Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Buyers or sellers

Here is an excerpt from Joe Sheehan's article today at Baseball Prospectus on two of the eight teams that might be buyers or sellers. After arguing the Astros should be buyers, he says the following about the Reds:

Resting just 2½ games further back, however, it’s a different story for the Reds. They’ve hung around much as the Astros have, being outscored on the season and featuring the next-to-worst third-order record in MLB, one that is even worse than that of the Nationals. They’re 44-48 because their veteran bullpen has been unconscionably good, the third-best in baseball this year with a 7.3 WXRL, giving them a 23-20 record in games decided by one or two runs. Predictably, their off-season moves have blown up, with Willy Taveras' .291 OBP helping to cripple an offense that is 14th in the league in runs scored. Jay Bruce’s struggle developing hasn’t helped—he was hitting .207/.283/.441 when a broken wrist sidelined him. Dusty Baker failed to play his second-best OBP guy, Chris Dickerson, for a long stretch, falling in love with a brief show of power by Laynce Nix and the memory of Jerry Hairston Jr.’s 2008 season. Neither is helping, and while Dickerson is finally garnering more playing time, it’s come a bit too late.

The drop in offense was expected, but the poor performance by the rotation wasn’t. With two good young arms and two veteran innings guys, the Reds should have been positioned to win lower-scoring games this year. Instead, they’ve placed 21st in SNLVAR, as only Johnny Cueto has been notably effective. The great bullpen has helped, but all things considered, this team is not good enough to contend, even in a weak division.

Not being the Astros gives the Reds a tougher decision to make. They have a better farm system, though not a top one, and a younger core of talent. Not winning this season wouldn’t be the end of the world, and by making the decision to not worry about it, Walt Jocketty could position the team for more success down the road. Were he to heal up in time to be dealt and then deliver something in-season, Ramon Hernandez would be an upgrade behind the plate for a number of teams, and he isn’t carrying a big price tag. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang are 32 and 31, young enough to contribute here, but perhaps better fits for contenders' rotations. There’s simply no question that the aging anchors of this great bullpen, David Weathers, Arthur Rhodes, and Francisco Cordero, would have more value in the trade market than on the Great American Mound. The Reds have need for help up the middle, every spot. The core of Bruce, Cueto, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Drew Stubbs is strong enough to be a contender for the next few seasons; Jocketty has to use the support around them now to make the support around them in 2011 much better. The Reds have to start selling, and quickly, taking advantage of the current seller’s market for talent.

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