Reds History / Reds Trivia

This Day in Reds History: Reds Acquire John Denny

December 11, 1985: The Reds acquire former Cy Young Award winner John Denny and relief pitcher Jeff Gray for formed Reds closer Tom Hume and outfielder Gary Redus.

1985 was Pete Rose’s first full season as Reds manager and the Reds placed second in the National League Western Division race with an 89-72 record, 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers. The Reds pitching staff finished fourth from the bottom in the league with a 3.71 ERA, while the Dodgers led the National League with a 2.96 ERA so the Reds decided to get some more pitching.

Returning from the 1985 Reds staff was rookie 20-game winner Tom Browning (20-9, 3.55 ERA) and ace Mario Soto (12-15, 3.58 ERA, 214 K’s). The only other Reds starter with more than 15 starts in 1984 was Jay Tibbs (10-16, 3.92 ERA) who would be dealt in a few days to the Montreal Expos in a deal that netted the Reds Bill Gullickson (14-12, 3.52 ERA for the Expos).

The Reds needed another starter and Denny had won the National League Cy Young Award for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983 when he was 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA, his finest major league season (runner-up was the Reds’ Soto who was 17-13, 2.70). The Reds had hoped that a rotation of Soto, Denny, Browning, and Gullickson would give them one of the best rotations in the league.

However, Denny wasn’t the same pitcher he was during his Cy Young season and Soto went down due to injury as the Reds and Rose struggled to keep their rotation in tact. Soto was only 5-10 with a 4.71 ERA and Denny was 11-10 with a 4.20 ERA, nearly two runs a game higher than his best season only three years before. It was the third consecutive seasonal ERA increase for Denny who had reached the end of his career, the Reds granting him free agency at season’s end. Due to injury, the Reds promoted from AAA lefty Chris Welsh (now a Reds broadcaster) who had been signed out of spring training after being released the previous season by the Texas Rangers. Welsh went 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 24 starts, fourth on the team. The Reds again finished in second place, this time ten games behind the Houston Astros. The Reds pitching staff was again fourth from the bottom in ERA (3.97) with the Astros finishing second in ERA at 3.15.

This was Denny’s only season pitching as a Red, his last season as a major leaguer. His career record was 123-108 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 seasons. Reliever Gray, acquired along with Denny, only pitched five games for the Reds, all in relief. He later pitched two seasons of relief for the Boston Red Sox and finished his career with a 4-7 record and a 3.33 ERA. Unfortunately for Gray, he suffered a stroke at age 28 during the 1991 season while pitching for the Red Sox and never pitched again. At the time he was 2-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 50 games having allowed only 39 hits in 61 2/3 innings at the time.

Hume had been with the Reds since 1977 and had pitched various roles for the Reds including starter, closer, and middle reliever. He pitched well for the 1986 Phillies (4-1, 2.77 ERA in 48 games), but didn’t fare as well in 1987 and was released mid-season. The Reds signed him back for 11 games in 1987 to conclude his career. With the Reds, Hume compiled a 52-66 record with a 3.83 ERA (97 ERA+) and 88 saves. For his 11-year career, Hume was 57-71 with a 3.85 ERA and 92 saves.

Redus had always had a unique blend of speed, power, lots of walks and steals, but a low batting average. Redus holds the record for the highest batting average in a minor league season, setting the record in 1978 when he hit .462 for Billings in the Pioneer League over a 68-game season. During his 1983 rookie season with the Reds, Redus batted .247 with 17 homers and 39 steals, but with a .352 OBP and an OPS of .795 (117 OPS+), finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. His stats slipped a bit in 1985, hitting .254 with seven homers, 48 steals, but he walked less, posting an OPS of .714 (98 OPS+). His walk rate picked back up in 1985 under Rose and his production improved (.252 but a .781 OPS), but his playing time decreased and Redus is said to have been openly critical about Rose’s managerial decision to play Rose over some of the younger Reds’ players.

Redus was traded at season’s end and went on to play nine more major league seasons. In four seasons with the Reds, Redus hit .248 with 31 homers and 146 steals with a .752 OPS (107 OPS+). For his career, Redus batted .252 with 90 homers and 322 steals with a .752 OPS (107 OPS+). His career was about as consistent as those stats dictate.

2 thoughts on “This Day in Reds History: Reds Acquire John Denny

  1. “The Reds had hoped that a rotation of Soto, Denny, Browning, and Gullickson would give them one of the best rotations in the league.”

    I have tried to block most of the 80’s rotations from my memory banks, but on paper this really did seem like a good idea. I guess there’s a reason they don’t play these games on paper.

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