If you’re tired of reading about the Reds’ disastrous off-season, here’s a sympathetic heads-up to skip this post. Suggestions: Review your notes about wRC+, turn on the Olympics, read this or listen to this.
But otherwise, you’ve received fair notice.
Yesterday we learned there is an enormous gap between what the Reds are offering Homer Bailey and what the pitcher wants for a contract extension. If the Reds have come to the conclusion that they’d rather work on extensions for Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, I get it. (Although if that’s the case, I’m not sure it’s a great idea to have Bob Castellini say at a caravan event that it would be a “huge disappointment” if the Reds let Homer get away.)
But if the Reds are genuinely trying to sign Bailey, then what’s up with the Grand Canyon-sized split? Bailey’s performance isn’t a mystery to the Reds. There are plenty of roughly comparable contracts out there. How could the valuations of the two sides be so far apart?
Let’s look at the context. Since the Reds traded for Shin-Soo Choo on December 11, 2012, the organization has made these decisions and key judgements:
• Failed to implement a Plan B to replace their clean-up hitter, Ryan Ludwick, who suffered a severe shoulder injury on Opening Day.
• Did nothing at the 2013 trade deadline. In the middle of a pennant race, the Reds were the only team in the major leagues that couldn’t figure out a single way – large or small – to improve their club.
• Declined to block the Pirates from acquiring Marlon Byrd. Walt Jocketty reportedly explained at one of the caravan events that he didn’t want to take on Byrd’s contract and that he didn’t think Pittsburgh would select the outfielder. Hmm. That month of Byrd’s contract would have cost $116,000. And I learned that fact reading one of the reports detailing that the Pirates, in fact, did select Byrd. In case you missed it, Byrd hit .318/.357/486 for Pittsburgh, leading them to the NLDS.
• Meanwhile, the Reds waited for Ryan Ludwick. After returning, the left-fielder predictably hit .240/.293/.326. In the marbles-on-the-table, season-ending series between the Pirates and Reds at GABP, Ludwick went 0-for-9 and Byrd went 6-for-9.
• The Reds didn’t make a bullpen move at the deadline; they instead relied on Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton’s return. Marshall made five appearances in September, pitching a total of three clean innings. One of those in a 10-0 win over the AAAstros. Broxton pitched 3.2 innings after June 15, none in September.
• Misanalyzed or misrepresented the market for Choo. As the 2013 season ended, Walt Jocketty said they would compete aggressively, do everything they could, to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo. Then they apparently came nowhere close to doing that. How could they have even entertained the notion while at the same time pleading poverty (there really isn’t much more we are in position to do) over much smaller moves?
• Once again, assigned Chapman to the bullpen for 2014. Joey Votto should put his Spanish lessons to good use and let Chapman know that the correct answer to the question: Do you prefer to start or pitch from the bullpen? is “Lo que el equipo necesita.” (Whatever the team needs.)
• Concluded (seriously, based on what evidence?) that Billy Hamilton can lead off and play centerfield for the Reds.
That’s a bleak year of organizational decision-making and execution.
Back to the situation with Homer Bailey. It goes without saying that we don’t the know the details and press leaks are often designed to influence the final stages of negotiations. Maybe Homer’s demands are objectively unreasonable because, in contrast to what he’s stated publicly, he really doesn’t want to play for the Reds. There’s always a chance they’ll announce a deal tomorrow.
But another real possibility is that the Reds are blowing this one, too.
Given the past year, my confidence is at a low point. Underestimating the Choo contract, overvaluing Phillips’ worth in the trade market, undervaluing Grady Sizemore, overestimating what relief pitchers are worth, the list horrifyingly goes on. You wonder what has happened to the ability of the Reds’ front office to come up with accurate values for players, to anticipate the market and then to execute a reasonable negotiation. The last twelve months have fueled a growing perception that they are no longer functioning as a modern baseball operation.
Is that serial failure playing out once again in the negotiation with Homer Bailey?