Yeah! Best pinch-hitter ever!

Wait…what?

Ooohhhh…the Reds signed Willie Harris. That makes more sense, I suppose:

The Reds agreed to terms with utility player Willie Harris on a minor league contract, two sources confirmed to MLB.com on Monday.

Harris, who will be invited to camp as a non-roster player, can earn an $800,000 base salary if he makes the club and his overall salary can reach $1 million with incentives.

Not sure where (or whether) he fits on the roster, but Harris certainly plays a lot of positions. He has some on-base skills, too. Not a terrible choice for the 25th guy on the roster, as far as I’m concerned.

Of course, he doesn’t do anything that Todd Frazier can’t do better. Much better.

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! 67 Comments

  1. Another one of Dusty’s boys. A 33 year old speed guy with an average bat and decent defense. Head scratcher IMO.

  2. If he stays in Louisville until an emergency calls him to Cincy, then fine. Otherwise, this smells like Dusty getting his way and Walt saying, “Then Dusty announces the signing, because I’m not good with it, Bob.”

    https://twitter.com/#!/johnfayman/status/161535449192611840

    Since when does Baker announce signings?

    Career .286 BABIP. .324 last year, leading to a .351 OBP. He was terrible in ’10. In ’09, he put up a .364 OBP. Great. It was supported by a BB/K rate of .92 (.55 in ’10, .58 in ’11) and a contact rate of .81 ( .73 in ’10, and .74 in ’11). In other words, his strike zone and contact skills have diminished from age 31 to 33 and there is no reason to believe he will put up a .364 OBP again. That was his only viable attribute.

    Other than being veterany, and resembling Patterson, Taveras, Cabrera, Renteria, and Nefti Perez, in skill-set.

    Again, I hope he’s just for Louisville, because Todd Frazier can do the job just fine.

  3. I just read the news and had to rush right over to RLN to say Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!

    Any other time I wouldn’t think anything of it, but this guy is going to make the team out of ST, be on the opening day lineup, and get over 500 PAs in 2012. Colossally stupid. Dusty will not be able to help himself.

  4. Wait, how does this help unless he does provide depth at Louisville? He doesn’t play SS.

  5. @TC: This is exactly what everyone said about Jaque Jones, who was then summarily cut in ST. Just because Dusty pulls to get a guy an invite to ST (which I’m sure he did with Harris) Doesn’t mean he’s going to get 500 PA with the Reds.

  6. I don’t see anything wrong with the deal. It’s a minor league contract, and I don’t think Willie Harris has a very good shot at coming north with the team unless he absolutely tears it up in spring and Janish & Frazier both completely tank. He offers cheap depth at a number of positions, and he isn’t completely useless with the bat due to decent on base skills.

  7. He won’t get 500 PAs. I just don’t see the point of this though.

  8. I seriously doubt that Frazier can bet lefthanded better than Harris.

  9. I bet he could. Hit right handed pitchers better.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=harriwi02&year=Career&t=b

    Harris is at 103 tOPS+ for his career versus RH. Average.

    Frazier put up an 80 in a 95 AB small sample. That had 5 home runs in it. I’ll take the upside of a younger player over the known averageness of the veteran average player.

  10. If you were making joke, as I think I see now, nevermind. 😀

  11. I dont hate this. we didn’t give him a contract of 1 million plus, and he’s proven reliable through some stretches. at worst, he’s a pinch runner in a tight spot. He wont break camp though. Him and navarro are nothing more than insurance. Which is what Janish will be here in a minute after we sign or trade for a backup middle infeilder.

  12. Typical Pre-Spring training move. Nothing to see here, move along.

  13. I just don’t trust anything where Baker is involved. Logic be damned.

  14. Walt was not in on Scutaro, who had a $6M price tag. Purely an observation, no need to add a SS, especially at that price.

  15. On Marshall: “I had Sean as a rookie in Chicago. I really enjoyed Sean. He’s one of the real quality left-handers in the league. If he’s not the top one, he’s close to it. We’ve got to figure out what to do with Chapman. But Sean, Bray and Chapman gives us three real quality left-handers.”

    http://cincinnati.com/blogs/reds/2012/01/23/baker-on-the-new-guys/

    Sean and Bray give you two quality left-handers out of the pen. You leave Chapman alone. Let him develop into the 104mph fastball, 94mph slider, 90mph changeup starting pitcher he can be.

  16. Lenny Harris is just minor league depth. Doesn’t play SS, so that issue is still open. A not so consequential signing, not worth any wringing of hands.

  17. @RedLeg75: WJ has made it clear that Chapman is going to start 2012 as a starter (which to me means he might be starting at AAA). Dusty doesn’t seem to fully buy in to the idea.

  18. To me Harris is AAA insurance in case Phillips and/or Rolen should go down for an extended period of time (injury). He could split time at 3B with Francisco and play everyday for a couple of weeks at 2B should there be a need. It does not appear that the Reds feel like Frazier can fill those roles.

    • Typical Pre-Spring training move. Nothing to see here, move along.

      Yes, the Reds (and all teams) sign a few of these each year. Some of these guys leave the organization before the season begins, some stay in the minors, and a few have some appearances at the major league level. Barring injuries, Harris is in one of the latter two boats at the beginning of the season.

      To me Harris is AAA insurance in case Phillips and/or Rolen should go down for an extended period of time (injury). He could split time at 3B with Francisco and play everyday for a couple of weeks at 2B should there be a need. It does not appear that the Reds feel like Frazier can fill those roles.

      Hopefully Todd Frazier is ahead of him on the depth chart filling that role (2B/3B backup) before they call up Harris. I’d like to hope that at the end of the year, Henry Rodriguez has also pushed himself ahead of Harris on the depth chart.

  19. “I don’t know. Ludwick is going to play. But I don’t want to thwart the progress on Chris Heisey. I had a long talk with Ludwick. I told him everybody on my team plays except Janish who I like to keep hidden at the end of the bench for weeks at a time. . . Heisey has earned to the chance to play.”

    …. and finally Dusty tells the truth.

    • “I don’t know. Ludwick is going to play. But I don’t want to thwart the progress on Chris Heisey. I had a long talk with Ludwick. I told him everybody on my team plays. . . Heisey has earned to the chance to play.”…. and finally Dusty tells the truth.

      Looking at what he has done with other young players in Cincinnati, and seeing the significant playing time Matt Murton got in 2004 (in Chicago under Baker), I expect the Heisey will be given the vast majority of outfield starts & at-bats this season.

  20. I can’t stand Baker.

    On Madson: “He came up at the last minute because we were still trying to sign (Francisco Cordero), who did a good job for us. Madson is a bit younger. He’s on the rise. I talked to some people in Philly — Scott Eyre, who played for me, and Gary Matthews — they all really liked Madson. They said he brings a lot to the field and the clubhouse. He comes from a winning team. That’s a great addition.”

    So, he can’t, say, watch Madson pitch against the Reds, or look at Madson’s stats. He only likes the addition because he talked to Scott Eyre. And, Madson isn’t a “bit” younger. He’s four years younger.

    On Marshall: “I had Sean as a rookie in Chicago. I really enjoyed Sean. He’s one of the real quality left-handers in the league. If he’s not the top one, he’s close to it. We’ve got to figure out what to do with Chapman. But Sean, Bray and Chapman gives us three real quality left-handers.”

    Is it my imagination, or did they say Chapman was going to start? So now they once again don’t know what they’re doing? What is the freaking problem with this organization?

    • So, he can’t, say, watch Madson pitch against the Reds,

      I’m glad he didn’t- Madson has a 6.99! career ERA vs the Reds.

  21. Every good move the Reds make – great job Walt!

    Every marginal or wasteful move the Reds make – this is all Dusty’s doing!

    Comedic tyranny.

    • Every good move the Reds make – great job Walt!

      Every marginal or wasteful move the Reds make – this is all Dusty’s doing!

      Comedic tyranny.

      I have no idea what comedic tyranny is, though it certainly seems blustery and overblown, but there is a very obvious reason that people talked about walt with the other deals (not all of which were hailed as great) and about dusty on this.

      dusty announced the signing. period. did you not read that? when the manager announces one signing and the gm announces all the rest, logic suggests that maybe the manager had more to do with the one he announced.

      • I have no idea what comedic tyranny is, though it certainly seems blustery and overblown, but there is a very obvious reason that people talked about walt with the other deals (not all of which were hailed as great) and about dusty on this.

        dusty announced the signing.period.did you not read that?when the manager announces one signing and the gm announces all the rest, logic suggests that maybe the manager had more to do with the one he announced.

        Did Dusty announce Taveras or Fred Lewis? Gomes or Patterson? Shouldn’t the man that announced those contracts be vilified the same? I doubt he was.

        Hard to arrive at the conclusion you did with such a small sample size.

        • Did Dusty announce Taveras or Fred Lewis?Gomes or Patterson?Shouldn’t the man that announced those contracts be vilified the same?I doubt he was.

          Hard to arrive at the conclusion you did with such a small sample size.

          walt got lit up for all of those, and man, they are ancient history. walt got credit for the big moves this season, because he was pretty clearly at the helm, and made all the public announcements.

          and since win does there need to be a statistically significant sample for something so obvious as dusty announced it, dusty gets the focus? do you have some evidence to the contrary, because it seems pretty black and white.

  22. @Dave Lowenthal: What is it with Reds fans and their overreaction to comments to the media? You manufactured more negatives out of simple answers than a New York tabloid.

    Because he didn’t say what you wanted the man to say, word for word, doesn’t mean they were disparaging comments.

    Walt is the GM, if he wants Chapman to start, he will.

    • @Dave Lowenthal: What is it with fans and their overreaction to comments to the media?

      FYP. You are welcome.

      I know you want to defend Dusty (because that is what you do). In this case, I actually agree, fans often overreact unreasonably to stuff he says. HOWEVER, that comment regarding Chapman is a little strange. It just makes it look like he isn’t on the same page as WJ since WJ has repeatedly said that Chapman will be starting. And you know it is pretty much every underling’s job to agree with the boss (in public).

  23. @secondguessingfanbase: Don’t worry, Dusty has it all figured out for himself:

    In his opinion, the toughest part of managing is being “the man in the middle.”

    “I’m not upper management, and I’m not a player either,” Baker pointed out. Another challenge is overriding what Baker calls “basic human negativity and the lack of faith” in a game that is full of ups and downs.

    “I have to separate myself from [the negativity] by not reading it, by not listening to it, by not reading any blogs or tweets or anything, and trying to remain consistent with myself, therefore keeping my team consistent.”

    There’s also an awesome quote in the article (mind you it’s with MLB’s youth reporter, some 12 year old or something like that) where Dusty says of technology: “I do depend on it so that I can integrate technology and numbers and cyber stuff with all [my baseball] knowledge,” said Baker. “One without the other is like not using all the skills that are there. Sometimes you want to use the numbers,” Baker said, “and other times use your brain, your feelings, your knowledge, your expertise, and the fact that you’ve been in the game 42 years.”

    I just like the use of cyber stuff, but in fairness he did at least say he has some importance, you know, like when it doesn’t go against Hang Aaron’s adivce.

  24. @Matt WI: oops…Hank. Sorry Hank.

  25. Love the headline, my first thought … “Lenny Harris! isn’t he, like, 57 years old!”

  26. You mean they signed Willie GREENE? As in, from the ’95 team? Nice signing!

    Everyone’s prayers that WJ is going to “Dusty-proof” the lineup are in vain. That said, the bullpen signings should mean the pitching staff will be able to be handled on autopilot. Dusty’s best teams have been veteran-laden with guys who knew what to do and didn’t need to depend on him (J.T. Snow, Rich Aurelia, Moises Alou, Kenny Lofton, Scott Rolen). It’s obvious Dusty feels much more comfy with veteran guys around. That said, I don’t see Harris getting a spot ahead of Frazier.

  27. @secondguessingfanbase: Dusty’s quote seems to fly in the face of his pitching coach and his GM with regard to Chapman. Perhaps you should explain what he meant.

  28. Sounds to me like Dusty thinks Chapman should have to earn a rotation spot. Which really isn’t unreasonable, when you think about it. Seems entirely possible that he could start the season in Louisville, as many have advocated here.

    The Willie Harris signing is a nice depth move. He’s certainly better than Aaron Mile or Wilie Bloomquist.

  29. @Travis G.: If that’s what he meant, that would be reasonable. It is understandable that Chapman needs to pitch well in spring training to start with the team. Still, by lumping Champan in with Bray and Marshall the way he did, it does raise eyebrows.

    Dusty is undoubtedly a great guy, but unfortunately his is really imprecise when he speaks. One thing we don’t have to worry about is Dusty getting promoted to General Manager anytime soon. You would think that after managing (relatively) successfully for so many years, Dusty would have learned that words and context matter. Of course, a good reporter would have clarified what Dusty tried to say…

  30. @secondguessingfanbase: That is excessively naive. To think that Dusty Baker has 0% control over whether Chapman starts or relieves is beyond belief. Technically, it’s probably true, but practically—no way.

    • @secondguessingfanbase: That is excessively naive.To think that Dusty Baker has 0% control over whether Chapman starts or relieves is beyond belief.Technically, it’s probably true, but practically—no way.

      That’s my point though, Dave. Dusty has influence, you don’t bring in a notable manager and tell him to sit there and be quiet. Still, I don’t see Walt, a 61-year old former exec of the year and two-time World Champ, taking orders from a field manager, whether it’s La Russa and his two (now three) rings or Baker and his playoff pedigree. I feel that this organization as a whole under Castellini has put a premium on upping attendance, and having Chapman as a draw definitely has influenced the way the young Cuban has been handled.

  31. Fielder gets 9 years & $214 million. Bye bye Joey 🙁

    • Fielder gets 9 years & $214 million.Bye bye Joey

      Boras strikes again. I have no idea how he got Fielder that deal. It was just a few weeks ago people were starting to talk about him taking a 1 year deal to get back into the market next year.

      Over the last 5 seasons fielder has averaged 4.4 WAR. The tigers are now paying him like he will average 5+ over the next 9 years. Seems like a bad bet to me.

      Of course there are going to be some really great seasons for him in there, and if the Tiger’s win the WS, I’m the type of fan that thinks you can’t really put a price on that.

      But man, it seems like a lot for a guy who’s 5’11” and 275lb at 27. What’s he going to look like at 34? 36?

  32. @Greg Dafler: I, also, would like to think that Frazier is ahead of Harris, but the reality is that if Harris or Ludwick or whomever is playing better at the time, that’s who I want on the roster. I hope it’s Frazier, but frankly, I don’t care who it is as long as the best players are playing. Unfortunately, Dusty doesn’t always play the best, he plays who he likes the best.

  33. @Vottoeroticism: from where? Link?

  34. @RiverCity Redleg: mlb tradrumors has it right now, saying Fielder at 1st base, Miguel Cabrera to be DH after the injury to Victor Martinez.

  35. Votto will probably command more than that.

    • Votto will probably command more than that.

      Maybe, maybe not. I could see Votto getting more per year with fewer years, since he’ll be a few years older than Fielder when he hits free agency.

  36. @al: Yeah impossible to tell what the market will be for Joey right now. It could indeed be a massive contract if the Dodgers are finally sorted out and a guy like Cuban wants to make a splash. Or if Toronto wants to bring the native son back. Or none of these things happen. I for one hope that Joey drives his price up even higher the next year or two.

    • I for one hope that Joey drives his price up even higher the next year or two.

      Amen. We can’t have it both ways: MVP production for declining prices and discounts.

  37. @al: That deal is so obscenely bad. Like…what happens when Victor Martinez gets back? Cabrera playing third base. Really? BIS says Miggy’s defense at 1B cost Tigers 16 runs. Prince cost the Brewers 15 runs. 😆

  38. Wow. And Lincecum signs for 2yrs, $40.5 mil. Bless Mat Latos and his contract.

  39. I will continue to hold the conviction Joey Loves cincinnati and will give us a hometown discount. I refuse to believe otherwise for now.

  40. @al: that 4.4 WAR, Is that with or without what he gives away defensively? The guy is a blimp. I can’t believe he can move very far. And he is only going to get bigger. Lucky they have the DH. But they can only play one DH at a time. I think this could get ugly or funny or both. Who would you rather have Prince or Joey? Right.

  41. @RedBlooded: WAR includes defense (in fact, it makes up pretty much the entire difference in WAR between Joey and Prince (dWARs of 0.7 versus -0.7, respectively). That said, dWAR is one of the murkier areas of sabermetrics. I personally think it has limited use.

    Don’t forget that Miguel Cabrera will most likely be sliding over to 3B. Tigers are basically a softball team now.

    • Tigers are basically a softball team now.

      I wish Verlander pitched for my softball team!

      But seriously, they have really gone all in on the whole defense-doesn’t-matter idea.

      I think it’s in fact possible that this ends up lowering Joey’s payday a little bit. If Prince and Pujols both have modest years in 2013, while being paid $24mil and $25mil seems like it could scare some other clubs a little bit.

      I just can’t imagine giving a guy a deal for 9 years where you basically need for him to put up his best season every year for it to come out ahead for you. Still shaking my head.

  42. Dusty is a great manager. It was wrong for me to ever question him. When I disagree with him it’s just because I don’t know what he knows. I never played with Hank Aaron. (Sorry Dusty. I jest. I do love you, man)

    Actually I’m not worry about this signing anymore. There is no place for him but AAA and I doubt Dusty will start him over Heisey and Ludwick on a daily basis when he’s called up. He just sounded like Taveras.

  43. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet that I’m glad about: Fielder is out of the league.

    I know it was assumed that he was leaving the Brewers from the beginning, but the longer he hung out there, the more I had started to worry that they might work something out.

    I like the Reds chances more and more.

  44. @al:

    “…I like the Reds chances more and more…..”

    Agreed al. and given the exodus of 1B from NL to AL, Votto is pretty much the premier 1B in the national league, with Howard coming off ankle injury and unknown impact of that.

    The AL is going to be brutal at 1B for all-star voting. going to take monster year to get in.

    Go 2012 Reds!

  45. By the way, Cordero just signed with the Blue Jays. 1 year, 4.5M. I was off by 1.5M (I predicted 1 year, 3M).

    Their closer is Sergio Santos. So Cordero is signing to be a setup man.

    I wonder if Cordero is filing a lawsuit against Stringfellow as we speak.

  46. @Dave Lowenthal: I should say, Cordero *agreed* to sign. He has to pass a physical.

  47. Why does it feel like this is Winter’s 7th inning stretch?

  48. @CP: I know that is the noise coming out of Tiger camp, but I can’t believe that anyone thinks Cabrera can play 3rd. I mean, he can stand there pretty well, probably. That would make Mark Reynolds look good in the field. He is the only person in the league, and I mean the only person, that compares with Prince in the girth department. Cabrera is a great athlete, and (I would say) pretty easily the best hitter in baseball, but the man has got to lose about 70 lbs if he hopes to attempt 3B without killing himself. I think they have signed their 3rd DH, and will have to trade Martinez.

  49. @LVW: Including that gorgeous 2 out double by Jay Bruce to win the game…I fell out of my chair listening to Marty on that one.

    Scuttle butt on the street says that Oswalt’s agent reached out to the Reds. Can anyone confirm or deny this report?

  50. @lookatthathat: It was on mlb trade rumors that this did indeed happen.

  51. @Dave Lowenthal: No doubt that the Reds original offer to Cordero was a whole lot better than what he got. I read that the original offer was for 2 years, as closer, for about $14M. I bet that even the Reds later offer was better than this. So happy that Cordero turned the Reds down.

    CoCo can’t just blame his agent, his own ego was part of his folly. And closers overvalue themselves.

  52. @lookatthathat: WJ directly told John Fay that Oswalt’s reps had called him. (mlbtraderumors got it from Fay.)

  53. Oswalt would certainly be a better option for the rotation but I can’t imagine that the Reds have the $$$ to get him.

    That would push Leake or Bailey into the pen, I would guess.

  54. Baker may have put a bug in Walt’s ear about Harris but the final say about who makes the roster will be Walt’s. I think that Harris was mostly signed as as some insurance down in L’ville. He was brought in on a minor-league deal remember. Also, the off-season isn’t quite over with. Walt may still have some stuff in the works. Maybe Frazier is being looked at as part of a deal? We don’t know what all is going on.

    As for Oswalt, I’d love to have him but don’t see how the Reds could do it unless his price-tag really drops.

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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.

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