[This post was written by Warren Leeman, who comments under the name Shchi Cossack. Thanks, Warren!]
In his recent piece, Matt Habel made the Old Cossack take a more obtuse look at Zack Cozart’s performance from 2017 and the Editors provided some thought-provoking questions regarding what the off season should entail for the Reds. We know Joey Votto put up 6.6 WAR and Cozart contributed a 5.0 WAR for 2017, but Matt pointed out that Cozart produced more WAR/Games played than Votto. Matt is absolutely correct, so I did a little more digging…
0.0410 => Cozart
0.0407 => Votto
0.0263 => Suarez
0.0170 => Gennett
0.0165 => Barnhart
0.0128 => Winker
0.0115 => Duvall
0.0099 => Schebler
0.0086 => Hamilton
0.0071 => Mesoraco
A total of 2.0 WAR over 162 games played results in 0.0123 WAR/Gm. The Reds had 6 position
players produce better than 0.0123 WAR/Gm. Nick Senzel will almost certainly be MLB ready
sometime during the 2018 season and I think any reasonable person expects Senzel to also
produce more than 0.0123 WAR/Gm. Senzel would make the seventh player producing more than 0.0123 WAR/Gm and the Reds need to find a position for Senzel that will not displace any of the other 6 players who also produced more than that amount.
That means fitting Senzel with a bigger glove and directing him towards the green OF pasture with Winker.
During the off season, the Reds should find a way to re-sign Cozart for 3 years and $30MM-$40MM – or die trying – then set out to find a center field replacement that can also produce more than 0.0123 WAR/GM without breaking the bank. The free agent contract for a 32-year old Lorenzo Cain is disqualified under the breaking-the-bank classification. All of the other free agent options in center field are also on the wrong side of 30.
That leaves trade options and the only viable (read: possibly available) trade option comes down to Miami’s 26-year old Christian Yelich at 0.0288 WAR/Gm and his VERY team-friendly contract. Reds general manager Dick Williams and crew need to find a way to put a wishbone-C on Yelich’s cap.
CF Yelich (.369 OBP / .807 OPS) – age 26 w/ team control through 2022
3B Suarez (.367 OBP / .828 OPS) – age 26 w/ team control through 2020
1B Votto (.454 OBP / 1.032 OPS) – age 34 w/ team control through 2024
SS Cozart (.385 OBP / .933 OPS) – age 32, FA after 2017 – sign to 3-year contract
LF Winker (.375 OBP / .904 OPS) *a* – age 24 w/ team control through 2023
RF Senzel (.391 OBP / .905 OPS) *b* – age 23 w/ team control through 2024
2B Gennett (.342 OBP / .874 OPS) – age 28 w/ team control through 2019
C Barnhart (.347 OBP / .750 OPS) – age 27 w/ team control through 2022
*a* 137 PA in 2017 @ MLB level
*b* 2017 @ A+/AA in pitcher friendly FSL; SL
Take a good look at that starting lineup and recognize what Cozart and Yelich provide in
rounding out the lineup! Winker gets legitimately pushed down to the 5 hole, but there are no holes in the lineup, not even a hint of a hole…NONE! The trade cost to obtain Yelich will be steep and will probably come with some degree of pain, but Yelich puts the finishing
touch on a scary-good lineup. There are plus defenders at catcher, shortstop, and center field with an average defender at first base, left field, and right field. The only defensive liability is at second base. The lineup also has staying power with periodic updates as team control wanes and prospects mature to become MLB ready.
After cementing the roster and lineup for 2018, the next off season move involves a meeting of minds, so to speak. Dick Williams, along with Nick Krall and Sam Grossman, should ‘invite’ Bryan Price and Jim Riggleman to a private dinner out in Arizona. Noticeably and deliberately absent (by design) from the meeting are CEO Bob Castellini and Executive Assistant to the CEO Walt Jocketty. There is a change in operations heading into the 2018 season and all decisions regarding baseball operations, sans budget, now rests in the Office of the President of Baseball Operations.
A clear, targeted message should be delivered clear during the meeting. Price has the keys to the Reds’ exquisite but delicate and temperamental sports roadster and he has caretaker responsibilities. Price should be instructed as follows:
(A) Price will strictly platoon Scooter Gennett at 2B.
(B) Cozart will play no more than 3 out of every 4 days, including scheduled off days, from the beginning of the season.
(C) Cozart and Gennett will not be out of the starting lineup at the same time. Since Gennett’s platoon starts against every right-handed starting pitcher, Cozart must start against every lefty starting pitchers, along with about half of the RH starters.
(D) Jose Peraza starts at SS whenever Cozart does not start. The competition for a
platoon partner at 2B will be worked out between Peraza and Dilson Herrera during spring training and the early 2018 season.
(E) Tucker Barnhart starts against every RH starting pitcher with Devin Mesoraco starting
against every lefty. Either catcher not in the starting lineup becomes a late-inning,
(F) No hitter with an OBP among the worst two in the starting lineup will hit among the first 5 hitters in the lineup, regardless of how fast they are.
(G) Any sacrifice bunt ordered by the dugout will be questioned and must be justified after every game. Repeated inability to validly justify a sacrifice bunt, successful or not, ordered the dugout will be subject to accountability from the Office of the President of Baseball Operations. Ditto with any and all double-switches made during the game.
(H) The young starting pitchers on the 25-man roster will be provided every opportunity to succeed or fail on the mound as appropriate. Veteran starters (Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan) will start every fifth game if healthy (or, if placed on
the disabled list, will be replaced in the starting rotation by a young pitcher.
(I) Strict closer rules and limits will not be utilized. The best relief pitchers will be utilized in the highest-leverage situations whenever possible. The goal regarding
the pitching staff is to identify the five best starters and the seven best relievers by the end of the 2018 regular season and have those twelve pitchers available at the end of the season.
(J) All starters will be extended to six innings or more as appropriate. Any starting pitcher subject to an innings limitation will have starts curtailed and be replaced in the starting rotation rather than limiting their innings during a start. Starters removed from the starting rotation due to potential innings limitations will be moved to the bullpen or optioned to AAA to limit their innings pitched and keep them available at the end of the 2018 season.
(K) The manager is accountable for all decisions made by the base coaches. Aggressive baseball will be the goal, but senselessly giving away precious outs on the bases will not be tolerated.
(L) Price and Riggleman are expected to move into the the modern world and embrace the concept of maximizing a player’s contribution to the team and maximizing the team’s ability to succeed. All decisions within the dugout should embrace those concepts. Initiative and justifiable experiments toward that goal are encouraged and expected. Strict adherence to antiquated thinking and decisions without justification, other than that’s how it was done in the past, will be subject to accountability from the Office of the President of Baseball Operations.
What are your thoughts?