Redleg Nation: That seems like a healthy approach, frankly. What’s reassuring to those of us out here is that they’re not rejecting outright, for lack of a better term, the “Moneyball” approach.
Marc Lancaster: Oh, no. Well, I’ll tell you, it’s funny, I was working on the story in spring training. I cornered Brian Cashman, the Yankees G.M., and I was sort of asking him about it, on the run, real quick. And he said he’s interested in it, but he said, “Well, I don’t have a ‘stat guy’.” And it’s funny, because the first thing I thought was that it’s not because you can’t spend the money to hire a stat guy. (laughs)
But is it surprising to anybody? No, it’s not. It’s just kind of the Yankee way, right? But I think teams like the Reds, they recognize that they’re going to have to take advantage of every possible angle to compete, in this kind of marketplace they’re in.
RN: Let’s talk briefly about the Reds. What’s your opinion on the off-season acquisitions Dan O’Brien made?
ML: Well, I think that they did…I was going to say, as well as anybody could have expected. I think they did better than anyone could have expected. Part of that is that none of us could have expected them to spend the kind of money they did. You can argue that they overpaid for Milton, and so on and so forth, but you look at the marketplace for pitchers. Dan’s been after the Reds to be able to go get one of these upper echelon pitchers, and Milton’s expected to be in that upper echelon by almost everybody.
The Mets kind of blew the market out by giving Kris Benson $8 million, so if you want to play the game, you’ve got to play the game.
But I think the key to it was basically bringing in seven players for that extra sixteen, seventeen million dollars this year. There are certainly regimes that you would hand seventeen million dollars to, and they would have signed two players. This team needed more than two new bodies.
I think you saw last night how valuable those veteran guys in the bullpen can be when they’re on. And obviously, a couple of them have not been on thus far this year, but we’re, what? Ten, twelve games into the season. Who knows how that will pan out? But you’re investing $600,000 in Ben Weber and $600,000 in Rich Aurilia. That’s not much. They’re not paying any of these guys, except Milton, a lot of money.
To me, they used their money very, very wisely.
RN: What about Dave Miley’s evident preference for veterans over youngsters? How do you see that playing out with this team?
ML: People can complain about, oh gosh, look what he’s doing. I can guarantee you that Dave Miley will take his chances every day with a guy like Weathers, or a guy like Weber or Mercker than he will with Juan Padilla, Aaron Myette, Brian Reith. Think about how many games those guys pitched last year. Those are not major league pitchers. And that sort of panned out that way.
RN: · This is something that concerns many of us in Redleg Nation: with the hot start Joe Randa has had, do you foresee the Reds signing him to an extension, thus delaying Edwin Encarnacion’s entry to the Major Leagues?
ML: No, I don’t. If the Reds had not signed Randa, and they had gone ahead with the Kearns experiment, or even if they had signed Juan Castro and threw him over there…if they’d been in any situation other than signing Randa, Edwin probably would have been the Opening Day third baseman this year. Even though they didn’t want to do that, because he was so impressive in spring training.
Now, maybe that was because he knew he wasn’t trying to win a job. But I don’t think that anyone in the organization doubts that he will be ready to take that job over next year. No, I don’t see them going down that path with Randa. And I think Joe, at this point, he’s certainly shown a lot, but there are a lot of games left in him, and I don’t think he wants to be a caddy for a younger guy.
At this point, I think there’s sort of a mutual understanding situation here, where everybody knows what’s going on.
RN: · What do the Reds see in Rich Aurilia that causes them to keep running him out there over Felipe Lopez, who may have a chance to be the future at SS?
ML: Aaah, see, this is my favorite topic, okay? I love fans…this is where I get annoyed, because all anyone wanted to do for five years, was for the Reds to win now. People say that about Felipe all the time, that he is the future, why don’t they get him at-bats now?
What do you want to do? Do you want to develop the future guy, or do you want to win games? That’s the reason that Rich is in there. The Reds believe that Rich will win them more games. Or lose them less games. He certainly does not have near the range that Felipe does. He doesn’t have the arm that Felipe does. But having seen all but one game this spring, and during the regular season, Rich has not yet made a throw, other than that strange one last night, that hasn’t gone right into Sean Casey’s glove, with a minimum of effort from Sean Casey.
That makes a big difference.
RN: I’m not sure I agree…well, let me ask it like this: do the Reds really believe that Rich Aurilia gives them a better chance to win now?
ML: Yes. For this year, yes. That’s why he’s in there. And that’s the only reason. They know that Felipe has more talent. He’s got way more upside, obviously, at Rich’s age. But for them, they’re trying to win games right now.
That’s why they went and got a guy like Randa, instead of letting Edwin feel his way, and sort of learn on the job. And that’s why they went and got Aurilia, it’s because Aurilia will make fewer mistakes. And then you see something like last night. He’s done it twice now in the last week, where he had a key bloop, little reach out and throw the bat at the ball hit to drive in a run. And those are the kind of at-bats that they want from a veteran guy like Aurilia.
RN: Do you think Felipe will eventually take over as the starting shortstop?
ML: Yeah, I think so. Felipe or someone else.
RN: Anderson Machado or Rey Olmedo?
ML: Yeah, yeah, and I certainly think Felipe would have the edge up on that group. If it had come down to Felipe and Machado, I think Felipe would have won that job in a walk.
But yeah, I definitely think that’s the mindset that the Reds have. Right now, I don’t think anybody in the front office would object too violently if you told them that next year’s left side of the infield were going to be Lopez and Encarnacion.
RN: Last question. Do you foresee there being any chance of Dave Miley supplanting Danny Graves as the closer this season with Ryan Wagner, or someone else? And do you see Graves being traded this season?
ML: Who would take him? That’s the thing. I don’t have the numbers right here in front of me, but he’s making a lot of money, and that’s the hangup. Nothing against Danny, I think obviously Danny makes it interesting every time out. But he does get the job done more often than not. You know? He gets it done.
That’s not to say that … well, I think a lot of people would say that what they’ve seen over, say, the last half-year, they’d be comfortable with Wagner slipping into that role. But it’s just not a viable option right now.
As for trading Graves, the only situation where I could imagine would be if Mariano Rivera continues to fall apart and the Yankees want to go get somebody, and have to go get somebody in their bullpen at the deadline. Maybe they would be a team that could take on Danny’s money. And at this point, it’s his last year of his contract, so that’s something. There’s not a lot of teams that would take on that kind of money, unless it’s a short-term proposition. Unless it’s for a lights-out, Trevor Hoffman kind of closer.
RN: Ryan Wagner closer any chance, demoting Graves, or cant because of money….ryan’s going to make a lot of money in this league
ML: I don’t know. That’d be a real sticky road to walk on. But I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility, either. Especially if Ryan continues to throw the way he has. He’s been awesome.
But I don’t know. I think that it’s certainly out there, but I think Graves would have to go into a complete meltdown, and that means more than what he’s just done the last few days. I mean, he’s going to have to lose a lot of games, probably. Well, not a lot, but he’s going to have to lose before people start to talk about that, and he really hasn’t done that yet.
But it’s sure interesting every time he throws.
RN: Any chance Graves will be re-signed at the end of the season?
ML: I would be very surprised if that happens, just because of the young arms that they have: Hudson and Coffey and Wagner, you’ve got Allan Simpson, Joe Valentine. I don’t see it happening.
RN: Well, that’s encouraging, I guess. Thanks for taking the time for Redleg Nation. I know our readers will appreciate the opportunity to get to know a little more about you and what you do.
ML: Not a problem. I enjoyed it. Hope we can do it again sometime.
Blame Chad for creating this mess.
Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.
You can email Chad at firstname.lastname@example.org.