Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reds' Month in Review (July)

The Reds concluded July with a 9-0 drubbing of the Giants on Sunday -- lifting their final record for the hottest month of the year to a sub-par 11-15.  Here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly for Cincy in the month that was July:

The Good: 
- Sweep of the defending World Series Champion Giants this past weekend.
- 4-1 record on games played on Sunday's.
- Johnny Cueto (1.95 ERA, 32 1/3 IP, 5 GS)
- Joey Votto (.313/.382/.521, 5 HR, 14 RBI's, 12 RS)
- Aroldis Chapman (14 apps., 1.17 ERA, 15 1/3 IP, 25 K's, .043 OPP BA)
Logan Ondrusek (14 apps., 1-0, 2.45 ERA, 11 IP)
- 3-0 in extra inning games.

The Bad:
- Fell 4.5 games farther back of first....now 6.5 games back overall entering August.
- 5-8 combined record against Pirates, Brewers & Cardinals.
- 3-7 record on the road.
- Only 9/17 (53%) in stolen base attempts (3rd worst in NL).
Francisco Cordero (1-2, 6.10 ERA, 3 BS, 10 1/3 IP)
- Bronson Arroyo (0-3, 7.42 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 5 GS, 9 HR allowed)
- Drew Stubbs (.236 BA [21-89], 2 HR, 4 RBI's, .387 SLG, 3/6 SB's)
- Injuries sustained to Scott Rolen, Zack Cozart & Jose Arredondo.
- Homer Bailey (2-3, 5.64 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 5 GS)

The Ugly:
- Bullpen converted only 4/10 (40%) save opportunities (worst SV% in NL).
- 0-8 combined record on games played on Monday's, Tuesday's & Thursday's.
- Four-game sweep to the hands of the Mets (7/25-7/28).

Cueto Belittles Giants With Gem

After being swept by the New York Mets at home earlier in the week, the Reds (53-55) redeemed themselves on Sunday by completing a sweep of the defending World Series Champion Giants (61-47) 9-0. 

It marked the team's first home sweep over an opponent since May 13th-15th versus the Cardinals. 
Cueto
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It also marked the second straight game the Redlegs offense came out swinging early -- scoring three times in the bottom half of the first.

Those runs proved to be all starter Johnny Cueto needed in this contest as the right-hander limited the San Francisco offense to no runs and just three hits in a complete-game shutout.  The 25-year old improves to 7-4 on the season and further lowered his National League-leading ERA to 1.72.

For his performance he earns the Hard Hat for this Reds' victory.

Honorable mention goes to Joey Votto who went 2-4 with a HR, drove in 4 runs and scored twice himself. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Hard Hat Goes To...

Despite being outhit by the Giants 11-7, the Reds notched another victory over the defending World Series Champions on Saturday by a tally of 7-2.

Cincy was able to knock San Francisco on their proverbial heels early, striking five times to take a 5-0 lead after the first frame.  From there on neither team could muster much offense, but it didn't matter as Mike Leake and the Reds bullpen made the early lead stand up.

For his efforts Leake is the recipient of this game's Hard Hat.  Here is his statline:

6 1/3 IP, 8 hits, 2 R (1 ER), 0 BB's and 7 K's

The 23-year old right-hander improves to 9-6 on the year with the victory.

Mike Leake
AP Photo/David Kohl

Saturday's Reds Nuggets

  • The Indians and Reds remain the favorites to land Houston's Michael Bourn (should he be dealt) tweets Examiner.com's Stephen Goff.
  • However, the Astros price tag for Bourn is "wildly high" writes SI's Jon Heyman.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the Reds are "less heated to make a deal" for Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez now. 
  • The Brewers acquired former-Red Jerry Hairston Jr. from the Nationals earlier today.  ESPN's Chris Singleton was the first to break the story.
  • ESPN's Jason Churchill suggests that the Braves may look toward the Reds' Drew Stubbs if they can't strike a deal for either B.J. Upton, Coco Crisp or Bourn. 
  • Reds front office personnel tell Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that the team has no intention of selling.
  • After getting the brace removed from his left arm on Thursday, Zack Cozart is slowly resuming baseball activities.  He reportedly took some cuts off a tee and from soft-toss on Saturday writes Tyler Jett of MLB.com.
Stubbs

Why Reds Face Uphill Climb to Win Division

With just two months remaining in the regular season, the Cincinnati Reds find themselves in 4th place in the NL Central at 51-55 and 6.5 games back of the front running Milwaukee Brewers.  As if that alone wasn't enough to doubt a second straight playoff appearance for the Redlegs, the following doesn't bode well for the Queen City either.  Here's a look at the top part of the current NL Central standings:

Team Record GB Gms Left
MIL 58-49 55
STL 56-50 1.5 56
PIT 54-50 2.5 58
CIN 51-55 6.5 56

For Cincinnati to mathematically win the division, they would have to hope for a best-case scenario in which each of the three teams above them finish the year at .500 or worst -- while at the same time finishing 10 games over .500 themselves.  Here is what those records would look like:

MIL 25-30
STL 27-29
PIT 29-29
CIN 33-23

The following is how the NL Central would appear at the end of the season if such a scenario played out:

Team Record GB
CIN 84-78
MIL 83-79 1
STL 83-79 1
PIT 83-79 1

Although this scenario is not impossible, it is highly unlikely.  It represents the fewest amount of victories Cincy would have to accumulate from here on out (33) assuming that the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates finish with the records listed above.

Further complicating the Reds' playoff chances are the extraordinary amount of games still left to be played against each other among the four teams.  While initially this may seem advantageous to a club trying to make up ground such as the Reds, the schedule shows that they have far fewer games left against the other three.  Here's the full breakdown:

PIT - 26 games left
CIN - 12 games left
STL - 25 games left (12 vs. MIL)
MIL - 25 games left (12 vs. STL)

All totalled, there are 44 games still remaining -- meaning 44 automatic wins (and 44 automatic losses) yet to be handed out.  Someone has to win and someone has to lose in these contests.  If you're Cincy the best you can hope for is that Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Milwaukee split the games they have left between them.  Even if Dusty Baker's squad can win the majority of their games down the stretch, it will be all in vein if one of the three teams ahead of them can do the same.

However, one statistic the reigning NL Central Champs can look to with some positivity is this: The Reds play only 6 of their 28 games in August against teams with a .500 record or better.  A reason to continue on indeed.         

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Hard Hat Goes To...

It may have taken 13 innings to do so, but the Reds (51-55) picked up a big win Friday night over the Giants (61-45) 4-3 at Great American Ball Park -- snapping a four-game skid for Dusty Baker's bunch.

The affair lasted nearly four and half hours and saw 37 players get action. 

Cincinnati wasted another quality start from Dontrelle Willis who surrendered just two runs in his six innings of work.  However, the Hard Hat for this Reds win goes to an unlikely source, Jose Arredondo.

After retiring San Francisco in order using only four pitches in the top half of the 13th, he promptly smacked a single in his first, career big league at-bat in the bottom of the inning to keep the Reds rally going.  Former Giant and last year's World Series MVP Edgar Renteria sent the home crowd happy immediately following Arredondo with a single down the right field line.   


Arredondo

Reds Trade Rumblings (Friday)

  • The Reds are interested in Houston's Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. 
  • Jon Morosi, also of Fox Sports, suggests that Bourn would fit well in Cincy -- giving them the coveted leadoff man they've been searching for.
  • Ramon Hernandez continues to draw interest from the Giants reports Morosi, although Cincinnati hasn't made the free-agent-to-be available just yet. 
  • If the club does decide to deal Hernandez, they'll be looking for pitching in return writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Reds' current losing skid has the front office strongly considering a "sell-a-thon" says ESPN's Jayson Stark.
  • However, GM Walt Jocketty told local media Friday afternoon, namely MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, that the team won't be selling at the deadline.
  • Travis Wood was scratched late before his scheduled start on Friday leading ESPN's Jim Bowden to believe the move may be trade related. UPDATE: Sheldon later tweets that Wood's start being bumped to Saturday, Matt Maloney to take his place tonight. 
Wood

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Miguel Cairo on Team: "We Stink"

Reds veteran Miguel Cairo likely said what every Reds fan was thinking after the team's 10-9 home loss to the Mets on Thursday.  It marked the first time the Mets had ever swept a 4-game series from Cincy in the Queen City -- dropping the struggling Redlegs to 6.5 games off the pace in the NL Central. 

Cairo, a 16-year veteran of the league, had this to say after the series finale, "We stink right now, as a team. We stink.  We're not doing the things to win games.  It's not like everything's going wrong, you've got to go out there and make it happen."
Cairo on team,
"We stink".

On welcoming the San Francisco Giants to town this weekend he added, "We’ve got to go out there and expect to win.  Right now we’re not playing like it.  Tomorrow we’ve got San Francisco and they’re going to come over here and try to kick our butt.  We’ve got to react.  We’ve got to do something about it.  We’ve got to take our tail out of our butt.  Excuse my language, but that’s the way we’ve got to do."

Regarding the outlook for the rest of the season Cairo concluded, “Everyone has to put a little more effort than what we’ve been doing.  Tomorrow is another day.  We’ve got to put it behind.  There’s still two months left in the season, and we’ve still got a pretty good chance to get a good run for it.  No one wants to take charge, and it looks like we don’t either.  We’ve got to go out there and play baseball the way we know how to play.”

For the record, the Reds will only play 6 of their 28 games in August against teams with a .500 record or better.
  

Reds Should Look to '12, Promote Mesoraco

On the heels of getting swept at home by the Mets on Thursday, the Reds fell to 50-55 and 6.5 games back of the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers (57-49).  In addition to that, two other teams also stand in their way of first -- the St. Louis Cardinals (1 GB) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (2 GB).  With postseason aspirations now reaching a season-low, it may be time for Cincinnati to look toward the 2012 season.

And one of the potential, key pieces of 2012's squad looks to be top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco.   

The 23-year old was selected in the first round (15th overall) by the Reds in the 2007 Draft out of Du Bois, Pennsylvania.

Fast forward to four years later and the right-handed slugger is currently batting .304/.377/.500 with 10 HR's, 57 RBI's, 33 doubles and a .877 OPS for Triple-A Louisville.
Mesoraco

Dubbed by MLB.com as the 45th overall best prospect in MLB before the 2011 season, Mesoraco has continued to blossom in his fifth professional year.  It's well known around the organization that it's only a matter of time until the 6'1, 220-pounder becomes the next backstop in the Queen City -- and with the Reds falling fast out of contention it seems as though that time is now for Mesoraco.

The club's current catcher, Ramon Hernandez, has been drawing trade interest from a few teams here at the deadline, namely the San Francisco Giants -- who are in need of a reliable catcher after losing Buster Posey to injury for the remainder of 2011.  While Hernandez has been nothing short of terrific for Cincy this year (.308 BA, 10 HR's), the 35-year old is set to become a free agent at season's end.  And with Mesoraco ready to take over the reins at catcher - coupled with the fact that the team has backup catcher Ryan Hanigan under contract until the end of 2013 - it's unlikely the Reds try and re-sign Hernandez in free agency. 

So what do you do if you're Cincinnati?  Simple.  Trade Hernandez to a willing suitor (much like the club did with Jonny Gomes) and pickup a couple of minor league prospects in return.  Then promote Mesoraco to the big show and let him gain valuable experience for the future.

The team has already taken steps in that direction with the promotions of Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, and Yonder Alonso in recent weeks -- so why stop there? 

With the 2011 campaign seemingly a lost cause (with respect to the postseason), it's in the best interest of the Cincinnati Reds to set themselves up for a better 2012.  And their next move should be finding a way to get Mesoraco up to Great American Ball Park.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday's Reds Trade Wire

  • Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Reds are more actively pursuing Tampa Bay's James Shields than Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, although he adds it remains doubtful the Rays trade their 29-year old righty.    
  • The Rockies do not require Reds prospects Devin Mesoraco or Billy Hamilton in a potential deal for Jimenez, tweets Rosenthal.   
  • The Yankees have the best chance of obtaining Jimenez via a trade writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
  • Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay remains skeptical that Cincinnati is seriously interested in the Rays' B.J. Upton, who is putting up similar numbers to the recently departed Jonny Gomes.
  • A trade went down today that could eventually effect the outcome of the NL Central race.  In a major deal involving 3 teams and 11 players, rival St. Louis acquired SP Edwin Jackson (from CHW), RHP Octavio Dotel, OF Corey Patterson, LHP Marc Rzepcynski and 3 PTBL or cash from Toronto in exchange for OF Colby Rasmus, LHP Brian Tallet, LHP Trever Miller, RHP P.J. Walters and INF Mark Teahan (from CHW).  Chicago received RHP Jason Frasor and former Reds draftee RHP Zach Stewart from the Blue Jays. 
  • In another move that ultimately effects the Redlegs, the Mets have dealt OF Carlos Beltran to San Francisco for top prospect P Zach Wheeler.  The Mets will reportedly payout the bulk of the $5 million owed to Beltran for the remainder of the season.  The trade can't become official until tomorrow as Beltran has no-trade rights due to the 10/5 clause (player has played 10 seasons in the majors, the last 5 with same team).
  • The Nationals added Gomes to their active roster after dealing for the 9-year veteran on Tuesday.  He is expected to split time in LF for the Nats with former teammate Laynce Nix.
Shields

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reds Get 2 Prospects in Exchange for Gomes

The Cincinnati Reds acquired minor league prospects OF Bill Rhinehart and LHP Chris Manno from the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, in exchange for OF Jonny Gomes and cash considerations.

Gomes, a free agent at year's end, has hit .211 with 11 homers and 31 RBI's in 265 plate appearances with the Redlegs in '11.

The left-handed hitting and throwing Rhinehart was having a breakout season in Double-A Harrisburg, batting .283 with 21 homers and 59 RBI's in 89 games.  The 26-year old is in his fifth professional season (all in the minors).

Manno, a native of Brooklyn, has posted a stingy 1.04 ERA and 12 saves in his 41 1/3 IP with Single-A Hagerstown in 2011.  The 22-year old was drafted by Washington in the 26th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft and is currently in his second professional season.

To take Gomes' place on the active roster, the Reds promoted promising young OF/1B Yonder Alonso from Triple-A Louisville. 

Analysis: I really like this move from a Reds perspective.  The team wasn't likely to re-sign Gomes in the offseason, nor were they getting much production from the 9-year veteran this year.  They did what they had to do and got two minor league prospects who were having great seasons with their respective clubs. 

From a Nats perspective, it's also a good deal.  They're able to get a decent bat to stick in their lineup without giving up any of their top prospects in return -- while also taking a low-risk that the 30-year old outfielder can return to his 2010 form where he hit .266, smashed 18 homers and drove in 86 runs.
 
Gomes

Tuesday's Reds Trade Talk

  • ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Reds are not actively involved in trade talks for the Mets' Carlos Beltran
  • GM Walt Jocketty told the Enquirer's John Fay that the team is not close in reaching any deals. 
  • The Ubaldo Jimenez rumors are in full tilt today.  The Rockies have reportedly asked the Reds for Devin Mesoraco and Aroldis Chapman in exchange for Jimenez writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post -- although both Mesoraco and Chapman appear to be "untouchable".  Homer Bailey and Chris Heisey have also been inquired upon by Colorado.       
  • It doesn't look like Seattle is going to trade closer Brandon League after all reports Doug Mittler of ESPN Insider.  Cincinnati was one team rumored to be interested in League's services. 
  • ESPN's Jason Churchill believes Baltimore reliever Koji Uehara would be a perfect fit for either the Reds or the Texas Rangers. 
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted yesterday that he's surprised San Diego relievers Heath Bell and Mike Adams aren't drawing more interest from the Yankees, Cardinals and Reds.
Jimenez
 

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Good Has Johnny Cueto Been? (Very Good)

An ace has emerged in the Queen City this season, and he goes by the name of Johnny Cueto.  The 25-year old has finally put it all together in 2011, and is a big reason why the Reds still remain in the NL Central race.  If you've followed the Redlegs this year, you know that Cueto has been good.  But just how good?  Take a look for yourself.

Here's how the Dominican right-hander ranks among all other National League pitchers (min. 80 IP):
  • 1st in ERA (1.98)
  • 1st in OPP BA (.198)
  • 1st in SLG (.287)
  • 1st in OPS (.356)
  • 1st in QS% (0.93)
  • 1st in fewest hits allowed (66)
  • 2nd in WHIP (1.00)
  • 2nd in fewest HR allowed (5)
  • 4th in CG (2)
  • 4th in OBP (.263)
If Cueto continues to pitch like this he will undoubtedly garner serious Cy Young Award consideration -- especially if the Reds can somehow manage to get back to the postseason for a second straight season.

Cueto is 6-3 in 14 starts in '11

Monday's Reds Trade Rumors

  • Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted out today that the Reds are drawing interest from several teams on righty Edinson Volquez.  The Dominican native is 5-4 with a 5.93 ERA in 16 starts with the big club this year, although he's currently pitching in the minors with Triple-A Louisville.
  • One source close to the Rockies told Jon Morosi of Fox Sports that the chance of Ubaldo Jimenez being dealt is 50/50.  Also, Cincinnati was among five other teams scouting his start yesterday versus the Diamondbacks according to SI's Jon Heyman.
  • A new name on the trade market has been linked to the Redlegs today in the personnel of the Rays B.J. Upton.  This according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
  • The Reds are still in the mix - as are several teams - in acquiring coveted Padres closer Heath Bell according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. 
  • Stark also writes that one executive he spoke to hinted of the possibility of a dark horse like the Reds or Brewers landing Mets OF Carlos Beltran.  He also reports that Tampa Bay is no longer likely to trade ace James Shields. 
Jimenez

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Hard Hat Goes To...

Well, the Redlegs did something on Sunday night they hadn't done in 39 days -- win back-to-back ball games.  They did so by slipping past the Atlanta Braves 4-3 thanks to some last inning heroics by none other than Drew Stubbs.  His 13th homer of the season in the bottom of the ninth sent the crowd of 33,036 home happy with a Reds walkoff win. 

For his efforts, Stubbs receives this edition of the Redlegs Review Hard Hat.  Here is his statline for the affair:

2-4, HR, BB, RBI, 2 RS & a brilliant, run-saving catch in the top of the 9th.  His walkoff homer was the 2nd in his young career.


James Shields: A Ray of Hope for Reds?

Here we are entering the last week of July and the Cincinnati Reds (49-51) are still very much in the hunt for first place in the tight NL Central race (4 GB).  However, three teams currently stand in their way from winning the division for a second straight year -- the front running St. Louis Cardinals (53-47), the second place Milwaukee Brewers (54-58) and the surprising, third place Pittsburgh Pirates (51-47, 1 GB). 
Shields has posted a
2.53 ERA in '11.

GM Walt Jocketty has expressed interest in acquiring a starting pitcher, a reliever, and/or another middle-of-the-lineup bat to help push the club over the top.  While various names have been tossed around in the rumor mill, one name stands among the rest in my opinion --  James Shields

The Rays ace is putting together another great season in St. Pete.  And with the Rays postseason hopes appearing to be fading fast (9.5 GB in AL East, 6.5 GB in Wildcard), coupled with the fact that Shields' contract is due to give him considerably more money in the next few seasons, it's not improbable at all for cash-strapped Tampa Bay to seek to deal him away. 

In order for the Reds to pry him away from his current team, I think a package consisting of top prospect Yonder Alonso, catching prospect Yasmani Grandal and another mid-level prospect would be enticing enough for the Rays.  With reigning MVP Joey Votto already at 1B, and top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco next in line to be Cincy's backstop, Alonso and the switch-hitting Grandal are expendable.  Shields would finally give the Redlegs a proven ace the franchise has been looking for to go alongside with Johnny Cueto and the rest of the deep pitching rotation they possess.

The proposed trade also benefits Tampa Bay as well.  Their current 1B, Casey Kotchman, is set to become a free agent after this year, which would finally give the major-league, ready Alonso his shot in the big show.  And with no clear catcher of the future waiting in the wings of their farm system, Grandal could eventually inherent that same position with the Rays. 

And if that's not enough to convince you, how about considering Shields' contract?  TB has the majors second-lowest team payroll at just under $42 million.  Their way of competing consist of excellent scouting, drafting and grooming of players through the minor leagues until they come up with the big club.  At that time they ride the success of their young stars for as long as they afford them (usually 3-5 years).  Unfortunately for the Rays, that time is quickly approaching with Shields.  He is due for a hefty raise from $4.25 million this season to a club option of $7 million in 2012.  That salary increases to $9 million in '13 and $12 million in '14. 

Initially, he may look to be a bit pricey for the Reds mid-small payroll too ('11 team payroll=$76.2).  However, his contract is a relative bargain if you compare him to the aces of other teams (i.e.-Sabathia, Halladay, Beckett, etc.).  In comparison, Cincinnati already dishes out $11.5 million this year to Bronson Arroyo -- a reliable, but middle-of-the-rotation type starter.
Shields could provide the "punch"
at the top of the Reds roation.

Not only has Shields shown to be a shutdown starter throughout his career, the 29-year old has done so in the rugged AL Central East Division.  Just imagine what he could do in the more pitching-friendly National League.  Here's a look at some of his notable statistics:
  • 65-59 with a 4.02 ERA in 6 career seasons (all with TB).
  • 2nd in AL in K's (151) and 3rd in AL in QS (17) this season.
  • 9-8 record this year, but is tied for the most "tough losses" in the league (5) and has the 4th lowest run support average of any starter in the AL.
  • Exhibits high control as evidenced by his 3.71 career K/BB ratio. 
  • One concern though.  He pitches considerably better in domed stadiums (3.54 lifetime ERA) than in open-air stadiums (4.66 lifetime ERA).  And with GABP being known as a "hitter-friendly" park, that's about the only cause of concern I could find with Shields.
With all this in mind, the Reds have the pieces to acquire the former 16th round pick from the Rays.  Even if the club missed out on the postseason this year, adding a guy like Shields to the rotation could still set the table for a successful 2012 and/or 2013 campaign.  Let's see if Jocketty and the front office can make the deal happen.

The Hard Hat Goes To...

Cincinnati notched another victory on Saturday night by a tally of 11-2 over the visiting Braves.  Although the offense finally woke up, the Redlegs Review Hard Hat for this one goes to Homer Bailey.  He kept his club in the game until exiting after the sixth inning -- and the native Texan did so by stranding a boat load of Atlanta runners on base.

Here is a look at his statline:

6.0 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K's

Bailey improves to 5-4 on the season.

Honorable mention goes to: Brandon Phillips (3-5, 2 2B's, 2 RBI's, RS)

 

Homer Bailey
AP Photo/Al Behrman

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Taking the Proposed MLB Realignment A Step Further

Discussions about the possibility of restructuring the current MLB alignment ran rampant last month.  Some of the ideas included 1) eliminating the divisions altogether and creating two 15-team leagues vying for five playoff spots within each league, 2) a realignment based solely on geographic criteria, or 3) simply moving one National League team (Houston) to the American League to form three, 5-team divisions with four teams from each league making the playoffs, among others.

While I do believe the third proposal to be the most likely scenario, it still fails to address an important issue that Major League Baseball has avoided for years -- the discrepencies in team payrolls.  Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) currently have some sort of salary cap (or salary floor) in place which not only helps control costs, but it also promotes parity between the teams.  Although a franchise with a high team payroll may not necessarily put a winning product on the field, there is a high correlation between winning and teams with large payrolls.

Take the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates for example.  According to ESPN, the Yankees boast the largest payroll in all of MLB at a near $197 million for 2011 alone.  The Pirates on the other hand, have a payroll this season of almost a fifth of that at just under $46 million.  Is their a correlation between winning and money here?  Yes.  The Buccos haven't had a winning record in eighteen seasons, the longest such streak of any professional team in North America.  Meanwhile, the Pinstripes have made 15 playoff appearances since then -- winning the World Series five times in those trips. 

If MLB truly wants to level the playing field of its league and instill hope in fans of perennial, losing franchises, it should realign the current makeup of its divisions with team payroll in mind.  I propose that the new realignment consists of two, 15-team leagues (American & National) with one division in each league designated for "big", "medium" and "small" market payrolls.  Here is what each division would look like (numbers in parenthesis represent 2011 team payroll as reported by ESPN):
     
AL "Big" Market DivisionNL "Big" Market Division
NY Yankees ($176.9 mil) PHI Phillies ($173.0 mil)
BOS Red Sox ($160.3 mil) CHI Cubs ($126.4 mil)
LA Angels ($139.0 mil) NY Mets ($120.1 mil)
CHI White Sox ($129.3 mil) SF Giants ($117.8 mil)
MIN Twins ($112.7 mil) LA Dodgers ($103.8 mil)

AL "Medium" Market Division

NL "Medium" Market Division
DET Tigers ($105.7 mil) STL Cardinals ($98.8 mil)
TEX Rangers ($91.9 mil) COL Rockies ($88.0 mil)
BAL Orioles ($85.3 mil) ATL Braves ($87.0 mil)
SEA Mariners ($84.7 mil) MIL Brewers ($85.5 mil)
HOU Astros ($70.0 mil) CIN Reds ($76.2 mil)

AL "Small" Market Division

NL "Small" Market Division
OAK Athletics ($65.3 mil) WSH Nationals ($57.9 mil)
TOR Blue Jays ($61.6 mil) FLA Marlins ($56.6 mil)
CLE Indians ($48.3 mil) ARI Diamondbacks ($53.6 mil)
TB Rays ($41.9 mil) PIT Pirates ($45.6 mil)
KC Royals ($35.7 mil) SD Padres ($45.5 mil)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday's Reds Trade Rumors

  • A Reds insider told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier today that the team has discussed the possibility of acquiring Houston's Hunter Pence or the Mets' Carlos Beltran -- although no deals are close.  Personally, I can't see the Reds realistically prying either one away from their respective teams.
  • Citing international sources, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Reds have in fact signed Venezuelan RHP Jonathan Perez to a deal after originally breaking the story on Tuesday.  This second report comes after GM Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday evening that he had no such knowledge that an accord had been made.  Perez is not currently on the list of recent Reds transactions -- making the situation even more strange.  
  • GM Walt Jocketty made some interesting comments to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports today, among them stating that he "hates" trading prospects.  Well, you have to give in order to receive Walt.   
  • Cincinnati continues to be a team being linked with Tampa Bay's James Shields.  ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted out earlier that he thinks top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco may be the key in getting a deal done, but added he thinks a swap could also be done without him.  When asked by Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times about his name being tossed around in trade rumors Shields replied by saying "I love this town.  I want to be here.  And I think we have a good team."
  • ESPN Insider's Jason A. Churchill hints that the Reds and the Mariners could be potential trade partners.  He writes that M's pitchers Brandon League, Jason Vargas or Doug Fister could possibly help bolster Cincy's staff while the Reds could send a combination of prospects Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier and/or Yasmani Grandal in return.  
  • Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie could potentially land in the Queen City according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.  
Shields
Guthrie
League

5 Prospects The Reds Shouldn't Trade Away

With the trade deadline just under nine days away, all indications are that GM Walt Jocketty and the Reds will make an acquisition before July 31st.  And if a deal is struck, it likely means that the club will have to part ways with one or several of its top prospects. 

However, if I'm in the Reds front office, here are five prospects currently in the organization that I would refuse to trade -- no "ifs", "ands" or "buts" about it:

Rodriguez
5) OF Yorman Rodriguez - Signed by Cincinnati at age 16, the Venezuelan native is currently playing this season with the Single-A Dayton Dragons.  He possesses a good combination of speed and power, but still has room to improve on his .258 season average and strikeout/walk ratio (82/24).  No worries though, Rodriguez has plenty of time to blossom as the youngster won't turn 19 until mid-August.
Frazier
4) INF/OF/UTL Todd Frazier - A former first-round selection by the Reds in '07, Frazier is still working his way toward the majors spending '11 with Triple-A Louisville.  Tabbed as one of the top three prospects in the Reds farm system in '09 & '10, his stock has dropped off a bit this year.  However, his ability to play just about anywhere on the diamond makes him a rare and valuable commodity.  With Scott Rolen's career appearing to be near the end - in addition to the Reds carousel in left field - the New Jersey native may just get his shot with the big club very soon. 
Hamilton
3) SS/2B Billy Hamilton - Arguably the fastest player in the organization, the former second round pick currently leads the Midwest League in stolen bases this year with 72.  A teammate of Rodriguez's in Dayton, Hamilton may be next in line to take over at 2B should the team fail to re-sign Brandon Phillips in the coming years.  But with that said, the 20-year old still has a lot of work to do both with his glove (29 errors in 90 games this season), and his OBP (.309) before he can legitimately become the leadoff hitter this franchise so desperately seeks.  Oh, did I mention he's a switch hitter?
Cozart
2) SS Zack Cozart - Although we have just a small sample size to go by, it appears as though the Memphis native may have solved the Reds shortstop predicament -- for now at least.  After posting solid numbers in 77 games in Triple-A this year (.310 BA, 7 HR's, 32 RBI's, 57 RS), he's carried that momentum up with him thru nine games in the majors so far.  Aside from posting stellar offensive numbers at his shortstop position (a position usually occupied by defense-first type guys), he's shown himself to be a real solid defender as well. 
Mesoraco
1) C Devin Mesoraco - Rated as the #2 overall prospect in the Reds system by MLB.com and the 45th overall prospect in all of MLB by MLB.com before the '11 season, the 23-year old has continued to live up to expectations.  The former first round draft pick has hit for both average (.305) and power (10 HR's, 31 2B's) this year in Triple-A Louisville.  With current Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez likely to become a free agent after this year, it makes way for Mesoraco to compete with Ryan Hanigan for the backstop position starting in 2012.  Furthermore, should Cincy decide to trade their other top catching prospect in Yasmani Grandal before the deadline, it makes it all the more vital to hold onto Mesoraco.  He is unquestionably, the catcher of the future in Cincinnati.                    

Reds vs. Braves Series Preview

First-year skipper Fredi Gonzalez brings his Braves team (57-40) to Great American Ball Park for a 3-game set with the Redlegs (48-50) beginning Friday night.

Although boasting the league's second best record, Atlanta continues to try and keep pace with the NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies.  Entering play on Wednesday the Braves remained four games back of the Phils, but maintained a comfortable, five-game lead in the Wildcard standings.

In the home dugout will be Dusty Baker's Reds -- who keep hanging around in the midst of the crowded NL Central race.  After avoiding a sweep with a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Cincy sits within striking distance at four games back of the front-running Brewers.  To even think about a potential playoff berth however, the Reds must take advantage of this crucial 10-game homestand they're about to kickoff this weekend.

Here is a look at the game times, pitching probables and notes about the series:

7/22/11 7:10 PM
ATL Jurrjens (12-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. CIN Arroyo (7-8, 5.57 ERA)

7/23/11 4:10 PM
ATL Lowe (6-7, 4.37 ERA) vs. CIN Bailey (4-4, 3.74 ERA)

7/24/11 8:05 PM  ESPN
ATL Beachy (3-2, 3.75 ERA) vs. CIN Willis (0-1, 3.38 ERA)

Notables:
-ATL leads the season series 2-1.
-Run-ning away. Atlanta has the 2nd best run differential in all of MLB at +55.
-Claiming the Central. Atlanta has the best winning percentage of any team against NL Central opponents this year at 15-7 (If you're wondering the Reds are 3-7 vs. the NL East).
-Slamming the door shut. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is tied for the NL lead in saves with 29.
-Chief Jurrjens. Jair Jurrjens owns the most wins (12) and the second best ERA in the NL.
-Great American success. ATL catcher Brian McCann has batted .371 with 8 HR's and 17 RBI's in 18 lifetime games at GABP.
-Tomahawkin' the Braves. Despite owning a 5.70 ERA in 13 starts vs. the Braves, Bronson Arroyo is 6-3 against them.
-Don't steal. Atlanta's 34 stolen bases on the year is tied for the least in the National League.
-A tough out. Joey Votto has reached base safely in 9 out of 15 plate appearances against Atlanta this season. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Best & Worst Reds July Trades of Past 15 Years

BEST
Danny Graves
*July 31st, 1997 - In a 6-player deal, Cincinnati acquires RHP Danny Graves, UTL Damian Jackson, LHP Jim Crowell, and RHP Scott Winchester from Cleveland for LHP John Smiley and INF Jeff Branson.  Graves goes on to become the Reds all-time saves leader with 182 in his nine seasons with the organization.  Smiley pitches in only six games for the Tribe before retiring after the '97 season while Branson is relegated to a seldom-used bench player for the rest of his time in the bigs. 
*July 19th, 2001 - The Reds receive 2B Todd Walker and OF Robin Jennings from the Rockies in exchange for OF Alex Ochoa.  Jennings never amounts to much, but Walker puts up a .298 average and 96 RBI's in his 1 1/2 seasons with the club before signing with Boston in the '03 off-season.  Ochoa bounces around with three different teams before leaving the pro ranks a season later.
*July 6th, 2003 - The Chicago White Sox send 2B D'Angelo Jimenez to the Reds in a trade for RHP Scott Dunn.  Jimenez hits .271 and accumulates a .359 OBP over his next three years with the franchise.  Dunn is traded again three weeks later by Chicago - this time to the Angels - where he goes on to appear in just 10 career major league games.  
Aaron Harang
*July 30th, 2003 - In exchange for OF Jose Guillen, Cincy receives RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Joe Valentine and RHP Jeff Bruksch from Oakland.  Harang emerges as the staff's ace during the '06 campaign, eventually compiling 75 wins and a 4.28 ERA in his 8-year stay in the Queen City.  Guillen goes on to play with six other teams and puts together a very solid career, but never surpasses the monster numbers he put up during the '03 season (.311 BA, 31 HR's, 96 RBI's).
*July 31st, 2009 - Cincinnati sends 3B Edwin Encarnacion, RHP Josh Roenicke and RHP Zach Stewart to Toronto in return for 3B Scott Rolen.  Rolen immediately instills a winning mindset to the clubhouse in helping the Reds to a 27-13 record (in games he appears in) to finish the '09 year.  That momentum carries over to the '10 season where the seasoned veteran helps guide the team to it's first postseason appearance since '95.

WORST
Phil Dumatrait
*July 11th, 2002 - Florida gets OF Juan Encarnacion, INF Wilton Guerrero, and LHP Ryan Snare from the Redlegs in a deal for RHP Ryan Dempster.  A winner of 29 combined games the two seasons before, Dempster wins only 8 in his 1 1/2 seasons in Cincinnati.  He is later released and signed by the Cubs where he goes on to resurrect his career in Chicago.  Encarnacion becomes a steady, everyday outfielder for three different clubs before calling it quits in '07.   
*July 30th, 2003 - The Reds send former Rookie of the Year RHP Scott Williamson to Boston in exchange for LHP Phil Dumatrait and LHP Tyler Pelland.  Dumatrait goes 0-4 in six starts with the team after finally making it to the majors nearly four years later in '07.  Pelland never makes it to the big show while Williamson becomes a reliable reliever for the Red Sox, but never returns to his stellar form while in the 'Nati.  A lose-lose for all.
Gary Majewski
*July 13th, 2006 - In a whopping 8-player trade, Cincinnati receives RHP Gary Majewski, LHP Bill Bray, SS Royce Clayton, RHP Daryl Thompson and INF Brendan Harris from Washington for OF Austin Kearns, INF Felipe Lopez and RHP Ryan Wagner.  Majewski posts a 7.38 ERA in an injury-riddled three seasons with the team, Clayton contribues very little in his half a season with the squad, and Thompson continues to be a player stuck in Triple-A.  Only Bray proves to be valuable commodity among the five players acquired in the trade by the Redlegs.  Lopez and Kearns go on to become contributors with their respective teams and still remain on major league rosters to this day.
*July 30th, 2007 - The Phillies obtain RHP Kyle Lohse by sending LHP Matt Maloney to Cincy.  Since then, Lohse has compiled a combined 36-31 record with two teams including a 15-win season in '08.  Maloney has pitched in just 20 games for the Reds (4-7) while bouncing back-and-forth from the minors.  He is currently on the 60-day DL with a broken rib and is scheduled to return later this month.     

Thursday's Reds Trade Rumors

Not a whole lot of new developments today, but here's what I found:
  • Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes that the Reds are showing some trade interest in Mariners 3B Chone Figgins.  Aside from his limited production at the dish this season (.182 BA), Figgins is due to make $17 million over the next two years in his contract -- making it very odd that GM Walt Jocketty would even consider him. 
  • Jonny Gomes is one of several outfielders reportedly on the Braves trade radar according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.  Atlanta is looking for some offensive help before the July 31st trade deadline and are willing to part ways with a top pitching prospect to do so.
  • ESPN Insider Jim Bowden writes that an "ideal" acquisition for the Reds would be landing Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, Houston's Hunter Pence or Oakland's Grant Balfour.  At this point it seems like Jimenez is staying put in Denver and I can't see the Astros trading an impact player like Pence to an intra-division rival.  Balfour seems like the only true possibility of these three.      
  • On an interesting side note, former Red Adam Dunn told Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan that he contemplated quitting earlier this season, but opted against it because he says the game is still fun.  The "Big Donkey" also added "Even though I suck. Or have been sucking. I enjoy playing the game."  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Hard Hat Goes To...

Another Reds victory means another time to hand out the Redlegs Review Hard Hat.  The Reds finally broke through and scored today - three times actually - en route to a much-needed 3-1 win over Pittsburgh.  No player played a bigger role in the outcome did starter Johnny Cueto, so naturally he is your Hard Hat recipient for this game. 

Here is his statline:

6.0 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB's, 4 K's.

The 25-year old improves to 6-3 on the year while lowering his season ERA to 1.98.

*Honorable mention goes to Jay Bruce who went 2-2 with 2 BB's and a run scored.


Jared Wickerham/
Getty Images

Reds Trade Rumblings (Wednesday)

  • Three players on the Reds radar are Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, Seattle's Chone Figgins, and Oakland's Coco Crisp according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  Personally, I'm not sure if any of these guys would be an upgrade to the current roster.  Nonetheless, their names are out there.
  • A new and more intriguing development today is the possibility of Cincinnati acquiring Tampa Bay's James Shields.  The Rays have had scouts at multiple Triple-A Louisville games this week and this tidbit may explain why. 
  • SI's Jon Heyman lists the Reds as one of many possible suitors to land coveted Padres closer Heath Bell.  However, in an interview on the Doug Gottlieb show on Tuesday, Bell believes the Rangers, Phillies and the division-rival Cardinals to be his three most likely destinations.
  • The Rockies have yet to receive a single, legitimate offer for Ubaldo Jimenez reports Tim Brown and Jeff Passan of Yahoo.  In fact one MLB official allegedly told ESPN's Jayson Stark that Colorado never intended to trade Jimenez at all.     
  • If there was any doubt about whether or not the Reds would be buyers or sellers at this year's trade deadline GM Walt Jocketty put that to rest today.  Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Redlegs are "definitely buyers" and added "...we're looking at any number of ways to improve our club".
  • Former Reds GM and current ESPN analyst Jim Bowden thinks Washington's Tyler Clippard or Toronto's Jon Rauch would be a good fit for Cincinnati without having to part ways with a top prospect(s).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top 5 Most Expendable Reds Prospects/Players

Although Cincinnati currently stands at two games under .500 at 47-49, it appears as though the franchise will opt to be buyers in this year's midseason trade market.  And as all contending teams know, there is a price to be paid to acquire those players whose current club is already out of the playoff race (aka-"sellers") -- usually the compensation is in the form of a top prospect or prospects.  If the Redlegs are truly in the running for a Ubaldo Jimenez, Ryan Ludwick or Brandon League, they're going to have to tap into their farm system to get them. 

While virtually none of the trade talk ever comes to fruition, it is worth the time to examine which prospect(s)/players the team could legitimately offer up should the front office decide to go through on a deadline deal.  Here are my choices for the five most expendable prospects/players within the Reds organization: 
Alonso

1) Yonder Alonso - Rated as the 4th-best Reds prospect by Baseball America in 2011, the left-handed slugger has the unfortunate situtation of having a MVP block his promotion to the big club.  Yes, the 24-year old has appeared in 57 games in LF for Triple-A Louisville this year -- and yes he may be the answer in left for Cincy, but the fact remains that several teams are in search of a promising, young first basemen like Alonso and they are willing to part ways with a proven player to get him.  His high stock value, in addition to the Reds already having Joey Votto make the Cuban relatively expendable in this year's trade market.
2) Yasmani Grandal - With Devin Mesoraco being the heir apparent to catcher in Cincinnati someday, it makes Grandal the odd man out.  The switch-hitting backstop was the first-round pick of Cincy in 2010, and at age 22 he still has tons of room (and time) to grow.  The truth is he may never get a shot at being an everyday catcher in the bigs with Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan on the roster, so GM Walt Jocketty could easily afford to include him in a deal if he wanted.
Francisco
3) Juan Francisco - Tabbed by MLB.com as the 48th overall best prospect in MLB before the 2010 season, Francisco's stock value has diminished a bit since then.  He started this year in Cincy before being demoted to Louisville after appearing in only 9 games.  The third basemen possesses major power offensively and is still relatively young at 24 years old.  However, he continues to show impatience at the plate (565 K's, 95 BB's in minor league career) despite being in his 6th professional season.  Perhaps a change of scenery would do him well?
Wood
4) Ramon Hernandez - The ole' saying of buy low and sell high applies mightily here.  The 35-year old has been nothing short of sensational this season (.309 BA, 10 HR).  But with other contenders (such as the Giants) in need of a dependable catcher, it makes sense to get something in return while you still can with Hernandez.  The Reds could simply promote Mesoraco to take his place and would still have a proven veteran in Hanigan to help with their playoff push.     
5) Travis Wood - You just couldn't have a list of expendable Reds players without having at least one pitcher on it.  Cincinnati is loaded at the pitching position right now -- making it easily the most expendable position of the franchise.  Wood has proven to be a viable option as a 4th or 5th pitcher in a big league rotation, and would assuredly be a welcome trade piece for any opposing team.