Are you ready?

Only a week to go before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Are you excited?

To whet your appetite, a few items you should check out:

–It got bumped down the page too quickly today, but I wanted to make sure you checked out the latest episode of the Redleg Nation Radio podcast. Joining us this week is Devin Mesoraco, the first-round pick of the Reds back in 2007.

This. Is. Awesome.

–Mark Sheldon has his spring preview up at Reds.com (here’s part one and part two). He also has this piece on five guys who are under particular pressure this spring.

–The Reds have signed Kip Wells to a minor league deal. Oh joy. This can only end badly.

I’m all for minor league filler; there are always injuries and you have to have enough pitchers for the minor league rosters. Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic, but I always have a couple of fears about this type of signing, since I’ve seen too much of this nonsense:

1. What if Wells has a great spring and Dusty decides to hand the 5th spot in the rotation to this “proven veteran”? Wells hasn’t been an effective pitcher in a long time, if ever (look at his stats; I don’t know how this guy is still kicking around the big leagues). He’ll lose some games before the Reds cut bait, and this team’s margin for error is going to be slim.

2. What if they stick him in the AAA rotation, possibly bumping a guy like Matt Klinker?

3. Even if he does start the season in AAA, and even if he is in the bullpen in Louisville, Wells is almost guaranteed to be the first callup when the Reds need a pitcher. This despite the fact that Wells has no business on a major league roster these days.

I know, I’m worrying needlessly. Sorry about that. Wells will probably just stay in AAA all season, or get released at some point. No need to worry. Nothing to see here. Just move along.

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.

Join the conversation! 31 Comments

  1. I’m probably in the minority on this, but I like the signing of Kip Wells. He was a good picher back in 2002-03, and he pitched reasonably well for the Reds in 2009. In fact, I was hoping the Reds would get him back for just this role.

    His overall ERA for 2009 was poor, 5.33, but with the Reds it was 4.66 and he allowed 1.273 runners per nine innings. The Nationals used him exclusively in middle relief and that really didn’t work out.

    As for blocking minor league pitchers…I feel it’s awful to throw a young minor league pitcher up against big league hitters before they’re ready (see Bailey, Homer). A pitcher without confidence is a pitcher throwing batting practice and youngsters can get hammered young (see Reith, Brian) and never recover. I’d rather a grizzled veteran take those few starts and burn some innings. With the Reds, his fun support was 3.65, so I don’t find his 2-3 record in 7 starts to be too bad at all.

  2. I agree with everything chad says and the sad thing is it will happen just the way he says it will.just waiting for them to sign some 38yr. old past his prime outfielder that dusty will play everyday in left field the first time one of the young guys has a slump. it will happen before spring training is a week old watch.this to will end in disaster as the reds will end up 25 instead of 30 games thanks to veteran leadership.

  3. Kip Wells is a borderline serviceable arm…But I get it.

    I suspect his signing is insurance for the LR/Spot Starter role…Good to have a disposable veteran contract, just in case someone gets hurt early & the young bucks aren’t ready…Which by having him, it will allow the Reds to keep a young arm in AAA as long as needed (to allow them to “Season”). Which, I actually see it as a good deal for all the Reds young prospects.

    As long as Dusty Baker is managing…I’d just as soon see them stay in LOU!

  4. I know W-L records are no indicator of quality with all the newfangled stats, but still…anytime you lead the league in losses TWICE, there’s definitely a suck factor at work.

  5. I like the signing. He had a good September (2-1 with a 3.65 ERA in four starts), still throws in the mid-90s and adds some nice depth.

    I heard on the MLB Network that only three teams in the last 20 years have had 3 pitchers on their rosters who have made 30 starts in a season. So personally I would prefer a vet like Wells filling in a couple of games than the alternative of an untetsted rookie.

    I have felt for a while that the difference between the Reds and the competitive big market teams is their inability to have the depth to compete when injuries crop up, which they will. With the addition of people like Miles and now Wells they are adding those veterans that provide that depth. I am sorry but Matt Klinker and players with his experience don’t do that. I think Walt is building a team to compete and that is a good thing.

  6. @Steve Price: I agree with you. Plus, you need lots of extra arms going into spring training.

  7. @Steve Price: Steve, I love you babe, and I usually agree with you, but did you actually go look at his stats?

    He hasn’t had an ERA+ above average in 7 years. (Only had two such years in his entire career, and they were when he was 25 and 26.) He has been WAY below average in most of those years.

    He’s never been particularly good, and he completely sucks now.

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that the fact that he was only somewhat below average in 10 games and 46 innings last year should give us hope that he isn’t the same terrible pitcher he’s been for most of his career?

    As a starter, he’s below replacement level. I’d rather have almost anyone at AAA in the rotation over him.

    And, for what it’s worth, I wasn’t talking about him taking spots on the MLB roster away from guys like Klinker. I was talking about him taking starts away from guys like that at AAA that could use the starts to develop.

    If he gets any starts in the majors, it means things have gone horribly wrong and the Reds have no chance of contending. He’s Josh Fogg, guys.

  8. @Chad Dotson: Couldn’t agree with you more. Surely, someone from the list we currently have will work out as a decent #5. And there should be plenty of options for the inevitable injuries that will occur.

  9. I am a little confused here,you guys say the reds need the experiance that wells and other veteran guys have but the young guys don’t. so how are the young guys like klinker supposed to get experiance playing in the minors while the “veterans” take up roster spots and suck?wouldn’t it be cheaper and better in the long run to let the kids play? I am always accused of being negative but I want the reds to win but in the long run it seems to me it would be wiser to play the youngs we have and let them gain the experiance needed to be competive for years to come. like I said it makes no sense just to sign a veteran just so they can finish 25 games back instead of 30.

  10. I wasn’t happy when they signed Wells last year, but I was happy with how he performed. May be my expectations were low, but he was signed then for the same reason he’s being signed now…as a stopgap in case a major leaguer goes down.

    I don’t like seeing young pitchers getting torched; to answer David Kaiser, I believe you should give young pitchers small doses of reality, and I much prefer to start them in the bullpen than in a major league rotation (Earl Weaver had a “small” dose of success with that method).

    Wells was signed in case of the inevitable injury that will happen to at least one of our starters, and could happen to more. I also think it’s most likely that either Arroyo or Harang won’t be in Cincinnati for a full season, and if we need Wells at that point (if/when the youngsters are not ready), he may not be available at that time. I firmly believe young pitchers need to maintain their poise, and giving up nine runs in an inning (which Dusty allows) is just plain criminal and negligent to the team’s future success.

    I also think the leadership quotient is more important to young guys in AAA than in the majors. Looking at our AAA roster and possibilities….I see the Bats have Justin Lehr, Darryl Thompson (whom I don’t think should be a starter anymore due to injuries), Tom Cochran (26 year old signed after three years pitching in the independent Frontier League), Matt Klinker, Sam LeCure, and possibly Travis Wood. I think there’s enough innings to go around for all these guys.

  11. I feel Wells could be a serviceable #5 guy in the rotation. Last year he seemed to do alright when he started. his main problem is pitching from the stretch. He still pitches pretty good from the windup. So, it’s probably not smart to use him anywhere but as a starter.

    So, after saying that I’d like to congratulate Kip Wells for being our new set-up man this year.

  12. @Mark in CC: Really? That’s awfully hard to believe. Do you mean maybe 30 starts the previous season or something? I mean, just last year the Reds started with 4 guys who made 30 starts during a season (Arroyo, Harang, Cueto, Volquez). I have a hard time believing even that has only happened three times in 20 years.

  13. No, there’s no reason for Kip Wells to be signed. Even David Wells would be better. We have the young arms, might as well bring them along to have Dusty ruin them, rather than have them perform in AAA with the spectre of his Dusty-ness hanging over them. Even Daryl Thompson would be an upgrade at this point.

  14. I’m not sure where he plays, but sometimes these guys are signed in case of injury. If the Reds get by March without injury, he may get released or traded before the season starts.

    ML/Out of Options: Harang, Arroyo, Cueto, Bailey, Owings

    (Didn’t include Volquez on the 60-day DL)

    Minor League or with Options: Maloney, Wood, Klinker, Lecure, Lehr, Thompson, Wells.

    Thompson could (should?) pitch in a setup/closer role.

    Starting lower than AAA but could rise quickly: Leake and Chapman

  15. I agree with Steve on this one. Watching him pitch in September last year was a pleasant surprise. He could be a servicable stop-gap if needed. I don’t think he has any shot whatsoever to be our 5th starter, he’ll just be a stop-gap callup if needed.

  16. Although, to be fair, I think Justin Lehr could fill that role just fine.

  17. I’d much rather have Lehr than Wells. Wells ranks just above Lincoln in my confidence level…which is not high at all (considering Lincoln is basically the white flag if he comes into the game).

    I hate crappy veterans that get the chance over young guys with promise. At least you might find a diamond in the rough with a young guy, an old crappy veteran, you know what you are getting.

  18. @Steve Price: The problem with the “don’t throw the kids to the wolves argument” is that I’ve noticed many times, the young call up gets a quality start in their first appearance (Maloney – 6IP, 2 ER; Thompson – 5 IP, 0 ER; Ramirez – 7 IP, 3 ER). Since teams haven’t seen these guys pitch, they have a heck of an advantage.

    @BJ Ruble: Lehr is no spring chicken. I’d rather have a AAA rotation of Leake, Wood, Maloney, Klinker, Thompson and eventually Chapman than block any of these guys with Lehr or Wells.

    • david: Lehr is no spring chicken. I’d rather have a AAA rotation of Leake, Wood, Maloney, Klinker, Thompson and eventually Chapman than block any of these guys with Lehr or Wells.

      This is a great point. I wouldn’t have any problem with Lehr as a long reliever, spot starter in the majors. At this point in his career, it’s where he’ll have the most value to the organization.

      No way I let him take up starts in AAA if you have a legit prospect who needs those starts.

  19. @RiverCity Redleg: He’s serviceable, if you don’t mind another Josh Fogg. Because that’s who Wells is at this point in his career.

    Actually, that comparison isn’t fair to Fogg. Fogg’s numbers in the years prior to joining the Reds were MUCH better than Wells’.

    Wells ERA+ over the last five years: 78.
    Fogg ERA+ over the 5 years before CIN: 89.

    You guys are remembering the Wells from 2002. That guy doesn’t exist anymore.

  20. And, by the way, an average adjusted ERA (ERA+) is 100. That’s how far below average Wells has been.

  21. Guys, guys…

    How many of you remember the old pro football “taxi squads?” Those are the players that just missed the major league roster who are on call in case of injury.

    That is the primary role of AAA in these days. The prospects are in AA.

    Now, having said that….the exceptions, in my opinion, are pitchers. Hitters can make the jump from AA (frankly, I think the best hitters can make the AA-majors jump if they are future starters). Teams like to move the pitchers one rung at a time, have them establish themselves, and then move up to the next level. It’s about developing confidence and poise.

    I’ve listed the AAA pitchers….Matt Klinker may be a prospect, but the others aren’t, and, let’s face it, Matt hasn’t been listed on many prospect lists (I do see him on sleeper lists). They’re all 25+ in age and are either stopgaps, or are seemingly close to developing that one pitch that makes them effective. However, that may never happen. Wood may be in AAA…I think they’ll start him in AA, too.

    Reds’ starting pitchers will break down. They need replacements. Josh Fogg could not pitch in Cincinnati–too high in the strike zone. Wells did okay as a guy who can take on a short-term starting pitcher role.

    As for the one-start wonders (as david mentions)…I agree with that, and it’s a great test. But, that’s one start…then the scouts have their notes.

  22. @david: I wasn’t trying to imply that Lehr is a young guy (he and Wells are the same age), but just that I enjoy watching him pitch more so than Wells. Wells is the type of guy you can pick up off the couch once your team is decimated by injuries (like last year).

    Wells hasn’t been any good in a long time, ’03 was his last productive year.

    Lehr is a classic AAAA type guy that does well in the minors but can’t cut it in the majors.

    I don’t mind having one filler guy, not two or more.

    • BJ Ruble: I don’t mind having one filler guy, not two or more.

      I guess it’s a numbers game. I wouldn’t want more than two, but I think two is the number. there’s not that many prospects we have pitching wise at the AAA level. Now, at year’s end, we may have Chapman and Leake there, but we won’t have them to start with.

  23. This early you need arms. Prospects move up and then less than valuable guys can be moved or cut bait on.

    I would much rather have someone like Wells make an emergency start, especially early in the season, than a prospect.

    Wells is a smart pitcher, IMO, and if he has any sort of a decent attitude then he may be a very good influence at AAA.

  24. Sorry Chad, but I dig it. I like having options and competition in ST. I don’t see him winning a spot in the rotation out of camp, though.

    Additionally, I want the guys at AAA to be experienced winners. Winning is a habit. I’d love to see AAA rocking with 5 excellent pitchers, one or two of which being major league experienced. Wells IS an excellent AAA level pitcher and may be that piece of the puzzle for someone (Klinker, perhaps). Just think where Bailey might be is Lehr wasn’t there last year. 😀

  25. You know, I’d love to see the Reds pay Corky Miller more than they are to stay at AAA a few years. He’d be a great mentor to both the upcoming pitchers and catchers.

  26. Mark Sheldon says:

    And for those that were wondering the other day, Kip Wells will be added to the mix for the fifth spot of the rotation battle. Wells agreed to a Minor League deal a couple of days ago.

  27. […] most cynical fans, there are still pockets of pessimism. The lingering signs are embodied well in this Redleg Nation discussion of what should have been received as a low risk, who cares type move: The Reds have signed Kip […]

Comments are closed.

About Chad Dotson

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.


2010 Reds, Minors


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