News: The Miami Marlins have a handshake agreement to sell the club for $1.6 billion to a New York real estate developer.
Thoughts: Whether or not the sale goes through (and there are concerns the purchaser may not be liquid enough to get the deal approved by MLB), remember this report the next time any baseball owner pleads poverty. The current Marlins owner bought the team in 2002 for $158 million. Likewise, the Castellini Group bought the Reds ten years ago for $270 million. Forbes estimated a year ago the club was worth $905 million. That wouldn’t include the value of the new TV agreement with FSO. It likely doesn’t include the value of the Reds share of MLB’s online platform. To give you an idea how much that’s worth, Disney recently paid $1 billion for 33% of BAMtech, a technology company spun off from MLB’s digital media company MLB Advanced Media. MLB Advanced Media earns more than $1 billion/year. Divide that by 31.
Remember this – The owners of major league baseball teams are billionaires who are rapidly becoming vastly more wealthy due to their ownership share of the team. For them to plead hardship over annual dips in attendance that amount to maybe $10 million in lost revenue is laughable – and disgusting – in the extreme. It’s their money, they can spend it how they want. But raise your hand if you’re sick of hearing rich people play the “woe is me” card to the rest of us suckers? Me, too.
News: Homer Bailey has surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.
Thoughts: We’d felt a disturbance in the Reds force about Bailey before this news landed yesterday like a lightning bolt. Intrepid and loyal Nation member John Rohrig reported Dick Williams’ cautionary approach to answering a question about Bailey at a West Virginia caravan stop. Meanwhile, Bailey said less than a week before the surgery: “I don’t think about the elbow. I can hang tree stands. I can climb up in a tree. I can rope. I can grab feed bags and hay bales. Do whatever and I don’t think about it.” Bailey told Zach Buchanan a week ago: “I don’t think there is such a thing as normal anymore, but everything is OK,” But when Bailey started upping his throwing regimen in line with regular pre-season preparation, he felt a pain in his elbow.
First, Homer Bailey may be the only $100-million guy who climbs trees, ropes, and grabs his own feed bags and hay bales. Second, as elbow problems go, bone spurs are pretty routine. It’s excess bone that grows over time and starts to run into other stuff. Doctors shave it down and that’s it. There aren’t short-term relapses to worry about. The New York surgeon who did the bone spur procedure said he checked on Bailey’s flexor mass and Tommy John ligament and they looked healthy. That’s the serious stuff.
Dick Williams has indicated that Bailey’s delay in appearing for the Reds won’t cause the club to go shopping for another free agent pitcher. That’s smart. Bailey should be back for most of the season. The Reds may welcome the opportunity to give another one of their young pitchers a chance to develop at the major league level.
Flogging the Dead Horse: The Bailey news raises again the issue of Michael Lorenzen. Repeated statements from the front office indicate the decision has been made and firm that Lorenzen will be used in the bullpen and not tried in the rotation. For all the good tactical moves of the Reds front office this offseason, their myopic view of Lorenzen’s role stands in stark contrast. The Reds aren’t going to contend this year. There is no rush to fill bullpen roles. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a LOWER PRIORITY than deciding, even before spring training starts, who is going to pitch the 8th inning in some games in 2018. Aargh.
We kill off plenty of pixels comparing the Reds young pitchers. Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, and others. Well, the best young pitcher the Reds had last year – by far – was Michael Lorenzen. Lorenzen just turned 25. There are solid reasons to believe he’s developed in ways that translate to success as a starter. Using his major league starts in 2015 as a basis for judging Lorenzen’s potential seems even more unreliable than evaluating Cody Reed or Robert Stephenson by their 2016 major league appearances. The Reds may be consigning their best young arm to relieving, all because he filled a role in the Reds horrifying bullpen last year. Look, Lorenzen may not have what it takes to start, but the Reds will never know unless they try it and see. The upside seems so great, the downside so small, the front office’s stubbornness on this is a real head-scratcher. Math refresher: 200 is still a bigger number than 80.
News: Reds sign Desmond Jennings and Zach Walters to minor league contracts.
Thoughts: Good signings for different reasons. Jennings (30) is a veteran who hasn’t been the same player since 2014. But he’s a solid bat against LHP (career: wRC+ of 120) and still has an above average walk rate (9.3%). Walters (27) is nowhere near as accomplished as Jennings, but he’s also three years younger. He plays IF and OF, is a switch hitter, and had a solid year at the plate for the Dodgers AAA team in 2016. Jennings and Walters are both on minor league contracts, so the Reds aren’t committed to anything at this point. The real issue will be whether they make the Opening Day roster. Walters would be good organizational depth at AAA. Remember, anyone who had a respectable 2016 season would be out of the Reds price range. Rebuilding.
Painful Memory: Remember 2014 when the Reds won a few games prior to the All-Star break to eke out a 51-44 record? (Yes, that’s almost impossible to believe.) They were 1.5 games out of first place. They then proceeded to lose seven games in a row, crashing like the Falcons defense. Zach Walters doubled off Alfredo Simon to drive in and score a run in the seventh game of that losing streak.
News: The Reds will have four players representing their countries in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Starting pitcher Scott Feldman will play for Team Israel. Reliever Jumbo Diaz will pitch for the powerful Dominican Republic. Second baseman Dilson Herrera will be with Colombia. Finally, catcher Shawn Zarraga will play for the Netherlands. Joey Votto declined an invitation to play for Team Canada. By contrast, eleven Cleveland players were selected to play in the WBC.
Thoughts: Lots of people wondering why Billy Hamilton wasn’t asked to play for the favored Team USA. His health wasn’t an issue. The two creaky CF on the US roster are no-longer-good-on-defense Adam Jones and never-was-any-good-on-defense Andrew McCutchen. Hamilton’s exemplary abilities to cover all the field and pinch run could have provided good value in late innings.
Also, Shawn Zarraga? (Signed a minor league contract with the Reds in December.)
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.