As part of our Philanthropy Project for the year, the associates in the Cincy office of my firm (w/some partners, family, and family of partners) helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Children's Home of Northern Kentucky last night. There were a few current and former Bengals there to sign autographs, including Max Montoya, who donated all of the food. We will definitely have to check out his restaurant. I had a great time, even though none of the kids asked me for my autograph. The evening got me into the holiday spirit and was a great kickoff to the holiday season.
In an article on espn.com today, Jerry Crasnick picks a free agent value for each position. One of his outfielders is Juan Rivera and he indidates the Reds could use him for their outfield. Exactly what I've been saying since the inception of this blog (okay, it's only been three days, but I posted before Crasnick).
He also picks Randy Johnson as a value pick. As regular readers of this blog will tell you, I said the Reds should sign Johnson in my previous "Free Agent Finds" post. I encourage you to check it out.
One value pick I didn't mention (kudos to Crasnick for not steeling all of my ideas) is Joe Crede. he would certainly provide the Reds with an upgrade defensively at third (if healthy) and provide some righty pop, which I've been mentioning all week. But he's represented by Scott Boras, the most influential person in baseball right now, and I don't see the Reds ponying up for a Boras client. Plus, as we've discussed, that would move Eddy to left and we'd lose some of what we'd gain defensively with Crede. Too bad we didn't trade Eddy to the Indians for Cliff Lee before the '08 season, like I suggested.
I neglected to include comments on the infield prospects so I'm adding to my previous post.
The Red's top prospect is Yonder Alonso, a first baseman out of the University of Miami. He was the Reds' first pick in last year's draft and is a seasoned college player. He won't play in '09 but don't be surprised to see him in '10. He's not a bad fielder, but his lack of speed means he's stuck at first base. Look closely at whether the Reds move Votto or Eddy to left. That could foreshadow Alonso's big-league time frame. He's a five-star guy with huge upside. I expect he'll be a Paul Konerko ('05-'06, not '07-'08) type player in a couple years. He's got a good eye, and hammers the ball when he does swing. I haven't seen many top-100 prospects lists for '09 yet, but expect Alonso in the top half of most lists.
I recently got to see Chris Valaika play in person in the Arizona Fall League. He's a solid player. The Peoria Javelinas have him playing 2B, but he can also play SS and 3B. He went 2-4 with a double and two runs scored in the game I saw, and played solid defensively. Of course, the Reds also have Todd Frazier (their second best prospect), Neftali Soto, and Juan Francisco at 3B, so that may be why Valaika is playing 2B. Might it also indicate a move of BP to SS? We'll have to see.
Not much else on the prospect front for the infield. I did get to see another future Red in Arizona in Sean Henry. He's listed on the Javelinas' roster as a first baseman, but played right field in the game I saw. He batted lead-off, and started the game with a bunt single. He got to second on a wild pitch and stole third the first chance he got. Nice speed, but he's not on the radar of most prospect experts.
Let's start with the good news. Brandon Phillips is a great player at 2B. He came into '08 off of a great '07 campaign. '08 was his age-27 season, the year that players typically peak. He was a bona fide prospect who didn't make it with the Indians but found new life with the Reds. Unfortunately, he had quite a decline in '08 and, since that was his age-27 season, I expect he'll be more like his '08 year than his '07 year from here on out. He had a decline in every stat except walks and k/walk ratio. While he did walk a little more, his OBP still declined. Bottom line, he needs to get on base more, but that's splitting hairs on a good player. Throw in that he won the gold glove this year and he's a solid player to build on, is part of this team's core, and is signed long-term. (Whether or not he can be a team leader will be addressed in my final post in this series on intangibles.)
More good news: Joey Votto. I hate to say this, but his approach improved dramatically and his intensity level picked up after his father died in August last year. This had to be huge for Votto, as he wouldn't even let the team announce why he went on the bereavement list. Only later, did the info. trickle out. Having seen several games after that, you could tell the difference. I don't have an explanation, only the observation. Votto is a very valuable hitter and the Reds have cost-containment on him for several years. He can play a decent first base and probably a decent left field, which he did at the tail end of '07. For now, he's at first and I'm okay with that.
I like Easy Eddy at third base. Remember, he's still only 25. His average stunk in '08, dropping almost 40 points from '07. But he walked more and his OBP only went down about 15 points. The culprit: strikeouts. They increased by 16 in only 4 more at bats. His slugging average acutally rose by 28 points. If he can strike out less and keep the untimely throwing errors to a minimum, he's solid at third. Whether he can play left field, as has been suggested this off-season, who knows.
With Votto, Phillips, and Encarnacion, the Reds have three very solid young infielders. That leaves shortstop. BP (that's Baseball Prospectus -- man's greatest invention, not Brandon Phillips -- one of God's great inventions) is calling the Reds a dark-horse in the Rafael Furcal free agent sweepstakes. Furcal would be a great addition to the infield. The Rays made hay this year by vastly improving their defense (and, therefore their pitching staff) and Furcal would do that for the Reds at short. I don't see the Reds signing Furcal, however, unless they think they can dump Alex Gonzalez. I don't see them dumping him until other teams see that he is healthy in spring training. By that time, Furcal will be long gone. One option would be to sign Furcal and intend to use A-Gon at 3rd if he can't be moved. That would move Eddy to left, but who knows if that would work. Whatever benefit the Reds get from improved shortstop play might be lost by having Eddy in left. (One bonus: the fans are already used to poor fielding in left.) More likely, the Reds go into spring training with A-Gon at short, hoping he proves his health, and then trade him to the losers in the Furcal sweepstakes. Of course, they will be competing with the Red Sox (no relation) and A's who want to do the same with Julio Lugo and Bobby Crosby, respectively. Keppy would be the back-up plan if A-Gon isn't healthy or gets traded. We could do worse than Keppy at short, but he's not a long-term solution there.
Danny Richar, who we got in the Jr. trade, is actually a decent player. One negative is that he bats lefty and we have lefties. But he could certainly fill-in at second (with BP at short?) in a pinch, and could be a decent lefty off the bench but he's got no power, with a career slugging percentage under .400.
I like Wilkin Castillo as the 25th man because he can catch, and play just about every position. And he's got some speed. Exactly what you need for that last guy. I doubt Rosales makes the team, as I think that last spot will go to a reliever.
Next up: outfield. Although, I may take a break from the hotstove and fulfill a request for my top-ten all time baseball moments.
If anyone wants to comment, click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post. It's open to anyone, you just have to enter a name.
Lance McAlister is reporting that the Reds are talking to the White Sox about a Homer Bailey and another player trade for Jermaine Dye. Of course, depending on the "other player" (usually these rumors mention the top guy, so any "other player" would be somebody worse than the player mentioned) this is a no-brainer for the Reds. Dye would be expensive, but the Reds have the money. And it doesn't look like Homer has a rotation spot this year. I still say signing Juan Rivera is the way to solve the left field/righty power problem, but Dye would be a sight for sore eyes at the GAP.
I'm no fan of espn (I'll post on that at some point) but the network provides an interesting starting point for the Reds' hotstove discussion. Here is the current projected 25 player roster: C Hannigan 1B Votto (you have to say Joey Votto as if you're doing a Christopher Walken impersenation) 2B BP 3B EE SS A. Gonzalez LF Hopper CF Freel RF Bruce OF Dickerson OF Jolbert Cabrera (I would give this spot to a reliever) IF Keppinger IF Richar (from the Jr. trade) IF Adam Rosales UTL Wilkin Castillo (can do everything but pitch - from the Dunn trade)
Rotation: Harang, Volquez, Arroyo, Cueto, and Ramirez Pen: Cordero, Owings, Burton, Bray, Daniel Ray Herrera, and the Majic Man.
The first obvious weakness is at catcher. I'll tackle catcher in this post as the first part of our series. I don't know if Hannigan can hack it, but right now he's all we got. Wilkin Castillo is the only other catcher on the roster. Texas famously has four good, young catchers, but trading for one will be tough with the number of teams that need a catcher and a free agent market with no catchers (LaRue? Ross? Valentin? I've heard that one before.) If Texas does trade a catcher to the N.L. it better not be Teagarden, as the Blue Sox would lose him.
I would see what it would take to get Miguel Montero from the D'Backs, although Boston seems to have already beaten us to that idea. Another option would be to trade for J.R. Towels with the Astros. He was the 54th best prospect in baseball last year. But when handed a job, he blew it (which killed the Legends). Now might be a great time to get him and let he and Hanigan fight it out for PT.
Who could we trade? Good question. I bet the D'Backs would take Homer for Montero (they are reportedly demanding Masterson from the Red Sox (no relation)) although I'm not sure I'd make that deal. I'd be okay with trading Homer under the right circumstances, but his value has taken such a hit I would prefer to build up that value before shopping him (or keeping him). The D'Backs lost the O-Dog to free agency and always seem to need outfield help, so I would also dangle Freel and Hopper and see if I get a bite. If they would take Dickerson, I would do that in a minute, as his value will never be higher than it is right now, coming off of a surprising run in the Bigs at the end of the '08 season. (Plus, we have Drew Stubbs who can probably do what Dickerson probably can't re-do.) Freel, Hopper, and/or Dickerson might not get it done, but we might be able to throw in some organizational depth.
As far as the Astros, don't forget that Homer is from Texas. I think I would do Homer for Towels, a swap of two underperforming prospects. (And boy the Astros need starters.) Plus, the Astros drafted a catcher in the first round of the '08 draft who is now their best prospect. According to Rotoworld, the Astros don't think Towels is ready and are looking at free agent David Ross as a stopgap. Maybe it wouldn't take as much as Homer and we could send them Dickerson, Freel, or Hopper. I think he's ready. He hit historically poorly in the Bigs last year, but continued to hit in the minors. Guys like that always turn it around (paging Brandon Larson).
The Reds need a good, young catcher as evidenced by their use of their first pick on Devin Mesaraco in the 2007 draft, a catcher out of Punxsatawney, PA. He apparently saw his shadow, however, in his first year of pro ball and had a disappointing year. He is a long way from the Bigs and only the Reds' 11th best prospect, a two-star prospect at that. They have no catchers in their top ten. Montero or Towles would be a good investment.
Another option (and this really depends on whether the Reds plan to compete in '09) would be to sign a veteran like Greg Zaun to split time with Hanigan and help with the young pitchers. Cleveland and Baltimore may be willing to part with V-Mart and Hernandez, respctively, but I think that's too big a move for the Reds in terms of what they would have to give up and I wouldn't advise it at this time.
My suggestion: trade for Towels. I think he'd come the cheapest, and has great upside. Montero would be my second bet, and then a veteran signing as a last resort. They can always bring back Valentin who actually played a decent first base at the end of last year.
If the Reds don't follow my advice (likely) and sign Juan Rivera (unlikely), they should invite Richie Sexson to spring training. Assuming he doesn't sign a guaranteed deal with another team, he's a risk with some upside. The Reds need righty power (previously posted) and he would probably come cheaper than Rivera. There's a good chance he's done for his career, but definitely worth a spring training invite. Not worth a guaranteed contract, though.
Most of this winter will be spent figuring out who the Blue Sox should keep from last year's roster. Some background: the Blue Sox finished 8th last year (out of 10). The beginning of the end came before the season even started -- in fact before the player auction -- when I traded Kevin Youkilis for Jeff Clement, Akinori Iwamura, and Mark Teahen. In my defense, I needed a fourth minor league keeper. What I didn't need, however, was a couple of regulars who couldn't hit or steal bases, but how would I have know that?
Anyway, I was never really in it so I was able to stockpile some players. Here are the rules: we get to keep 14 players and 4 minor leaguers. Right now, I'm looking at these 10 for-sure keepers: Dioner Navarro, Ian Kinsler, Evan Longoria, Alex Gordon, Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp (see earlier post -- he should play every day now), Travis Snider (missed minor league eligibility by two days), Chin Ming Wang, Philip Hughes, and Chris Ray. That leaves 4 more spots and I have the following to choose from:
The aforementioned Jeff Clement (keeping in mind that I essentially traded Youkilis for him), Howie Kendrick (almost a for-sure keeper), Asdrubal Cabrera (or, Cabrutal as he should be called), Kevin Slowey, Jon Garland (who may sign with the Mets and, therefore, be ineligible), Anthony Reyes, Jessie Litsch, and one of the following 3, if any are going to close in '09: Scot Shields, Octavio Dotel (how great would a trade of Jenks to the Mets, with Dotel moving into the closer's role be for the Blue Sox? And the Mets?), or Jensen Lewis (fat chance!).
As far as minor leaguers, I have 8 good options for 4 spots: Clay Buchholz, Taylor Teagarden, Kai Ka'aihue, Lars Anderson, Elvis Andrus, Austin Jackson, Freddy Garcia, and Dontrelle Willlis (yes, he and Garcia are minor league eligible). I don't consider Travis Buck, Josh Barfield, and Matt Murton good options, but you might.
The major league players have a salary component that I'd be happy to discuss, but the minor leaguer's don't. After you've had a chance to review this list, I would appreciate ideas on who to keep for next year. I guess I should include our categories so that you'll now what I'm "keeping." On offense, we use HR's, SB's, Avg., and Rbi's. For pitching we use Wins, Saves, era, and strikeouts.
One of the reasons I ask for your input is so I don't make mistakes this year like not keeping Ervin Santana, who had a great year.
I've had this book on my shelf for years and always assumed that I had read it. In fact, I thought I'd seen the movie (Eric Roberts? One of you imdb'ers can look that up). Anyway, I decided to, "read it again" and I don't remember it at all. Anyway, it's pretty good. I would definitely recommend it for light reading.
The Reds don't appear to be big players in the free agent market this year. I don't see them signing any of the big names unless you count Joe Beimel, which I don't. If they do go for a big "name" it should be Randy Johnson on a one-year deal with an option. They saved a ton of money with Jr. and Dunn off the books and could use some excitement for next year. Watching the Unit go for 300 would fit the bill and give the Reds a southpaw in the rotation. The best part of Johnson is that he's either pitching well or injured. He never pitches poorly.
My free agent target would be Juan Rivera. The Reds need some right-handed pop and he's got that in spades. He'll be cheap, too, after coming off of partial seasons due to injury (broken leg suffered in the winter ball last year). Put him in left and give him 600 AB's and I bet he hits 30 home runs playing half the year at the GAP.
I needed something to start blogging and I guess the trade of Coco Crisp was it. I updated my facebook status with how excited I was about his trade to the Royals, and no one cared. My wife didn't want to hear about it either, so I decided I would blog about it. I was thrilled to learn of the trade. The Blue Sox landed Crisp toward the end of last year for only $1. By moving to the Royals, he is almost certain to play everyday and may even lead-off. No doubt he will steal more than the 20 bags he stole last year in part-time work with the Red Sox (no relation). My excitement was tempered, however, when Peter Gammons posted that the Reds were in the running to trade for Crisp. That would have been a great trade for the Reds. But I'll take the bird in the hand.
An assist to UK Football Fan who helped me get set-up. More later.