Everyone’s favorite columnist Paul Daugherty had a rather hot take yesterday at The Cincinnati Enquirer. He had a take on the Cincinnati Reds offseason and the biggest move they will make. Was it trading for a shortstop that can get on base? Nope. Maybe it is signing a free agent catcher with some pop in his bat, right? Not that one, either. Perhaps it was acquiring a reliever to help the bullpen? Wrong again.
No, the biggest move in the mind of Paul Daugherty that the Cincinnati Reds will make this offseason is who they hire to call the baseball games in the place of Marty Brennaman. Is Brennaman a legend in the city of Cincinnati? Absolutely. Will people miss him when he’s no longer calling the games? Definitely. Is the guy calling the games on the radio going to change anything at all for the Cincinnati Reds? No, it’s not.
Fans aren’t buying tickets or cable packages (which is where the team makes it’s money) because of who is describing the baseball games. They buy those things because of what’s being described. It’s the product that is on the field that matters. A winning baseball team being described slightly less than is going to make a much larger impact than a slightly better described game for a bad baseball team. Winning is what matters.
The Cincinnati Reds have about 15 people right now that are calling baseball games between the radio booth and the television booth. Fans aren’t not tuning in when Marty Brennaman isn’t making the call. That’s not why they turn on the radio to begin with. They tune in to hear if the Reds are winning or losing. Over the years Brennaman has been the guy to describe all kinds of great seasons, great games, and even great plays. When there’s a situation that warrants a great call, Marty Brennaman is right there near the top of the list with the best around. And that certainly beats the ever living heck out of someone who is dry and emotionless in their call of those types of plays.
But it’s those plays that matter. Whoever the Reds hire to replace Marty Brennaman is going to be a disappointment to many fans who have never known anyone else. But they are still going to listen to the games on the radio when they aren’t at the game or watching in on television. They’ll do that because they root for laundry. They are fans of the Reds and they want to know what’s going on with the team down on the field.
The biggest hire for the Reds isn’t always going to be a player. Perhaps it’s a manager. That won’t be happening this offseason. Last offseason the biggest hire for Cincinnati may very well have been their pitching coach. They won’t be getting another one of those this year.
Of course, that hiring of Marty Brennaman’s replacement take wasn’t even the hottest one of the article, it’s just the one that got the headline and the most words. Buried in the article, under a bolded portion about Sonny Gray, was this:
They should give Jose Iglesias four years, if that’s what it takes to keep him. And then, who knows?
Four years for Jose Iglesias. This is the same Jose Iglesias who couldn’t get a Major League contract after the 2018 season. That same 2018 season that was in every single manner that we know of when it comes to measuring performance on the baseball field that was BETTER than his 2019 season.
Jose Iglesias has gone from an OPS+ of 88 to 84 from 2018 to 2019. Jose Iglesias has watched his wRC+ go from 89 to 83 from 2018 to 2019. His WAR? It’s down in both the Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference versions. His fWAR was 2.5 last year. This year it’s 1.3. His bWAR was 2.2 last year. It’s 1.4 this year. Context matters and the way that the baseball is changing offense in 2019, despite the numbers being higher in certain columns, the degree in which those compare to the league make his season worse than the one just a year ago.
If the Cincinnati Reds hand Jose Iglesias, who currently ranks by fWAR as the 23rd best shortstop in baseball out of 26 qualified shortstops a 4-year contract extension then the front office deserves every last bad thing that anyone has ever said about them, warranted or not.
When the Reds were able to sign Jose Iglesias to a minor league deal this past offseason I was confused. Not because they signed Iglesias, a move that I really liked. But because he somehow had to settle for a minor league deal. He is a Major League caliber player. He was last year and he is this year. And even in a year in which he’s not as good as he was in 2018, he should get a guaranteed Major League deal for 2020. And that’s because he’s a Major League player.
What Jose Iglesias shouldn’t be counted on is that of an every day player. He doesn’t have power. He doesn’t get on base. The numbers show this over and over and over. But Iglesias brings value to a team. He’s the kind of guy you want as your utility infielder. He’s the kind of guy you are fine with stepping in as your starter if your starter goes down with an injury up the middle. Heck, he might even be the perfect guy to be a stop-gap in the first half if you have a stud prospect middle infielder that you want to get a little more time in the upper minor leagues before you hope they are ready to step into the Major Leagues in June or July.
But what Jose Iglesias isn’t is a guy teams hand 4-year contracts to.