The second big move of the offseason for the Cincinnati Reds came last night with the signing of a new pitching coach, Derek Johnson. The Reds nabbed him from Milwaukee, a team that largely outperformed expectations to finish 6th in pitching.
Johnson has been the Brewers pitching coach for four seasons and is highly regarded by the league and pretty much everyone. Those who are around the Reds organization are 100% on board with this hire.
— Jeff Brantley (@RedsCowboy) October 31, 2018
I thought pitching coach would be the biggest hire of the off-season and the #Reds crushed it with Derek Johnson
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) October 31, 2018
Derek Johnson??…I’m pleasantly surprised. Solid move! #Reds
— Jim Day (@JimDayTV) October 31, 2018
Based on text I’m getting back from people around MLB, the Derek Johnson hire is a big one for the #Reds. He’s very highly thought of and respected.
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) October 31, 2018
His departure, while the third Milwaukee assistant to jump ship, drew the ire of those around the Brewers organization.
DEREK JOHNSON HAS LEFT THE #BREWERS!!! I’M NEVER GOING TO STOP BEING UPSET
— Reviewing the Brew (@ReviewngTheBrew) October 31, 2018
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) October 31, 2018
It’s profoundly strange to see a team that just won 96 games and came within a game of the World Series lose both their hitting and their pitching coach without either guy getting a promotion. I can’t figure that.
— Matthew Trueblood (@MATrueblood) November 1, 2018
Man, losing Derek Johnson really feels like it’s going to hurt the Brewers.
— Kyle L. (@brewerfan28) October 31, 2018
Sometimes reactions are evidence enough, but let’s look into Derek Johnson. He was a college pitcher, but never toed the rubber in the major leagues. Doesn’t seem to have hindered him in the coaching arena, where he has a ton of experience. He began coaching in college, and even coached at Vanderbilt for a bit, who happen to be pretty good at baseball. He even coached Sonny Gray, there, who is a possible target to bring into the Reds rotation.
His foray into professional coaching began with coordinating the Cubs minor league pitchers 2013 through 2014. That’s when the Brewers hired him onto their pitching coaching staff. Once with the Brew Crew, he immediately got to the developing of guys like Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra, Jhoulys Chacin, and other overachievers. Heck, the guy wrote the book on pitching, back in 2012 (see The Complete Guide to Pitching).
Another key factor, which has been the theme pf the Reds offseason, is he’s a coach who embraces analytics. He doesn’t go only analytics, though, and tends to use what will best aid a pitcher, without over-informing him. One thing that has been prevalent in interviews with David Bell is that there is a happy medium with analytics, and Johnson is on board with that.
Johnson also had a quote, in an interview with the Journal Sentinel, that I found interesting, and it just continues to excite me about this hire. On the question of if his personality is that of anonymity, he said this:
“I would say for sure. First off, this game is never about a coach. It’s always about the players. Players play, coaches coach. For me, we’re grinding away in the bullpens and we’re working on stuff in the games and trying to figure out what to do next and, really, that’s my main job and my main focus. The interviews, and all that kind of stuff, that’s for the players.”
I found this to be of interest, too:
Journal Sentinel: “The sentiment outside the organization coming into the season was that Brewers needed to sign or trade for 1-2 established starters in order to contend. Instead, Jhoulys Chacín was signed to a smaller, shorter deal and you’ve relied on your holdovers to fill out the rotation with Jimmy Nelson out and Chase Anderson and Zach Davies not pitching as well as they did in 2017. How satisfying is that?”
Derek Johnson: “I’m very proud of them. I’m very proud of how they’ve gone out and competed and stuck with some of the things that we’ve done in the bullpen and where we’re trying to go. I think a big part of my personality and the way I think of things is, ‘These are our guys – they’re Brewers.’ And right now, the other guys who aren’t Brewers, they don’t concern me at all, and they won’t until they become Brewers. That’s above my pay grade. What I have are 13 guys and we’re doing the best we can with them. They’re our guys right now, and I like it that way. I don’t want for anything else. It’s what we are and who we have and these are the guys that are putting the uniform on every day. I think it’s really important and honorable for us to think of it that way. I don’t care about other pitchers; I care about them.”
From what I gather from all the sources and people I’ve read, this is a good hire. Welcome to Cincinnati, Derek Johnson.
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Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions
We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.
MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.
Riley O’Brien RHP
O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected
Vladimir Gutierrez RHP
The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected
Jacob Heatherly LHP
Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected
Alfredo Rodriguez SS
It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected
TJ Friedl OF
Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected
Joel Kuhnel RHP
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected
Mariel Bautista OF
Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected
Jared Solomon RHP
To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected
None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.
Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.
This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.
Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.
With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered.
(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)
As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.
According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.
This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.
I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man?
Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.
It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.
Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More
Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021
It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.
What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..
The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.
In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.
If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?
The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)
What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.
Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder
I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist. So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.
WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.
Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.
Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.
WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.
Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations.
Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl
I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl