2016 Reds

Getting the next month right

July is a make-or-break month for The Rebuild.

The Reds front office will confront many decisions that will have a profound impact on the club and its future success. It wouldn’t be a shocker to learn that “July 2016” is the thickest section of the Rebuild Binder, filled with scratch outs, post-it notes and revisions.

That would present as a high-wire situation in normal circumstances. But the Reds have also chosen this time to change the front office guard. You’d expect decision-making to already be shifting from Walt Jocketty to Dick Williams. It is Williams now who will live with each choice on the back of his baseball card. It’s hard to imagine anything of importance being decided against his opinion. But who knows? Even at best, the transition has to be an organizational challenge. Don’t buy the inevitable PR spin that all the key players see things the same way. In fact, pray that they don’t.

Yet decisions loom in July that can’t and shouldn’t be put off.

So because I’m a helpful guy, I thought I’d offer them unsolicited advice.

These are the steps I would take over the next few months if I were in charge. Turns out there are thirteen of them. Just one guy’s opinion, mind you.

To be clear, this is about getting July right. We’ll leave the subsequent offseason and long-term for later. And if it isn’t already obvious, these suggestions aren’t what I think the Reds necessarily will do (although a fella can dream, right?), but rather what the club should do.

I’ll happily stipulate there is a mountain of internal information we don’t have. That knowledge likely invalidates many of these suggestions. But as Henry James wrote (and Hunter Thompson appropriated):

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Here we go!

Trade Jay Bruce for Bradley Zimmer

A month or so ago, it might have made sense for the Reds to talk to Bruce about a modest, 3-year extension. But the Reds right fielder followed the Johnny Cueto path. Bruce has played so well he’s priced himself out of what makes sense for the Reds to pay.

Just to the north a few hundred miles, Cleveland is in first place. The AL Central is competitive, including the defending World Series champions. The Royals recipe of adding key players at the deadline is out there for the world to see. The Cleveland baseball team must be eager, if not desperate, to repeat the success of the Cleveland basketball team. The Reds should take full advantage of that hunger.

The front office should do whatever necessary, including adding money to the deal, to acquire Bradley Zimmer. He’s a great outfielder who can play center. He has power, speed and a good batting eye. Zimmer (23) already has 10 homers and stolen 27 bases at AA this year. Zimmer is close to major-league ready. 2017 is a reasonable promotion goal. 2018 at the latest.

[Right here I’m going to interrupt and present a new Reds Hitter Acquisition Rule: No building block players should be acquired who do not have excellent plate discipline. Period. A 10 percent walk-rate in the minor leagues is a decent threshold. No exceptions. BTW, Zimmer has a 14.8% walk-rate.]

BruceAP

Photo: LM Otero/AP

There were reports that the Reds asked for Zimmer during the Todd Frazier negotiations. Does that prove Cleveland won’t trade him? No. There are a few huge differences. First, Cleveland is now in first place and drafting off the confetti-soaked intoxication from LeBron & Co. Second, you can make a case that Bruce has more value right now than Todd Frazier did last offseason. Bruce is left-handed. Frazier was coming off a couple terrible months of hitting that raised questions. Bruce has had a consistent and excellent three months. In the abstract, third basemen may be more scarce. But teams need what they need. And Cleveland needs an OF.

Of course, the Reds could have taken Bradley Zimmer in the 2014 draft. But the front office had its “can’t have too much pitching” thumb on the “best available player” scale. So, instead they chose Nick Howard with the #19 pick, a relief pitcher with plans to convert him into a starter. Cleveland took Zimmer two picks later.

Bruce wouldn’t be a rental for Cleveland. His contract comes with a $13 million option for 2017 attached. Bruce is on pace for a 3+ WAR offensive season. 3 WAR is worth $24 million on the open market.

One holdup might be that Bruce put Cleveland on his no-trade list this year. That gives him added leverage if he chooses to use it. Once it becomes clear he’s going to be moved, Bruce might be willing to go with a team in first place. Cleveland was just added to his list this year, so it’s not like Bruce has a life-long aversion to northern Ohio.

Talk to Zack Cozart about a cheap extension

Zack Cozart may agree to a 3-year deal (it would include 2017, his final year of arbitration), which would take him through his age-32 season. He might like the security. If the Reds offered $23 million over three years, Cozart might do it. The gamble for Cozart is if he starts slumping at the plate, he won’t find a multi-year deal when he becomes a free agent. That amount wouldn’t be a bad price for the Reds to lock up a reliable shortstop through the 2019 season.

Cozart

Photo: Sam Greene/Cincinnati Enquirer

But the Reds should still shop Zack Cozart and be willing to trade him if the offer is good. Don’t move him now to clear salary next year. Cozart can always be traded in the offseason. Yes, it’s a valid concern that he may backslide at the plate before the end of the season. But I doubt other teams are convinced there’s a new, improved hitting Zack just yet. If you aren’t, why would they be? In fact, it could take a couple more months of solid production to make Cozart’s case. The Reds might get a much better return in the offseason. Cozart will be traded for his glove mostly anyhow.

Shop Dan Straily

Dan Straily is not going to be a starting pitcher long-term for the Reds. That’s not because of any inherent weakness in his game or due to the approaching regression to his career numbers (although that’s coming). In fact, it’s his credibility as a starter that makes him available to trade. Straily won’t be a starter long-term for the Reds because of the other pitchers in the organization who are better.

Any time you can trade a pitcher to another club as a starter when you are going to use him as a reliever, you should. Straily is a legit Epstein Flip candidate.

But there’s no urgency to trade Straily if the return isn’t there. He’s 27 and not eligible for arbitration until 2018. He’d be a solid, experienced arm in the bullpen. But again, relievers are worth less than starters. Trade him if another team values him as a starter. Straily has been a nice surprise, but trade him if you can.

Play Jose Peraza every day

Now we get to playing time issues. It’s really simple. The Reds have to decide if they are fully committed to rebuilding. If they are, there is simply no good excuse to not find their top infield prospect consistent playing time.

636018091362949446-USATSI-9346042

Photo: Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports

That could be at shortstop if the Reds trade Zack Cozart. Better, Peraza should be at second base. But where he plays right now isn’t crucial. That he plays every day is. Remember, we’re just getting through July. We don’t need all the answers now.

Phexit

I’ll spare you the gory statistics. You know them by now. Brandon Phillips has not been good this year. In fact, he has been one of the worst offensive players in the major leagues. Phillips had been in steady decline for several years until he had a bit of a resurgence last summer. That blip seems to be in the past and Dat Dude is back on the steady downward trajectory. Nothing against him, it’s just part of aging. Father Time undefeated, yada, yada.

Phillips’ defense has become ordinary according to many defensive metrics (and my eyeball test). Sure, he makes a great play every once in a while. But you know what? So do other second basemen. I promise. Jose Peraza, who is vastly more athletic than Phillips now, would make them.

Photo: MLB.com

Photo: MLB.com

Brandon Phillips is 34. He will not be on the Reds next contending team. This off-season, he refused at least two trade offers, which was his right. But it’s also the club’s right to sit him for a yes, better player regardless of his status. If the Reds told him he was going to be benched, he might approve a trade. Although it’s hard to imagine him having positive trade value now.

Again, are the Reds serious about Rebuild or do they care more about coddling veterans?

Play Jesse Winker every day

As soon as his wrist allows, Winker should be up with the Reds taking his lumps and learning about major league pitching. If he gets through that phase in his development this year, he might be prepared to be productive at the start of 2017.

A healthy Jesse Winker should be the Reds leadoff hitter. He has great OBP skills and some pop. Winker is the perfect kind of player to give the most at bats. Reaching that conclusion will require a sea change in the Reds organizational philosophy, though.

Key Point: The Reds front office must recognize that a hitter like Jesse Winker should bat first instead of a hitter like Billy Hamilton or Jose Peraza just because they are fast. On base skills and power trump speed. The Reds just spent a weekend celebrating the career of one of the greatest lead-off hitters of all time. His hitting prowess was plainly built on getting on base and more than 1000 extra-base hits. By this decision, where they bat Winker, we’ll know if the front office gets what they’ve been missing for nearly a decade. It’ll be a revealing litmus test.

If the Reds trade Bruce, that opens a spot in the outfield. Winker could also play left field if the Reds …

Try Adam Duvall at third base

Duvall played middle infield at the University of Louisville and third base in the San Francisco system. He split time between third and first with the Giants. Even if he isn’t great at third base he’s probably better than Suarez. Duvall should split time between left field and third base.

Duvall

Photo: Cara Owsley/Cincinnati Enquirer

Wait, doesn’t Nick Senzel, the Reds #1 draft pick play third base? Yes, the organization can deal with that when Senzel is major league ready in a couple years. The club knows that Duvall can move back to left field if that’s what they need. But the Reds should use Duvall at third base enough in the next few months to see if he could play there going forward.

Turn Eugenio Suarez into a utility player

Eugenio Suarez has had three months to learn third base. He’s no better there than he was at shortstop last year. What possible reason is there to believe Suarez will master a position that is brand new to him when he couldn’t field consistently at one he’d played forever?

I’m not saying the Reds should give up on him. He’s had nice streaks of hitting and has pop in his bat. If Suarez can play second, short and third and a passable outfield, then he’ll fill the role the Tigers (and Reds) thought he would when Suarez was acquired for Alfredo Simon – a utility player. And a nice one at that.

The Reds should work Suarez back in at shortstop if they trade Cozart and at second base once Phillips is out of the picture. Suarez could play occasionally in left field to add to his versatility. Keeping Suarez exclusively at third base the rest of the year seems like a missed opportunity more than due diligence.

Call up Robert Stephenson

Robert Stephenson should be promoted to take John Lamb’s spot in the rotation. The starting five by the end of July should be: Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and Stephenson. If Dan Straily isn’t traded by the deadline, he should be moved to the bullpen. John Lamb should receive occasional starts where needed and be the next in line if/when starters get shut down or skipped because of innings limits.

John Lamb is hard to figure out. When I think about whether he would best be a starter or reliever I go back and forth – often during the same at bat. I could see him being an effective lefty out of the bullpen. But he may turn into a credible back-end starter. See previous comment about trading pitchers who other clubs could use as a starter when you’re going to use them in the bullpen.

Make Michael Lorenzen the closer now

Tony Cingrani hasn’t proven he can be the closer in the long-term. He’s too inconsistent. Moved out of the closer role, Cingrani would provide value in innings where lefty specialists fit. It’s good to know that he can pitch the ninth inning if necessary, so the past two months have been a valuable experiment.

Lorenzen

Photo: Sam Greene/Cincinnati Enquirer

But the Reds should promote either Raisel Iglesias or Michael Lorenzen to the closer role. Of those two, Lorenzen’s stuff is more dominant. Iglesias isn’t far behind. They are both better pitchers than Cingrani. Meanwhile, it’s time to start de-emphasizing guys who aren’t going to figure in the Reds future, like Ross Ohlendorf.

Trade Amir Garrett for a stud shortstop

Garrett looks promising as a lefty starter. He’s shot up top prospects lists and through the Reds organization. Major league teams covet left-handed starters. The Reds should trade him for the best shortstop they can find. The club has several other promising starting pitchers in their system, like Rookie Davis. But they don’t have a can’t-miss shortstop. At some point, the Reds need to cash in on their bounty of arms. The club should be able to find a trade partner by dangling Garrett – either an established young major league shortstop or a similar level prospect. If Jay Bruce doesn’t snag a top outfield prospect, trading Garrett for one of those would work, too. Remember the 10% walk-rate rule.

Rethink plans in the international market

I’m going to defer to Doug Gray on this one. He knows more about the international signing guys than I do. To summarize, instead of going all in on a one-dimensional shortstop (one who massively violates our rule about plate discipline), the Reds should use their big stack of international signing money on well-rounded hitters with power and big-armed pitchers.

Fire Bryan Price

No, not FYRE BRYAN PRYCE!

Price should not be let go because of the bad performance and record of the Reds. He’s been dealt three-years of terrible hands due to injury and the Rebuild. Other than the time he put the F in frustration and the subsequent non-apology apology, Price has handled the stress and adversity pretty well, at least in public.

But Price is wedded to the way things are and were. He’s assigned players roles as he sees them fitting. If Price was willing to implement the above steps, I’d keep him the rest of the year. But I doubt he would. Bryan Price doesn’t strike me as the guy looking for new ways to do things. He’s batting Brandon Phillips THIRD for goodness sakes. It may not be fair to ask him to change.

Letting him go now might actually do Price some good. It would give him time to decompress before taking on his next job. You can only watch the bullpen for which you are accountable give up so many walks and home runs before you snap. Price is starting to look like a hostage during those late innings. Think of this July step as merciful.

Photo: Norm Hall

Photo: Norm Hall

In his place, the Reds should hire a manager who is willing to go along with these roster and position changes. It can be an interim hire. Not old-school Jim Riggelman. Not hometown hero Barry Larkin. It should be someone with a modern, open-minded understanding of baseball. Someone who likes working with young players.

***

Well that’s it – my view on how the Reds can get July right. Lots of moving parts and change. I’m optimistic the Reds have a good foundation of talent for the next competitive team. They still have moves to make, though. Important and lasting ones. Let’s hope they make the right calls. The next few weeks should be mighty interesting for Reds fans.

83 thoughts on “Getting the next month right

  1. Very interesting. So many good ideas that are so unlikely to be implemented. 😦

    Regarding Winker batting 1st: I love the idea. I think the odds of this happening are even lower than the odds of Phillips being benched in favor of Peraza, though.

    A few times this year, DeShields (a terrible manager, from what I can tell) has batted Winker as low as 7th in his AAA lineup. SEVENTH.

    The organization’s top hitting prospect losing at-bats in AAA to lifetime minor leagues. It’s mind boggling. If I were the Reds FO, I’d have DeShields on the phone saying “don’t bat Winker any lower than 3rd ever again or you’re fired.” It’s little things like this that add up in an organization and can become a big problem. Giving up the easy edge because “oh, it doesn’t matter that much.” Well, dozens of “it doesn’t matter” decisions every year can cripple a franchise.

    Thanks for the good Monday reading!

    • I’ve heard really discouraging things from a long-time employee in the Reds minor league system about the lack of coordination and accountability from the front office toward the affiliates. Hope the new regime develops a better centralized plan for working with players on specific areas of improvement. Plus, things like Winker batting seventh are terrible, as you point out.

      • Wait! Hold on!!! You mean that a team can have a centralized plan that they try their best to apply to every team across the entire organization??!! Wow… Mind… Blown…

      • Steve, that is the Reds’ biggest problem. I remember the days when the Reds knew who the top players at every position were in the whole majors. They had a plan. This organization does not have a concerted plan and it shows. Good times won’t come to the Rhineland again until the FO gets a clue.

    • The most disappointing part is if you can’t expect your affiliates to think outside the box, how can you expect the major league team to?

      The minor leagues are ripe for this kind of experimentation; lineup optimization, the development and utilization of a fireman or firemen relief pitchers, targeted and extreme shifting, quick hooks for starting pitchers going through a lineup the 3rd time.

      One of the criticisms you hear is “These guys have been doing it one way their entire life and now you want to change it.” Change it in the minors. Have a “Reds Way” of doing things that doesn’t involve signing St. Louis re-treads.

      Instead, the Reds have possibly the most “old school” manager in charge of the AAA team.

      • It’s funny that DeShields is so old school, given that he maintained a snazzy 11.3% walk rate for his entire pro career! Surprised he wasn’t hacking more trying to raise the ‘ol batting average.

        • Dusty Baker had a 9.5% walk-rate and Hank Aaron, Dusty’s ideal form had a 10.1% rate.

        • Joe Morgan walked over 16% of the time.

          I can understand the reticence of the older players. I’m sure they were paid based on hits/batting average/RBI/runs/stolen bases. Walks to them were the result of a failure by the pitcher to throw strikes.

          The more advanced stats seem to look at the “old school” knowledge and world view and just ask, “Is this true.” A lot of things they thought were true either aren’t, or are not as valuable as they believed. I can understand the frustration that would come from a bunch of people who never played past high school telling you, who reached the pinnacle of the sport, that you are wrong. It’s just up to organizations to either teach them and show them the evidence, or make sure they are not in positions of influence within the organization. Unfortunately, I don’t think Delino’s thinking is that far off from the rest of the Reds organization

  2. Imo Phillips would asked to be traded if he was benched. Not gonna get anything for him maybe a couple low level prospects. He needs to be gone regardless. Outstanding write up. I think one of the biggest keys to a turnaround is selecting the right manager. One who isn’t stuck in the 1970’s way of managing. I would like to see what Schebler can do for a extended look. At any OF spot. Like the idea short term of Duvall at 3b and Suarez as a Utl. guy. That move would open up LF for Schebler.

    • BP needs to be gone next year no matter what. However, him holding off Peraza in the minors has been a help so I am not ready to cut him loose yet. The ONLY reason the Reds kept Frazier and Chapman last year was to prevent an exodus of ticket buyers (which is stupid but its reality). BP functions the same way.

      • It’s difficult to believe that keeping Frazier and Chapman the second half of last year had much to do with ticket sales.
        By July 31, they had already sold most of the tickets they were going to sell and any incremental increase due to those 2 wouldn’t be enough to pay the difference between what they were paid and what 2 rookies would make. The math doesn’t jive.
        They likely kept Frazier because they thought his first half numbers were him…the last year has proven that wrong.
        Chapman is more complicated. Perhaps they didn’t like what they were actually offered for him or they decided that it was important to have a competent closer given that every start made the rest of the year would be by a rookie pitcher. We’ll never know.

        • Or, they were just plain stupid! The ticket sales was expressly stated by Walt as a reason, even if you think it is a bad reason.

  3. “Phexit” is a gem.

    I pretty much agree with most of this, except I wouldn’t trade Amir Garrett, whom I consider the Reds top prospect. Use Peraza at short if need be.

    My advice for the rest of the year is to go to a 6-man rotation. It gives them a good hard look at one more starting pitcher, plus it saves some innings on a staff full of pitchers who need their innings watched.

    Once they trade Bruce and bring up Winker, there wouldn’t seem to be any need to move Duvall to third this year. I could see Saurez in the Tony Phillips role, getting time at everywhere except catcher and centerfield. Saurez would have to buy into it, though.

      • I believe the 6 man rotation will be heavily discussed amongst multiple progressive thinking teams over the next 5-10 years. I envision a rotation that is like 5.5 man, with your long-man (think a Strailly type) stepping in every 2-3 trip through to ensure each man always gets 5-6 days rest. Sure you’re true (durable) ace could skip guys 5-6 and grab 30-35 starts but this would keep everyone else around 160 innings.

    • Amen. I consider every instance of BP batting in the top half of the order to be a sharp stick in the eye and solid reason to find something else to do with my evening.

      • Agree, hit him 7th. I hope Peraza is a SS so I would rather have BP manning 2B until we figure that out.

        • Concur with Peraza as a SS – assuming good fielding his line of .300/.310/.340 would be a lot more competitive at SS than 2B I suspect.

    • Yep but Price couldn’t resist inserting BHam into the #2 spot versus just pushing Bruce, Duvall, Suarez up one and dropping Peraza into the #6

  4. I’ve been saying the day is close to at hand when the Reds need to trade a top pitching prospect for a similar position guy. Still it was a gut punch to see Amir Garrett cast in that role. If it needs to be; so be it. However, I’d prefer it be any other LHP besides Reed or Garrett. Perhaps try Finnegan and Davis as a package first?

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t trade Garrett for anyone other than a top-50 type shortstop.

      • Given the relative dearth of position players who can hit, though, it might be hard to find a trade partner. I get your point about left-handed starters, so maybe it’s not out of the question. Agree with everything else and enjoyed the read–balm for another loss.

  5. Bruce should be resigned, sit BP and trade him when he gets angry on bench, duvall at 3b is interesting, and price gone yes, let delino have job for rest of year and if you rebuild go after a teacher but if they think they are close, try Larkin to help sell tickets. Team isn’t too far but when you trade pitching and a closer this is the results

    • If they are going to fire Price to signal a change in organizational philosophy then DeShields need to go as well. He is easily as old-school as they come. Embrace the bunt in other words.

    • There is no reason to believe that Larkin would sell tickets.

      In 1984, the Reds averaged 16,142 for the Vern Rapp games and 14,766 for the Rose games. Rose’s return created a 3 day lift and then things fell off a cliff….even though the team performed better.

      The following year, attendance was up 43%….of course, the team won 19 more games and had 2 September sell outs for 4192.

      Managers have virtually zero impact on anything, especially ticket sales.

  6. I’m more inclined to go on and move Cozart. I’d align the IF with Votto,3; Suarez,4; Peraza,6; Duvall,5 for now.

    I don’t think Phillips causes trouble if he is removed as the everyday 2B. His body language says he knows what’s going on with his skills. In fact if MBL had a buyout system, he’d probably take the buyout rather than go through the remaining season and a half.
    There was never going to be a better baseball situation for him than going to DC last off season. Either the rumors were correct that the deferred payments arrangement in his contract made it really difficult to settle; or, he made the decision for other than baseball reasons. Whichever way, linked with his decline this season, I don’t see him agreeing to move now. It will be up to the Reds whether to carry him on the bench or release him.

  7. Good work. Wide ranging array of ideas. Many to get behind.
    Love Phexit. Phexit=release and paying BP his money on Aug. 2 if no trade can be worked out.
    If Cleveland won’t let go of Zimmer maybe the Reds could pry away their other AA top OF prospect in Clint Frazier. Only 21 and his Major League ETA would be about the same as Senzel’s, 2018.
    Or maybe combine a couple or a few items into one item. Since the LAD and Hou are very interested in Bruce, an opportunity might arise for that stud SS. I am not enthusiastic about trading Garrett, but if we must. Maybe combine Bruce/Cozart/Garrett to LA Dodgers for SS Corey Seager .
    For Houston, maybe combine Bruce/Garrett/Lamb for SS Alex Bregman.
    I’d even be tempted to shop Suarez and possibly Peraza for higher OBP batters.
    A top-flight OF and SS this trading deadline would be nice.
    A baseball Christmas in July.

    • The Dodgers and Astros are run by very smart people. They’re not going to trade Seager or Bregman for an assortment of players headlined by Jay Bruce. They’re not looking to do something dumb to help the Reds. There is about a 0% chance that either of those trades happen.

      • Agreed.

        You could easily make the argument that Corey Seager is likely to be more valuable than all 3 of those players combined going forward for each of the next 6 years for much cheaper, even assuming Garrett makes the majors. He’s on pace for more than a 7 WAR season as a rookie.

        The Houston trade makes slightly more sense, but I still don’t see it as remotely possible. Maybe 1% to Seager’s 0%.

        • What if you were to substitute Stephenson for Garrett in that package?? I don’t realistically think the Dodgers would trade Seager, but Houston trading Bregman is a possibility.

        • Replacing Stephenson for Garrett does very little if anything. No competent GM makes that trade….no incompetent GM makes that trade. I genuinely applaud you for wanting to see the Reds improve…Jeff Luehnow doesn’t want to see the Reds improve. You’re thinking with your heart on this one. Jeff Luhnow has no heart.

          Yes, Bruce is a Houstonian. It’s a transient city with limited interest in baseball. Jay Bruce does little to help the team on the field and even less at the box office. I would be shocked if 2% of the population of Houston actually knows that Jay Bruce exist.

  8. Nice write up Steve. Lots of stud SS in the minors. Who do you think they could get in return for Garrett? Could they a guy as highly rated as Barreto from the A’s?

    • Think of Garrett as a top-50 prospect, although probably the lower half of the top 50. Then look at the available SS in that prospect range. That’s a starting point. A prospect-for-prospect trade. But not all of the top-50 SS targets are the same. There is variance in age and time when they’d hit the majors. Variance in those that are likely to stick at SS vs. having body type to move to corner. Some top-50 SS don’t meet my rule for drawing enough walks. Barreto is a possibility or Guerra (San Diego). There are several on most prospects lists that aren’t out of the question. You need to match up with an organization that has two good young SS.

      • The Braves have Dansby Swanson and Ozhaino “Ozzie” Albies.

        Albies has been above 10% BB rate in a few stops in the minors, but he’s at 7.7% in AAA this year.

        Oh, and he’s 19. In AAA. Not setting the world on fire yet, but he did put up a 179 wRC+ at AA earlier this year before being promoted.

    • Personally I don’t think so.

      If you consider Garrett a Top 50 type pitcher, generally speaking, there’s no reason for a team to give up a similarly ranked bat, given that pitchers are higher risk.

      Under certain circumstances, it might make sense. For example, if the position player was blocked at the major league level (think a 3B in the Rockies organization), he might be dealt for an arm. Or, if the team had an abundance of bats but no arms at all.

      Unfortunately, those criteria may not favorably line up for the Reds in a potential Garrett trade.

    • There are also guys in Houston and Atlanta who are effectively blocked by Correa and Swanson no? Interesting proposition…

      • Correa/Bregman will man SS and 3B in some combination. Gotta get both bats on the field.

        ATL might do something similar with Ablies/Swanson, but I haven’t heard as much talk about that since they are both at least a year away.

  9. You obviously think the Indians will trade for, what may be a 1 1/2 year rental, then give the Reds a young cost-controlled slugger with some plate discipline. I hope you’re right. But, as an admittedly low knowledge fan, I’m skeptical.

    For what it’s worth, I agree on the rest. Also, I’ll refrain from saying anything about my lack of faith in Reds management. Though, on balance, I think it’s justified.

    • 1.5 year players aren’t rentals. Your same reasoning would have applied to the Royals and Cueto last year, although even more. The Royals traded not one but three left-handed pitching prospects for two months of Johnny Cueto plus his post-season starts. Was it worth it? Flags fly forever. If Cleveland saw how Kansas City pulled it off, they might do the same thing. Jay Bruce has 225 more home runs that Zimmer. That’s a way of saying prospects are still just prospects, not sure things.

      • They wont trade Zimmer, but you are spot on with the ridiculousness of not drafting him in the first place. The Dodgers apparently are in on BRUCE. I think the best we can hope for is Grant Holmes (another guy we could have drafted in 2014 by the way) and a 9-12 ranked hitter prospect.

        • I hope any Dodgers trade would have talks of Alex Verdugo. For some reason I like him a lot. He’s the kind of young, highish-upside sort of guy I like to get in trade. His walk rate is only average-ish in AA, but he’s putting up a 125 wRC+ in AA and he was 19 on opening day (20 now).

        • Verdugo might be a nice inclusion. But there is a big but. Verdugo was an untouchable during the failed Chapman talks last winter and then the same with Frazier. I don’t know if Bruce will change that. That might be why the Reds zeroed in so much on Peraza after getting nowhere on Verdugo during the Chapman talks.

        • It’s too easy to criticize drafts in hindsight, 20/20 as it is. Prospects are just that, and sure things are rare.

  10. Steve,I like all of your plan.Please send it to the Reds front office right now.

  11. Ok, here we go:

    I hate trading Bruce but it is probably the right thing to do, especially if the Reds can land a guy like Zimmer. As @AnotherBobFromNC said, I’m skeptical that he’d be someone Bruce could fetch, but if that’s who the Reds really want, they probably could kick in some $$ or a pitching prospect to sweeten the deal. I’d hate to see Bruce go but the Reds aren’t going to compete in 2017 (sorry everyone) and I don’t see Bruce signing a team-friendly deal.

    Agree completely on Cozart, Straily, and Peraza.

    As for the BP situation, I’ve been fighting it all along because of the message it may send prospective players (benching a more productive player for young/unproven guy in the name of “rebuilding”) but right now, the Reds could argue that Peraza is likely better than BP. I’m a BP fan but he hasn’t been particularly productive. Now is the time where he could be benched because he isn’t being productive. As for BP’s value IF he were to somehow accept a trade, I think he could bring someone in. I mean somehow the Phils moved Utley.

    I’d love to see Winker playing every day but I’m very, very concerned about the wrist.

    Duvall at 3B? Worth a look at least.

    Suarez as utility guy? Maybe, but I really don’t want to give up on him as an every day player yet. I still think the bat plays and he has the raw tools to be a decent defender.

    I hate to say this but I don’t know about Robert Stephenson. He is still really struggling with command and that’s going to kill him in MLB. He’s starting in AAA and he’d stay there if it were up to me until he can lower his BB%. He’s still a top prospect because he has #2/#3 or even perhaps #1 potential. He just needs to harness it before he starts accruing MLB service time regularly.

    International market? If they sign the non-hitting, non-walking SS for a ton of $$, I may throw up. They totally need to rethink player evaluation.

    Fire Price? It isn’t just a Price problem. Until this team starts to value guys with plate discipline, it doesn’t matter who’s in the dugout. Look, I’m clearly not an analytics for analytics sake kind of guy but even the staunchest traditionalist should understand that good hitters don’t swing at bad pitches. Good hitters are aggressive but not overly so. Also, guys who walk a lot tend to be good hitters because they swing at (and usually hit) strikes.

    I don’t like trading Garret but pitching will have to be moved for position guys.

    Lorenzen at closer? Maybe, but why have a closer at all? I would love the Reds to lead the charge in doing away with innings-based roles. It probably isn’t happening but hey, a fella can dream right?

  12. Nice scribe Steve… The pitchers roles are pretty much how i see it unfolding..

  13. Great perspective, Steve. I personally may not like all of the moves you suggested (I have always liked Bruce) but I have to say they all make sense. Particularly benching Philipps and moving Duval to 3’rd, Although I think that Suarez will make a good utility player and a much better pinch hitter than any we have right now, he is not a good enough bat or fielder to play everyday. I also think he got pull happy after hitting a few homers early, he has good power but would be better off hitting more often to right. I would have no problem with extending Cozart, if we could find a manager that wouldn’t bat him first, assuming Winker is brought up to bat leadoff.
    I just wished the Reds FO would move into this century, to hear Patrick say that DeShields had him batting seventh!! That is the epitome of stupidity. A five year old would know you want your best hitter hitting in one of the top three spots. That really dampens my optimism of the possibility of any of this happening.

    • In all fairness, one could argue reasonably well that Winker isn’t the Bats’ best hitter. We also don’t know the circumstances of DeShields hitting him 7th. Maybe it was a tough LHP that Winker doesn’t like hitting off of? I didn’t dig enough to find out. That said, I really don’t like DeShields as a manager and have low confidence that the Reds really know what their doing in this rebuild.

      • A guy with a .381 OBP, striking out and walking better than average in his first stint in AAA at age 22 isn’t their best hitter?

        Not to be argumentative, but I don’t see how you argue for anyone else on that team, unless you just mean “has been the best so far this year.”

        • I mean, right now, up to this point of the season. Of course Winker is the best hitting prospect and has the highest upside as a hitter.

        • Yes, I was saying that the argument that could be made is that he’s not the best hitter right now. I don’t necessarily agree, but I could see someone having a strong case for it. That doesn’t mean that Winker doesn’t have the most potential as a hitter and one could certainly argue he is the best hitter right now. All that said, there is no way I’d hit him 7th.

    • Yeah, the think with Winker batting 7th only happened once (I think), but it was so strange.

      It seemed to me like DeShields was running his AAA club the way he’d run an MLB club, which makes no sense at all.

      Essentially, it seemed like Winker was in a slump of sorts sometime in May, and those other lifetimers were hitting well (I can’t even remember their names), so he basically “rewarded” the non-prospects by giving them more AB’s in more prestigious parts of the lineup. Or because they were hot and thought that would lead to more wins. As if AAA wins mattered to the big league club.

      If I were the Reds, I’d have been saying “Bat Peraza 1 and Winker 2 for the entire time they are there. No discussion.”

  14. Fire Bryan Price? Who do you get to manage? There isn’t one person inside the Reds organization to turn the keys over to. Riggleman? No. DeShields? Absolutely no way. Larkin? No.
    Outside the organization who do you go after? Fredi Gonzalez? 710-692 .506 career.
    Bud Black? 649-713 .477 career. Manny Acta? 372-518 .418 career. Lloyd McClendon? 499-607 .451. Eric Wedge? 774-846 .478.
    Another manager without ML managing experience possibly? Gabe Kapler, player personnel director of the Dodgers. Omar Vizquel, third base coach in Detroit?
    If they fire Price, go after Vizquel. Go get him before the sinking Detroit Tigers fire Brad Ausmus soon and place Vizquel with an interim manager tag.

  15. You know what would burn my britches? If the Yankees end up moving Chapman for a better package than they paid for him… Off topic but popped in my head while backing up servers.

    • It wouldn’t be surprising. He doesn’t have the uncertainty of a domestic violence charge looming over him now.

      • Very true and certainly to be taken into consideration when the time comes and my britches may start smoking.

    • I would agree…but find that highly unlikely. He’s a 3 month rental and a limited number of teams can spend 6 million (pro-rated) for a 30 inning player.

      My caveat is a team that thinks they could win the WS…has a strong team and a strong farm system….and decides to over pay since they are completely going for it….ladies and gentleman, the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Though even in that situation, the bidders may be limited.

      As always, I appreciate your point.

      • Interesting. I’d rather see that than a trade where the Yankees get a strong return for him.

  16. Steve, is the proposed outfield Winker in left, Hamilton in center and Zimmer in right?

  17. This current Reds regime brings me more irritation than joy so I’m trying to cut back but this is a good topic!! I like a lot of these suggestions but I’d make a few changes

    1. Suarez is OPS’ng .812 in June and has drawn 10 walks. You don’t turn guys with 30 HR power into utility players? Not guys that can shoot the ball to right w/power and he’s seeing pitches? He just needs to be a 2B eventually

    2. Lorenzen’s future should be as a #2 starter! Stephenson supposedly threw that hard in the minors? Homer same thing? The Reds have a kid with a rocket arm and strong as an ox! Let him close this year but these kind of arms are not dime a dozen? The Mets aren’t taking arms like this and making them closers?

    2. Sampson > Stephenson for 2016 = If I was a scout I’d rather have Sampson over Straily. They know what Straily can do and Lorenzen/Iglesias are in the pen so let Sampson get another shot in the rotation? Bailey isn’t ready either? The guy has always had plus stuff!! Let Stephenson work out the kinks in AAA.

    3. Love the Winker leadoff suggestion but obviously they have to get approximate value for Bruce and deal him? Duvall is an answer in the OF so why make another question by moving him to 3B?

    4. Bruce? Cozart I would definitely move! Great defender….nice power but he’ll always be a hacker! Its like trying to play small ball in the NBA and then drafting a 7’1 plodder. Plus he’ll be 31 this season and we’re nowhere close to seriously competing!!

  18. First off, thank you for the article. Great analysis and wonderful discussion piece.

    Couple thoughts, fwiw. I am in the Cleveland area and I think it is extremely unlikely that the Indians would give up either Zimmer or Frazier in a trade. Part of their rationale for not adding an outfield bat has been not wanting to block those two long term. Flags fly forever, but Naquin and Chisenhall have been playing just well enough that with Bradley coming back I am not sure they will make a move for an outfielder. Locally, bullpen seems to be on the list, including our all friend Chapman. Even if they do make a move for an outfielder, I do not think Zimmer or Frazier would be the return.

    If the Indians were interested in Bruce, let me throw another name out there. Fransico Meija is in low A Lake County, which might not fit the timeline. But he is a switch hitting catcher who can legitimately play the position. I get to see him a lot, and he seems to have figure it out at the plate this year. Young for the level, and while we have drafted a couple catchers high, he might be able to fit the position long term starting 2019. Indians have a SS named Gonzalez in AAA who can play defense (although he may not hit the walk criteria) blocked by Lindor who they are willing to move in a trade that could help fill a hole if we move Cozart.

    Trying Duvall at 3B should have already happened. He might not be able to play it but this is the season to find out.

    As for a long term answer at SS, are we sure Perazza is not it? I would at least give him a chance to try and fail there and then move him to 2B. If we can trade Cozart for anything worthwhile, that would be the move I would make. We seem to have more middle infielders in the system than outfielders (winker obviously excepted).

    Again thanks for the time on this.

  19. All of this sounds great, and I hate to be “that person”, I.e. Negative Nancy, but will the Reds do any of this? We’ll probably trade Bruce for a second rate jake leg prospect, we’ll keep playing BP and bat him third, because Bryan Price will not be fired. Winker will be called up and bat 7th. The Reds will do nothing that makes sense because that’s what our front office does. I really, really hope I’m wrong. I’m usually pretty positive as far as the Reds are concerned, but I have zero confidence in our wagon wheel operation.

    • That’s where I’m at on it too. I have very little faith in our rebuild until I start to see things that are done with a modern approach to baseball in mind. I’ve heard Williams talk about analytics but I haven’t seen them walking the walk aside from the new hires in the analytics department. Look, I strongly respect traditional baseball thinking in a lot of cases, especially when it comes to scouting, but there are a lot of places that the enormous about of data out there can be leveraged.

    • I think you have cracked the FO code, though it was not all that hard to do. I agree with you. I have no confidence in this FO to make the right moves.

  20. I think the problem we all have is that the front office doesn’t give much details regarding the plan.They speak about a rebuild but don’t give any particulars about the plan.As I said earlier Steve’s plan should be sent to the front office because it will better then what they come up with.It makes lots of sense which as Chad said isn’t a strong suit of our front office.I also hope I am wrong and I always look for some glimmer of hope that somebody gets it(like Peraza at second tonight) but we all know its just to give BP a night off.

  21. Thanks Steve. High quality, thought- provoking article. An other example of why this is the best Reds forum.
    1.) Cozart- I think he is more valuable to the Reds then he is to other organizations. If Peraza isn’t a shortstop, then we don’t have one and its hard to acquire a slam dunk prospect. Cozart’s defense is so good and his offense is now solid to above average for over a year. It would allow the Reds to focus on other areas.
    2.) I agree with trading Bruce but only if you get a top 50 position prospect in AA or above.
    3.) I have to disagree a bit on Duvall. We have been so desperate for a LF for so long….lets pencil him in LF and not ask him to learn a new position and distract him from hitting in the 4 hole x to play 15 games at 1b to let Votto rest. As Votto ages, he will need a 140-145 game schedule.
    4.) Hamilton/ Peraza /and Suarez give the Reds tremendous flexibility. Peraza and Suarez are younger than many of the Reds “prospects” in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Other than Winker and Ervin, no other position players at AA or above are on “schedule” for a debut prior to age 25. Suarez is 24 and Peraza 23 and both seem to have a competitive streak to them. Give them some innings and time to develop. Suarez as a utility player is fine with me…I think his age and the pop in his bat are promising.
    5.) Garrett could be an elite lefty starter. Lets not forget the Reds will have a top 5 pick next year. Early top position player is CF from Vanderbilt. The point being if you pair Senzel with another elite position player in back to back drafts….wow…..lets keep our stable of young potentially dominating pitchers and focus on a 4-5 year window from 2018-22.
    6.) Lets see Lorenzen and Cingrani and Iglesias start the Fisher Price bullpen era.
    Nasty Boys 2.0.

    • They will never get a top 50 hitter in AA or above. You can count the number of these guys on one hand (and they are all untouchable). That kind of guy would be worthy of promoting instead of trading for Bruce. Much more likely they will get a good pitching prospect and a throw in hitter. Remember however that Duvall and Suarez were those kind of guys, so you can get lucky or just scout well.

    • Great article
      Lots of terrific ideas which will probably never get done.
      A couple of things that I don’t agree with however.
      Firstly,Bruce has openly stated his desire to stay a Red and has clearly hinted at a “home town discount”.Until I see anything resembling a replacement for him I would strongly consider an extension,obviously at a fair price.
      It doesnt seem like the “small market/small budget”can be the Reds excuse at this point.
      A second thing that you seem to have overlooked is the catcher position.As of now we have Tucker,a decent enough backup,and a huge question mark in Mes ever playing at a major league level,either offensively or defensively.The farm doesnt appear to have anything coming our way for years if ever.To me fwiw that would be the target if I were to trade Garrett.
      The Marlins are searching for pitching now and have a great young kid catching on the parent team and a very good young kid in the minors.Realmuto would solve the catching question and could probably be had with a Strailly/Amir combination.
      The first thing that would be on my July list would be FIRE PRICE.A new leader with a new attitude and direction is of the utmost importance.His mindset is holding this “so called “rebuild back each day he stands on the dugout steps.How can you be rebuilding playing a 34 yr old diminishing player daily while until recently keeping a potentially terrific kid in the minors.
      All around the league I see kids getting younger and younger skipping levels and being successful in the bigs.(dodgers urias comes to mind as well as many others)
      Again great article on this great sight.

  22. Steve, the only one of your suggestions I really don’t care for is trading Garrett. While the Reds have a lot of young arms coming, the only starter that can be counted on right now is Descaflani. The reports on Reed is he flashed good stuff, but he has all of 2 ML starts under his belt. We are still waiting for Bailey’s return. Stephenson is struggling with his command in AAA. Finnegan shows potential but still has his struggles. As you said, Lamb appears questionable as a starter, and is bottom of the rotation type if he does make it. Iglesias looked good starting, but his shoulder problems may mean he is ticketed for the bullpen. There are almost certainly more injuries to come amongst this group. And young players need time to develop – Bailey and Cueto both took several years before they reached the top of their performance.

    The Reds may eventually have to trade off some pitching for hitting, but they are not yet at the point where it will make a difference as far as a playoff run is concerned.

    Signing Cozart for 3 more years wouldn’t really bother me just because the cost is not that great. By the time the Reds are really ready to compete, he will be near the end of that contract and 3 years older. Not really sure it makes a lot of sense other than to keep SS manned with excellent defense until the heir for the position shows up.

  23. Nice summary Steve. I’d be fine with all of these suggestions but want to add my voice to two observations that pop up throughout this thread. On the Bruce trade – absolutely pull that trigger if there’s a Top 50 prospect bat at a position of need coming back. But short of that, extend Bruce. Jay Bruce is plenty young enough and plenty good enough to play well on the next good Reds team. No reason to sell low just to sell. A Zimmer type prospect – sure. And I agree with those suggesting that Garrett is untouchable. The insurance policy for the rotation can’t be John Lamb or Dan Straily or even Rookie Davis. Long term it’s Garrett. With Stephenson still developing, Iglesias fragile, and Reed (and for that matter Bailey 2.0) unproven I would really hate to see Garrett leave the organization now. Just me maybe, but I think it’s quite possible that the most valuable player Amir Garrett might deliver to the organization is Amir Garrett. Otherwise implement this plan – now. Go Reds!

  24. Here’s a good new post about possible matches for the Reds to trade Zack Cozart. Conclusion is that while there are a few teams that make some sense, there aren’t any slam-dunk desperate matches.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/06/looking-for-a-match-in-a-zack-cozart-trade.html

    Key points: Still a month for injuries. The Reds can trade Cozart in the offseason. If Cozart keeps up his hitting, he’ll be worth more than. Different situation than the urgency to trade Jay Bruce while he’s killing the ball.

  25. I really like most of the ideas presented in this article. Have a couple thoughts about trading Amir Garrett though.

    Are trades of 1 top prospect for another top prospect that common? I feel like you generally hear about a veteran on a non-contending team being traded for prospects from a team that is in contention.

    What about shopping DeSclafani instead of Garrett?

    Why a team contending this year might want him:
    1) He has already shown he can be a successful major league pitcher (3.6 Fangraph WAR in 40 starts) and could help a contending team this year.
    2) He is inexpensive and would not be just a rental for the team acquiring him. DeSclafani is not arbitration eligible until 2018 and not a free agent until 2021.

    Why Reds would trade him:
    1) Have a relative lack of depth in hitting prospects in relation to pitching prospects.
    2) Bailey, Finnegan, Reed, Lamb, Stephenson, Garrett, Iglesias, and Lorenzen could all be argued to have higher ceilings than DeSclafani. That is 8 guys with arguably greater potential to fill the 5 man rotation for the next contending team.

    A prospect, at any position,with a good approach at the plate should be the target in any trade.

  26. Steve, I am sick of this FO; this guy should be their number 1 priority for international signing. If they sign anyone else, they are just beyond me in their reasoning and expecting me to remain a fan after 35+ years…

    Kevin Maitan | Rank: 1
    “Maitan has been called the best international prospect since Miguel Sano and his talents have been compared to a young Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones.

    Some scouts have designated him as a ONCE-IN-A-GENERATION prospect. Every scout knows he is special.

    The Venezuelan teen is a switch-hitter who has shown power from both sides of the plate. He has also displayed hitting mechanics and an approach at the plate that are beyond his years. Athletic and agile, Maitan is a sound defensive player and has displayed good range in both directions. He has one of the best arms in the class and a high baseball IQ. Scouts also like his frame.

    A shortstop, Maitan profiles as a regular everyday third baseman. He has a knack for making the game look easy and it’s no surprise teams have been scouting him since he was 14.

    The Braves are considered the favorite to sign Maitan.”

  27. Giolito instead of Travieso in 2012 and Zimmer instead of Howard in 2014 and our system would be Top 3 in MLB. We’d have Cody Reed, Stephenson, Peraza, Winker, Zimmer, Garrett, Senzel, Giolito, Trammel and T Stephenson. What a ridiculous Top 10 list. Also, we have Santillan, Blandino, Rookie, Mella and Aquino. Yes, I know that is not reality, but its fun to think about what SHOULD have happened.

    • Also, I would trade Cozart, keep Bruce and try and unload BP.

      2017 lineup:
      Winker(RF), Peraza(SS), Votto, Duvall(3B), Bruce(LF), Mesoraco, Suarez(2B)and Hamilton

      Bailey, Reed, Disco, Finnegan, Stephenson
      Iglesias, Lorenzen, Cingrani, Lamb, Wood, Sampson and Weiss

  28. I like trading Bruce for a hitter like Zimmer.

    I could also see trading Cozart. That could bring Peraza or even Senzel into the regular lineup, moving Suarez to SS. Maybe in combination with a cheap extension for Cozart. As in, we sign him then trade him.

    I agree shopping Straily. He’s not going to be a starter for us.

    BP is done. He might get a blip here and there. But, for the most part, he is done. If there’s anything to look forward to, he definitely is gone after next season. I could see relagating him to bench duty next season. The Tude should sit.

    I don’t care about HR pop at the leadoff position, as long as someone can get on base, that’s what we need. If Winker can get the job done, then sure. He is injured right now, I believe.

    I’m not so sure about Duvall at 3rd base. We’ve waited for years for a LF. Now that we have one, along with we have Suarez at 3rd now, with Senzel not far away. I mean, I know Duvall’s natural position may be third base. But, especially if we trade Bruce, if we move Duvall to third, that leaves Hamilton as our only OF, the other two being brand new to the big club. I don’t feel good about that combination in the OF. Winker possibly. But, then, who else?

    Suarez may turn into a utility player, but it would only be for short term. 2018, we may be looking at Votto, Peraza, Suarez, and Senzel as the infield. With Suarez playing third now, I believe he would be more ready for a move to regular SS than coming from a utility fielder role.

    I can definitely understand trading some of our young stud starting pitchers. We simply have too many. Thanks, Jocketty. If not that, then I would move some we converted to starters from relievers, move them back to relievers. That’s the pitching help we need. If trade, we need batters, as in plate discipline, OBP, etc.

    I’m not so sure about Lorenzen as the closer. I would consider him, give him some shots at getting some saves. I still like “closer by committee” until one shows up. But, I believe Cingrani needs to be more than a LOOGY. We did have him as a starter. He can be doing more than just a LOOGY. The thing is, right now, he’s the only lefty we have in the pen. We need at least one more out there.

    I wouldn’t worry about pitchers on the international market, unless it’s relievers. But, then, I don’t believe we would get what we pay for. I would look for the hitters there, like Aoki or Ichiro. I don’t care about the power; we need the OBP.

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