2017 Reds

Reds sign free agent OF Desmond Jennings

As reported by Mark Sheldon:

As Spring Training nears, the Reds may be nearing another deal to address their bench. They are working on a Minor League deal with former Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, a source confirmed to MLB.com.

Jennings, 30, spent all seven of his big league seasons with the Rays. He’s a career .245/.322/.393 hitter with 55 home runs in 567 games.

Injuries plagued Jennings during his last few years in Tampa Bay. In ’15, he was limited to 28 games because of left knee injuries and later a tooth infection that ended his season. In ’16, he was bothered by a left knee contusion and a hamstring injury, limiting him to 65 games. Jennings batted .200/.281/.350 last season with seven homers and 20 RBIs before he was released on Aug. 26.

Jennings is 30 years old, but he had three or four pretty effective seasons for the Rays from 2011 to 2014. His career slash line is .245/.322/.393. A good defensive player, he’s a candidate to be the fourth outfielder for the 2017 Reds…although I’d prefer Arismendy Alcantara, all things considered.

UPDATE: According to Jon Heyman, the Reds have signed Jennings. It’ll be a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

38 thoughts on “Reds sign free agent OF Desmond Jennings

  1. Perhaps he could be kind of a stopgap kinda guy. He could occupy the bench at the Big League level instead of having a younger guy be called up and get limited playing time. That way a guy like Winker, for example, could get more playing time in AAA until there’s room for him at the Big League level.

    • No need to hold Winker down there. He’s ready to hit at the big league level, I believe. I believe he will get serious consideration as a starter.

  2. As long as he’s behind Hamilton, Duvall, Schebler and Winker on the depth chart I’m fine with this as an insurance policy / added depth move. Otherwise, what? It’s not quite like signing Chuck Knoblauch to compete for the second base starter’s slot with Brandon Phillips, but I don’t see how it adds anything either. Oh well. Pitchers and catchers soon, right?

  3. Good piece. Good signing. Provides a capable fourth outfielder and adds strength to what had been a pretty weak bench. On a minor league contract, too. Nothing to complain about here.

  4. Jennings was a top-10 overall prospect in 2010. Averaged 3 fWAR from 2011-2014 playing LF and CF for the Rays then had injury issues in 2015 and 2016.
    If he shows he is past the injuries and can replicate something close the level of play he showed 2011-2014 then I think he could be a great addition backing up Hamilton in center and getting some time in the corners as well.

  5. The Reds had to bring in additional guys to fill out the bench. As it stands now Peraza, Alcantara, Barnhart, and Stuart represent the only reasonable options. The only other position players on the 40-man are Aquino (never played at AA yet), Ervin (no AAA experience), Winker (service time concerns), Herrera (no place to play). Alcantara and Peraza are both MIF that can play OF, but aren’t especially adept at it, and their bats are woefully below average for the corner spots.

    The Reds really needed another OF, especially one that can handle CF. Other OF options in the organization were Irribarren, Renda, and Kivlehan. Only Irribarren can handle CF. I think this is a good depth option in an area of need that comes with a little bit of upside.

  6. If he’s healthy (a big IF), it’s a nice buy low move with a chance to flip him. Billy has trouble staying on the field, so this will be a nice insurance policy. I think Alcantara needs more seasoning at AAA to work on his plate approach.

    • I believe Alcantara is out of options so he’d have to stick with the Reds or be exposed to waivers.

  7. Minor league signing of an OF going into Spring Training. This is what the team should be doing.

    Jennings certainly has had enough success to warrant some attention. He could definitely be a lightning in a bottle candidate.

    He’s a 30 year old outfielder with a history of knew and hamstring issues. Lets see how he is after some consistent play in ST.

  8. The Reds have obtained two players who have played little or none over the last two seasons. I guess they can give Bailey and Mesoraco some company in the training room. The Arroyo signing makes some sense, but this Jennings signing reaks of desperation. The Reds front office has ignored the bench all winter seeing quality bench bats sign all over the place. Then they lose two potential bench players they placed on the waiver wire and are now left scrambling to put together a bench.
    This Jennings signing is a bit disconcerting. I didn’t like him in Tampa Bay and I don’t like him on the Reds. Bad attitude. They ran him out of Tampa Bay, more or less. Tampa Bay’s feelings when they released him last August was good riddance. This is a bad move by Dick Williams, luckily it is only on a minor league deal. The Reds need OF and bench help, but not Jennings.

    http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/rays-give-up-on-multitalented-but-oft-injured-desmond-jennings/2291184

    • I’m not as sour on this signing as you. I’d say there’s a slim chance he’ll really be able to help as I wasn’t a huge fan when he was healthy. That said, he is an above-average defender even in CF and the Reds simply don’t have any real depth there right now. Getting him out of the Trop and that horrible turf could help him from a knee/hamstring perspective. If he’s the guy he was before 2015, and I will admit that it is a fairly big “if”, then he’s certainly an acceptable 4th/5th OF type.

      The Reds aren’t going to sign anyone to an MLB deal for the bench. Really, the only fairly large loss as far as guys they’ve loss is perhaps Selsky and he can’t play CF at all. The Reds have guys who should be able to cover the corners. They don’t care about winning this year so why spend on the bench? It’s annoying because I think a team should do all it can to win all the games they can every year but that’s not how it’s apparently done anymore. I don’t see this move as having any significant downside.

      • If CF is the concern as far as a backup, I would have gone after Michael Bourn or even Angel Pagan. I would have given Bourn a ML contract.

        • Bourn would certainly take a MLB deal as he may not get one from the O’s or other teams. That probably would have gotten him here. He’s still out there and yes, I would certainly prefer him over Jennings. Not sure if he would have come on a MiLB deal though.

    • Why would you devote resources to the bench when you’re still trying to determine who can start? Jennings was a top prospect who is now willing to sign for nothing. Why wouldn’t you take a shot. If he sucks then you just move on.

      This is perhaps a 72-75 win team that needs to use this year to cement who has a future and who doesn’t. Their bench is irrelevant at this point.

      • Chuck, if Jennings make the 25-man roster out of spring training, he isn’t going to be paid the ML minimum. I haven’t heard any contract language, but I would assume if he makes the team, he’ll be making between $1.5M – $2.5MM with bonus incentives. It will probably be in the neighborhood of what they could have signed Bourn for to begin with.

        • WV, you might be right to worry about Jennings maturity & drive. Hopefully, sitting at home since last August has aided an attitude adjustment, but who knows.

          Don’t think that the Reds could’ve signed Bourn (or Pagan for that matter) for the $ 1.5 – 2.5 M you guess at, and lest we forget would include bonus incentives. Bourn made $ 4 M and $ 10 M the last two years and is not going to settle for league min plus incentives.

          And I don’t think the Reds are interested in signing any other players to a ML contract at this time. Which I would agree with. Let ST start and the inevitable ST injuries happen. Then a player can be traded for a better package of prospects that won’t necessarily have to be on the 40 man roster. The 40 man is tight now; it may be less so once a SS, 2B, OFr, or pitcher is traded.

        • There’s nothing wrong with signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. This is exactly what the Reds should be doing. It is akin to the Bengals’ signing players with an invitation to Training Camp. I would much rather sign him for the league minimum, and have him surprise me, leading to a contract like you mentioned above. What if we signed Bourn and he made the team, but was getting paid a salary of $5MM? That doesn’t make any sense to sign someone for that kind of money to sit on the bench. If you find the logic behind the Arroyo deal, who has not pitched since 2014, then you have to find the logic behind this deal. It is a very similar situation, where you take a guy who has not played much the past couple of years due to injury, and give him a chance to compete. This is EXACTLY the type of a deal that Williams should be making.

        • I would guess that to get Bourne even at the same money it would mean a Major League contract and that would mean exposing another prospect off of the 40 man roster? That is in the form of a question because I am unsure and I am also unsure that Jennings gets anymore than ML minimum? I see this as a very low risk to see if there is any reward!
          I have just a little more rambling but why not even if they sign Jennings to a minor league contract play BP in CF some during training? I am sure that sounds nuts but maybe the thought he might be the utility guy will make him more open to a trade?

  9. From 2011-2014, inclusivew, when he was reasonably healthy and playing consistently, Desmond slashed .249/.327/.402 with a 105 OPS+ and played exclusively in CF during the 2013 & 2014 seasons. Now that’s not a world-beating performance, but the Reds are looking for depth and support in a utility role. If Desmond had been healthy in 2015 & 2016, he would not have been available for the Reds sign. There are going to moves to the 40-man roster before the end of spring training. Sans injuries, Hamilton, Schebler and Duvall will be playing the OF on the 25-man roster for at least 3 months after spring training.

    Aquino, Ervin & Winker are not going to fill utility OF roles and ride the bench on the 25-man roster during 2017. Alcantrara came up through the minor leagues as a poor defensive middle IF and was converted to the OF in 2015 out of necessity. He is also a poor defensive OF. Hopefully Peraza see no time in the OF during the 2017 season. His value will be as a middle IF, preferably at SS.

    Elizalde and Guerrero are both corner OF and neither is ready to face MLB pitching. Kivlehan was a poor defensive corner IF who was converted to a corner OF in 2015. He is available only because no one claimed him after being DFA’d off the 40-man roster, as opposed to Selsky, who was claimed when he was DFA’d off the 40-man roster. Irribarren and now Desmond signed minor league contracts with the Reds during the off season.

    Irribarren has the ability to play anywhere in the IF or OF, albeit only in a utility role, and had a fabulous 2016 season offensively. Last season certainly represented an outlier in Irribarren’s recent career during his age 32 season. Desmond (RH) and Irribarren (LH) look to have the inside track for landing a utility OF role on the 25-man roster heading into spring training and both woukld need to be added to the 40-man roster. Kivlehan (RH) could also make a bid for a utility OF role on the 25-man roster since Schebler could shift to CF if Hamilton has to leave a game unexpectedly.

    • Regarding Alcantara, I have a completely different perception of him defensively. My take was that he was a potentially average SS that was moved to 2B, not out of necessity, but due to the arrival of Russel and Baez (Kind of like what happened to Peraza in Atlanta and LA.). All reviews of him at 2B I can find grade him out as an above average defender there (2014 PCL best defensive 2B). I’ve also found nothing to say he was a bad CF, but actually that he looked pretty good out there. I’d be interested in any links/sources that may have given you the impression he is a bad defender.

      • Perhaps he plays passably almost anywhere but isn’t quite elite at any spot. Sounds to me like it may be the old jack of all trades syndrome.

    • Concerning the Reds bench makeup. I think they’ll end up with 13 pitchers (since they can’t seem to manage a staff of 12) and just 2 catchers which will leave them with just 3 spots to cover all of the IF and OF positions and provide PH from both sides of the plate. Currently Peraza (RH SS/2B/CF/LF) is a lock for the first spot. Alcantara (SH 2B/SS/CF/3B) provides much the same position wise (which will be important should a Cozart/Phillips deal be found) but adds LH hitting and moderate power off the bench. If Jennings (RH OF) is signed, I believe he will be the 4th OF and provide RH moderate power for PH duty.

      The Reds have just added another name to the mix though. They’ve signed 27 year old SH SS/3B/2B/1B/LF Zach Walters. Walters has hit .176/.227/.382/.609 in 181 PA over the last 4 seasons in the majors with WSN/CLE/LAD. He’s also hit .265/.312/.482/.794 in 1663 PA in AAA (Mostly the IL) from 2012-2016. He’s a SH who’s averaged 20 HR/500 PA at AAA. He could be a pretty interesting bench candidate as well.

      • Ugh, I really hope the Reds don’t roll with 13 pitchers, especially early in the season. Ick, ick, ick.

  10. I just don’t get it. Zero-upside signing are such a waste of time.

    Any quad-A guy who makes league-minimum is a better use of a bench spot than is a broken-down, aging Desmond Jennings.

    • I’m not sure how this is a “zero upside signing.” This is a guy who, when healthy, has put up 3 fWAR per season. He shows during spring training he is no longer healthy then let him go, but if he looks healthy during ST then the upside could be a good outfielder at league minimum price.

  11. Let’s not forget that this is a MINOR league signing with an invite. It is possible he won’t even break camp with the team. It is possible that he will make the team and then be a bust during the season. (We have seen a bunch of those lately) And it is possible that he makes the team and reverts to something close to what he was before his injuries and becomes a solid utility OF for Reds. Just know way to know. The only thing I do know is that I don’t want to see Winkler’s service time wasted sitting on the bench. Although I would have been fine with Irribarren filling that role.

    • Scott, I think your perspective is right on. The Reds do not need any of their younger prospects sitting on the bench as pinch-hitters. Jennings is someone who they can take a look at, and if he can hit, then he has value as a reserve and as a pinch hitter. If not, he is released or goes to Louisville. No-brainer signing, as far as I am concerned.

  12. Consider that the Reds have at five players who figure to see time in the OF – Hamilton, Duvall, Schebler, Winker, and Peraza (assuming no trade of Cozart).

    Jennings is insurance and nothing else. He’s currently 6th on the depth chart, but if healthy can potentially provide ML value if one of the other players falters. There is no risk to this, he won’t make much if he does make the team and he’s unlikely to make the team at all.

  13. The Reds amaze me. Why go out and purchase another contract for a 30 year old that has been injured for 3 years (Marshall, Bailey, Mesoroco)? Why not give one of your young players a chance that’s played in your organization? Geez, it’s tough being a Reds fan.

    • Maybe because the young guys who could play centerfield and give Billy a rest now and then aren’t ready for MLB yet.

    • I’m not sure what you mean with your examples of Marshall, Bailey, and Mesoroco. All three of them were healthy when they got their deals. If you’re referring to injury history, then you may have a case with Bailey and Mes but I will point out that Bailey was coming off back-to-back healthy and productive seasons. Marshall shouldn’t be in this group at all except in hindsight. He had zero injury history when the Reds signed him and had been a model of health.

  14. While I like the idea of having 4 outfielders who can all potentially start and be productive, the 5th OF is going to be player 24 or 25 on your roster. It has to be a guy who is comfortable with a role of not playing for 3-4 days consecutively and fills a niche. Usually ,that’s either a big bat who can pinch hit and potentially tie a game late or a player with great defensive skills who can double switch in a 1 run game and get on base for you. Perhaps he could fill that #5 spot.

    • IF (big if) 😉 Jennings makes the team and Cozart is moved putting Peraza at SS, Jennings becomes the back up CF and allows them to cover CF when Hamilton is down (as inevitably he will be from time to time) without disrupting the entire defensive alignment.

  15. Minor league contract, no problem there. Meaningless in the long term scheme of things.

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