You may have heard that the Reds hired a new manager. His name is Bryan Price. He used to be Cincinnati’s pitching coach, but then the Reds fired their previous manager (that guy’s name was Dusty Baker), and Price was installed as the field general.
What’s that, you say? You already knew all this?
Well, let’s talk about the new Reds coaching staff that will be supporting Price in 2014. This week, the Reds made it official:
–First base coach Billy Hatcher will return.
–Bench coach: Jay Bell.
–Hitting coach: Don Long.
–Pitching coach: Jeff Pico.
–Third base coach: Steve Smith.
–Freddie Benavides is just a “coach;” he’ll focus on infielders.
–Catching coach Mike Stefanski will remain in that role.
–Bullpen coach: Mack Jenkins
John Fay has some of the particulars about each coach. Here’s the short version:
Jay Bell was a decent major league shortstop; he served as the Pirates hitting coach last season. He previously served as a bench coach with Arizona during Bryan Price’s stint as a pitching coach for the Diamondbacks.
Don Long was the Braves’ minor league hitting coordinator for the last three years, but he served as Pittsburgh’s hitting coach for three years before that. Interestingly, Long has been a manager in the minor leagues for eleven years. Also, his name isn’t “Brook Jacoby,” so that should immediately endear him to a certain segment of the Reds fan base.
Pico has been a minor league pitching coach and a pitching coordinator in the Arizona system for the last eleven seasons. He was also a pitcher for the Cubs in the late 1980s, which isn’t a good sign. Frankly, I thought Mack Jenkins would get this job, but the Reds named him bullpen coach. Otherwise, don’t ask me. I don’t know any of these guys personally. I’ll have to trust Price and GM Walt Jocketty.
There is actually a little bit of drama surrounding the new staff. As noted above, Steve Smith was named third base coach. Mark Berry, of course, has served in that role for more than a decade, and he’s actually been with the Reds organization since being drafted way back in 1983. Evidently, Berry declined an opportunity to join Bryan Price’s staff:
Berry was offered a chance to stay on, but declined, general manager Walt Jocketty said on Wednesday. Berry missed more than half of the 2013 season after being diagnosed with cancer of the tonsils and lymph nodes during spring training.
Although near the end of the season Berry had been told he was cancer free, Jocketty said Berry didn’t want to take a chance that he’d miss any of the 2014 season.
“I think he was a little uncertain of what his status would be and he didn’t want to be a distraction to the club like he was last year,” Jocketty said.
Jocketty indicated that he hoped Berry would return to the Reds organization in some capacity, and I hope that happens.
The other interesting tidbit involves Ronnie Ortegon. Ortegon became the Reds’ assistant hitting coach last December. Well, after the Reds stole Don Long from Atlanta to be the Reds’ hitting coach, the Braves named Ortegon to take Long’s old spot as minor league hitting coordinator. It’s a revolving door at the headquarters of the old boys network.
So there you have it. These guys have a lot of experience in the Arizona organization; clearly, that’s due to Bryan Price’s link to the Diamondbacks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except in one respect: it’s going to give former Arizona broadcaster Thom Brennaman an excuse to talk about the Diamondbacks even more than he already does.
Heaven help us.
Please post your experiences at the 2013 Redsfest in the comments section.
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By now, you’ve probably read or heard about Walt Jocketty’s comments yesterday regarding Aroldis Chapman’s role for the Reds in 2014. In case you haven’t, here’s what he said:
“We feel we have the depth in our rotation now that we can continue to keep him in the bullpen. That’s probably the plan going into Spring Training. We’ll have him prepare for Spring Training like he has in the past. He’ll come in and pitch a lot of innings in Spring Training, so he could go either way. In all likelihood when we get to Spring Training, we’ll make a decision. I would think he’ll continue to be our closer.”
You may not have seen Bryan Price’s comments later in the day. Here’s what he said, according to C. Trent Rosecrans:
“We’ve had some internal dialogue on that, so I don’t think it’s something I feel comfortable saying this is exactly what we’re going to do. I have my opinion on it, I know his value for us the last couple of years has been as a closer, the question is what role with our team would best serve and how long it would take to transition to a starter. He’s found him way into a comfortable position, but I do think we can utilize him some more instead of a guy that’s maybe a single-inning guy now that he’s done this for a few years. I think there’s ways we can get more value out of Aroldis, not necessarily by starting, but keeping him in the bullpen. I think there’s a bit more dialogue to have in the organization before we put a stamp on what his role is.”
My opinion on this topic is well known. The Reds should try Chapman in the rotation. He has the best arm on the team. It is being wasted in the closer role. And as a closer, Chapman has not been dominant, measured by save-conversion, he’s been roughly league average for two years. The reason he’s perceived as an elite closer are the strikeouts. They’re baseball crack.
What really puts the ‘mania’ in Chapmania are the strikeouts. That’s our real obsession, the dominant whiff. The hard truth is this: Aroldis Chapman’s ninth-inning strikeouts are baseball’s version of crack. Except it’s spelled with two (or often three) Ks. As fans, we deeply enjoy experiencing those strikeouts. Dusty Baker did, too. Those helpless swings by our (often hated) opponents make us crazy happy. You could even say we’ve started to crave them. And like every psychological dependency, this one comes at a cost. Chapman’s strikeouts have become a powerful narcotic that desensitizes us to certain realities, like his league-average save rate.
At first glance, the comments by Jocketty and Price yesterday are discouraging. Especially maddening is Price’s reference to “how long it would take to transition.” Translation: The Reds’ past mistakes will compound into the future.
Sure, one can find plenty of wiggle room in the two statements. Jocketty says “probably” and it “could go either way.” Price’s statement contains even more ambiguity. He doesn’t want to say publicly what they are going to do. He wants “more dialogue” before a final decision is made.
Allow me a spoonful of wishful thinking mixed with the powder of reading between the lines before heating.
If the Reds plans include trading a starting pitcher (Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, even Tony Cingrani) and moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, they certainly wouldn’t say so out loud right now. It would weaken their negotiating position and stir up controversy about which popular pitcher was going to be sent packing. Not to mention that the expected trade may never materialize. See the BP saga.
I’m not claiming that the Reds have already decided to move Chapman to the rotation (even though signing Brayan Peña could be interpreted as an indication of that), only that it is way too early in the process to expect the Reds leaders to say anything other than what they did.
Please note, neither Jocketty or Price said, “Aroldis Chapman is going to be the closer.” If they’ve reached that conclusion, why not come right out and say it?
A major addition to the Reds’ lineup could come via a splashy free agent signing, like Shin-Soo Choo. The other route is through a trade. If Brandon Phillips is off the table, or not attracting much value, the main chip the Reds have is starting pitching.
I still believe Walt Jocketty will make a big move this off-season. Something breathtaking. You don’t fire a manager who wins 90 games and then give the next guy the same team minus one of the club’s best hitters (Choo).
When that thunderbolt hits, expect it to change Jocketty and Price’s answers to the Chapman question.
This pretty much sums it up. Am I right? That’s the interpretation being assigned the Commander-in-Chief’s remarks yesterday. It goes something like this:
“We went online at the MLB marketplace. We got on the phone. We would have loved to have bought ourselves a little better coverage, particularly at the plate. And yes, the coverage in the field is turning out to be a bit more expensive than we would like. But, hey, in the end we’re happy with what we have.”
The narrative continues: the Reds acted rashly, out of spite, attempting to thread a narrow needle of opportunity in an effort to get rid of a sometimes productive player turned miscreant—and the window has now closed—making a bad situation with their second baseman only worse. According to Ken Rosenthal, someone will have to “overwhelm” the Reds with an offer, who will now have to be bowled over with not only a willingness to take on Phillips’ considerable contract, but kick in player(s) as well. Rosenthal opines that the Reds—who have lost Choo—cannot afford to lose what he considers to be Brandon’s considerable offense, as well. And the whole Redsfest plea is an attempt to rescue a troubled marriage.
Let’s dig deeper and take these suppositions one at a time. But, first, let’s look at what Jocketty actually said, first on the radio to Chris Russo on MLB Network Radio, then the more expansive remarks as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“I talked with Brandon yesterday… I also told him that we are not in any talks to trade him. Not saying that we wouldn’t trade him, but I told him …we’re a better team with him here.”
“We had a nice long talk (Tuesday), we talked about his place on the club and I told him I don’t really have any talks going with any clubs right now, not that that couldn’t change, but as of right now you’re part of this club and Redsfest is an important part of our program,” Jocketty said. “(I told him) you love the fans, the fans love you and I think it’d be disappointing if you weren’t there. I think he might end up showing up.”
“I did make it clear to him that right now he is part of this club,” Jocketty added.
1. The Reds are no longer shopping Brandon Phillips.
Well, they say they are not actively shopping Brandon at this point. By all accounts, the Reds either initiated or openly welcomed these trade discussions—take your pick. The horse is out of the barn. Lips were loosened. Clubhouse confidentialities were spilled. Everybody knows the Reds are open for business on BP. The Reds haven’t been able to sell at their opening price. We always knew Walt wouldn’t simply give Phillips away without playing this out to see exactly how much, if anything, he could get in return. Just as Jay-Z knew all along he wasn’t getting $300M for Robinson Cano, Jocketty knows he’s unlikely to get salary relief and a meaningful talent. But, you have to ask. Then sit back—and wait.
2. There are few trading partners left and we pretty much know who they are.
Yes. And No. Trading Brandon has never been the linear proposition that many assume it to be. It’s not a question of simply identifying the teams who are in need of a second baseman. Needs are fluid as players come and go. GMs change course. No one shows their hand before the river card. Raise your hand if you saw respected GM Dave Dombrowski trading away Doug Fister—perhaps the best #4 starter in Baseball—for what is widely viewed as a rather paltry package? Who would have foreseen Billy Beane of all people handing out $10M next year so some guy not named Rivera do that overrated closer thing for him?
3. This is an “emotional” and thus a “bad” move.
Maybe. The really emotional move was the new contract in 2012. While the owner may be angry with his employee and have his own motives for wanting him gone, the GM may simply see this as an opportunity to use a set of circumstances to undo some buyer’s remorse, like a husband returning that new set of irons.
4. Choo’s offense is gone. You can’t afford to lose Phillips’ offense, too.
The Reds cannot survive another year of Brandon Phillips with an OPS+ of 92. If the Reds have any hope of signing Choo, they must rid themselves of DatDude’s contract. If Choo is too expense (as I think he will be), you have to replace Choo AND find at least find one more sizable bat. There’s not enough pitching depth or prospects to barter away, unless the Reds are willing to set their future ablaze. That means spending more money. Either way, Brandon’s contract has to be moved even if it brings little in return.
5. The “Come to Redsfest” plea is an attempt to patch things up.
The Reds are drunk-dialing BP now? I don’t think so. Common sense says do not make things worse than they currently are. He’s still an employee. His reputation for fan friendliness needs to continue—now more than ever. As Marvin Lewis would say, “Be a pro.” If no reasonable trade can be cobbled together in the coming days, hold everything together until an injury in Spring Training somewhere else makes a deal possible. Until then, keep the lid on. A little decorum, please. After all, we are not the New York Yankees here.
Ultimately, it’s hard to see this marriage survive. The man who came from the Cleveland Indians under a cloud seems to be channeling his younger self. The famous Molina dust up, the quick accusation of racism aimed at a Pirates player–only to be dropped just as fast, calling out the owner, the ugliness with Rosecrans—all suggest a pattern. The whispers that he lockers away from his peers, that he’s happier losing and going 2 for 4 than he is winning while going hitless, are disconcerting. It suggests his peers don’t trust him. The fact that we know this little secret says they’ve had enough and feel comfortable voicing it, even if under a cloak of anonymity. After replacing a manager with a year left on his contract, after a stated desire to bring a different culture to the clubhouse and following that up by paying Skip Schumaker above market price based in part on his clubhouse bona fides, does the front office really want to saddle their new, inexperienced manager with this roiling undercurrent? With Phillips approaching 10 and 5 status, it’s trade him soon or forever hold your peace.
At his heart, Brandon Phillips is a good guy, which makes all this so sad. Brandon Phillips also carries with him some high maintenance swag. Above all, Brandon Phillips needs to be loved—a lot. You see it in every tweet. You see it reflected back in the face of every fan who crowds the railing hoping for a special moment with his dat dude-ness.
Sorry always seems to be the hardest word. This time, it’s probably not enough.
Very nice story about Ryan Hanigan from DaytonDragons.com.
Check out the story of Ryan’s playing career (thus far).
We at Redleg Nation want to thank Ryan for his time in Cincinnati and wish him well in St. Pete. Hope that he wins an AL championship there (losing to the Reds in the World Series).
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has plenty of heavy lifting ahead of him this off-season in formulating the Reds’ roster for 2014 and beyond. Whether or not to trade Brandon Phillips is just part of his challenge.
But now that the rumor we reported yesterday morning, that Ryan Hanigan would be traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, turned out to be accurate, it appears Jocketty’s moves for at least one position group — catcher — are probably finished.
Jocketty has taken three deft steps – a decision, a signing and a trade – at the catcher position. And each one offers significant upside.
First, the Reds made the decision to give Devin Mesoraco the keys to Bryan Price’s high-performance pitching staff.
In recent years under Dusty Baker, the Reds’ catching job has belonged to veteran Ryan Hanigan. But now, Devin Mesoraco (25), long regarded as the Reds’ catcher of the future, has finally became the catcher of the present. The Reds’ general manager commented about the club’s plans yesterday, ”This gives Mesoraco the opportunity to develop into a No. 1, frontline catcher that we think he can be. Pena will be a quality backup and good bat off of the bench. It gives Devin the chance for more playing time.”
Expect Mesoraco to start 120 games or more in 2014. He’ll be the one who catches this season’s no-hitter by Homer Bailey.
Mesoraco’s bat plays, especially when it plays every day. His best month last season was the one Ryan Hanigan spent on the disabled list. If you extrapolate his production from July 10-August 8, the stretch when Hanigan was out, over an entire six month season, Mesoraco would bat .289, hit 24 home runs and drive in 84 RBI. In the past two seasons combined, Hanigan has 4 homers, 45 RBI and hit .240. Hanigan walks more, but that’s an area where Mesoraco has shown potential for improvement.
As far as handling the pitchers and calling games, Mesoraco’s catcher ERA, for those of you who like that stat, was the same (3.40) as Hanigan’s last season. It’s taken Mesoraco a while to figure out the major leagues, but he gives the impression of a player about to break through when given sustained playing time.
Jocketty’ second catcher-related move was signing free agent Brayan Peña for two years at $2.275 million.
Peña (31) is a switch-hitter, serviceable (career: .258/.292/.359) at the plate and slightly-below average defensively. He speaks Spanish and shares the common experience with Aroldis Chapman of having defected from Cuba. Peña also worked with Chapman before the Cuban Missile launched in his Reds’ uniform.
Peña may greatly enhance Chapman’s comfort level if the Reds decide to move their best arm to the starting rotation. If Chapman’s awesome skills successfully transition, it settles the Chapman Argument and moves the Reds a gigantic step toward post-season success. And, Peña will do this while making less than half of what Ryan Hanigan would have earned with the Reds.
Jocketty’s final catcher move was announced yesterday. He turned one year (50 games?) of Ryan Hanigan into six years of David Holmberg.
Not every major league team is willing to play a light-hitting catcher. And let’s face it, Hanigan is among the most ethereal. Yet, the Reds general manager found a trade partner who valued Hanigan (33) despite the catcher’s poor hitting (2013: .198/.306/.261; second half: .208/.330/.234).
In return, the Reds received David Holmberg, a standard-issue, solid left-handed starting AA-pitcher. Holmberg was ranked in the top ten of every recent prospect list for the Diamondbacks. He’s the age right now that Mike Leake was in his first season for the Reds.
Putting these moves together, the Reds have become younger and more athletic at the catcher position. The lineup will have considerably more pop. Aroldis Chapman’s path to bring his formidable talent to the rotation may have been eased. The Reds added left-handed pitching depth to the organization. And they cut payroll while doing all that.
Take a bow, Mr. Jocketty. (Then get back to work on the rest of it.)
The Reds received David Holmberg from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the three-team deal that sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Basics: Holmberg is a 22-year old left-handed pitcher. He’s 6’3″ and 225 lbs. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the second round of the 2009 amateur draft. Holmberg went to Arizona as part of the Edwin Jackson deal.
2013: Holmberg made 26 starts at AA last season, throwing 157 innings. It was the third season in a row that Holmberg has thrown over 150 innings. His ERA was 2.75. His strikeout rate has been low, at 6.5 K/9 over 250 innings in AA the past two seasons. As a result, his FIP was 3.80 in 2013. He made a single appearance for the D-Backs in August, which is meaningless.
Baseball America ranks Holmberg the #6 prospect in the D-Backs system in 2013 and say he has the “Best Control” of any prospect in their system.
Marc Hulet at Fangraphs ranks Holmberg the #7 prospect in the D-Backs system for 2014: “He doesn’t have a big-time fastball or wipeout breaking ball but he’s durable, and has above-average command/control of his four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball with fringe-average velocity, two average breaking balls in a curveball and slider, as well as a plus change-up.” Before Holmberg’s single start for the D-Backs last year, Hulet wrote: “In his prime, the young pitcher has a chance to fill a third or fourth slot in a big league starting rotation, and his big, strong frame should allow him to provide plenty of innings in that role.”
MLB.com ranks Holmberg Arizona’s #5 prospect: “Tyler Skaggs rightfully gets the buzz in the organization as the top lefty prospect, but Holmberg isn’t that far behind him. Holmberg has the chance to have four average or better pitches with good command of all of them. He works quickly and goes right after hitters, working both sides of the strike zone with his solid average sinking fastball. His fading change-up is an above-average off-speed pitch and he throws both a tight biting curve and short, cutting slider. With good mechanics and size, he should be ready for the middle of the rotation soon.”
Bottom-line: When you analyze major league trades it’s important to keep in mind that the trade is about contracts as much as it is about the players. In that context, the Reds traded one year of Ryan Hanigan (who hit .198/.306/.261 and has struggled to stay healthy) for six years of team control of a solid left-handed AA-pitcher. The trade adds pitching depth for the organization and is about all one could realistically expect as a return for Hanigan.