Hi, my name is Jeff and I am a Reds-a-holic.
It’s been a problem the last few years. I bring the Reds up in conversation and people either blatantly ignore me for the rest of our time together, their eyes glaze over while they’re faking undivided attention, or they laugh and walk away. The Redlegs need to do some things, plural (because, let’s face it, if all they do is add Mike Trout, they still aren’t a playoff team), to re-insert themselves back into people’s minds as something worth their attention. As a degenerate fan who knows next-to-nothing about running a team (though I was not bad at fantasy baseball, not to brag) here are some obvious, and not so obvious ideas to get this Reds team back to the playoffs tomorrow, let alone next season.
Some people to move on from: Like I said, some are obvious and some aren’t, and some you might want me murdered for mentioning.
First and foremost, sign the check and send Homer Bailey on his way. It’s done, it’s over. He is now one of just a small percentage of pitchers who managed to throw over 200 innings in a season and somehow have a 6.00+ ERA. It’s not health, strangely. The man of many injuries did not go down for an extended period of time. And, come on, the time he missed during the summer was not an injury. That was the Reds brass saying “We need a reason not to play him, so, uh, he’s hurt, maybe.” The one thing you can say about him is he pitched the lone complete game for a Reds staff that was not good. He still lost that game. He’s due $30 mil whether he loses 20 games for you, or not, so just give him his money, and thanks for the memories.
Secondly, move on from Billy Hamilton. This one stings to admit, because, as a fan, I think he’s awesome. Objectively, though, it’s time. Listen, I know there’s this argument that on-base percentage does not apply to Billy like it applies to other players because he scores a higher percentage of runs when he is on base. Baloney. Plus, double baloney on his base-running ability as his steals took a dip this year. Call it conservative managing, or whatever you like, he stole less bases. Billy Hamilton should lead the league in steals every single year, barring a career-altering injury. He didn’t. It’s a bad sign. Find a team who will use him the way he should be used (as a late game super sub) and make a deal for a reliever or for a minor league arm.
Thirdly, and this one stings, because I love this dude, but move on from Scooter Gennett. I’ve been back and forth on this one, and believe me, if my fan heart was not sure about Billy, I’m really not loving this idea, but it has to be done. There is a caveat here, but if there is a good return to be had, do not say no. If there’s no market for him, then keep him. But if you can get a game-changing arm for Scooter and maybe a package of prospects, please don’t dismiss that idea simply because we fans like Scooter. I get it, he’s a hometown dude. He hit four homers in a game. He *almost won the NL batting title this year. He is legit, which means he should garner some trade interest. Do not slap a hypothetical no-trade tag on Scooter simply because he makes a few more fans go woo. There is a defensive upgrade, who is not a liability at the plate, who can take over in his absence, but more on that later.
Lastly, move on from Jim Riggleman. The manager is not the most important thing in a championship run, but he is kind of important, and Riggsy isn’t the guy to get the reds there. This has been said by James a lot, and by other radio personalities in the Queen City, but I’ll just pile on here. The Red Sox are the best team in the AL, with a relatively inexperienced manager. The Yankees are not far behind, with a first-year manager. The Brewers have a manager that some of their fans aren’t high on, and he’s young, but hey, that didn’t stop them from winning the toughest division the National League. Be open-minded about the next Reds manager-aka-go with Mr. Outside Hire.
Here’s who you bring in. Disclaimer, this is all hypothetical. I don’t actually know who’s available and who’s not. So, yeah, take this with a grain of salt.
Go get Jacob DeGrom. Per Baseball-Reference.com, his contract is up at the end of this year. Make a deal before Christmas, send Hunter Greene, Scooter Gennett, Tony Santillan and some other prospects and see if the Mets will add in Brandon Nimmo (can play CF, .404 OBP in 2018). If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the ridiculous numbers DeGrom put up this year. Some consider him in the MVP race, despite the Mets horribleness. Yeah, MVP, for a pitcher, that’s how good he is. So, maybe the Mets lock him down, or maybe they are looking to blow things up. The Reds have a top ten farm system, but no one cares about what the Reds can do in 2021, we want wins in 2019. Make it happen, captain!
Roll out the red carpet, and the checkbook, for Dallas Keuchel. Do what he wants to get him to pitch for the Reds. There’s money to spend, and he probably loves Skyline Chili, so get him here. He’s a free agent, this year, so no players will have to be traded away to get him, there will just need to be some money spent. What’s that? You are planning on spending for pitching? Well, there you go. Your money will be well spent on both DeGrom and Keuchel, and neither one will be like Eric Milton. You put these two at the top and all NL teams immediately will take notice.
Go get one more pitcher with Scott Schebler. Look, Schebs has been good, but it feels like he’s trending toward brittle, with that shoulder, and now is the time to get value out of him. Go talk to Seattle about Marco Gonzales or Wade LeBlanc, or maybe see if Detroit is willing to part ways with Michael Fullmer or Matt Boyd. It doesn’t seem that farfetched, to me, but maybe Dick Williams gets laughed off the phone in all of those examples. At any rate, I feel like there’s still a little value to be had from trading Schebler to an AL team that can DH him. I do not think he will ever have an outfield arm again, with his shoulder issues, so get him traded, while you still can.
Bring up Senzel and name him the starter immediately after trading Schebler. Don’t wait until Spring Training, or whatever you’ve been doing lately with him, give him the starting corner outfield spot as soon as you swap Schebs for a decent arm. Senzel will replace Schebler, and may even be an upgrade. Or, go the Phil Ervin route in the corner outfield spot, and put Senzel at shortstop and…
Install Jose Peraza as the everyday second baseman, upon Scooter’s departure. Look, he isn’t a plus fielder, but he is serviceable and when you move him to second base, you negate his throwing deficiencies. Plus, he took a big leap forward in the hitting department, this year, making him a top of the lineup candidate in 2019.
Lastly, and this is just my hard and fast opinion, based on nothing but a gut feeling: go get Mike Scioscia. Just a hunch, think he’ll be good.
Alright, I’ve droned on enough. Tell me what you think, @ me on Twitter (@jefffcarr) and all that jazz. Tell me I’m nuts, tell me I’m a looney. Let’s talk the 2019 Reds!
Also follow @lockedonReds on Twitter, if you haven’t already!
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.