of it means that exploiting that market inefficiency has become much tougher as interested observers begin to see the same things in a player and miss less.

Here are the deals that went down before 4:00 pm on July 31st:

trade_deadline_moves_2014

A couple of trends stick out. One is the demand for pitching. St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was the envy of Baseball, strutting around at the winter meetings with a stable of explosive arms soon to be unleashed upon the National League, looking like that guy who enters a room with the tall, blond trophy wife at his elbow.

Then, something unexpected happened. In the blink of an eye, injuries and sub-par performances had torn asunder all that depth, forcing St. Louis to do what nobody in baseball dreamed the Cardinals would be doing in July—trade for more pitching. For a team that has plated fewer runs than any team in Baseball not making its home in San Diego, that is a revealing development.

The A’s already had a solid rotation to go along with far and away the most productive offense in baseball, but understandably wanted to bulletproof it as they make their run. But, why did the Marlins, who are weak in position players, trade the few they had to bolster an already strong starting pitching lineup?

The currency of the game at work again—pitching.

The second trend of the trading deadline was the number of current major leaguers traded—or should I say “contracts”—because GMs don’t trade players anymore, GMs trade contracts. To one extent or another, players like Allen Craig, Gerardo Parra and the aforementioned Martin Prado were moved to dump salary. Craig, who has seen his offensive numbers go into free-fall after a foot injury last year, still put up a 136 OPS+ the prior three years. You’d think the Cardinals wouldn’t want sell low on Craig, but when faced with the choice of shedding money or shedding prospects—guess what they chose?

Which brings me to the third trading deadline trend: prospects. More than ever, teams are hanging on to their cost-controlled future. There’s no question the Red Sox would have loved to have gotten their hands on Oscar Taveras instead of Craig. That was never happening. The Dodgers were never letting go of Joc Pederson or Corey Seager, even for the great David Price. Instead, a few lesser minor leaguers were moved, but mostly marginal major league names like Emilio Bonifacio (89 wRC+), Sam Fuld (101 wRC+), Jonny Gomes (91 wRC+) and Kelly Johnson (89 wRC+). The fact that three years after the Reds gave up on Gomes—whose value today is strictly as a platoon player—teams are still interested in him in spite of his below average season, should give you some idea of the state of this trade market for hitting.

Walt Jocketty’s pocket aces at the trade deadline were his pitching, both at the major and minor league levels. If you wanted the Reds to be sellers at the trade deadline, you were asking the Reds to give up on 2015—a consideration I don’t believe Bob Castellini would ever give the green light for in a million years. Even if he would have signed off on a rebuild, the Reds need prospects, and as we’ve seen, serious prospects are not being parted with, even if the pitcher is named Jon Lester or David Price. If you wanted the Reds to make a meaningful move for the stretch run, that would surely have meant parting ways with a major prospect or two. Which prompts another question: what are prospects really worth?

While we tend to value prospects as if they are a sure thing, the reality is something else entirely. Take a look at the prospects the Reds have parted ways with over the past six years:

Josh Roenicke
Zach Stewart
Robert Manuel
Dave Sappelt
Travis Wood
Yasmani Grandal
Brad Boxberger
Yonder Alonso
Jose Castro
Juan Francisco
Koyie Hill
J.C. Sulbaran
Donnie Joseph
Didi Gregorius

Now ask yourself: is there a single player on this list that you are pulling your hair out over being gone? I get that some people have fond memories of Travis Wood, but Wood is no Mike Leake. Is there a single player on this list that would be a difference-maker on this baseball team today? Alonso? He’s been a bit above league average since leaving the Reds, but he’s not nearly the player the Padres thought they were getting when they traded away their erstwhile future first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

If you wanted the Reds to make small incremental moves, like replacing Cozart with Stephen Drew, you would just be helping the Red Sox dump salary, trading the best fielding SS in baseball for a .176/.255/.328 hitter. If you wanted to go get Gerardo Parra and his 86 OPS+ for the remainder of his $4.9M salary, while having to face arbitration next year—well, that’s just the sort of deal that’s had the Jocketty critics howling for years in the first place.

For those wanting to trade Alfredo Simon while his value was “high,” please understand he had none of the value some fans assumed he had. The kind of player that could have really helped the Reds—Austin Jackson, Nick Franklin, Yoenis Cespedes—were all tied to trading pieces with names like Price and Lester. Not Alfredo Simon and his Magical Mystery Tour of a season.

Even trading Jonathan Broxton would have required finding a partner willing to take on salary, which is the opposite of what most teams were looking to do. And look at the number of pitchers who were lefthanders. The market on July 31st didn’t love Big Brox.

For these reasons, it’s no surprise that the Reds stood pat, as did teams like the Dodgers, Giants and Blue Jays, all of whom passed at the trading deadline despite being in better position than the Reds to make the post-season.

 

So, where do the Reds go from here?

If you reject an all out rebuilding effort—and you should since it isn’t happening with the All Star Game on the horizon—you look for ways to protect as much pitching as possible for 2015 while trying to find one more meaningful bat. Because if we’ve learned nothing from the 2014 season, we’ve learned that this team’s pitching staff has kept this team alive despite the staggering injury count. Great hitting certainly hasn’t done the same for the Colorado Rockies.

The Reds could gamble and trade Cueto or Latos, hoping that Tony Cingrani can reprise his 2013 season and the rest of the staff stays healthy.

Or they could trade Aroldis Chapman.

Here’s what I said in March of 2013:

If that’s the case, they should trade him. Another year of watching him spit sunflower seeds in the dugout, as he quietly awaits his two-run save opportunity does not further the Reds’ short or long-term goals. He’ll be far easier to trade than Broxton. He’ll bring more in return. It’s hard not to believe there aren’t a few eager suitors in-waiting, whether they are forward thinking organizations who would love the opportunity to try to realize Chapman’s potential—or teams who are true believers in the Myth of the Closer and would love to get their hands on the next Rivera. The Mets traded R.A. Dickey and enriched their future. Dickey is no Aroldis Chapman. He’s a 37 year-old journeyman pitcher who had a dream season he’s unlikely to come close to repeating. Still, this was enough to bring GM Sandy Alderson both a stud catching and a top pitching prospect from a Blue Jay organization that sees a window of opportunity in an AL East where Boston is retooling and the Yankees are officially old and crippled. You gotta believe the Reds could command much more for A.C. than Alderson did for R.A., should they wait until say, late July, when pennant-hungry teams will swoon for the one-inning 25 year old wonder like schoolgirls after that Justin Bieber kid.

But, trading the Missile would be a bold move, and if we’ve learned anything from yesterday, it’s that the Reds still tend to eschew bold moves at critical moments.

This has probably been the single biggest failing of Walt Jocketty’s tenure in Cincinnati. Understand, it’s an organizational failing that almost all major league teams suffer from, whether your GM’s name is Kevin Towers or Billy Beane or your manager’s name is Dusty Baker or Joe Maddon. But given the Reds’ status as a small market team with a mid-market payroll, they could probably least afford to miss the opportunity to maximize the value of the transcendental left arm of the Cuban Missile.

Yet, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Still, there’s time to save this patient. Chapman could potentially bring back a mother load of talent, either in the form of prospects or a substantial left field bat. Or, he could be used to bring back multiple MLB-ready players to fill holes at positions where the Reds have produced below league average offensive numbers. It may turn out that Alfredo’s Simon’s true value may be to remain on the roster to bolster the bullpen if Chapman were moved, while doubling as a firewall for the staff should a starter go down next year.

Can’t have too much pitching. Amirite?

Trading Chapman, however, has implications of it’s own that doesn’t make it a slam dunk decision. Three things stand out when predicting playoff success: (1) pitcher strikeout rate, (2) defense and (3) closer performance. Or as Nate Silver said in Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong, “Striking batters out, catching the ball, and having a good closer wins championships.”

But, here’s the rub. It would truly be ironic if the Reds finally got close to the World Series only to be unable to close out games because they traded one of the most dominant closers in the game today.  But, trade him they must. They cannot trade Cueto or Latos going into 2015 without seriously compromising the 2015 starting staff. Robert Stephenson isn’t ready. Rushing him to the big leagues could be sheer folly. Pitchers get hurt. Ask St. Louis. In five seasons with Cincinnati, Chapman has pitched a grand total of 235 innings. Moving him to a starting role and asking him to pitch even 180 innings in 2015 would be tempting fate and essentially be baseball malpractice. Attempting to do a half season of starting, followed by a half season in the bullpen closing would be to continue to waffle on this brilliant talent and would almost assuredly end badly.

The rest of 2014 is all about waiting for Joey Votto. And to a lesser extent Brandon Phillips. But 2015? That’s about waiting for Bob & Walt to finally decide to cut bait with Aroldis Chapman.

And give this team a chance.

74 thoughts on “You Know Who I Work For, Right?

  1. Neither Krivsky nor Bowden eschewed bold moves . . . but your point is well made. It’s a bold move because of AC’s profile not b/c of the intrinsic value he brings to this teams prospects of winnings games (ala Paul O’Neil or Josh Hamilton).

    Broxton (and his salary) should not be troubled too much by the waiver wire – so that possibility exists and I think Walt was wise for waiting — Look at those transactions, almost no relief pitching was in demand at the deadline.

  2. I would have liked to seen them make a run a Cespedes; and, for all we know maybe they did. It might have cost them Leake in the mix but I would have done it

    • I saw the interview Jocketty did the evening of July 31 after the deadline expired. He did say that they were after a couple of players pretty heavily. He said one wasn’t traded and one was traded in a bigger deal. I have wondered since then if that was Cespedes. Or possibly Nick Franklin.

  3. Simon has a new agent. Joey Votto’s. I wonder if it doesn’t make sense to contract his last year of arbitration and a year of FA?

  4. While I certainly agree that Walt was surely constrained by ownership at the deadline if he had even the foggiest notion to sell, I disagree with a couple of the basic premises of the article. The fact that Addison Russell is now in the Cubs system is indicative of how prospects could have been had, albeit at a price. Would I trade one year and two months of Johnny Cueto for a top five prospect who has a chance (nothing is a sure thing, but the “top five” typically end up being, at least, everyday major league contributors) of being a cheap starting shortstop and formidable offensive force in the lineup for the next six or seven years? . . . . Yes, please.

    Now, concerning the notion that pitching is the “dominant currency of the game.” At the trade deadline, this is certainly true and precisely why the Reds should have sold high on Simon, Broxton (just take the contract, please), and Cueto. In the offseason, the opposite is likely to be true. It is because guys are throwing harder now (more is now known about strength and conditioning of pitchers to increase velocity than was known even fifteen years ago) that there is always a Stephenson, Lorenzen, or some other hard throwing prospect in the minors who can step up in the long-run. Every club has several “top line starter” prospects coming through the pipeline. In the offseason, the premium will be on offense. This means that the Reds could have participated as sellers in the market in July from a position of strength in a sellers’ market and will now have to compete in the offseason market as a buyer in a sellers’ (of offense) market.

    Would the Mariners and Tigers have sent Franklin, Smyly, and Adames to the Reds for Cueto? . . . Who knows? . . . However, I wish they would have because it would be nice to have a relatively cheap (with a pretty high ceiling) starter, a versatile offensive prospect on the cusp of sticking in the show, and a low minors prospect in exchange for one year and two months of Cueto.

    Of course, the safe thing to do was/is to just hold steady and hope the team would/will make a run in ’14. Maybe the team will even go on a run and make the play-in game. However, they will have also missed a golden opportunity to shed salary (meaning that they could afford to more easily do other things), acquire prospects and/or other players who can help relatively quickly, and obtain maximum value from pieces that likely do not figure in the long-term plans anyway.

    • Trading Simon, Broxton AND Cueto in the middle of a pennant race would have been a slap in the face of the team and the fans. There is absolutely no viable starting pitchers to replace two All-Stars (one of which is either going to be 2rd or 3rd in Cy Young voting).

      And what makes you think trashing the team while they are only a few games back would help in the long run? What message would it send to someone like Latos and Leake? Do you think it would make them more or less likely to re-sign with the Reds? Other teams can match any offer made for them; if we are to retain them it must be because they are comfortable with the team and its management. I hardly think a dump in the middle of a race would enhance that level of comfort.

      I’m glad ownership didn’t destroy the squad’s chances this year; 30,000+ fans keep coming out to GABP because we remain in the race even without two of our best players. The team has shown guts and fortitude; a team is a collection of human beings, not a mere amalgamation of statistical abstracts.

      • I agree that a hard sell move on July 31st would have struck many as rash. However, I contend it would have been both bold and the right move. After all, if “in the race” at the trade deadline means 5.5 games behind three other teams in the division with two of the team’s top four position players out for another six weeks and several other players playing “above their heads” (and due for a regression) to keep the team this close, then I suppose the Reds were (and are) right in the thick of things.

        How about this scenario? . . . Suppose the Reds brass would have decided on a hard sell not as a rebuild, but as a way to make the team more competitive in 2015 and beyond. Suppose the Reds would have made the Price trade with Cueto. Smyly (who has been brilliant since the trade) would take Cueto’s spot in the rotation and the Reds would save $9 million or so. Franklin would challenge Cozart in 2015, fill in for Phillips in ’14, and (even if he does not supplant Cozart) could aspire to be a “Zobrist-type” (which is why I think the Rays wanted him) who could start five days a week at SS, 2B, 3B, and OF. Suppose that Broxton could have been dealt for a couple of young arms who profile as bullpen pieces. That saves (at least) $8 million in ’15. Suppose that Simon could have been dealt for a couple of younger prospects that aren’t projected to help in ’15. This move saves $5-6 million off of next year’s payroll.

        In this scenario, the Reds can select from Bailey, Latos, Iglesias, Leake, Smyly, Chapman (which I would plan on doing), and Cingrani for next year’s rotation, have Franklin for offensive help, more young prospects in the minors, and have saved $23 million or so off of next year’s payroll. Then, maybe Bob and Walt decide that they want to splurge on a Cuban outfielder to help out in LF (Castillo or Tomas can play right now). Now, is that such a slap in the face to fans? . . . It seems to me to be good business (and, yes, it is a business).

        • Many teams have come back from greater deficits and the Reds play 16 of their last 19 against the teams they are contending against. Their chances remain good rather than non-existent which is what they would have been if they did the fire sale you proposed.

          Smyly is, at best, a mediocre starter and hardly a replacement for Cueto. He was much more effective in the bullpen last year and an extra lefty there would be nice – but not at the cost of one of the best pitchers in baseball. There is simply no way we are stronger in 2015 without Cueto than with him. Nick Franklin is a .214/.291/.358 hitter who made 12 errors in 87 games at 2B last year. He’s hardly someone who can legitimately push BP or Cozart and our replacements for BP are better than he is.

          I could have seen trading Broxton (not Simon for whom there was no replacement and who you think other teams would overvalue except smart us) but as the article points out, who was dealing away top flight prospects for anything? Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t bring anything of major value; why would Jonathan Broxton?

          I don’t agree with salary dumps for the sake of dumping salary. The players mentioned will probably have at least equal value in the off season and we wouldn’t have slapped the fans in the face. When you have a chance to win, you take it.

        • Indeed, many teams have come back from greater deficits and there is still a chance the Reds could make a run, win the play-in game, and romp through the playoffs on their way to winning the World Series. So, there would certainly be a risk in the “sell hard” approach. However, there is also a risk in doing nothing. Now, this risk is largely counterfactual, based upon not knowing what trades were out there. Also, the safe play was certainly doing nothing. The fact that this year’s trade deadline market was the definition of a sellers’ market does, though, seem to indicate that the Reds could have gotten quite a haul for Simon, Broxton, and Cueto.

          Smyly, by every measure I am aware of, is more than a “mediocre” pitcher and his main challenge has simply been staying on the field. Moreover, he makes $500,000 this year and is under control until 2019. Regarding Franklin, judging any player by fewer than 500 PAs is kind of silly, don’t you think? . . . In fact, one could make the argument that the Reds would have actually been better in ’14 (let alone ’15 and beyond) had they made the trade that Tampa Bay made. Smyly has allowed three runs in two starts since the trade and looked simply dominant in his last start (perhaps he is being coached up a bit).

          Papelbon’s issue is his contract. It is too long and for too much money. That is why Broxton would have been tradable (and still may be) and Papelbon is not. If Broxton could have returned something similar to what the Padres got for Street (a top-100 prospect and three other prospects), that’s a no-brainer move to me.

        • Kevin, you keep saying that trading any of the pitchers would have been a slap in the face to reds fans. I have been a reds fan all my life and I wouldn’t have been offended. In fact I, and most of the people I know who are reds fans have been advocating for trading one or two of the pitchers. Most of the fans I know realize that Broxton is massively overpaid and outperforming his peripherals: that Simon is unlikely to be a long term option in the rotation and is probably pitching over his head; that Chapman is not all that valuable when you only use him for 60 innings; and that the reds will have to let Leake, Latos, and Cueto walk after 2015 or pay them so much that they will have very little, if any, surplus value. What I worry about is another decade like the 2000’s. Selling two of the pitchers would be a move to try to avoid the massive, painful rebuild. I think intelligent fans would see that.

        • The whole point of trading a pitcher or 2 is to add to the core. You understand that 4/5 of the current rotation will be free agent eligible after next year? You understand that the reds already have the highest payroll in the division? You understand how much money is already tied up over the next three years for votto, bailey, Phillips, and Bruce, with Chapman entering his second year of arb and Frazier and mesoraco becoming arb eligible after this year? If your payroll is maxed out how do you add to the core? You trade established players who you probably can’t sign long term for younger, cheaper guys with more years of team control.

      • I think a lot of “intelligent” fans can also see we’re not that far off for 2015. How does trading Chapman, Cueto, Simon, AND Broxton increase our chances in 2015? If we were to win in 2015, wouldn’t that have made holding on to at least Cueto worthwhile?

        • I never said trade all of them. I would have tried to trade one of the leake, Latos, cueto combo before the season or at the deadline. The reds cannot keep all those guys past 2015, and unless they significantly up the payroll they might not be able to keep any of them. So if you keep them to make a run in 2015 knowing all you are going to get for them is draft picks at the end of the season, then I would say that would be an all in, world series or bust year, and I think you should try to avoid that. The best way to win a world series is to make the playoffs as many times as possible. And you don’t have to trade these guys for prospects that are years away. It’s possible to get young players who are mlb ready or will be sometime next year. In the right deal, the reds could have traded cueto and been better next year and in the future.
          As to your question, if the reds win the world series next year, yes it would have been worth it. But the chances are so slim to start with I think risking your future for a slightly better chance in one year is a bad idea.

  5. It seems like we agree on the fact that baseball has become dominated by pitching. But I think we disagree on the implications. The game is awash in good, young pitching and even mediocre pitchers, like Simon, can be pretty good in the right circumstances. Also, pitching seems to be pretty valuable on the trade market. So if it’s plentiful and valuable, it seems like there is a flaw in the market that can be exploited. Ten years ago, you could get a decent hitter at just about any time. But today, the good young hitters are rare. But they don’t seem to be overvalued. So if a team has some good pitching that they won’t be able to keep long term, as the reds do, it would be smart to trade it for cost controlled young hitters. In other words, good pitching seems to be easier to find than good hitting these days but many GM’s seem to value pitching more than hitting.
    This is a good, fair piece richard. I think we just have a difference of opinion philosophically. I think if the reds hold on to all their pitchers, then it will be “2015 or bust” and I’m afraid that there will be another lost decade to follow.

      • It seems like we said pretty much the same thing droomac. I didn’t see you post when I made mine or I would have just seconded what you said. Great minds and all that.

    • I’m not aware that the last “lost decade” followed an “or bust” effort. Castellini’s efforts are unprecedented and it is unfair to imply that he would be ok with a “lost decade”.

      • The lost decade was not ended by signing a bunch of late 20s, early 30’s guys to huge, multi year contracts either. The reds success over the last 4 years is because they built a really good farm system from 2005- 2010 and got fortunate that most of their top prospects hit. The farm is now mediocre and the core is getting older and more expensive. Look what happened in Philly. They kept signing their guys to big deals, neglecting their farm, and refusing to trade any decent major leaguer. They kept getting older and trying for one more year before the rebuild. Now they are in bad shape and it will probably take a while before they are competitive again. But, unlike the reds, the Phillies did have post season success.

    • What makes something valuable is its scarcity. I think the argument that good pitching is both valuable and plentiful doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. If good pitching were plentiful, why are the Yankees bereft of it in a season when they find themselves scratching and clawing to make the playoffs. Money is certainly no object, right?

      • If you don’t think the balance between pitching talent and hitting talent has changed, how do you explain the massive drop in offense over the last 6-7 years. We’ve went from one of the highest run scoring environments ever to the lowest run scoring environment since they lowered the mound in 69, in the matter of 6 years. That can’t all be because of PED testing can it? Just because the Yankees don’t have a great pitching staff doesn’t mean that good pitchers are super rare. They signed Tanaka and he got hurt, they traded for pineda and he got hurt. They have neglected their farm system for years and tried to rely on the free agent market to fill holes. So it was hard for them to trade for good, young pitching because most of their good players had such absurd contracts that they had no trade value.
        My original point was that good hitters are more rare than they were 10 years ago and good pitchers are more plentiful. I don’t think the Yankees having a weak farm system and investing a bunch of money in a guy that got hurt really disproves that.
        And just because gm’s are placing a high value on pitching this season doesn’t mean it’s rare. Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman have had a ton of success over the past decade by exploiting market inefficiencies. (Yes, Beane actually traded good hitters for pitching at the deadline, but I think he’s just tired of losing in the first round and is trying anything to win a world series whether it’s a good idea or not.)

  6. Richard “The Adult” Fitch; Great article without bashing or agenda. When a person looks into the minor leagues (AAA/AA) there are really only 2 offensive player that standout from the rest are only as good as the first Major League slider or curveball they see.
    Let’s get Hamels this winter and then see how things look in the NL.

  7. Absolutely agree with the Chapman conclusion. Been saying for a while he’s our most tradable piece. Would also like to note that I still believe the Reds could have added a bat at the deadline, and maybe still could. Rios is who id like to see as a stop gap for Winker. According to mlbtraderumors the Rangers would likely have to include some money in his deal. i’m sure something could be worked out. As you said, prospects aren’t sure things. And i’m not talking a to 5-6 guy either.

    • Anyone who thinks the Reds are going to trade Chapman hasn’t been paying attention to how this team operates.

      The Rangers are only on the hook for the remainder of this year’s salary for Rios and potentially a $1 million buyout. They are not going to kick in any significent amount of money unless we give them a top prospect; probably Lorenzen. And Rios would cost $13.5 million to retain next year. Plus his numbers, esp. his power numbers, are down this year. I think what you see is what you get the rest of the year (with hopefully BP and JV back soon).

      • Agreeing that the Reds should trade Chapman and believing they will are two different things. But of all the pieces we could trade for value to help next year, that wouldn’t also hurt our chances of winning big next year, Chapman is the most obvious trade chip. With the emergence of Jumbo and Contreras (not to mention the possibility of adding one of Simon, Cingrani, Iglesias to the pen) the bullpen will have solid options to replace Chapman.

        As far as Rios goes any money to cover this year would be helpful. If he doesn’t work out this year then pick up his buy out. If he does, clear some space by making the long overdue moves of buying out Ludwick and Hannahan, then non-tender Heisey and Ondrusek. The Reds would save around 10mil just letting those guys go over keeping them on the team. 3.5mil additional to keep Rios for one more year seems a value and an upgrade over what we’ve been running out there. Some of his power may come back just by playing half his games in GABP, and if not he’s still putting up a 103 OPS+.

  8. A couple observations from this post:

    1. I don’t see a great trade market for closers. Are there any recent comparable trades that indicate the Reds could get an actual elite prospect, yet alone prospect(s)? Jim Johnson, who had back-to-back seasons with > 50 saves with a similar success rate as Chapman, was traded for Jemille Weeks and a non-prospect. Chapman is “better”, but his position limits his value. It seems likely to me that Chapman is worth more to the Reds than other teams…

    2. It was mentioned earlier, but trades involving quality hitters are even more scarce than pitcher deals. Prospect hitters are traded relatively frequently (Alonso, Grandal, Myers, Singleton, Russell), but there have been very few significant trade involving above average MLB hitters. Cespedes & Headley are 2 this year that come to mind, but we’re talking about players that will be lucky to reach 2+ WAR this season.

    • To be fair, the Tigers seem to have given up two pretty good prospects for Soria: a 2nd round draft choice in 2012 and a first rounder in 2013. If we could have gotten that for Broxton with Jumbo ready to move into his spot, I would have been OK for it. But what could you possibly get for Chapman that would be equivalent value? Plus it would be a PR disaster.

      • So, Broxton was tradable? . . . In your response to me, you seemed to think this an impossible task? . . . Which is it? . . .

        • I don’t know if he was tradeable or not. He spent some time on the DL and hadn’t been a closer all year like Soria was. IF we could have gotten a similar haul then what the Tigers gave away for Soria, then I would have been OK with it.

          I looked up the Soria trade AFTER my prior post but I’m not sure if Soria=Broxton.

  9. I do not think that people posting on these blogs that the Reds should have given up on this season are representative of Reds fans. I cannot imagine that the people going out to GABP would have had no problem with the Reds making a fire sale at the deadline. My guess is that attendance would have plummeted as well as TV ratings thus exacerbating the revenue flow. Fans alos really like the idea that they might get to see Chapman throw a 103 MPH fastball in the 9th; I think some are underestimating the effect on the fan base that moves such as the ones suggested would have.

  10. That’s an awful lot of common sense in one article.Beats the heck out of lets trade Santiago and Hanahan for Stanton.

  11. I have to open my comment with one important question. Has the author ever spoken with Walt Jocketty or Bob Castellini? I think we all know the importance of the question, as well as the answer. After all, it’s fair game to ask for credentials at the door. Speculative prose has too many loopholes in it for me not to think, when I see it, that opinions surrounded by pretty words are being passed off carelessly as wisdom.

    There is a lot of projection and speculation in this article, and it hurts its credence in my mind, although I appreciate the author’s effort. When I need accurate information, I peruse the pages of local beat writers, as well as the MLB.com guys and others. I read Redleg Nation for its metric slant, never for actual information from those involved. The beat guys actually speak to players and managers.So despite the strong offering in some areas of his article, Mr Fitch is laying too much foundation of his theories on guess work, and it hurts the entire article.

    Last year Mr Fitch blamed most of the failures of the season on Dusty Baker, scapegoating him despite the 97 wins and many reports in the press of a happy, loyal clubhouse. Yet this year he has barely criticicized Brian Price, despite the fact he often manages like a clone of DB. It is fair to wonder if love is once again blind and full of inacurracies. The article above struggles to defend WJ, whom Mr Fitch seems to also love, while quietly and without any insider information, laying the blame for any bad trades and contracts at the feet of Mr Castellini. I object to this speculation, How he knows this without having direct conversations with either is fair gristle for the mil,, and weakens almost all of his premises that follow. Personally it is my view that both
    WJ and BC have their hands in some rash, bad decisions that have hurt this franchise’s ability to get “over the top”,.

    Tracy Jones asked Marty last night what was wrong with this team? They both hemmed and hawed about bad baserunning a little bit, then they got down to brass tacks and exclaimed “The offense.” No doubt about it, crowed Marty. How can a team with such great pitching and great defense be stuck hanging around in 4th place at .500, Jones asked rhetorically.

    I will leave you with some basic stats that are both startling and alarming.

    REDS TEAM B.A (LAST 5 YEARS).

    2010 ,272
    2011 .256
    2012 ,251
    2013 .249
    2014 .243

    As for using the injury card when it comes to this year’s offense, BP has already played in 75% of games to date this year, and Votto 50%. I doubt Mr Fitch would want to play that card further by including Hanrahan and Schumaker.

    By focusing on a team built around pitching, WJ has forgotten to build a balanced team. The Reds lead the league in one-run losses. If only 4-5 of those losses could have been reversed by having a stronger lineup, this team would probably have sailed into the playoffs. Instead they squander winnable games by being shut down too easily by marginal major league pitchers. It’s my belief that trades were available to help this team and Mr Jocketty stood pat and overvalued his pitching. Many others tonight have agreed. Perhaps it’s time to at least admit that, and put the same microscope on WJ that was once on Dusty Baker. Turn around is fair play…

    • Why do I need to have spoken with the owner or the GM when I have their quotes laid out in front of me and everyone else interested enough to read them via websites, blogs, beat writer reporting, video, etc.?

      Anybody who has paid any attention knows I’ve criticized Jocketty when the facts have warranted it. In fact, the piece I wrote that drew the interest of ESPN, Joe Posnanski and MLB.TV last November centered around a ludicrous comment made by the GM insisting Votto needed to be “disabused” of his notions regarding plate discipline, as reported by WCPO.

      But, the main reason for defending Jocketty on the trade front is precisely the “speculation” you speciously accuse me of practicing. Insisting Jocketty hasn’t done his job is essentially relying on nothing but speculation. The entire premise of your remarks inadvertently buttresses everything I’ve been saying on the subject of Jocketty and his trade action/non-action. Speculation is bad when it’s backed up with nothing. That’s been a major point of mine all along.

      Thanks for helping me reinforce it.

      If you think the press was reporting a “happy, loyal clubhouse” under Baker, you must have missed a certain BP/Dusty video that went viral, not to mention quotes by insiders about a very fractured clubhouse. You could even listen to a podcast done with a player during the off-season that tells quite a different story than the one you’re pushing. Whether you want to face it or not, the team that won 90 games last year collapsed with about 2 weeks to go. That was on the manager and his inability to differentiate his role as manager from his need to be one of the boys. It had been going on for sometime until it collapsed under its own weight. It got him fired. None of that is speculation. It was said by at least one player and intimated by others who chose to remain anonymous after Baker was let go.

      Had you read what I wrote above about the league-wide fall of team batting averages, you would find the stats you cite about the Reds declining team BA neither startling nor alarming. Only the 2014 numbers show an unusual drop and that might be a function of a little thing called … um… injuries.

      TML must be getting boring these days, eh?

      • Sam LeCure did not, and does not speak for the team. Using him as an infallible source re the clubhouse, when he represented a grand total of 3% of the players on the team last year, is incredibly weak, and hardly a large enough sample size to claim accuracy, either. Many players, including Votto and Phillips, loved Dusty and defended him. Who intimidated otherwise? Name them. Seems to be an obvious case of only hearing what you want to hear. But then with Dusty Baker, your fragmented, negative position on him was evident throughout his stay here. What I can’t figure out is when Price mimics his strategies this year, including only using Chapman in the ninth, a glaring fault, and even worse surpasses them, such as bunting like crazy, you aren’t hopping us and down in anger and demanding his head, like you did with Dusty..

        How much of what the beat writers hear is off the record? I can tell you for sure it’s a lot. It’s not published, but it flavors their writings every day. Relying only on published comments means you are likely hearing only a third to half of what was actually said,in interviews, and definitely nothing off the record. .I give far more credence to what the beat writers have to say than a guy off the street. I found your reaction more defensive than anything else.

        Again the guys injured this years, averaged together, are having years at the plate almost the same as the team BA. Maybe slightly above. Using injuries as an excuse is almost irrelevant. Besides, Phillips has played in 75% of the games already, so he hasn’t been out all that much. He was out longer a couple years ago, along with Votto, and the team prospered. Remember the great run in July=August when Votto hurt his knee the first time? The problem is WJ put together a bad offensive team. There is no other way to see it. He keeps making deals for pitching, which you steadfastly defend because you believe pitching is everything, but 27 one run losses aren’t just due to injuries. The Reds need a proactive GM to go out and work a little magic. WJ hasn’t. HIs era has produced zero playoff wins. Perhaps it’s time to stop the excuse making and admit he has improved the Reds in some areas, but his overall results have gotten nothing done in the post season. And that’s where it really counts, if you want to win it all.

  12. I think you’re letting Jocketty off the hook by focusing only on deadline deals. He’s the guy who decided to spend $25M on his bullpen – when (as happens every year) freebies like Jumbo Diaz and Carlos Contreras have been more productive than multi-million dollar guys.

  13. Good stuff–very fair and balanced. Agree that the Reds overvalue Chapman and that he is probably the most tradeable piece. But by the same token, will other teams overpay for a frontline closer these days? That is, it is hard to say that we would actually get a good return for Chapman given that the other team would only be able to use him as a closer or starter for half a season.

  14. On an unrelated note, the Royals claimed Josh Willingham off waivers and traded their #9 prospect for him.

    I assume the Reds were ahead of the Royals on the waiver list and passed him up. I wonder why. Although he is having a down year, his OPS is better than every player on our team but Meso and Frazier. He might have even been able to play some 1B.

    • Serious answer. The Royals had priority over the Reds since they are in the same league as the Twins. Teams in the same league get the first shot.

    • Sarcastic answer. You can’t possibly expect Walt Jocketty to find a player with more value to the team than Jack Hannahan? (A guy who can only play first base and still doesn’t have a single hit.) You obviously don’t appreciate how hard it is to be a GM.

  15. If Walt Jocketty could not have found on the trade market a better solution than Ludwick, Heisey and Schumaker for LF and better solutions than Santiago, Negron, Hannahan, Lutz, and Soto for the INF, then he has no business being in charge of a MLB team. That is his job. To put the best 25 man roster together for the manager. Did Jocketty do that? No.
    Jocketty left the team offense exposed and did absolutely nothing to correct that.
    Jocketty DOES NOT deserve, nor does he merit, a contract extension.

  16. The Reds need a new GM to steer the team out of the waters of mediocrity. Pitching and defense help keep you in the game. Offense, or some resemblance of one, wins games.
    Jocketty is like that guy who buys a nice, new convertible car, and then on nice, sunny days keeps the car in the garage. Afraid to use it for the reason you got it. He’s loading up on pitching depth in the hopes to parlay some of that into a big hitter, yet year after year when the Reds need a hitter as they have, he’s afraid to go out and get one by using a little of his pitching depth. And that is inexcusable.

    • I disagree with a lot of the trades you propose for various reasons that you and I have debated in the past. What I strongly agree with is that over the last 2+ seasons, the only thing Walt Jocketty has done to improve the offense is essentially renting Choo for one year. That’s it. Mr. Jocketty isn’t the right guy for the job anymore. I strongly feel that today’s game has passed him by. He’s still strong in some areas but his value as an MLB GM isn’t nearly what it was 6-10 years ago. I agree that the Reds need a younger, proactive and more analytics oriented GM, who can surround himself with some guys with more traditional baseball mindsets. That way, our Reds can have the best of both worlds.

  17. I don’t agree with everything you wrote, Richard (though I have been saying since 2013 to trade Chapman as well). But I have to say I enjoyed reading this post more than any other I have read. Very well written and reasoned. We can just agree to disagree.

  18. Prospects are just that – prospects. Look up the definition. Walt needed to roll the dice and trade a prospect of value for an offensive piece to bridge the lineup until BP and Votto’s return.

    By not doing so, Walt essentially torpedoed this season. A season with the best Reds starting pitching that I have ever seen.

    Shame on Walt Jocketty for wasting this opportunity.

    • So, Jocketty should have potentially torpedoed the future for a season that has been crippled with injuries, for a team that is hanging on by a thread? The Reds need more than 1 offensive piece to salvage this season. They need a substantial offensive addition and hope that Votto returns as well to have any reasonable shot at not just getting into the playoffs, but doing some damage once they get there.

      I’ll bet Castellini has some say about trading BobSteve or Lorenzen or Lively. He needs at least one of them to solidify the rotation after they lose Cueto or Latos. He likely needs Cingrani to develop into more than just a reliever.

      The owner has said he wants this team competitive every year, not merely making a run for 2 or 3 years and starting over. I’ll bet what you are asking Jocketty to do doesn’t jive with the owner’s ambitions for this organization.

      You may want to save some shame for Bob Castellini.

      Either way, accusing WJ of wasting an opportunity is a huge assumption that there was a deal out there for him to get. These are the kinds of leaps of logic that make me shake my head because I don’t see that they are grounded in facts or any information that would suggest Jocketty didn’t desperately want to make a deal as much as you do.

      • While I respect your response, Give me a break. There were deals available and have been deals for two years. Look at the trades you listed. The Reds could have gotten Bonifacio and Russell, for example.

        And the Reds should have made a move before the break to solidify the offense. It would have meant trading a precious prospect or two. In return, maybe the Reds offense wins about half those one run losses, and the team is at the top of the NL central. To me that seems better than dying by the paper cutsof close losses due to an Anemic offense.

        The past three seasons have had great pitching, and the Reds have no playoff wins to show for it.

        If ownership wants the team to be “competitive” year in and year out, that sounds a lot like rhetoric from Mike Brown circa 2000. Count me out of that.

        Stop playing for the future. Grab the brass ring. Push your pieces in the middle for a real shot at a title, and endure a lean year or two. There’s a difference between being competitive and winning playoff series.

        It is hard for me to support or respect a team that advances the rhetoric of wanting to win championships, but refuses to take the last step to do so. We’ll keep waiting for these current prospects to pan out, then see Walt repeat the process of not trading in season for fear of losing more prospects.

        Of course, now that Bailey is hurt, all this may be moot. Perhaps Votto is actually done for the year, but Walt didn’t want anyone to know.

        One thing for sure is that I am disgusted with how this season has turned out.

        • If you’re going to grab for the brass ring, it helps to be close enough to be able to reach it. The injuries have left this team no margin for error. No margin for any further bad luck. You want to jettison the future for a pipe dream this season.

          Count me out of that.

          If I knew Votto was coming back at 90%, If I knew there would be no further injuries. If I knew BP was going to come back and hit some ….

          .. then maybe.

          Now, imagine the Reds had traded away Stephenson for a bat and Homer doesn’t come back. And Votto doesn’t come back. Then the Reds have just come up snake eyes.

          I don’t know why you want Bonifacio, a guy who is 12% below a league average player. And Jesse, you dramatically overstate how many one-run games the Reds would have won if a trade had been made.

          It just doesn’t play out that way. It’s wishful thinking. IMO.

        • You advocate inaction, which now in hindsight may be correct. I advocate action, because the Reds have NEVER gone far by standing pat during the season. Bonifacio plays multiple positions and is a better Option off the bench than what the Reds have. Imagine him in Yankee stadium to begin the 2nd half… Winning just three of those one run losses puts the Reds right with the contenders.

          I’m not saying to trade Stephenson for a rental, but the Reds needed to do something after BP got hurt. They didn’t do anything. They are the only team in the NL Central not to make a mid season move. I’m tired of waiting for the future, and being held hostage by prospects that have yet to do a darn thing.

          Just wait, it’ll be something else in 2015 and once again, the Reds will sit on their hands and watch other teams pass them by.

      • And I agree with your reference to Bob C. He is as culpable as Jocketty. He probably wants to save those three prospects, even though there is no guarantee any of them will pan out.

        I just remember his expression last October, and I expected this year to be better.

    • That’s a solid article and exposes the presumed “foundational truth” for what it is: out of date.

      “You can’t have too much pitching” is a brain-dead cliche. “You can’t have too much hitting” is equally superficial, and thoughtless. Given finite resources, teams have to balance hitting and pitching. It is beyond debate that the Reds need more hitting in relation to their pitching. Pitchers get hurt. Hitters get hurt. Some teams need hitting, some teams need pitching. Right now (and I’m not just talking about the short term with JV and BP out), the Reds need more hitting.

      In the past, when effective pitching was scarce, stockpiling it made sense – this was probably the case even as recently as a few years ago when the Reds made the Latos trade.

      But baseball is changing rapidly. Run scoring is plummeting. Effective pitching isn’t scarce, as Richard’s description of baseball amply demonstrates. Of course that doesn’t mean that every team has enough pitching (Yankee wave of injuries). And the fact that many clubs are still pre-occupied with pitching may simply be evidence of how slow some front offices are to recognize the new reality.

      Pitching is A currency. It isn’t THE currency. Giancarlo Stanton is currency. Yeonis Cespedes is currency. Young, good, cost-controlled, major league hitting is the most valuable commodity in major league baseball now. That may not have been true even a few years ago, but it is today. The fact that Lester and Price were traded this deadline has more to do with their contract status than that they were pitchers. As Richard says, you trade contracts, not players.

      If the Latos-for-Cespedes rumors were accurate, maybe the Reds front office is nimble and modern enough to recognize the rapidly changing currents. Let’s hope they aren’t living in the (recent) past and still behaving like it’s the year 2008, operating by the cliche that “you can’t have too much pitching” and protecting their prospects at all costs.

      Richard’s trade proposal here is exactly the kind of bold, creative, out-of-the-box idea the Reds front office needs to be considering this off-season. I’d prefer Chapman be converted to a starter and the Reds trade one of the others. But that’s a legitimate debate. Either way, it runs counter to “you can’t have too much pitching.”

      • You couldn’t be more spot on. I think the drafting department got the memo, but it has escaped Jocketty. The last couple of years the Reds have drafted a few college hitters in the first few rounds to help balance some things out in the minors. But it will be a couple of years before they reap those benefits. In the mean time, Jocketty has failed miserably at getting a couple of hitters to add to the mix until some of the home grown hitters come up. The 2014 season, meet Jocketty throwing in the towel.
        Reds Jocketty taps out of the 2014 season.

      • Oh, I agree with your premise that balance is key and I enjoyed the article referenced. The fact remains though that perception is principal to any trade, and when you have teams that have had 4/5 of their starting rotation wiped out due to injuries, high school kids receiving TJ at alarming rates, and the lack of offense due to at least in part lesser PED use, it would be very hard to convince anyone that they can indeed have ‘too much pitching’. Maybe it’s time to deal from a strength, but we have all seen how quickly that strength can become a weakness when we cringe with the terms ‘elbow stiffness’ or ‘shoulder fatigue’, and suddenly we go from abundance to famine.

        There will always be a pitching market for guys with amazing stuff, but I can see a time quickly coming when (in part due to decreased offense) stamina wins the day. Guys like Leake and yes, Simon, will be very hot because they can eat innings. They stay healthy. I can see a change in scouting where overall conditioning will play a bigger role than it has in times past. Where we might reverse course and start drafting guys who have thrown MORE innings, replacing the tradition of “he has too much use on that arm to draft him high” with “he has demonstrated the ability to throw a lot and stay healthy”. I can actually see stretching guys out earlier to go longer with more of an emphasis on mechanics and less on radar guns.

        • I think the radar gun and the quest for velocity is very much to blame for all the arm injuries. Pitchers are getting stronger and stronger and the ligaments and joints can’t keep up with the stress that the muscles put on them. It seems you can focus on strengthening the muscles and get stronger and stronger but with the ligaments, tendons, and the like, there is a finite threshold for how durable they can be. It’s just a theory and I could be way, way off base. I think it certainly should be considered and studied to see if it may have merit though.

      • Steve, I think you are spot-on in your assessment. Like you, I would rather they trade Cueto in the offseason (maximum return) and move Chapman (finally!) to the rotation. The Latos/Cespedes deal, however, strikes me as too much of an overpay, based upon what Boston ultimately gave up. The A’s would have gotten a year and two months of Latos and they were willing to moves Cespedes for two months of Lester and Gomes (Heisey).

        In my estimation, the Reds’ actions seems to indicate a basic lack of understanding of what changes are presently occurring when it comes to player value. This is what is going on. We now know more about the physiology of throwing a baseball (the front shoulder/back shoulder shift in strength exercises that has happened over the past fifteen years or so) and how to increase velocity. This is why it seems like guys throwing 95 are everywhere, from high school to every level of college and throughout the minor leagues. Now, their elbows are exploding left and right as well, but most come back stronger than ever after TJ. Also, the relatively recent trend of emphasizing a two-seam pitch to effect has made the “front-door” and “back-door” fastball a thing. Guys are now throwing two-seamers that break about as much as sliders. So, the net effect of these changes has been to increase the supply of pitchers with nasty, disgusting stuff that is very, very difficult to hit.

        What has amplified the results of these changes in pitching has been the continue decline in the use of PEDs and the impact that this has had on offense. Simply put, one simply has to be a much better hitter today to be a “good hitter” than one had to be fifteen years ago. Guys were “just missing” pitches out of the park in the late 1990s. Now, the swing has to be true and the contact “sweet” to hit home runs. Also, those players who are abnormally strong (hopefully naturally) now stand out like sore thumbs. Stanton would be middle of the pack in terms of power fifteen years ago. Abreu would probably not been in the top ten in HRs during the previous era. So, the net effect of these changes is that good hitters are very difficult to find.

        This is why, when some teams continue to place the same value on pitching that they did fifteen years ago, an astute organization should strike to take advantage of their lack of understanding. The time was right during the last week in July. That the front office did not take advantage could very well lead to disastrous results for the Reds. They are not likely to get the same return for Cueto, Simon, or Broxton in the winter as they would have in July. At this point, I would just hope to dump Broxton’s salary in the winter whereas a prospect or two could have been had in July. Jumbo can take his role at 1/18th the cost. At this point, I think they have to hold on to Simon and put him back in the swing man role in ’15. Also, though I simply love Cueto’s stuff, it will be time (in the winter) to move him so that the team gets more than just a pick.

    • That was an interesting article. It is however, deeply flawed. There are nearly 2500 games played every year in the regular season. Attempting to draw conclusions comparing numbers from a handful of post-season games is small sample size folly, I don’t care how many years you want to go back.

      If you are looking to make a contrary argument for the sake of garnering eyeballs, it’s a fun exercise, but I’m not sure I put much stock in it.

      Also, the game has changed in another way. Wild card games mean that more than ever, some teams will be unable to set up their staffs so that their best pitchers pitch in optimal spots when post-season series begin. That was true before, but even more of an issue now, something the guys doing their analysis seemed to have left out.

      Yeah, you can talk about cold weather and flight of balls, but what about cold weather’s affect on pitchers and ball movement? See, that game can be played all day. Assumptions. Contrary evidence left out.

      It seems the crux of the piece revolved upon the inability of better pitching to be predictive of results, which again, alludes to the fact that when small sample sizes are at play, you can come up with results that say just about anything. When your 4th starter has to go because you used your better pitchers just getting you to a Wild card game, then suddenly looking at a table showing #1 starter-data or 1-3 alone loses some of its authenticity.

      The best hitter in baseball (Cabrera) plays everyday and has a new contract that pays him $31M per year. The best pitcher in the game (Kershaw) is getting $30M to play once every five days. What does that tell you?

      Yoenis Cespedes was traded for a two month rental of a #1 starter. What does that tell you? I would never trade Latos straight up for Cespedes. You’d be a fool to do it.

      Pitching is THE currency of the game. That’s not to say hitting is unimportant, just that if I could have great pitching and average hitting, I’d take that over great hitting and average pitching. To not recognize that is to not fully understand the rules of the game.

  19. Where to start ?

    Some here have tried to say it was a “sellers market” at the trading deadline. How so? The Rays were trading a “Cy Young” David Price, who was controlled for another season and a half. They didn’t get much in return. Why didn’t Walt give away one of our quality starters? Must be sleeping (read: too astute, or sober).

    Others have said that baseball has changed and hitting is more valuable than pitching now. Is that why Billy Beane (who many here view as a genuis) traded Cespedes for Lester? Beane traded away a quality hitter, who was under contract for another year and a half, for a pitcher who was only controlled for a couple of months. I guess Billy Beane is old fashioned (or backward thinking) like Walt Jocketty and Richard Fitch …

    And others lament the lack of recent transactions. How many of you play fantasy sports, and have a surplus of quality players at a position, yet somehow can’t finalize a trade with ANYONE in your league? Even when the trading charts back up what you are asking for in return. Heck, sometimes u feel like u can only make a trade if u are giving a player away; do you make the trade anyway? Probably not. Do you make trades each and every season, or do they come in bunches? Probably so.

    Trades are like long term affection: you only give if you get in return.

    • The notion that hitters are increasing in value due to the dominance of pitching across baseball isn’t disproven by the fact that one team needed pitching more than hitting and that they had an intense motivation to win the World Series.

      The 30 teams are all in different situations, some need hitting, some need pitching. Part of the problem with the original post – the diagnosis that pitching is the currency of baseball in general – is that it doesn’t address the specific need of the Cincinnati Reds, which is hitting.

      Are we going to rub our hands in glee to know we’ve cornered the market on starting pitching while watching the team fail to advance in (or even to) the post-season again due to a lack of hitting and zero effort to acquire it? Boy, Walt Jocketty sure has that figured out. We have sooooooo much pitching. We can be sure to take comfort in that as we watch other teams play in the post-season.

      Maybe someone should let Theo Epstein in on Richard’s “fundamental truth” and that he doesn’t “understand the rules of baseball.”

      • Well, more than one team went after pitching at the trade deadline. It wasn’t just the A’s. The Tigers went big, adding a THIRD Cy Young winner to their staff.

        What does that tell you?

        As I mentioned above, the Marlins, who could ill-afford to trade position players, did just that to acquire…. wait for it …. more pitching. The Yankees, who desperately need pitching as they try to stay in the hunt, settled for position players that won’t help much because they don’t have the prospects to go get more pitching. They’ve gutted their system.

        I’m sorry I failed to address what was the Reds needs at the deadline. I didn’t think I had to. I thought it was already obvious. You clearly missed the point–that in order to find offense, our GM and more to the point our OWNER, had to be willing to part with what the trade market wanted in return–pitching and/or prospects.

        It amuses me that the same people who insist Walt Jocketty was let go in St. Louis because he was a dinosaur who wanted to wheel and deal instead of nurture from within now just abuse him because he’s not selling off pieces every time the Reds find themselves in a bind because of injury or money constraints.

        When Ludwick went down on opening day, it’s entirely possible that the owner didn’t want to spend more money on LF, whether it was because of what he was already paying Ludwick or because he knew what he was facing with the impending free agency of his three best pitchers–but you acknowledge none of that. Jocketty simply refused to help the team because ….. why?

        Steve, you crucify Jocketty for not replacing Jack Hannahan with a retread, oh, say, like Emilio Bonafacio, as if his 88 OPS+ would make a shred of difference in this team’s fortunes. It of course, would not. And the Braves gave up their #8 prospect (the equivalent in the Reds system of Nick Travieso) to get him. I’m glad Jocketty isn’t selling off players 2 and 3 years away for a chance to see a below average players help the Reds finish 7 games out instead of 9.

      • There are certain wisdoms that hold true thru the ages (see Ben Franklin). In baseball it’s:

        You can never have too much pitching.

        It wasn’t that long ago that the Reds started the season with both Cueto and Bailey on the DL.

        Just this year we lost Latos then Cingrani. We were very lucky that their injuries weren’t at the same time and that Alfredo Simon pitched beyond anyone’s expectations. We started the season with a great rotation and could have very well had Jeff Francis and David Holmberg pitching every 4th and 5th day.

        The Cards had a great rotation and have had to replace 40% of it in mid season. The Yanks had a solid rotation and had to replace 80% of it mid season.

        You can never have enough pitching.

        Also don’t know where you are coming up with the statement that Walt has made “zero effort to acquire” hitting. You gave the Pirates props for their (fruitless) efforts at the deadline, but insist Walt is doing nothing, with media reports of several Reds on the trading block (including Latos) to the contrary.

    • The market for pitching at the deadline is different than at other times. At the deadline, contending teams dealing with pitching injuries (i.e., the A’s, Cardinals, etc.) are willing to pay high prices for players like Lester, and (even) Lackey. I would also contend that the A’s were purposefully wanting to lose Cespedes because of he does not seem to be the ’12 version of Cespedes (he was “quality” in ’12, he is no longer as “quality”) and the A’s brass believe they can get more out a platoon involving Gomes than they can Cespedes. So, instead of an overpay, they actually sought to improve their team offensively (and shed payroll!) at the same time they acquired Lester. So, yes, Beane is pretty much a genius.

      Also, I would have taken (for Cueto) what the Rays got for Price in a hearbeat.

      • Boston is only too happy to take the “no longer as quality” (All Star) Cespedes off of Oakland’s hands. They’ll take what will at year end be about 23 HR’s and 95 RBI’s. They’ll take those numbers again next year as well. Oakland had better hope Lester helps get them a WS this year, cause next year he’ll probably be back in Boston.

        To paraphrase: Oakland’s got Gomes for that.

        And I thank The Lord that you’re not the GM if you’d trade Cueto for Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin. Seriously?

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