Reds General Manager Dick Williams — and he is the GM now, with Walt Jocketty moving into a more advisory role — met with the legacy media as the season ended, and he had some interesting things to say. Williams began by saying, essentially, that the hardest part of the rebuilding process is now in the rear-view mirror.
When asked what the priority of the baseball operations staff would be over the winter, Williams pointed to the pitching staff:
“I’d say the priorities are to supplement the pitching, and the bench is obviously an area we can improve. The day-to-day position players, we’re in pretty good shape.”
“We won’t be playing in the high-end of the free-agent market. We do anticipate having some money to invest this year. Hopefully, it’ll depend on where the best values are for the team. I could see spending some money on the bullpen.”
Another area that needs to be addressed in the off-season — and about which we’ve written ad nauseum — is what should be done with Brandon Phillips. Williams spoke about that:
“We’ll talk to him again about where we are in our lifecycle and what he wants to do, since he still has the ability to control his destiny, somewhat,” Williams said. “That’s an area of depth right now, middle infield, and that’s a good thing.”
The portion of the discussion that is likely to raise the most eyebrows, however, dealt with pitchers Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias.
“We’re going to meet with the coaches tomorrow and begin that process of evaluating what we saw this year, what we see going into next year — not just how Lorenzen and Iglesias are doing, but how everybody else is doing, how it complements the whole package is important to determine where they add the most value next year. If they are in the bullpen, I know what you’ll see is they’ll be used in such a way that we maximize their innings. I’ve had a lot of talks with Bryan (Price) about it, Mack Jenkins, Walt and Ted Power, and we’re all of the mind that you’ve got really talented pitchers there and if you do put them in the bullpen, it’s not going to be with the intent of making them one-inning guys. They’re too talented for that. I think we would anticipate using them in such a way, you’ve seen some of that with Iglesias, a little bit with Lorenzen, you hope you’ll see more, using those guys in multiple innings. Hopefully, we’ll put some other guys in that bullpen that can pitch multiple innings. As a smaller market team, you don’t have the luxury of paying for the premium guy just to get three outs all the time.”
Perhaps I’m reading between the lines too much, but it sounds an awful lot like the Reds are making peace with the idea that Lorenzen and Iglesias are going to be relievers in the future. That dismays me a little, mostly because those guys are so talented, and you generally want your best pitchers throwing as many innings as possible. Matt Wilkes has made the case here in the digital pages of Redleg Nation that both need to be given opportunities to start.
On the other hand, Steve Mancuso has prepared a blueprint for how you can get maximum value from those guys in a relief role. Those of you who were able to attend the Q&A with Cincinnati’s baseball ops guys (Nick Krall and Sam Grossman) at our Meetup in September will remember Krall’s comments on this point — essentially that Iglesias could be as valuable as a starter, if he gets 120 innings out of the bullpen.
When you consider those comments in light of Williams’ statement above, you start to get a little intrigued. Sure, I want Iglesias and Lorenzen to succeed as starting pitchers. But if they are destined for the bullpen, and if the Reds are committed to using them in a manner that we’ve not really seen in baseball for two or three decades…well, that could be fun. It’s outside-the-box thinking, and I’ll be very interested to see how it plays out.
Frankly, just seeing a Reds GM talking like this is disorienting. This isn’t “by the book” at all. I like it.
Anyway, there are lots of other good quotes from Williams that I didn’t mention above; check out those quotes plus some good analysis from both Trent Rosecrans and Mark Sheldon. I have a feeling that this off-season is going to be more interesting than most.