MLB: 4 Moves the Cincinnati Reds Should Make
The Cincinnati Reds are off to a tepid .500 start. Luckily for them they're not the only ones in the NL Central spinning their wheels. Waiting on the players who led them to the NL Central title last year to get healthy and find their groove probably won't be enough. The Reds need to make some tough personnel decisions in the coming month or two.
The following are four somewhat controversial moves that the Reds should make in order to set themselves up for success not only this year, but in the future. Four because round numbers be damned and also because the fifth I had planned (promoting Dontrelle Willis) was already set in motion just last night.
Trade Ramon Hernandez
The timing is seemingly perfect for the Reds to make a move.
The MLB trade scene iron is starting to get hot and in Ramon Hernandez's case, he couldn't be hotter with the ash or maple. Whichever his stick of choice is doesn't really matter, given the way Ramon's been swinging the bat this year he could hit for average with a wiffleball bat. Hernandez's stock is as high as ever. All the pieces are in place, it's time for Walt Jocketty to strike the hammer on a trade.
Plenty of contenders around the league could use catching help; most notably the San Francisco Giants. There's been a galaxy-sized void behind home plate at AT&T Park ever since Buster Posey, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, was shelved for the year. Acquiring Hernandez would make sense on a lot of levels for the Giants; he'd help fill more holes than a Marvin Gaye Album. Ramon would provide some oomph their offense has been sorely lacking, solid play behind the plate, a possible mentor for Posey and veteran leadership. Actually, the last part may be debatable. I'm not even quite sure what veteran leadership is, but according to what I've discerned from the talking heads on my TV set I believe you receive it on your 30th birthday. Save if you're Barry Bonds; in that case you receive a smarmy grin and a package from BALCO.
A trade would help make way for Hernandez's heir apparent. Blue chip catching prospect, Devin Mesoraco is currently kicking down the door to the majors in AAA Louisville. On the year the former 1st Round pick is sporting a gaudy slash line of .311/.388/.519 for the Louisville Bats.
This past offseason the Redlegs signed Ryan Hanigan to a three year contract extension. The move would seem to indicate that Ryan, one half of the two-headed catching monster affectionately referred to as Hernanigan, figures more into the Red's immediate future. With Hernandez seemingly being expendable the Reds should go ahead and get good value for him now while they can.
Keeping Hernandez isn't necessarily a bad move on the Reds' part; it's just the best way to get proper value out of Ramon. Should he hit free agency next year he's actually playing too well for his (and the Red's) own good. The thing being, if the Reds and Hernandez plan to part ways at the end of the season, as it stands Ramon would be a type-A free agent. The Reds would probably prefer for him to be a type B so they would be ensured of receiving a free compensation round pick. Type-A status is practically a stigma for non-superstar players such as Hernandez. Most teams would be too reluctant to sign the 35 year-old catcher due to the 1st or 2nd Round pick they'd have to give up in exchange.
Less Time for Gomes, More for Anyone Else
Jonny Gomes is a good guy and as salt of the Earth as they come. I get it. He's as blue color as can be, hence why so many Reds fans are endeared to him.
No doubt about it, he's a five tool blue color player. His hustle is at an almost Rose-esque level. He has more grit than a truck stop steak dinner. He annually ranks top ten in the league amongst guys you'd want on your side in a bar fight. Work ethic? If that were a score-able stat in fantasy baseball he'd go first in every draft; cause I'm pretty sure he has residence in a batting cage and either logs or digs ditches in his off time. When it comes to humbleness he makes Derek Jeter envious.
All that said, he's just the latest in a line of callus laden, high hustle – low performance Cincinnati fan favorites. Jonny Gnomes, garden gnome night has the hallowed distinction of best player-based game promotion for someone with a negative WAR, eclipsing even the Ryan Freel dirty shirt game. Gomes is simply the latest opiate to hook the blue collar junkies of Cincinnati, trying to fill a Pete Rose/Sean Casey-sized void in their lives. This demon's reared it's ugly head many times before, taking names like Rosales, Valentin, Freel etc. The results are never pretty and in retrospect the infatuation always seems silly.
As opposed to some of the former Reds I mentioned above Gomes does have his value, just not as an everyday player. Jonny Gomes cannot hit right-handed pitching whatsoever. Ninety percent of the population is right handed, somewhat less than that in the MLB. Regardless, the numbers are not in his favor here. Everyday players sort of have to be able to hit right handers. Just to help illustrate things here's Jonny's lefty/righty splits:
Split BA OBP SLG
vs RHP .227 .308 .431
vs LHP .283 .379 .515
On the plus side Jonny is a superb hitter against southpaws. Dusty Baker could best utilize him in a platoon situation a la exactly what he did in '09, which not coincidentally has been Gomes' best overall year as a Red. Complementing a move to platoon for matchups is the fact that fellow outfielder, Chris Heisey, hits righties extremely well and lefties poorly. Have a looksee:
Split BA OBP SLG
vs RHP .292 .355 .496
vs LHP .184 .254 .333
Thankfully for the frothing-at-the-mouth sabermetrics dorks like myself; Dusty and the Reds seem to have begun moving more towards a platoon.
Trade Aroldis Chapman
The Reds should ship Aroldis Chapman down the Ohio.
To most this probably comes across a bit radical and freewheeling, but in the Reds' best interest both short and long term it's probably the best move. In Aroldis' short tenure as a professional baseball player he's exhibited some of the most sickening, electric stuff that anyone's ever seen. He has also demonstrated a lack of control and endurance. He simply doesn't have what it takes to be a starter in the majors.
While Chapman's potential to develop into a dominant closer is tantalizing, truth is unless he turns into the next Mariano Rivera relievers just don't have that much impact or bear much value.
Despite all the seats the guy fills and all the press attention he draws, Walt Jocketty needs to make a bit of an unpopular move and dangle Chapman as trade bait. Relief pitching is the easiest commodity to come by in the MLB, so Jocketty and the Reds would be best served by trying to parlay the talented young lefty into a star position player or starter.
This by no means is an impetuous call based on Chapman's performance thus far this season. A 105 plus mile a hour fastball and a nasty slider are not to be taken lightly. The thing being, the value his performance as a Red's reliever brings pales to the value that he could bring as a trade commodity.
Acquire Jose Reyes
It's no secret to anyone who's followed the Reds even cursorily: the Reds have a major hole at shortstop.
Edgar Renteria isn't the player he once was or the reasonable facsimile thereof that he played the part of during last year's World Series. Paul Janish has proven to be the guy everyone knew he was: great glove, no bat.
Plain and simple, the Reds need a shortstop, and the answer isn't on the roster.
Jose Reyes perfectly fits multiple needs. He would be the spark at the top of the lineup Cincinnati has been searching for forever. His dynamic presence alone would go a long way in boosting the performance of the rest of the guys batting around him.
Drew Stubbs would be able to drop down in the lineup to sixth, which would be more fitting of his free swinging style. Reyes combining with Philips, Rolen and Votto would have to make for the best defensive infield in the NL.
There's been a swelling of support in Red's Nation as of late for shortstop prospect Zack Cozart. Cozart has been doing a great job thus far in AAA Louisvile, hitting nicely for .316/.363/.478. I like the guy and think he could be a solid major leaguer, but I just don't see him as the kind of player who's going to help the Reds to a championship.
From what I've seen of Cozart and judging by his numbers, he seems to be a poor man's J.J. Hardy. He has reliable defense, a bit of pop in the bat, and he's the kind of guy that's going to hit in the neighborhood of .250 - .280 every year.
Cincinnati Reds' Owner Bob Castellini should show the dedication to winning that he's spoken of before and make a move to bring in a premium player for a title push. The Reds have a major hole at the position, and it's a somewhat rare opportunity to be able to acquire a player of Reyes' caliber at such a premium position.
Even if Reyes is brought over to the Reds purely as a rental player, the gambit would be plenty worth the risk. Cincinnati has as plush a farm system as it's ever had in some time. The Reds have the luxury of making a calculated risk.
Adding incentive to act is the fact that the risk in acquiring Reyes' services is hedged, since he will become a Type-A free agent were he to leave Cincinnati. Much of the value in the form of young talent given up for the rental period would be recouped from the automatic late fist Round pick received and the additional first or second Round pick on top of that.