And here we go! In one corner, we have the 6’ 6”, 245 lb hurler from Alexandria, Virginia – former Red Mat Latos. In the other corner we have a poor son of a gun who was rendered two-dimensional from the body slam Latos put on him. Mad Mat has come a long way from the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark.
Since being traded for Anthony DeSclafani, Latos pitched for the Marlins, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox, Nationals, and Blue Jays (all in the span of two seasons) before finding himself out of Major League Baseball and playing for the Independent New Jersey Jackals.
That viral video got me to thinking, how are those former fan favorites that were dealt away? Let’s take a look.
The New York Reds
For whatever reason, a good handful of former Reds are currently playing in the Big Apple. Keeping it limited to the ones who fans bought jerseys for, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Devin Mesoraco are currently New York Mets while Aroldis Chapman saves games for the Yankees now.
Frazier – The Toddfather really made Reds fans miss him in 2016, smashing 40 homers for the White Sox. Since then, though, he has cooled down a bit. He had a postseason appearance with the return of the Yankees to October baseball, but otherwise hit a cool .222 after being traded midseason away from Chicago. This year he is hitting .239 in 37 games played with seven home runs and 24 ribeye steaks.
He’s currently on pace to have his best season since he left Cincinnati.
Bruce – Despite being mired in, possibly, his slowest start to a season, Bruce has had an interesting ride since leaving Cincinnati. Upon being dealt to the Mets in 2016, he accompanied them to a Wild Card exit at the hands of the San Francisco Giants (he’s got to have a special kind of distaste for that team) while contributing just eight homers and a .219 batting average.
2017 saw a more Brucian-like 29 homers and 75 RBI up until August 9th, when he was dealt to the Indians for a low-A pitching prospect. With the Indians, Bruce was a vital part of the record-setting 22-game winning streak that Cleveland put together. Bruce hit the 3-run homer that put the Indians ahead in their 21st straight win and hit the walk-off RBI double to win the 22nd in a row.
Mesoraco – He hasn’t been gone long, but he’s still worth mentioning. After receiving a bit more regular playing time, Mes has five homers and 10 RBI in 22 games. He is still batting just .209, though, and has 15 strikeouts in 67 at-bats.
Chapman – This former Reds closer is not a Met but a Yankee. After being dealt to the Bombers for what seemed like 20 cents on the dollar, Brian Cashman flipped him for his current starting shortstop and then signed him in free agency a year later. Must be nice to have all that money. As most of you probably remember, Chapman helped the Cubs break their championship drought in 2016, so I’d say he’s ok with having been traded.
Chappy has 76 saves in his three seasons away from Cincinnati. For what it’s worth, the Cuban Missile hasn’t eclipsed 100 strike outs in a season since pitching for the Reds (Man, I miss seeing that guy in a Reds uniform).
The Rest of ‘Em
Just want to look at a few more who play in other places besides New York.
Mike Leake – Currently a Seattle Mariner, Leake has also pitched for the Giants and Cardinals. Mike has not topped his 2013 season in Cincinnati when he went 14-7 and had an ERA of 3.37 in 31 starts. So far into 2018, Leake is averaging 6 innings a start and an ERA just above four. In his last three starts, Leake has pitched 23 innings, given up five runs, and added two wins to his season total.
If you’re like me, you’re looking at those stats and thinking “How on earth did we think Adam Duvall was worth Mike Leake? The Reds could totally use his arm!” Then I looked at his contract…he’s currently on year three of a five year $80 million deal. He’d be the Reds third-highest paid player. Objectively: $16 million a year is overpaying for a 4.00+ ERA.
Johnny Cueto – Johnny has spent three years in San Francisco after winning the World Series with the Royals in 2015. Cueto was the first domino to fall in the Reds rebuild and, at the time, the trade was deemed a good deal for both sides. As of today, the Royals got a ring and the Reds got one pitcher who is no longer with the team, one pitcher who is wallowing in the minors struggling with his control, and one pitcher who has gone from injury-prone to a reclamation project in Louisville.
This season Johnny is 3-0 in five starts with a sub-one ERA. Sabermetrics show that he is getting a little lucky, stranding over 90% of the baserunners he faces (career average is 76%).
Zack Cozart – We’ll wrap this “Where are they now” segment up with a player who wasn’t traded away. Zack left via free agency last season, as you may remember, to the Angels. He hasn’t quite taken to his new digs, though, as he currently batting .226 with five homers and a .299 on-base percentage. Uncharacteristically for him, Cozart is sporting a negative defensive war. Statistics show the Angels plan to move him to third base has not worked out, to this point, as he has a .957 fielding percentage there, the lowest of the three positions he’s played in LA.
Cozart has bat leadoff in 26 games this season for the Angels and gets on-base one out of every three plate appearances. He has been displaced as of late, though, given his low batting average.
The Reds wont face anyone on this list until August 6th when they travel play the Mets. As far as in Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto may pitch in Great American Ballpark again, when the Giants come to town August 17th, 18th, and 19th.
Read The Room
David Bell has made some interesting choices, some that he may want to tweak his thought process on. Let me explain.
On Monday’s podcast my friend Jeff stated he liked the fact that David Bell was able to remove himself from the equations on many big decisions. He stated that by focusing on the analytics Bell is able to make an objective decision versus a gut decision. I won’t disagree with fact that I am loving the front office and managements use of analytics. I, like most Reds fans, love to see the organization finally joining this century of baseball thinking in full force, from an analytics stand point. However, while I do support the use of analytics in helping make decisions, I don’t feel as if it should be the sole reason for decision making.
The best managers in the history of this game are often forward-thinking and also having the right instinct at crucial points in games. I think the Reds, and even David Bell, are some of the most forward thinking in baseball right now. We have seen it in all the new positions created this offseason specifically for analytics within the Reds front office. The Reds outfielders carry cards based on each pitcher and each batter in where to align themselves. The infield is making unique shifts. Bell seems opposite of his predecessor, because he despises bunting frequently. The amazing performance by our pitching staff which has been one of the worst in recent years. I believe these things will continue to help this team as the season continues. I also believe it’s one of the main reasons we have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball right now.
On the flip side of this is the daily, head-scratching decisions Bell has made. The constant hooking of starting staff or bullpen pitchers too early. This isn’t just something making fans question his decisions, but his players as well. I have seen almost every starting pitcher this year, on at least one occasion, have a baffled look after being removed to early. Bell often pulling starters in a close game due to the “third time around the order” analytics. In regards to the bullpen often pulling relievers early who are up there throwing smoke and no one is touching them. All that started back on Opening Day when he used three relievers, each for one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then when it comes to the lineup we are often seeing players who may be crushing it that day pulled for favorable situational matchups such as lefty right or righty lefty. On several occasions I’ve seen him pull Dietrich or Winker when there out there hitting rockets just for an analytic advantage. It often causes me to yell at my television.
One of my favorite sayings is “READ THE ROOM”. Bell desperately needs to “READ THE ROOM” in more crucial situations. Leaving pitchers in to go one extra innning in a start or relief when there mowing batters over. Leaving a guy in the lineup who is on fire rather than pulling him for a analytic matchup. This shows faith in your players as well as your instincts as a manager. It’s what differentiates the best coaches from everyone else. It’s the knowledge that no amount of statistics can provide and it will ultimately be what puts this team over the top. In recent weeks I have seen signs of this coming to fruition. I hope to see more of it as the season goes on. And I promise you Reds fans when it does the most important statistic WINS will come much easier.
Reds Catchers Now and in the Future
Let’s take a look at the catching picture for the Reds organization.
In late September of 2017, the Cincinnati Reds locked up Tucker Barnhart to a 4-year, $16 million contract. And why not? Barnhart hit .270 in 2017 and was a gold glove winner. $4 million a year for him was a steal. Fans were ecstatic about the deal, especially at the price. Don’t get me wrong, having a catcher with a career average of .248 with about 10 home runs a year and a great glove is something most teams are satisfied with. It’s more about what he does with the pitching staff and defense than the hitting. But in 2019, although only 100 at-bats in, how concerned should Reds fans be about their catching situation now and in the future?
The Reds currently have two active catchers: Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali. Barnhart has struggled mightily out of the gate. A .160/.282/.270 line is not anywhere close to his career numbers. Adding to that, he only has two hits in the past 10 games. A switch hitter with only 10 at bats versus Left-handed pitchers tells us Bell wants Casali taking those at-bats.
Curt Casali has put together a great season for the Reds. Acquired off waiver last year from Tampa Bay he hit .310 before the All-Star break. In 2019 he is hitting to the tune of .293/.349/.379. When used as a pinch hitter, he’s delivered at times for the Reds. Although Casali is the better hitter so far, I do not think it is time to give up on Barnhart. 100 at-bats into a season with plenty to go. *Deep breath* He can still put together a decent season. Something needs to change though, drastically. Right now, the Reds have bigger issues than the catcher’s spot. But will Casali take reigns as the team’s number one catcher? A lot of fans are calling for it. Keep in mind Casali is a career .229 hitter. He has been streaky in the past. The Reds will probably continue to platoon and giving at-bats to Casali against left-handed pitchers. 2019 catcher situation is pretty much locked in. The depth at AAA Louisville are not “prospects” and haven’t shown to be MLB hitters either. The question is what will it look like in the future?
Tyler Stephenson is one of the top prospects in the Reds organization (#6 mlb.com) and is showing his potential this year in Chattanooga. A first-round pick in 2015, he’s struggled with injuries early in his career and is now showing his potential. Hitting .267 with 3 HR and 18 RBI while throwing out 26% of baserunners is a nice start to the first part of the season. He won’t be in Cincinnati this year, who knows where he will start next year, but he plays into the future of the Reds.
There are some other options in the minors. Chris Okey (#30 Reds prospect) was drafted in the second round of 2016 but has really struggled with the bat. Hendrik Clementina (#23 Reds prospect) is someone to watch. He was acquired in the Tony Cingrani trade and hit 18 home runs with Dayton in 2018. He has some pop and but also strikes out too much. We all know how frustrating that can be. Other than those 3, the Reds do not have another top 30 catching prospects. A thin position of depth look for the Reds to bring in more talent this year.
The Reds catching future is banking on Stephenson and Barnhart to be the guys. That could end up being just fine, but it also doesn’t leave much room for error. Casali has two arbitration year left and is 30 years old. He could be a Red past this year, sure. Good catchers are hard to find and that’s why the asking price is so high (paging JT). I would expect the Reds to try to add depth here through the draft or offseason. The quick fix would be Tucker returning closer to 2017 form but who knows if that will happen.
What The Reds Should Be
Wednesday night was a glimpse at this team’s potential.
If you were able to witness tonight’s win over the scorching hot Chicago Cubs you were probably ecstatic. It was a comeback win, in extra innings, and a one-run game. In a season clouded by early disappointment and many missed opportunities, tonight we witnessed the Reds full potential.
This game had all the markings of what was shaping up to be another Reds loss. A five-inning start by the pitcher, playing from behind almost the entire game, and constant pitching changes. Instead the Reds played together and won, as a team. The chemistry we see off the field was finally seen on the field. The bullpen stepped up when they needed to. Stephenson, Hughes, Peralta, and Garrett all providing top notch performances. Garrett making what seemed to be an impossible out at first to save a run from scoring. When providing a clutch at-bat was needed, we saw it from nearly everyone put on the spot. Senzel with 2 hits and 2 stolen bases. Iglesias continues to be the Reds MVP of position players having a double and solo home run to keep the Reds in contention. Suarez starting to catch fire with a 3-for-5 evening, 3 RBI’s, a double, and a 2 run HR in the eighth inning to tie up the game. Quietly, Joey Votto was the one who actually came up big, in the clutch, during the eighth, with a single. He then scored on Suarez’s dinger. Then again in the 10th inning with a one-out walk. For the icing on the cake the player all of Cincinnati wants to see perform comes up to seal the deal. And most importantly the extra innings walk-off hit by Puig with a bat flip for Reds highlight reels for years to come happened.
What made it most glorious was the absolute look of disappointment on Cubs fans faces as the Reds came back to pull off the comeback win. Wednesday, we saw the Reds full potential as a team. This is the Reds ceiling as a team performance. I hope we grow accustomed to this scene more often and start to see them compete in this division. There is no doubt they are in the toughest division in baseball. That being said, they can absolutely shake things up whenever they decide to get hot. I know it’s possible. I just hope it’s not too late when it does.