2017 Reds / Devin Mesoraco

The Stuart Turner Dilemma

After one week, if you had told me that the Reds would be sitting atop the division, I think we can all agree that we would of course consider the first week a success.  Part of the initial roster strategy involved a 13 man pitching staff, a four man bench, and a Rule 5 Draft Pick.  As part of the week’s pleasant surprises, the work in progress pitching staff produced three team shut outs in six games.  In addition, another positive aspect of the week has been the continued improvement and reintegration of catcher Devin Mesoraco into the organization.  Playing at Double-AA Pensacola, Mesoraco has begun to regain the swing that led Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini to invest four years and $28 million in the former first round pick.  The return of the powerful, righty swinging Mesoraco would not only lengthen and provide a boost to the lineup, but would also provide some veteran leadership to a young and developing pitching staff.

Currently, second year man Tucker Barnhart and rookie, Rule 5 Draft Pick Stuart Turner are serving as the team’s catchers. When Mesoraco proves able to catch nine innings consistently coupled with a bat capable of handling major league pitching, the club will find itself with a roster dilemma.  The primary decision that will have to be made centers on whether or not they keep 13 pitchers or 3 catchers. The issue at hand is that catcher Stuart Turner, as a Rule 5 Draft Pick, must remain in the big leagues all year or be offered back to his original team, in this case the Minnesota Twins, for half the price of what it took to select him.  So while the $25,000 difference in the selection and return fees is typically seen as a drop in the bucket for most major league front offices, the loss of a 25 year old, strong defensive catcher with a third round SEC pedigree and a Johnny Bench Award on his resume is not a decision to make lightly.  Take a look at Turner’s career stats to this point below:

Stuart Turner Stats

After a strong spring battling it out with Rob Brantly, Turner has already begun to prove himself with the traits that caused the Reds to select him in the first place.  Solid receiving skills coupled with a rifle right arm and a powerful bat have contributed to a solid, if not impressive, first week in the majors.  The lingering question that Turner has to be asking himself – is it enough?

On the other side of the coin, the questions that Bryan Price and Dick Williams are asking themselves center around their confidence in the recovery of repaired shoulders and hip of Mesoraco and the continued development of the young pitchers currently at the major league level.  With Mesoraco, not only is his health a concern, but so too is his level of productivity.  At his best, Mesoraco’s power from the right side and leadership behind the plate could be just the missing piece to accelerate this stage of the Reds rebuild.  However, a return of Turner to Minnesota coupled with yet another injury to Mesoraco would leave the team woefully shorthanded behind the plate and could in turn stunt the development of the young arms to which the future depends on.  While there is catching talent in the lower levels of the minor leagues in the form of former second round pick Chris Okey at Advanced A Daytona and former first round pick Tyler Stephenson recovering from his own lost season due to injury with the Dragons just up Interstate 75 in Dayton, ready help at the highest levels of the system leaves alot to be desired.

As far as the pitching staff is concerned, the unorthodox method of keeping a 13 man pitching staff would seem to allow for a reduction to a more typical 12 man staff and allow for the extra bat on the bench.  However, when you start to pick apart the make-up of the current 13 man staff, you’ll quickly realize there are soft spots a plenty.  First, let’s take a look at the current rotation.  Opening Day starter Scott Feldman, fresh off of an impressive 6 scoreless innings in St. Louis, spent most of last year between the Houston and Toronto bullpens.  Brandon Finnegan, the current and only health lone holdover from last season, is a converted reliever himself and is still developing as a hopeful 200 inning rotation stalwart.  Rookie Davis, one of the least heralded members of the rotation, just made his first major league start and stuttered to an abbreviated debut.  The second rookie to begin the season in the rotation is Amir Garret. His impressive debut in St. Louis aside, the jury remains out on the talented, athletic left-hander and the growing pains that tend to follow even the most can’t miss prospects.  Finally, the fifth man in the rotation is the fan favorite and long-time Red, Bronson Arroyo.  Much like Mesoraco, Arroyo himself has missed much of the last two years due to injury and his return on Saturday, while sentimental provided more questions than answers.

So while some of the members of the rotation might cause you to pause when considering a change from a 13 to a 12 man staff, the strong work of the bullpen to this point might provide another perspective.  The first week has shown a solid backend of Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Drew Storen, Tony Cingrani, and Blake Wood.  These five seem to be entrenched as Price’s trusted agents so far, but those in the bullpen with a less certain future include one-time top prospect Robert Stephenson, promising left hander Cody Reed, and fire-balling left hander Willy Peralta.  As we look for a way to possibly keep Turner for the immediate future, it would seem that unless the composition of the rotation was changed (and to date it does not seem that a change is imminent) one of Stephenson, Reed, or Peralta would need to be sent down to Triple-A Louisville.  Both Stephenson and Reed found limited action the first week, and when they did take the mound, both were rather shaky and struggled with their control.  With both described by Price as having a future in the rotation, it would seem that one of either Stephenson or Reed could soon find themselves making the trip down Interstate 71 to gather more innings in Louisville.

If you’re Bryan Price and Dick Williams, what do you do?

43 thoughts on “The Stuart Turner Dilemma

  1. Tough dilemma, but I keep Turner because there is more nearly-MLB pitching help in the system than catching help, and it’s going to make good sense to have extra bench strength and the ability to rest Mes frequently. Which pitcher to send down is also difficult. Reed and Stephenson were both very unimpressive in their brief appearances, but it seems possible that, particularly with Stephenson, sending him down is giving up on him completely, or close to it.

  2. Depends on your strategic priorities regarding the pitching staff and how much rope one is willing to extend to Reed and BobSteve.

    Given the strength of the bullpen, the first most likely drop down to Louisville would probably be Peralta so he can get adequate work. Timing of Mesoraco’s return from rehab probably also dictates this as it may take a few weeks yet to sort out the other two.

    Might depend on how well they perform in their next two-three outings. If Stephenson’s control issues don’t show sufficient improvement, I suspect he would be next in line — youth notwithstanding, at some point he’s likely to exhaust the well of patience..

    Note that this in influenced by my perspective: I’ve felt over the last year that the AA guys (Garrett, Davis, et. al.) are going to overtake and displace the AAA guys. So employ a suitably sized grain of salt………

    • “Timing of Mesoraco’s return from rehab probably also dictates this…”

      Yep. There’s no need to make such a tough decision until you have to. There’s a lot more information to gather between now and then.

  3. I think you’re keeping Turner all year. Regardless of whether he’s healthy enough to come back, Mesoraco still will need plenty of rest this season in order to ramp up for ’18. Barnhart will likely still get close to 50% of the innings played, and with Turner available to come in as a defensive replacement, will likely be used to get a few quality ABs off the bench on the days he isn’t starting.

    Same with Mesoraco – if you need a spark late in the game on a day he isn’t starting behind the plate, you can get him an AB and still have Turner available to catch in case Tucker gets hurt after the Mesoraco AB.

  4. Keep Turner, you can’t count of Mesoraco staying healthy until he proves that he can. The Reds have plenty of options in AAA to help fill out the bullpen (I see Barrett Astin going back and forth many times this year) and can run multiple pitchers up and down as the big club needs them. I DFA Arroyo (and offer him a job as an assistant pitching coach for this year) and go with this pitching staff:

    Starters:
    Brandon Finnegan
    Scott Feldman
    Amir Garrett
    Rookie Davis (will get a few more chances)
    Cody Reed

    Bullpen:
    Barrett Astin
    Wandy Peralta
    Blake Wood
    Drew Storen
    Tony Cingrani
    Michael Lorenzen
    Raisel Iglesias

    Robert Stephenson I send to AAA and back into the rotation. He needs to be pitching every 5th day and developed as a starter until he is out of options. He has as much arm talent as anyone in the system and MLB is littered with guys who didn’t figure out their control until their mid to late 20’s. If Rookie Davis continues to struggle, and Stephenson re-establishes himself in AAA, then perhaps those two swap spots. If Davis falters, Stephenson still struggles with control in AAA, then after 5-6 starts, give Sal Romano a shot in the big show with his service time ensuring that extra year of control.

    As for the bullpen, the Reds can rotate guys like Astin, Adleman, Bonilla, and Brice in and out as the needs to the team see fit, albeit Astin has some rope after getting out of that jam in game one. Adleman was solid for the Reds in 2016 and may thrive in a long relief role that goes once through the lineup. Later in the year Ariel Hernandez may be an option as well. Plus if you DFA Arroyo, you may be able to give a spot to a guy like Colemen, Mitchell, Chacin, or Luetge. Of course at some point Travieso, Disco, and Bailey will need spots again so that Arroyo 40 man spot may be needed. For the other 2, Ogando seems like one easy DFA, and then I suppose they’d need to choose between Adleman, Bonilla, and Brice if no one else goes on the 60 day DL.

    The whole point being I think the Reds would be just fine with a traditional 12 man pitching staff. Robert Stephenson has pitched all of 1 time in the first 6 games and sitting around that long is doing no good for his control issues. Turner is worth keeping until Mesoraco proves he can stay healthy, and even then, Turner has options and if Mesoraco is healthy going into next year, it may not be a bad idea to stash Turner in AAA.

    • Love it. I agree wholeheartedly. To me, there is no good excuse for losing Turner. Catching depth is too valuable, and BobSteve should probably be starting in AAA right now anyway.

    • +100 on all your moves.

      Burgeoning catching talent is arguably the most rare and hardest to predict delicacy in baseball. It is an event not to be taken lightly. Maybe Turners growth stops at platoon quality, or maybe he develops into a poor mans Yadier Molina type.

      Either way, returning him so Arroyo can pitch some BP to the NL is dumb. When you find a diamond in the rough you don’t put it back!

  5. Outside of sentiment, is there any reason not to send Barnhardt down?

    I think it likely that the pitching will remain in flux at least through the first half of the season so I’m leery of losing a pitcher until the dust settles.

    Peeve/And is there any chance we can drop the use of the word “former” when it comes to draft choices? You could insert the year of the draft or just trust that your readers know but not everywhere was drafted last year. /end peeve

    • Send Barnhardt down? He’s the starting catcher until/if Mesoraco proves himself healthy and able to hit. He also knows this particular group of pitchers better than do Turner or Mes. I understand being leery of reducing the number of pitchers before enough is known about some of them–most of them, but the Reds could return to a 13-man staff if it became clear that they had to, and the bench would be stronger in the meantime.

  6. A decision on this will come by the end of the week, if Mesoraco is activated from the DL.
    Keep Turner. Start negotiating with the Twins for a trade if Turner has any options left. The Twins need pitching, the Reds have pitching. The Reds don’t have a good C at the upper minors level.
    Not sure how that process works to trade for a Rule V pick. It probably wouldn’t be as simple as the Reds and Twins agreeing on a prospect and the Reds send the Twins that prospect. It probably gets very convoluted. The Reds will probably have to offer Turner back to the Twins with the $50,000 return fee. Take a chance that the Twins don’t double-cross the Reds and decide to keep Turner, or trade him elsewhere. Hopefully they make and then announce the trade for Turner. The Twins would get the cash and a prospect, not just a prospect.
    Keeping 3 C’s and 13 P’s leaves only 2 other bench spots. Something will have to give.

  7. Turner will be kept either by a trade or as a catcher. Mesoraco must prove he is healthy, and that he can play two days in a row. If he can not then it is back on the DL or a trade to the American league.

    • Either yesterday or Sunday I heard that Mesoraco was going to need to catch 3 games in a row before his rehab stint is up. If he can do that it would help me feel a bit more comfortable but I still wouldn’t mind finding a way to keep Turner, either on the ML roster or via trade then option to Louisville.

  8. There are some shenanigans the Reds can pull with Turner. They could put him on the 10-day disabled list for a sore thumb or weak ears, then “rehab” him in AAA for as long as the rules allow before recalling him. Turner won’t care, because he gets MLB money and accrues MLB service time.

    Turner probably needs to be on the team when the Reds play in DH games, which are May 24-25 in Cleveland, May 29-31 in Toronto, June 19-21 in TB, and the Yanks on July 25-26, so that Mesoraco can DH.

    They could therefore DL Turner when Mez is ready here in a week or so, then recall him in mid-May; and then do something similar if needed on about the first of August. They can keep him in September under the expanded rosters with no issue.

    • That’s actually not a bad idea to think about. The only issue would be if one of our catchers got hurt while he as on the DL. They could definitely play that type of game if they wanted to.

    • The problem with using the DL is the requirement to keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire season. While the Reds could retain Turner’s rights for the 2017 season, I believe his time on the DL would extend the requirement to keep him on the 25-man roster into the 2018 season to cover the time he was DL’d during the 2017 season. This may only apply to the 60-day DL, but I believe it covers any stay on the DL.

      • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/minorleagues/rule_5.jsp?mc=faq is a FAQ page for the Rule 5 draft. It says:

        A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000. If his original team declines, the receiving team may waive the player.

        I read that to mean that Turner can go on the DL, so long as he is active for at least 90 days during the season. I assume that means that the “25-man roster” includes the 25 active guys, plus anybody on the 10-day DL.

        • I’m not sure what the exact winkles and loopholes are but if a rule 5 guy is under 90 days active time at the end of the 1st year due to DL time, the “selecting team” can keep him into the next season with the rule 5 provisions still in force until he reaches 90 days active time at which point he can be optioned.

          See the 3rd paragraph in the “Description” section
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_5_draft

    • Elegant, easy, and possibly wrong. We don’t know whether Reed can start effectively, We don’t know whether Bronson can after one start in over two years.

      • we don’t know, but we shouldn’t be figuring it out at the ML level. 2 or 3 starts at AAA could have showed us a lot.

        • Might show us with Bronson, but I’m not sure about Reed, given his lack of experience at the MLB level. Also not sure about Bronson: given his situation, 3 starts might not be enough.

  9. Easy decision. No reason to carry 13 pitchers on this team, especially when the 2 obvious choices to send down are Stephenson or Reed, who both need to pitch every 5th day. Throw in the fact that Turner has options, and it is a no brainer. We can stash him on the roster all year for a team who everyone says is not going to contend anyway, and then have him in AAA next year as our primary backup. Carrying 3 Cs is not ideal but a lot more appealing than 13 pitchers for sure, but it will need to be done until Mes can prove to be healthy.

    I agree, no decision needs to be made until Mes is ready to be activated, but when he is ready, this seems like a simple solution. No reason to try and work out a trade for a player that the Twins now know we would want. If their GM is any good, we would have to over pay for Turner for sure.

  10. Duke and Jordan have a good handle on the situation.

    The first thing that should happen when Mesoraco is ready to play, offensively and defensively, on the 25-man roster, is a real commitment by DW to keeping Stuart Turner on the 25-man roster for the entire season.

    The second thing that should happen is that DW trims the pitching staff down to 12 pitchers (7 relievers).

    Those two decisions/commitments will filter down to the bench makeup and bullpen handling. The utility players MUST be highly flexible defensively with the hope they can produce offensively. Right now, Alcantara, Kivlehan & Gennett fit that requirement, along with the flexibility of Schebler, Duvall and Peraza make the bench adaptable to carrying Stuart Turner on the 25-man roster. If one of the existing utility players needs to be replaced, someone like Renda would keep the needed flexibility intact. The availability of Turner, would allow Price to utilize Mesoraco and Barnhart as primary pinch hitters when they aren’t starting. Theat would dramatically increase the productivity of the bench without jeopadizing the loss a the backup catcher to fill as a defensive replacement if needed. The young pitching staff combined with the aging starters makes managing the bullpen problematic, but activating the I-71 shuttle for bullpen relief can solve that issue equitably. Using the available options for the young pitchers, when a fresh arm is needed, a reliever is optioned out and a replacement is added. This can be managed easily and effectively with Stephenson and Reed in the bullpen and covering extended outings (5-7 innings) out of the bullpen. It will put a strain on the AAA pitching staff since DeShields would be required to keep a fresh arm available virtually the entire season in case he’s needed to fill a bullpen slot on the 25-man roster, there are pitchers available to fill such roles.

    The only reason to not retain Stuart Turner is if the Reds deem Hudson to be fully redundant and capable to replace Turner, not necessarily for the 2017 season, but for the 2018 & especially the 2019 season after Mesoraco’ contract is up.

  11. Turner is fine and likable enough. But we should not be bending over backwards to keep him. He’s a 25 year old rookie who has never hit about .240 in the minors. He’s just replacement level guy who happens to make up for really bad hitting with good defense. If you can keep him, ok, but there is no way the Reds can afford to keep three catchers on a short bench.

    • I agree with you, longterm. However, I’d keep all 3 catchers on rosters a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks for Mes to proves he’s healthy before cutting ties with Turner.

    • The difference from what some see in Turner’s potential value and what others see in Turner’s potential value is succintly outlined in your characterization as “happens to make up for really bad hitting with good defense.”

      There is no question that Stuart Turner lacks any sort of hitting pedigree, although he has demonstrated some on-base skills. Stuart Turner’s defense is not just good. It is elite, possibly the best in professional baseball. His lack of any demonstrated hitting pedigree made such an elite defensive catcher unprotected and available in the rule 5 draft. If Turner had shown any viable hitting, he would not only have been protected from the rule 5 draft, he would be among the top prospects in baseball. Turner’s defense plays at the major league level right now and it plays at an elite level at the major league level. That’s why the Reds drafted him for catching insurance and that’s why he made the roster over every other catching prospect in the Reds system. That’s a valuable asset within the Reds system. While good defense at catcher can be fairly easily obtained, elite defense at catcher can not be so easily obtained. Is Turner a valuable enough asset to protect by jumping through hoops this season? I don’t know, but I believe he is. Others don’t believe he is. We’ll probably find out where DW falls in that evaluation fairly soon.

  12. Something to consider – Lorenzen has asked to be a two way player many times recently.
    Maybe he could get some outfield work (played center in college) and he could give us an extra bench guy.

  13. I think you push the decision as far as possible. I’d likely send Mesoraco to Louisville to continue to re-develop. Then, I’d ask Meso to add another position or two to his skill set – probably 1b and LF/RF. If he can versatile, I’d carry 3 catchers the rest of the year. If Meso can physically play, at this point, he may be tradeable. Most of his 4 year deal was lost to injury and I doubt he’s the anchor of the next great team.

  14. I think that surely the Reds could work out a trade with Minnesota to keep Turner . We have some young minor league pitching and infielders that we could build a package . Someone like Blandino or Vincej and Jonathan Crawford and maybe another lower minor league piece would be a good deal.

    • Only issue with this is that Turner apparently needs to clear waivers before being offered back to the Twins.

  15. The elephant in the corner of the room for me is Meso’s right shoulder. Three of the 4 major ball joints in his body have been rebuilt, one as a “preemptive” surgery. Doesn’t this just about infer that the fourth ball joint, his right shoulder, is ticking down to failure? But when?.

  16. About a week late here and speaking with limited Turner exposure.
    I saw only part of Friday’s game when Turner caught and did not see any display of elite defense. Three plays I saw included not finding the handle to throw on a steal of second and throwing behind both runners on other steals of second and third. I’ll take Tucker any day.

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