Several sources are now reporting that the Reds have reached agreement with free agent catcher Brayan Pena (31) on a two-year contract. Update: Now official. The exact provisions aren’t available yet, but Enrique Rojas (ESPN) estimates that the Reds will pay Pena $1.25 million in 2014.

Pena is a journeyman backup catcher, having spent parts of nine seasons with three different clubs: Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals and last season with the Detroit Tigers.

What have the Reds acquired in Pena and what does this mean for the roster and the Reds more broadly?

Pena’s Offense

Pena is a switch-hitter. Last season with the Tigers, Pena’s production in 243 plate appearances (.297/.315/.397) was well above his career line (258/.292/.359).  Far from having a “breakout” season at age 31 though, Pena’s bump in batting average in 2013 is entirely explained by enhanced luck on BABIP, which was .315 in 2013 compared to a career BABIP of .276. His contact rate was actually a little lower in 2013 than it had been in previous seasons.

If, as new manager Bryan Price suggested in his press conference, the Reds are going to emphasize grinding out at bats, Pena is a curious sign. His walk rate has been in free-fall the past three seasons. From 2008-2010, he walked in 6.7% of his plate appearances (major league average about 7.9%). But was walk rate has declined severely in 2011 (5.0%), 2012 (4.0%) and 2013 (2.5%).

Pena’s walk-rate in 2013 would have been last among Reds’ hitters. In comparison, Chris Heisey was the lowest for the Reds at 3.7%.

Pena’s Defense

Pena is below average in controlling the running game. Over the past two seasons, he threw out 29 of 94 attempted base stealers (31.5%). That number for MLB as a whole is 37.3%.

Brayan Pena rates slightly below average in most advanced defensive metrics. Huge caveat that defensive metrics are sketchy and worst at evaluating catchers.

What this Means for Ryan Hanigan

Pena’s signing obviously gives the Reds three major-league catchers, counting Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco. Reports are already circulating that the Reds will move Ryan Hanigan and listing possible suitors for him.

Update: A list of trade suitors could include the Yankees, Rays, Mets, Phillies, Blue Jays, White Sox and Rangers.

Hanigan is entering his final year of Reds team control and eligible for third-year arbitration.  Hanigan is coming off a fairly poor year at the plate (.198/.306/.261) that didn’t improve measurably after he returned from injury (.208/.330/.234 – second half). The Reds could try to find a trade partner for Hanigan or just non-tender him (decline arbitration).

Hanigan is vastly superior to Pena in terms of defense, controlling the running game and familiarity with the pitching staff.

Update 2: Matt Klaassen at FanGraphs has a lengthy article on the signing, with emphasis on analyzing Ryan Hanigan. He’s fairly optimistic that the Reds will be able to find a trade match.

What this means for the Reds

It’s hard to interpret this move as anything other than unambiguously turning the catching job over to Devin Mesoraco and disrupting the current culture of starting pitchers assigned to specific catchers.

In theory, it’s possible the Reds could have accomplished those goals with Hanigan as the #2 catcher, but maybe internal clubhouse dynamics might have prevented the successful transition. But sticking with Hanigan would have also avoided the Reds being committed to a two-year contract as they are now with Pena.

Chapman’s Catcher? 

Nation member WVRedlegs suggested the interesting possibility that Pena is being brought in as Aroldis Chapman’s personal catcher. The two players do share a Cuban background, both having defected. Having a catcher that speaks Chapman’s language (and Johnny Cueto’s) could be a plus. On the other hand, Hanigan and Mesoraco have caught Chapman for a few years now, so it’s not like there isn’t a familiarity there. Still, it’s a provocative theory.

Update: Pena caught Chapman in off-season workouts in Miami.

Bottom Line

The Reds may have saved $1 million in payroll for 2014 if Pena’s contract comes in around the number above. Estimates of Hanigan’s arbitration-determined salary are in the $2.3 million range.

We should begin to pace the room with concern if the Reds praise Pena’s “breakout season” in their introductory press conference. You would certainly hope that the Reds’ experience with Willy Taveras would have been sufficiently terrifying that they wouldn’t make the mistake of ignoring single-season BABIP surges. He isn’t an accomplished hitter, has awful plate discipline and below average defense.

If Pena has been signed as the Reds starting catcher, save yourself some misery and begin looking for another baseball team to support.

If this move instead signals the start of the Devin Mesoraco Era as the Reds’ everyday starting catcher, allow yourself a cautious smile.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 123 Comments

  1. Good to see that the Jack Hannahan experience hasn’t dissuaded Walt Jocketty from giving two year deals to replacement level players.

  2. Very logical move. Hanigan is a sell low at this point, but what could Hanigan and Phillips bring in to help? Bullpen, replacement level CF for Hamilton?

    It’s time to see what a once top 15 prospect can do. Give him two years of 130+ games and see if he can turn into that cleanup hitter we all want out of him.

    Pena is whatever, but a switch hitter off the bench that can make contact sounds better than Itzuris.

  3. Pena isn’t going to be brought in to take over. That much is obvious. This is an endorsement of Mesoraco, and because of that, it is an awesome move. Should’ve been done last year. Love it. Hanigan will have most value in stat savvy teams. Look to Boston, Tampa and Oakland.

  4. Meh. Hanigan’s not getting any better. Pena’s a step down but if it means more playing time for Mes then good move. Price has a history with Hanigan – even if he in his heart of hearts wanted to play Mes more, you’d think it would be hard for him to not turn to Hanigan if Mes went into a slump and that’s exactly what we DON’T need to be doing with Mes at this point.

    On a completely unrelated note, BP has been tweeting the last couple days about being in New York for “meetings.” Physicals anyone? Pure unadulterated speculation. Let it run wild.

    • @eric nyc: I hope it’s to the Mets…Murphy would be a good replacement for BP. Not sure who would have to add prospects or other players for that to happen.

      • @rfay00: Count me as one of the fans that doesn’t think a BP trade is necessarily the best thing for the Reds, but if he was going to New York I’d much prefer it be to the Mets so at least I can still enjoy watching him play.

    • @eric nyc: Interesting, but it may also be adverts.

    • @eric nyc: “On a completely unrelated note, BP has been tweeting the last couple days about being in New York for “meetings.” Physicals anyone? Pure unadulterated speculation. Let it run wild.”

      Or, he tweeted that from Stone Mountain, GA just to keep himself in peoples’ conversations. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility with BP.

  5. All I’ve got to say is I hope WJ has a rabbit up his sleeve, because so far this is NOT encouraging.

  6. Lots of love for Hanigan, but even if Hanigan > Pena, the starting catcher should be Devin Mesoraco.

    We can’t have it both ways. We can’t complain that there are too many gaps in the Reds offense, complain about the poor hitting off the bench and then argue for keeping the Reds’ sub-average hitters.

    In Hanigan’s case, he was WELL below average at the plate. If Mesoraco is the starter, then the virtues of the backup catcher are much less important.

    If the Reds can trade him for anything of value, that would be a big bonus.

    • @Steve Mancuso: While agreeing with you with my head, my heart is not on board.

      Regardless, my head does have a point to make. You can argue that there are two positions that can be a little weak at the plate. Catcher and SS.

      But, as you say, Mes is the primary catcher.

    • blockquote>Update: A list of trade suitors could include the Yankees, Rays, Mets, Phillies, Blue Jays, White Sox and Rangers.Hanigan probably has marginal value for a major trade aquisition by himself, but he could have a significant value as a trade filler.

      Hanigan has superior defensive skills and he fits the mold well for the type of player the Ray would covet. The Rays also have a need at catcher. Could Hanigan be the final piece to a trade that brings Ben Zobrist to Cincinnati?

    • @Steve Mancuso: Amen. It’s like the fact that we complained for years that the Reds didn’t spend any money and this off season I keep hearing complaints about the Reds spending money.

    • @Steve Mancuso:
      so it comes down to 32 year catchers 1-coming off a career high season and 1 a career low. Law of averages show its a bad move. The intangibles might make it a solid move only if Mes actually has a better year than them.
      I feel a bad for Corky , I irrationally held some hope he would make an impact in the late season, sure am glad Soto got all those AB’s.

  7. It’s probably also worth mentioning that, as much as it exists, Brayan Pena’s platoon split is complementary to Mesoraco’s. Over his career, Pena has hit right-handed pitching slightly better, and it was a particularly big difference this past season (SSS caveat). If you figure Pena will share time with Meso against RHP while Meso gets to play batting practice against LHP, that’s not a bad arrangement.

  8. The Reds brought in Miguel Olivo a year ago and some of the same conversations seemed to float around. Olivo didn’t make the cut. Could be, Pena is the same plot-line.

    • @Johnu1: I had a similar thought. Wouldn’t be surprised to see all 3 of them in ST. But I still think a Hanigan trade is more likely.

    • @Johnu1: Wasn’t Olivo brought in on a minor league contract and an opt-out clause if he didn’t make the 25-man? That’s a big difference from a two-year MLB contract.

      • @jonrox: Yes, true on Olivo but a year ago, Mesoraco was scrambling to make the roster. He had been playing behind Dinosaur Navarro of all people, and there was no reason to believe that Olivo wouldn’t beat out Mesoraco when the signing was made.

  9. Absolutely love this move. Mesoraco needed to be the everyday catcher last year. Walt forces that decision by trading Hanigan. If he can package phillips and hanigan to a team that needs both a 2B and C maybe the return is greater.

    I would still love to see them go after Jose Bautista of the Jays if we cannot resign choo (which is looking more likely as the days roll on). They need both a 2B and a C.

    • @Greg Wollenhaupt: I don’t see how BP with a bloated contract and a 33 year old Ryan Hanigan on the decline gets you Jose Bautista. And it’s not like we really have much other ammo in the minors.

      • @eric nyc: no but in the right package, and $50mm over 4 years for a top 5 2B is hardly bloated to most teams.

        • @Greg Wollenhaupt: Last year Toronto’s payroll was only $8 million more than ours. If BP’s contract is considered a bit heavy for us, it’s also heavy for Toronto. And Bautista has more potential offensive value. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded, but Toronto would want younger players in return I’d think. They thought they were close to contending last year so they went out and got Old Man Knuckleball, but now I think they realize they have some rebuilding to do. BP’s not a piece of a rebuilding team.

  10. 1. Pena OPS’ed .801 vs. RHP last year. It’s nice to have a left handed bat to plug in at catcher, but it does give me pause because that could be an excuse to take away at-bats from Mesoraco.

    2. I think Hanigan will bring you a decent reliever or B level prospect in trade. I also like that it tacitly dismisses the chatter than Hanigan’s intangibles more than made up for his lack of offensive production.

    3. Tucker Barnhart is the loser in this whole deal. He could plausibly be ready by mid-season, mashes RHP, and is superior defensively. He would be every bit Pena’s equal as a backup, which tells me there must be an ulterior motive………like Chapman.

    • @Sultan of Swaff: Corky’s done – Barnhart should be starting in Louisville and the first call up when the inevitable catcher injuries start popping up mid season. If you assume it’s Mes’ starting job for the foreseeable future, that’s probably as much of a look as Barnhart would get in 2013 no matter what so MAYBE it takes a couple games away from him in 2015. He’s still here in September either way.

    • @Sultan of Swaff:

      1.) Agreed
      2.) Kind of disagree – It’s because of his offensive numbers I sort of agree. But defensively he might be the second best catcher in the NL. That is rare enough to net a bit more than a B level…. if he just had an average bat. So, I guess I don’t disagree with you exactly. It just doesn’t sit well.
      3.) Great point. Agree.

    • @Sultan of Swaff: Why so dismissive of intangibles? It seems clear to me that the Red Sox are world champs due, in part, to intangibles. It also seems clear to me that the Reds were boring and, perhaps, underachievers this past season because the intangibles they had were negative–not at all Big Papiesque.

  11. It’s a good move. Cuban connection speaks volumes. Hanigan is solid defensively but his offensive stats last year were abysmal. Besides, we all know he was Arroyo’s personal catcher so goodbye to that connection. Trading “D” for more offensive punch. I have no problem with this deal. Don’t over-think this because Mesoraco is the starter. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Arroyo and Hanigan both ended up on the same team…in New York.

  12. The more I think/read about this deal, I think Walt Jocketty just signed Aroldis Chapman’s personal catcher. That’s really the only exceptional quality that Pena seems to have.

    If bringing in Pena is important to Chapman’s transition to the starting rotation, that’s enough to sell it to me.

    I hope it doesn’t become Pena with Chapman and Cueto though. I’d like to see Mesoraco catch the other four starters.

    • @Steve Mancuso: A bonus of having Chapman in the rotation is we get to see his bat. I’ve heard he actually pretty good. He looked like a hitter the ONE time I’ve seen him bat.

      • @TC: Jeff Brantley has said that Aroldis Chapman is not only the best athlete and the best hitting pitcher on the Reds, he’s also the best fielding pitcher on the Reds. That latter comment means something on a team that had Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo.

    • @Steve Mancuso: The Chapman theory is making more and more sense to me, too. But I wouldn’t worry about Cueto being in the mix. He’s never had a Spanish speaking catcher and he’s done just fine. I don’t see Price being the kind of guy who would make that kind of move. That’s Dusty Ball.

    • @Steve Mancuso:

      I think that is it mostly. A small part of guarding against tough RH pitching vs. Mes too.

      But I also have to wonder, through no fault of either catcher, that the Mes-Hanigan debate might have been a distraction in the clubhouse. Which pitcher preferred which catcher? Now Price and WJ decided they didn’t want that dynamic in the locker room in 2014??

  13. I think this signing signals three things:

    1. Chapman will be given the chance to start . . . I would prefer a “Johnny Wholestaff” approach to the bullpen. I believe that soon will be the day that a savvy few teams will completely abandon the role of closer.

    2. Mesoraco is the catcher. Period. Goooooooood.

    3. Walt has something else (big) up his sleeve. This is the type of move that sets up another move. Will he move a starter? Are Hanigan and BP headed to NY for Gardner (fingers crossed)? . . . Something is up. Walt is far from finished.

    • @Drew Mac: @eric nyc: No but wouldn’t you agree that even if it isn’t phillips moved that hanigan and perhaps leake or even bailey would be a fit for them? The Blue Jays need pitching and they have offensive wealth to trade. That’s the only point I was trying to make. We could use a right handed bat badly and Bautista fits just that.

      • @Greg Wollenhaupt: sorry drew not sure why that posted down here.

        • @Greg Wollenhaupt: Well if you’re talkin ga trade involving Bailey or Leake then we’re having a different conversation. Hanigan + Leake for Bautista might not be the worst trade in the world. I think we could get them to throw in a prospect or two. Any trade involving Bailey would have to be a windfall. The guy’s on the cusp of being a perennial CY candidate.

  14. the comments on the article about the pena signing are truly hilarious. brandon phillips, ryan hanigan, and henry rodriguez for stanton!

    • @al: I also see the Birds fans are scraping together a few reserves and a relief pitcher because, after all, Tulowitzki is all they need. So, do the deal, Mo!

  15. I find it hard to believe that Jocketty would make this move without a pretty good idea of what he can get for Hanigan.

  16. Just to play devil’s advocate, what if the Reds are dangling Mesoraco?

    • @walshjp: I wondered that same thing. It doesn’t make as much sense but it’s certainly not impossible.

      • @LWBlogger: I think a BP/Hannigan trade could be attractive enough for a team like the Yankees to eat BPs salary and give some prospects in return (the Yankees and Rays are known to like Hannigan. Then maybe you sign Choo.

        But a trade involving Mez could be the big one.

        Either way, it’s quite obvious things are in motion.

  17. I’ve had time to become rational about this. And I’m starting to think WJ’s opening moves are addition by subtraction.

  18. Could we see a trio next year? This frees up mes/Hani to ph when needed. Pena could be better than our other bench players, and having mes/Hani ph is better than many others on the bench

  19. Reds should of traded Hanigan last winter and resigned Navarro, but hopefully we got something of value for him. Maybe he’s packaged with BP? How about Hanigan and Soto to the Rays for Matt Joyce and Tim Beckham? We would get a LF to platoon with Ludwick and a back up SS. Josh Lueke as well, local kid, throws 98 MPH. Bullpen arm. Went to Scott High with him.

    • @Josh: I am OK with most of this except I think it’s time the Reds got past the platoon crap in LF. We’ve had 35 guys play LF since Dunn left and we are still not sure who ought to be out there 4 days a week.

    • @Josh: Josh Lueke? BP is being moved for “character” issues and you want to bring Lueke in? Richie Incognito is available now too.

  20. Kind of exciting to see things start happening… Price was never shy about sharing his opinion that the best pitchers should pitch more innings when asked if Chapman should start or be bullpen, so I think this quite possibly could be someone he’s bringing in to be Chapman’s catcher. Any chance they asked Chapman who he liked throwing to?

    I’ll miss Hanigan, but I think it was about time. Arroyo is gone, Bailey is likely on his last year, and his offensive stats were plummeting.

    I suppose the key of this signing all revolves around the Reds end up getting for Hanigan. Maybe the Reds can pick up another undervalued Hoover type player like they did with Francisco. Or maybe he’s packaged together with other players to get someone bigger? Dunno, but I do love the trade speculation.

  21. Yes, this all but lays the groundwork and foundation to move Chapman to the rotation. But it also makes Hanigan available to package in a trade with Atlanta. Most likely with BP. Atlanta’s two biggest holes are 2B and C. That trade fills out both holes for them.
    Why Hanigan? Look at what Atlanta will have in its starting rotation. Minor, Medlin, Teheran, and Wood. All young starting pitchers. Hanigan has established a reputation for handling young pitchers well. I think Atlanta is very interested in Hanigan if they are not going to sign McCann. Gattis isn’t an everyday C.
    Wood or Teheran will certainly be in a return package for the Reds. They are more of ground ball pichers than Minor and Medlen. My preference would be the LH Wood. That would free up either Bailey or Leake in another possible move. And Cingrani can close like he did in college.

    • @WVRedlegs: Everything else aside, you’re really ready to send Cingrani to the bullpen? After the promise he showed last year? Haven’t we learned our lesson with Chapman? No way would I move Cingrani to the pen. Even if through some series of moves we ended up with 5 other major league pitchers, I’d still have Cingrani starting in Louisville to be the first one up in when an injury hits. I personally don’t trust Cueto as far as I can throw him anymore and would be amazed to see him ever make it through another season without a decent amount of time on the DL.

      • @eric nyc:

        Not necessarily. It depends on what the Reds get in return for BP. If they get a starting P that is a bit better than Cingrani, then yes maybe. Teheran and Wood are very good pitchers.
        I am a big Cingrani fan and don’t want to haphazardly send him to the bullpen. It’ll be a numbers game. How many SP they have to fit in 5 spots.
        Maybe Price resurrects the Nasty Boys with Cingrani, Hoover and LeCure.

        • @WVRedlegs: Even if you assume we end up with 5 starters better than Cingrani and that he could best help the 2014 club from the bullpen, how does that not hurt his long term development? 2014 shoudl be a year when we’re starting to stretch him out to get close to 200 innings, which is what we shoudl be expecting form him in 2015 and hopefully a lot of years afterwards. Putting him in the bullpen to pitch maybe 70-80 innings is a step in the wrong direction. We have enough good arms in the pen as it is.

          • @eric nyc:

            How concerned were the Cardinals about the development of their young starters pitching out of the bullpen this year down the stretch? Rosenthal became their closer and now may end up there.

            The Reds have Bailey-Latos-Cueto-Leake-Cingrani.
            Now add in Chapman, if our assumptions are correct. Something will have to give.
            And if the Reds get a young ML SP in return in a trade, two things might have to give.
            Bailey, Leake, or even Cueto could then possibly end up going to Anaheim for Trumbo.

          • @WVRedlegs: I guess I don’t understand why in the world the Reds would be looking for a SP in return for any trade they might be making. By any standard, the Reds are totally stacked in the pitching department. They were one of the best teams in baseball in terms of pitching last year and faltered down the stretch because of lack of offense. So why on earth would they trade offensive players for starting pitching just to put someone like Cingrani in the bullpen? I mean if the personnel rounds out the way you suggest, I wouldn’t disagree with your allocation of it…I just can’t imagine for a second that what you suggest is Walt’s plan.

          • @eric nyc: I’ll qualify that by saying any SP that isn’t a legitimate ace. If David Price is on the block, maybe I see something crazy happening where Leake and/or Bailey go somewhere in addition to a major flux of position players. It’s unlikely, but a rotation of Cueto/Latos/Price/Chapman would be pretty sick. But what you’re suggesting is basically bringing in Leake-level (read: good but not amazing) pitchers into a rotation that’s overflowing with those type of guys already.

      • @eric nyc: Agreed. Only way I could accept Cingrani in the bullpen is if he pitches 100-110 innings. None of this 65 inning closer business.

        He is a 24-year-old who just came off a season where he had 18 stats, 10.3 K/9, and a sub-3.00 ERA. Unless he’s pitching 100 or more innings in the bullpen, I would much rather him be in Louisville starting and getting more polish on his other pitches and building up stamina to be able to handle 200 or more innings as a starter.

        • @ToddAlmighty: Cingrani starts. Chapman Starts

          Agreed that they should have traded Hannigan a year ago for maximum value.

          That is why Leake is my #1 candidate to be traded, because you don’t trade Jay Bruce.

          I see upside for every other player and trading them would be trading low

          • @reaganspad: Trade a pitcher or not. Put Cingrani in the rotation or bullpen. It doesn’t matter. There are several things this team can do, all of which puts them in a better position than last year. I know this sounds crazy, but let me explain. It begins and ends with Cingrani.

            Cueto, Latos, and Bailey are all #1s and if health go to the rotation. Leake has earned his spot in the rotation from his performance last year in addition to the fact he is the only change of pace pitcher in the rotation. If they choose to move Chapman to the rotation, well, he will be in the rotation.

            That’s 5.

            I believe Cingrani should start on the 25-man. He doesn’t help the team in Louisville and no matter whether he’s in the bullpen or rotation he helps the club. If someone gets injured, they can bring up Reineke or another pitcher they’ve picked up in FA for depth to act as the long man for Cingrani as he gets stretched out conserving innings so that he can pitch late into the season. If Cingrani goes in to the rotation, there are a a few young arms they can bring up to fill Cingrani’s spot in the bullpen (Reineke, Stephenson, perhaps a couple others).

            If they trade one of their #1s, Cingrani goes to the rotation and the team picks up a pitcher from a rich FA pitching market for depth. There are several pitchers out there ranging from 1-5. I think because of the youth pitching movement throughout the majors there may likely be serviceable pitchers without a chair when the music stops and some good pitchers finding themselves on the waiver wire at the end of Spring Training.

            Cingrani is a wonderful asset to have in this situation and brings a lot of flexibility to the equation.

      • @eric nyc: I agree with you about Cingrani, but what lesson did we learn with Chapman? He was a serviceable closer and the Reds did well with him in that role. Whether or not he can be an effective starter is unknown at this point. I’m glad that he (apparently) will be given a real shot at it, but I think that, as of now, many of us are assuming conclusions that are unproven.

  22. Chapman’s personal catcher? There is little evidence to suggest this is the case. Pena has handled Scherzer, Sanchez and Verlander who all had avg. FBv above the 93 mph. He is Cuban. Chapman worked out with Pena in the past. Okay…. Why does that mean that Pena will become Chapman’s personal catcher when Chapman moves into the starting rotation?

    It isn’t as though Hanigan couldn’t catch Chapman, or there aren’t other pitchers on the team with plus speed, or other pitchers on this team that speak Spanish.

    This sounds like wishful thinking to me.

    Pena seems to fill the role of a decent backup catcher. He is a switch hitter, has handled very good staffs in the past, is cost effective, and speaks Spanish. Sounds like that’s about it.

    I think the interesting aspect of the deal is that Mesoraco will be the primary catcher. His innings have increased every year and if Pena catches in the 500 range, as he did last season then Mesoraco should get over 1000, which would rank him in the top 10 of full innings caught. He’s steadily increased every year with 782 last season, so a jump to 1000 is probably obtainable.

  23. Pena seems to be a bigger improvement offensively over hanigan than i think we’re all giving him credit for. I know those numbers maybe skewed a little but still. I think Hanigan was only getting worse at the plate and his nagging injuries have been a sign of concern. I really like the move, mostly for what Steve said “disrupting the current culture of starting pitchers assigned to specific catchers”. I’ve always hated the idea that a pitcher is assigned a catcher. If there is anyone that can teach a catcher how to handle a pitching staff, It’s MR PRICE.

  24. At first I was bummed, cause Hanigan, even a poor hitting Hanigan, would be great as a back up. But I think that perhaps this is a respect move by Cincinnati to trade Hanigan where he would get way more playing time.

    It looks like Mesoraco will be starting 4 out of 5 days this coming season, which would will mean they only need a back up to come in once, maybe twice a week. Obviously Hanigan is the superior catcher between himself and Peña, and he deserves better than the Reds can offer at this point. There are a few teams he could possibly start for, or at least be part of a significant platoon.

    However, in the sprit of fielding the best team you can, I don’t like the move. Hanigan is better than Peña, even on a down offensive year, so he makes the team better as a whole. So in that regard, I’m not for the idea of getting rid of Hanigan unless they get something useful in return.

  25. From Brian MacPherson/Providence Journal…

    For a Boston team that figures to be in the mix for Brian McCann, the Pena deal with Cincinnati opens a new option for a catcher to pair with Ross next season.

    That leaves Ryan Hanigan out of the Reds’ roster picture — and makes him available for a catcher-needy team like the Red Sox.

    In a catching market where rumors are suggesting McCann could get $100 million, there’s no doubt Boston will explore a deal in which they could cash in some of their minor-league inventory for a more low-profile option like Hanigan.

    Where Hanigan offers significant value is on the defensive side. He’s led the National League in back-to-back years in caught-stealing percentage, throwing out more than 40 percent of the runners he’s had a chance to throw out in back-to-back seasons. He’s also believed to get strong marks in the sometimes nebulous pitch-framing department.

    After playing out a three-year deal that bought out two of his salary-arbitration years, Hanigan is eligible for arbitration this winter. He’ll be a free agent after next season. He was paid $2.05 million in 2013 and doesn’t figure to cost more than $3 million in 2014. He also doesn’t figure to cost a ransom in prospects — even if the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays get into the mix, as they figure to do.

    Folks, Hanigan has value and I’m confident that WJ will find out just how much value. This has the makings of a very fun off season.

  26. From Ken Rosenthal (take it for what it’s worth)…

    …the Dodgers, according to major-league sources, are listening on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, telling prospective suitors, “If you’re interested in one of them, make us an offer.”

    Kemp, who appeared in only 73 games, recently underwent surgery on his left ankle. His value obviously is down. But some rival officials say the Dodgers are more eager to move him than Ethier or Crawford.

    “None of those contracts can be moved without (the Dodgers) taking on salary,” one rival exec announced.

    Aquiring Kemp is the kind of move that a creative GM and owner can get all gooshy over. The Old Cossack has been eyeing this situation since Kemp went on the DL last season. Before the ankle, Kemp was returning to his old form following a serious shoulder injury. There is risk, but I believe the possible reward of getting Kemp in a return to health and form far outweighs the risk of additional injury, and the Dodgers are definitiely selling low, like bargain basement (at least as far as someone with Kemp’s value might sink) low. If the Dodgers eat $30MM (that’s $5MM per season) off Kemp’s contract, would the Reds be able to find budget space for his contract? Imagine slotting Kemp between Votto and Bruce, as the #2, #3 & #4 hitters, in Cincinnati’s lineup.

    • @Shchi Cossack: Shchi, I don’t like that deal. Even with Dodgers knocking of $5M per in your scenario, that’s still leaves $16M+ per year for 6 more years, which I would rather spend on Choo, a healthy player than an injury risk like Kemp, who also rates in some measures even worse defense in CF than Choo. Plus whatever prospects it would cost on top of the salary.

  27. From Ken Rosenthal, via Twitter…

    #Reds further boost their catching depth, signing Max Ramirez to a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league camp.

    That’s the deal that replicates the Olivo signing last season and provides some additional emergency catching depth for the organization. Pena was signed as the backup catcher for the 25 man roster.

  28. @Shchi Cossack:I did not know that he was available, or are you hoping. Unless he is very expensive, I cannot see any reason to trade him.

  29. With Bronson Arroyo definitely moving on and it looking likely that BP and Ryan Hanigan going to be moved, the 2014 Reds are definitely going to look different. Those three have been with the Reds for a long time and it’s going to feel a bit weird with them gone, if it comes to be.

  30. I’d like to hear some more about the Reds top minor leaguers. Is there anyone with these changes ready to make the jump.

    I was thinking that part of maybe the Reds wanting to move Phillips could be that they think Henry Rodriquez could be a decent MLB bat.

    If this Tucker Barnhart is really this close and looks like he could stick, I could understand perhaps moving Hanigan.

    I don’t think necessarily Ryan Hanigans off year at the plate really dropped his value. I think clubs are going to look at that early injury and how he played in the second half. Hanigan got a lot of media attention in various places about how smart a catcher and good with working with pitchers he is. That said, I think he was most valuble when he was paired in a straight split of time with Ramon Hernandez. Not catching every day seemed to help both of those players get the most out of their game. Hanigan has a been a bit more knicked up these past couple years playing more games.

  31. Off subject but I went to the red hot stove league at holy Grail at the banks on Tuesday and it was pretty good time wondering if anybody else’s been and what they think

  32. Saying this is the end of Hanigan here is nothing but speculation. It could be the end of Devin here. Ryan did have a down year offensively. And, he may very well work the pitchers better defensively. And, Devin probably has more trade value.

    Until another move is made, all we have is 3 catchers on the main roster. I don’t see us keeping all three. But, I could see us dealing either Devin or Ryan. From what I see, most likely, another move will be made. To assume it is Ryan is only speculation, but definitely possible.

  33. If this is the end of Hanigan in a Reds uniform, I hate this move.

    Giving up a great defensive catcher coming off a low-BABIP season for an average-at-best defender coming off a high-BABIP season doesn’t make any sense.

    • @vanwilder8: You’re missing the point. Pena isn’t going to see NEARLY the playing time Hanigan did. Not by a long shot. Mes gets more playing time, Pena is an actual backup, not a platoon. Maybe he catches Chapman, as theorized, so that’s one game a week. It saves the team payroll money and they can get something in return for Hanigan. Makes perfect sense. More offensive production from the catcher position as a unit, less payroll, more talent in the organization.

      • @eric nyc: Not missing the point at all.

        Hanigan’s ability to hit didn’t just disappear overnight. His career BABIP is .283. His 2013 BABIP was .216. Think that wrist injury had anything to do with that?

        When so-called “smart”, successful teams are the ones interested in Hanigan because they value his defensive skills, it says to me that the Reds are still behind the curve.

        • @vanwilder8: They’re also teams that don’t have a Devin Mesoraco already on the roster who needs to be getting 75% of the starts. By every single possible offensive metric, Mes is a better player than Hanigan. Yes, Hanigan is a very good defensive catcher, but that doesn’t come close to making up for the dropoff in offense from Mes. You don’t see teams like the Giants and Cardinals in the mix for Hanigan. You see teams liek the Red Sox who don’t have a guy who is definitely the full time starter of the future.

  34. For some reason I had it in my head that Chapman still had 2 years left on his contract, but I just realized that 2015 is actually a $5 million player option. That means really this is Chapman’s contract year. As excited as I would be to see him start, I still think ultimately that trading him now is the right move. At best we could expect to get maybe 160 innings out of him this year. If it doesn’t work, he’ll want to go back to being a closer and some team will give him a huge contract. If it does work he’ll command a ton of money as a starter and some team will give him a huge contract. Either way it won’t really be worth it to the Reds to get involved in either of those bidding wars – we definitely don’t need to spend more money on the back end of our bullpen and we have better options to spend money on starters in Bailey and Latos who have a longer track record of success. I guess the only other option is that Chapman is just sort of blah in which case maybe he takes the player option, but if that’s the case then there’s been an awful lot of hand wringing around here for years over nothing.

    I still say if you can get Stanton for Chapman+ then pull the trigger. Maybe Chapman/Hanigan does it. Chapman/BP almost definitely would, although I’d think we would ask for something else in return – maybe a pitching prospect.

    • @eric nyc: I am pretty sure the $5M is option is because he qualifies for arbitration now and the $5M is rolled into a bonus. The Reds still have 3 years of control left. Per B-Ref and Cots, both imply 2017 when he becomes a free agent.

      Key phrase from Cots site, “if Chapman qualifies for arbitration after 2013, $3M is converted to a bonus and he becomes arbitration-eligible”.

      • @doctor: I read the same site. Took it to mean that after 2014 he would be a free agent if he declined the player option. If I’m wrong and we still have 3 years of team control left then it’s a different story, but that doesn’t sound right.

        • @eric nyc: The key here is MLB service time. Chapman cannot have the minimum required 6 years MLB service time after the 2014 sesaon. If he declines the option his status therefore reverts to arbitratioon eligible.

          Because of the time he spent in the minor leagues on the front end of the contract, Chapman will not have the required 6 years of MLB service time to be a free agent until after the 2016 season. The only way he is a free agent sooner is if he is nontendered or waived and clears.

  35. This Tampa Bay blogger makes a good case for the Rays go after Hanigan.

    He does make a typical blogger mistake in proposing an unneeded spare piece for a player of value. The Reds can get better than a mediocre SS prospect who has a less than average glove for Hanigan. They already have a young, inexpensive SS who is one of the better fielders in the game.

  36. Given the BoSox are likely to lose Saltalwhatever and may sign Beltran, Nava may be expendable. If Walt could swing Hanigan (and a little something) for Nava, that sets up a straight LF platoon and, if Ludwick can’t hack it, Nava could play more (he is a switch hitter who is stronger from the left side). Then, a phillips + for Gardner could set up a BHam at 2b situation. Plus, this entire scenario cuts payroll and frees up money for the bench.

    • @Drew Mac: Sounded ok, until you said Bham at 2B situation.

    • @Drew Mac: The BoSox also have Carp, who is probably a better everyday OF prospect than Nava, but the are also losing Ellsbury. Nava may be avaiable and Hanigan could certainly be part of such a trade, but I’m not sure LF is near the top of WJ’s off-season priorities.

      With the early results for Ervin & Winker, the Old Cossack has also considered the possibility of moving Hamilton to 2B, but the first priority is to get Hamilton’s hitting up to major league readiness.

  37. I don’t share the same optimism about Mesoraco as most on here. He has a bit of pop from time to time but I haven’t seen enough yet to warrant full time starting. Perhaps he can learn to hit, as Molina has done. He is too “pull-happy” IMO.
    If he had the Pudge Rodriquez/Molina hitting approach, (drive the ball to the right side), I’d have more faith in starting him everyday.

  38. Let’s clear the air here. Dusty is gone and so is Brook Jacoby if you believe reports. Can another hitting coach turn many of our young hitters into better hitters? I believe that the right person can do a lot for the entire team. I do not see Mr. Jocketty going after Hager…really? A marginal SS with a suspect bat and he is not even played at Triple A level yet. I would love for the Reds to somehow get Desmond Jennings from the Rays but that would take a lot. He could play left or center and he has raw speed not Billy Hamilton speed but he can move. He also has pop in his bat. The Rays are “pitching rich” in the minor leagues and have several guys one step away in Durham. They could trade one of their starters to the Reds like Jeremy Hellickson and that would open the door to a Bailey trade. I am certain that Mr. Jocketty is on the verge of making a huge deal because when things that cannot be explained begin to happen, you know that the caldron is bubbling.

  39. If I may float an idea:

    I think the Reds should do something different with their coaching.

    They should rotated assistant hitting and pitching coaches in and out of Cincinnati to work with the big club to learn how to be better coaches and learn the new team hitting and pitching philosophies. They come to Cincinnati to be students of the new order then take that message where players are being developed.

  40. I think much of what is being said here is micro management. I believe that there are going to be some pretty big changes in the works. At the same time, there are prospects coming along in the minors so that anybody brought in comes with the stipulation that they may be blocking a prospect in the next year or two. We do not know how the Reds feel about players or how long it will be before some of them are ready. For instance, bringing in another starter blocks two of the Reds best prospects, there are three good prospects close to major league ready in the OF, Barnhardt looks like he might be an option in a year or so, etc.

    My feeling is that for the first time in a couple of years, Jocketty has carte blanche to remodel this team. He has a new manager who may favor giving more kids a chance to prove themselves, the coaching staff is in flux, and he has the ability to trade from strength to get pieces. The Yankees are not stupid enough to lose Cano, so Phillips to NY does not make sense. The Braves would love to get Phillips, but would have to pony up some players or prospects to land him. I do not think they have something the Reds really want unless it is someone like Heyward-and that is not going to happen.
    What I am getting at is hold on to your hats it is going to be pretty interesting to see who will be on this club at the end of ST.

  41. @TC: @reaganspad: A lot of the angst regarding the pitching staff is based on how the pitch staff was handled by the previous management. The Old Cossack sincerely hopes that the old philosophies regarding handling a pitching staff will change drastically undet Bryan’s management regime. How Bryan will naange the pitching staff remains to be seen, but hopefully the discussion of his willingness and abilty to embrace best of the old and new based on proper evaluation will bring positive changes. Until WJ has the roster for 2014 established, the Old Cossack will hold off on jumping to any conclusions. Everything points to some significant changes to the roster and hopefully the organizational approach during this offseason. There will be a proper role for everyone on the team in 2014, I really believe that until proven otherwise. Right now, the Old Cossack’s mantra is ‘In Bryan We Trust’. WJ and Bryan are now running the show with full accountability and full credit. How long until pitchers and catchers report?!

  42. I think it’s pretty clear that Walt Jocketty has taken a long hard look at the roster and determined Ryan Hanigan is a clubhouse cancer that must be removed…

    Okay, not really. Hanigan is just an attractive trade piece that other teams might value more than the Reds do.

    I also would like to point out that Dusty & Walt Jocketty did Ryan Hanigan no favors by not DLing him when he opened the season injured. The entire situation was absurd. You have a promising young rookie who was crushing the ball in spring training, and you sit him down for the first 8 games of the season in favor of an injured career backup catcher (albeit a good one). Instead of immediately sitting him, you create a situation where the injury lingers potentially all season.

  43. I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that Hanigan will be moved. I’ve been a Mes supporter for years, but the Reds could decide Mes gets them the most value. They’ll be effectively punting getting offense from their catcher, but you have to give up value to get value.

    Mes should still be a pretty attractive option for a lot of teams. He hasn’t broken out by any means, but he has shown flashes of why he was once an elite prospect, in a extremely difficult, Dusty-created situation.

    • @CP: Others have pointed out that Hanigan’s offensive futility could very likely be injury related. He was an effective and patient hitter until this past year. It’s also important to consider that, no matter who starts at catcher, he will need a number of days off. If the back-up is poor defensively, it’s going to hurt. The Reds spent something like 10 years trying the good hit/poor field experiment: it didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

  44. I suppose this is the consensus view here, but one would have to assume that this deal was NOT made in a cloakroom in Barbados. Price most certainly was in on the discussions.

    In fact, I would not be surprised if they knew this deal was workable before Price was even announced as manager.

    What it suggests is that Price will continue to work with the pitching staff from the front to the back, meaning he has a strategy for his catchers that includes Pena, or somebody like him. The money involved here is spare change to the team, so I don’t read any salary issues into it.

    What that also suggests is that Hanigan apparently doesn’t fit Price’s idea of how a catcher ought to handle his staff. Seems odd to us, because I think everyone is on board with the idea that Hanigan does a nice job with pitchers.

    Could be, Price does not agree or — specifically — thinks Mesoraco and Pena can do it better.

    It may not be all that complex, but … hey … it’s the hot stove we’re gathered ’round here.

  45. I wish the best for Ryan, but I think our future is Mesaraco and Barnhart. I read this as a signal to see Mez catch 130-140 games.

    • @msanmoore: 140 is a LOT of games for a catcher … and by the end of August, you will wish you had Javy Valentin on the bench.

  46. Reds Reporter had a “mock” winter meetings section (before Pena singing). Here are the results (and quite interesting). I personally think it sounds like a pipe dream, but anyways…

    Non-tendered OF Xavier Paul
    Non-tendered C Corky Miller
    Traded 2B Brandon Phillips to LAD for P Zach Lee
    Traded 1B/3B Neftali Soto to TBR for OF David DeJesus
    Traded OF Ryan Ludwick, P Tony Cingrani to SEA for 2B Nick Franklin
    Signed OF Curtis Granderson to 4 year, $68 million contract
    Signed IF Paul Janish to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
    Signed C Corky Miller to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
    Signed Grady Sizemore to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
    Signed P Bronson Arroyo to 1 year, $9 million contract w/club option for 2015 at $10 million ($1 million buyout)
    Signed IF Willie Bloomquist to 1 year, $1 million contract
    Signed P Aaron Harang to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
    Signed P Manny Parra to 1 year, $800 K contract
    Signed IF Kevin Frandsen to minor league deal with invite to Spring Training
    Traded P Logan Ondrusek to Houston for some minor league pitcher we’ll never hear from again

    25 man next year:
    IF: Joey Votto, Nick Franklin, Zach Cozart, Todd Frazier, Willie Bloomquist, Jack Hannahan
    OF: Jay Bruce, David DeJesus, Curtis Granderson, Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson
    C: Ryan Hanigan, Devin Mesoraco
    SP: Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo
    RP: Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra


    What ya guys think of this?

    • @rfay00: Anything that brings Willie Bloomquist into the fold sounds great to me.

    • @rfay00:
      Hard to believe any west coast team would want Ludwick after his venture in San Diego. They must believe throwing in Cingrani is enough to get someone to eat the last year of Ludwick’s contract.

      • @MikeC: If the Reds are willing to deal Cingrani now, it signals they see a problem with his mechanics. Dumping young rotation pitchers for position players seems like really bad strategy to me, regardless of payroll.

    • @rfay00:
      With the winter meeting getting ready to commence, I’m anticipating some blockbuster dealings over the next two weeks. Regading the 2B situation for the Reds…

      Nick Franklin (age 22/switch hitter):
      5 years in minor leagues (.287/.360/.459), .979 fld% @ 2B

      Henry Rodriguez (age 23/switch hitter:
      7 years in minor leagues (.297/.344/.413), .973 fld% @ 2B

      Both players struggled initially at AAA and both players finished strong at the AAA level. I don’t see a dramatic difference between the two players.

      I don’t know if Rodriguez opened some eyes among the Reds decision makers with his blazing finish at AAA in 2013 (.386/.445/.421 in 128 PA with 0 errors playing mostly 2B), but he certainly got the Old Cossack’s attention.

    • @rfay00: I’ve been a DeJesus fan for a long time, thought he was worth going after in August.

  47. I do like the looks of that lineup. And Grady Sizemore might be shrewd if he can be healthy.


    The Reds signed catcher Max Ramirez to a minor-league deal Friday. Ramirez owned a .263/.336/.375 slash line with nine homers and 55 RBI at Triple-A Omaha in 2013. He will likely get an invitation to spring training along with his deal.

  49. What has been Aroldis Chapman’s biggest knock, or weakness? Maturity. He can get upset quickly. This guy Pena is being brought in to help keep Chapman on an even keel for 6-7 innings a start 34 times a season. Not to get upset when the ump is giving him calls he thinks he should be getting of the ump squeezing the strike zone on him. There must had been a consensus amongst the decision makers that Pena was the guy for the job. Comfort level for Chapman and for the front office.
    This all about putting Chapman in the best position to succeed as a starter like he has as a reliever. It also is about putting Mes in a position to succedd tot, for him. Hanigan just became the odd guy out, nothing really against him and his abilities as a C.

    • @WVRedlegs: Spot-on. . . There is a cultural divide here that we have to consider as well. As you stated, having Pena may help to keep Chapman’s head right during the game. While I am not generally in favor of “special treatment” for any one pitcher, how many guys have Chapman’s potential?

  50. I think this offseason is going to hurt a little. But I also thing we’ll be happy with the result. I trust WJ. My only worry is a likely dip into the minor league talent pool.

    • @TC: what I mean is the Reds now have two nice chips to deal. But prospects will likely go with them to get the value they need back.

      • @TC: The sandwich pick for Choo could be an interesting conversation.

      • @TC: I had been wondering why we would trade Phillips now as it seems like we would be selling low. Sorry for whoever posted this before, but I understand it now. Brandon becomes untradeable not because of his contract or performance next year but because of a union negotiation:

        Phillips becomes a “10-and-5 player” — 10 years of big league service with at least the past five with one club — and would get no-trade protection

  51. Passan of Yahoo says the Cards and Rockies may team up in a trade that brings Tulo to Stl.

    Sounds scary but the speculated price for him would be Adams, Miller, and a few B level prospects. I would be all for the Cards paying that price!

    • @rightsaidred: That yarn (and THOSE players) has been floating around since the World Series ended, so while there may be some truth to it … it’s also another scribe trying to stoke the clickthroughs. I can’t believe the Rocks would unload Tulo.

      • @Johnu1: I’d say Passan isn’t usually one to float things just for the sake of floating them. Not that everyone can be immune to the pressure to create the “clicks”… I’ve found his reporting to be pretty solid and thoughtful. Even if it doesn’t happen, it sounds like the talks are real in an of themselves, and that’s a pretty big deal. Now if it were a Cardinal beat writer, I’d be yawning.

    • @rightsaidred: Tulo is an excellent SS and hitter, but he plays his home games at Coors Field. His split at home is .314/.387/.547 & his split away is .276/.348/.471, still good but significantly reduced away from Coors Field. Tulo is a 29 year old SS entering the meat of his long term contract (7 years @ $20MM per) and had injury problems over the past 2 seasons. If I were O’Dowd, I would continue to deny that Tulo was available and look for the 1st opportunity to move him for a haul.

      Passan also references the possibility of the Birds going after Profar or Andrus. Any of those three trades are frought with sinkholes, risky and expensive.

  52. With the signing of Brayan Pena, does this signal Chapman as a middle of the order pitcher? Previously the Reds have tried to mix and match power throwers and offspeed guys. Having a platoon catcher also is helpful to give the starter a day off without catching 4 straight days.

    IF, Chapman is in the rotation, where do you stick him?

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.


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