Cincinnati Reds

Three Headlines for 2017: The Cincinnati Reds

I would like to start off by thanking the good people over at for sharing my article on the Reds (albeit a critical one) earlier today. I’ve had a ton of traffic come through this evening and it is a direct result of their support. They’ve been at it since 2005, and are certainly the first place I go to find quality, independent analysis of America’s first professional baseball team.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to run “Three Headlines for 2017” in an effort to highlight a few of the most intriguing players or storylines from each team as we head into the 2017 season. Because of the support shown from the fans of the Queen City baseball club, I’m going to start with the Reds.

3 Reasons to Believe

1. “Amir Garrett develops into a frontline starter”

This kid is going to be a frontline starter for an organization that desperately needs one. With Homer Bailey ailing and Anthony DeSclafani likely heading to the DL to start the season, Garrett is a near lock to make the starting rotation. I’m excited to see the 6’5″ lefty, who deals at a blistering pace, refine his mechanics and grow into a professional pitcher. If I were a Reds fan, I would keep a watchful on eye on Garrett’s development this season.

2. “Jose Peraza becomes a vital part of the Cincinnati offense”

Peraza is going to take over full-time duties at second base this season and he is like a Billy Hamilton, but a real baseball player.

You’re right, that wasn’t very nice, but it might be true. Hamilton is one a trick pony while Peraza is a legitimate ballplayer. Peraza flashed signs of brilliance during his rookie season (more like half of a season) and is expected to be a main cog in the rebuilding process. Peraza has hit at every level on his way to the Majors and is electric on the base paths. The 22 year-old Venezuelan should excite Reds fans for years to come.

3. “Out of the quicksand”

Take a deep breath, diehard Reds fan. The worst of the losing is over. While the club’s record may not improve much this year, there is hope on the horizon. Garrett, Peraza, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and maybe even Cody Reed are here to guide the Reds into a successful future. No fan can stomach watching a team stuck in neutral, but this is no longer the case in Cincinnati. The Reds are moving in the right direction and they have some special young players to watch. Enjoy the season.

Check back tomorrow for a “Three Headlines for 2017” feature on the Atlanta Braves. I’ll be progressing through the Major Leagues from the earliest professional team (Reds, then the Braves) through the newest organizations (Rays and Diamondbacks).

Report Card: Evaluating the Cincinnati Reds Trades (July 2015-Present)

A friend of mine is a diehard fan of the Cincinnati Reds who is less than pleased about the recent moves by his team. I received a text message moments after the Phillips trade was announced from my old pal which read, “I’m starting to think winning is second to staying out of the red, pun intended.”

While many of their recent moves have been head scratching (that Chapman deal was so, so, so bad) I wanted to take a look at the trades the organization has made over the last few years as they look to rebuild. Here is a look at each of the major trades since July of 2015:

Johnny Cueto- Traded on July 26, 2015 to the Royals for Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. 

For Johnny Cueto, the Reds brought back a paltry return of Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed from the Royals. Finnegan was the cornerstone of the deal and pitched well in his first full year in the Bigs. The 23-year-old southpaw was 10-11 with a 3.98 ERA.

While those numbers seem average, what was most impressive is that he made 31 starts and had a stellar strikeout to walk ratio. Finnegan struck out 145 batters while only walking 84, good enough for a 173 SO/W ratio. Finnegan should be there throughout the rebuilding process and serve as a top of the rotation starter, likely maxing out as a quality number two arm.

Lamb was traded away to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash in November.

The 23-year-old Reed was 0-7 last year. Pitching 47.2 innings and sported a 7.36 ERA.

Two out of three were complete misses in this deal, with Finnegan being approximately as advertised. It is tough to deal a homegrown ace for only one player of value.

Baseball on Tap Trade Grade: C-

Mike Leake- Traded on July 31, 2015 to the Giants for RHP Kuery Mella and 1B/OF Adam Duvall

At the trade deadline in 2015, the Reds dealt Mike Leake (then only 27-years-old) to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Kuery Mella and Adam Duvall. Mella pitched rather well for the Class A Daytona Tortugas (ahh…I love MiLB names…) and earned a ticket directly to AAA. In his lone start at AAA, Mella pitched well. The 23-year-old righty is currently in camp with the Reds, but should start the year in the minors.

Adam Duvall burst on to the scene last year and started in left for the 2016 Reds. While Duvall smashed 33 HR’s and 103 RBI’s in his first year as a starter (good enough to earn an All-Star bid) he will be entering his age 28 season in 2017. With this Reds team being so far away, it is likely that Duvall will be on his way out of town before the Reds are ready to compete.

While the Reds were not interested in resigning Leake (especially to the 5 year/$80 million dollar deal he received from the Cardinals) they did receive a fair haul for Leake. Mella could be a middle of the rotation type starter (at best), but Duvall should be flipped for players that will help the Reds compete a few years down the line.

Considering Leake’s impending free-agency at the end of the year, it was not a terrible deal.

Baseball on Tap Trade Grade: B- (With the potential for a higher grade if Duvall is moved at the right time). 

Todd Frazier- Traded December 16, 2015 to the White Sox for 2B Jose Perza, OF Scott Schebler and OF Brandon Dixon

Todd Frazier (who at the time was 29) was sent to the White Sox as a part of a three team deal that included the Dodgers. Frazier, along with Joey Votto, was the face of the franchise and was coming off of an impressive All-Star campaign in 2015. In the trade, the Reds acquired Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon.

Peraza is the likely starter at second now that Phillips was sent to Atlanta. As a rookie last season, Peraza was a key contributor by hitting .324 in 274 AB’s. Peraza does not display a lot of power (3 HR’s last year) but is speedy (21 SB’s). Peraza figures to be a mainstay in the Reds long-term rebuild.

Schebler played in 82 games last season for the Reds, splitting time between all three outfield positions. In his age 25 season, Schebler swatted 9 HR’s to go along with a .265 AVG. Schebler should see consistent playing time this year and provide some protection for Joey Votto and Duvall. Schebler is under team control through the 2022 season.

Dixon, a third round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, spent his entire age 24 season with AA Pensacola. In 419 AB’s, Dixon hit 16 HR’s and drove in 65 RBI’s. He will need to cut down on the strikeouts (137 last year) to move through the system. From what I can tell, he is at best a fourth outfielder somewhere down the road.

While the first two players are nice acquisitions for the Reds, it seems that the team may have received only an average (maybe slightly above) return.

Trade Grade: C+

Aroldis Chapman- Traded December 28, 2015 to the New York Yankees for RHP Rookie Davis, 2B Tony Renda and RHP Caleb Cotham

The Chapman deal seems to be the worst of the bunch.

Rookie Davis was a dominant force in AA last year, going 10-3 with a 2.94 ERA. Davis earned a promotion to AAA but struggled upon his arrival. With the Reds rotation in flux, Davis could crack the rotation out of Spring Training. If not, he will likely make his debut at some point in 2017.

Tony Renda was a 2nd Round Pick by the Nationals in 2012, but at the time of the trade the 24-year-old had never played above AA. Renda cracked the Big League roster last year, but struggled in just 60 AB’s. He does not appear to be a part of the long-term rebuild.

Caleb Cotham was 28 years old when he was acquired, and had a whopping total of 9.2 Major League innings under his belt. The righty struggled out of the Reds pen last year, throwing 24.1 IP with a 7.40 ERA. He is no longer listed on the team’s 40 Man Roster.

Eric Jagielo hit .205 for AA Pensacola last year with only 7 HR’s. He will be entering his age 25 season and seems to be a complete bust.

So, the Reds got ONE useful player out of this deal. When comparing that to what the Yankees landed for Chapman in July of 2016 (just eight months after this trade), it is embarrassing. The Yankees received four players, including super prospect Gleyber Torres and outfield prospect Billy McKinney. In all of the trades that the Reds have made, none of the players they received are as good as Torres. In fact, none of the players that the Reds have received even cracked the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects, that was released earlier today. 

Trade Grade: F

Jay Bruce- Traded on July 31, 2016 to the New York Mets for 2B Dilson Herrera and LHP Max Wottel. 

Jay Bruce hit 238 HR’s during his eight plus seasons with the Reds, but the team moved on from the lefty slugger at the trade deadline last year. His impending free agency after the 2017 season surely played a part in this decision.

What the Reds received in return was a mediocre prospect in Dilson Herrera, and a long-term project in Max Wottel.

When the 2015 season ended and it was obvious the Mets would not resign Daniel Murphy, many fans believed the job would be handed over to Herrera. He had a cup of coffee with the team in 2014 and 2015, but many were high on him as a potential 20 HR hitter out of the second base position. It was shocking to most when Neil Walker was acquired from the Pirates for Jon Niese that December, but it kept Herrera on the back burner and made him expendable.

With Phillips out of town, Peraza seems to be next in line to start at second leaving Herrera without a position. The Reds could use the toolsy 22-year-old (who hit 15 HR’s in AAA last year) to acquire another player, or hope to switch him to another position.

Wotell is a big lefty (6’3″) out of North Carolina who was a third round pick by the Mets in the 2015 draft. He has yet to pitch above Rookie Ball, where he has struggled to the tune of 5.05 ERA.

It makes very little sense to have acquired Herrera when Peraza was already in the system. A pitcher like Robert Gsellman or Marcus Molina would have made more sense.

Trade Grade: C- 

Dan Straily- Traded on January 19, 2017 to the Marlins for RHP Austin Brice, RHP Luis Castillo and OF Isaiah White

In what is nothing short of an act of alchemy, the Reds turned garbage into gold (maybe silver). The Reds had claimed Straily off of waivers from the Padres in April of 2016 and cashed in on his 14-8 2016 season.

In return for Straily, the Reds received a fireball pitcher in Luis Castillo and another valuable pitcher in Austin Brice. White is a project, and reminds me of a poor man’s Billy Hamilton when it comes to his skill set.

Castillo and Brice should both contribute for the Reds as they rebuild.

Trade Grade: A-

Brandon Phillips- Traded on February 12, 2017 to the Braves for RHP Carlos Portuondo and LHP Andrew McKirahan

This one seems to be purely financial. Phillips was due $14,000,000 this year and the Reds were looking to move the money. Portuondo, who hails from Cuba, has been playing in the USA for two years but has yet to make the Majors. At 29 years of age, it is unlikely he will be a key component of a winning team anytime soon.

McKirahan is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery and did not pitch at all in 2016.

The only upside to this deal is that Peraza is no longer buried and will be able to play everyday at 2b.

Trade Grade: D

2015-2017 Trade Report Card: Cincinnati Reds

Cueto: C-

Leake: B-

Frazier: C+

Chapman: F

Bruce: C-

Straily: A-

Phillips: D

Comments: My friend has a point…

While the Reds aren’t the laughing stock of the league, they missed a great opportunity to drastically improve their team. Instead, they are going to need to hit on an inordinate amount of homegrown prospects rather than acquiring those that have been developed by other organizations that should have been required over the last year and a half. The Reds are over three seasons away from being a serious contender.

NL Central Update from the Blogosphere: A roster shake-up looms in Pittsburgh, the Reds need 2017 for 2018 and Molina looks for a new deal in St. Louis

Chicago Cubs: John Arguello (@CubsDen) of The Cubs Den released an article detailing how Charlie Blackmon could potentially fit into the 2017 lineup if the Rockies and Cubs were able to reach an agreement on a trade. Arguello surmises that Blackmon could fit into a platoon Alberto Almora or even become the full-time centerfield option for Joe Maddon. He is a hit first, play defense late type of guy. It is worth monitoring the outfield situation in Chicago with the Dexter Fowler likely out of town to cash in after a solid 2016.

St. Louis Cardinals: Brian Walton (@B_Walton) of The Cardinal Nation Blog expresses his concern over recent reports surrounding the future of Yadier Molina’s contract situation. Molina’s agent Melvin Roman, who has his client signed through 2017 with a mutual option for 2018, shared that he would like to approach the organization about Molina’s contract prior to the start of the 2017 season. The objective is to keep the 34 year old catcher in St. Louis for the rest of his career, but the threat of Molina departing after the 2017 is legitimate.


Yadier Molina by Dave Herholz

Walton laments the thought of Molina finishing his career elsewhere, but understands it may not be prudent to give an aging catcher a final long-term team. However, Molina (as Walton points out) appeared in more games than ever last season (147) and with a manager who is a former catcher in Matheny, the trust between the two will likely weigh heavily in determining the outcome. While a resolution is not expected in the coming days, Walton points out that this is a situation to monitor going forward.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Bucco Blog reflected on Ken Rosenthal’s report that the Pirates are listening to offers on a number of players, including Josh Harrison. After signing Harrison to a four year extension after his breakout 2014 season, Harrison has been just above league average. With $17.5 million due over the next two seasons, Sawchik believes it will be difficult to find a buyer.


Josh Harrison by Keith Allison

On Andrew McCutchen, Sawchik conversed with Mike Petriello via Twitter to learn more about how McCutchen would fit into RF (as Buster Olney has suggested). Sawchik believes that despite McCutchen fading defensive metrics, that the move could actually help the 30 year old outfielder who moves better to his right than his left.

It remains to be seen whether or not McCutchen will be traded, but we at BoT feel that it would be selling low on a player that is poised for a bounce back season.

Milwaukee Brewers: Travis Sarandos (@travis_mke) of Disciples of Uecker (I love the name) published an article yesterday detailing the Brewers upcoming decision on whether or not to tender catcher Martin Maldonado. Maldonado, 30, became the primary backstop for the Brewers after the Jonathan Lucroy trade. Sarandos cites MLBTR’s prediction that Maldonado will probably receive $1.6 million. For the money, despite not being the best long-term option for the club, Sarandos believes it is worth the money to keep him around as a “serviceable backup.”

Cincinnati Reds: Jason Linden (@jasonlinden) of Redleg Nation believes that the 2017 matters for the Reds. Linden points to a plethora of middle infielders that need playing time rather than the aging Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart. Linden also cites a number of starting pitchers (eight) that should be competing for five starting rotation spots. Jesse Winker, a top-tier outfield prospect, should also be getting a legitimate shot at regular playing time to prepare him for the everyday duty in the 2018 season.

For Linden, 2017 matters. Evaluating and deciding on the  the meaningful pieces for 2018 must occur at the Big League level in 2017.





Hall of Fame Weekend: “The Kid” joins the Hall

Ken Griffey Jr. is going to be a Hall of Famer. But that can’t be true…it just can’t.

As a now 29-year-old married man, with a house and a dog, I just can’t get my head around the fact that he is going into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is for old people. Tom Seaver is a Hall of Famer. Rollie Fingers is a Hall of Famer. Yastrzemski, Stargell and Killebrew are Hall of Famers. Not my Griffey.

Griffey is the guy I started to idolize in the first grade. The kid with the perfect swing, long strides and a body that was just meant to wear a baseball uniform.But Griffey will become a Hall of Famer on Sunday.

The best player I ever saw, will become a Hall of Famer on Sunday.

Ken Griffey Jr. dazzled with his play. He hawked down baseballs that were home runs if any other human was in the outfield. Hitters became dejected when they saw number 24 glide to the fence, leap, stick one foot into the wall with his right arm extended, take back the home run and jog back towards the field with a smile and some luggage. That luggage was a baseball and almost always a teammate jumping on his back, in near disbelief as to what he had just witnessed.

He also had a swing that went seemingly went unaltered after its collision with the ball. That effortless swing blasted baseballs over the light blue, right-field fence at the King Dome on what seemed like a nightly basis. That swing gave us 630 home runs, clean home runs.

And then there was that smile, that beaming smile under the backwards hat with the northwest green brim that was on full display during a Home Run Derby for the ages in Baltimore. Griffey famously bounced a ball off of the warehouse that stands in right field on Eutaw Street that night, shocking the “Kid” himself. Griffey didn’t win that day, Juan Gonzalez did, but all I can remember from the summer night in 1993 is a young man that went by “Junior” owning the night.

Even though Griffey ended up with the highest percentage of votes to ever be elected to the Hall of Fame, has left many feeling a bit cheated. Not because he cheated, but because it was cut a bit short.

In his last ten professional seasons, Griffey only played in 130 games or more twice. Those were during his age 37 and age 38 seasons, when he was a much different player and not even a full-time starter. Before the injuries it had seemed to be a foregone conclusion that HE would be the one to break Aaaron’s record, not an overinflated Barry Bonds. But don’t feel cheated, he gave us some of the best baseball we ever saw.

From 1993-2000 (aside from an injury shortened season in 1995), Griffey dominated the game. He averaged over 47 home runs per year, was an all-star in each season and won six gold gloves. He made baseball, a leisurely game, the most exciting sport to watch for many. Young and old. Black and white.

He also gave young kids hope, that a normal looking human being, not one with 40″ biceps, could play baseball at the highest level. We walked around with our hats on backwards and often swung for the fences. If we ever got a hold of one, we would try to copy Griffey’s patented skip and stare as we watched the ball fly over a chain-linked fence, pond or sidewalk.

In the Summer of ’98 Griffey hung tough with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they falsely attacked the single-season home run record and Maris’ “61”. The newspapers always kept Griffey on the top of the sports page, like they knew his pursuit was pure, as he fell behind the two imposters. Griffey fatigued as the year went on while the bionic bastards tore up the record book. Looking back, we all kind of feel cheated about that too.

But when reflecting on Griffey’s career, there is no reason to think about what could have been. What was on the field was nothing short of beautiful. Griffey played our National Pastime in a manner in which only a few others ever have. Griffey was exciting, extraordinarily talented, and on Sunday, he will be a Hall of Famer, enshrined in front of tens of thousands of people in a small New York town.

I guess the Hall of Fame isn’t just for old people anymore.