The 2018 Reds weren’t going to be contenders. Most knew they wouldn’t win the National League Central or contend for a Wild Card spot. This year was about figuring out who could be part of the solution. The days of Bronson Arroyo, Alfredo Simon and Scott Feldman pitching meaningful innings for the Reds were over. This season was about continuing the rebuild and finding out who could stick around to help this team win in 2019.
I bought into that idea after they fired Bryan Price 18 games into the season. I believed this season could be a success, even after a 3-18 start – the worst in franchise history. I didn’t question their decision to promote Nick Krall to general manager in the middle of the season, although it was odd timing. This was the last season where the record didn’t matter and it was supposed to be about the young players getting experience.
Despite their early season struggles, I saw a team that was playing young prospects like Jesse Winker, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano. They gave Alex Blandino opportunities in the big leagues and we all know it’s just a matter of time before Nick Senzel gets promoted from Triple-A.
I bought the idea that the Reds’ rebuild was doing better than their record showed. I can’t buy that anymore. Does anyone outside of the organization believe benching Winker was the right move? Sure, he was hitting .164 in his last 18 games. He’s struggling at the plate and has plenty of flaws defensively. Winker isn’t perfect, but he shouldn’t have been benched.
“I think if it was Schebler, we’d say the same thing,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If it was Duvall, the same question. Basically, I think none of them have really hit yet like they’re capable. Schebler and Duvall’s defense is probably a little bit ahead of Winker.”
The logic doesn’t make sense. Adam Duvall is hitting .208 in his last 18 games. He may be better defensively, but he shouldn’t be part of the Reds’ long-term future. Some believe they’re trying to get him into a rhythm so they can trade Duvall before the July 31 trade deadline. If they wanted to do that, then why didn’t he start from day one? Odds are Duvall’s numbers will go up a bit between now and the deadline, but is it worth benching Winker to slightly increase his trade value? How much is a team going to give up for an outfielder with a .181 batting average, who gets on base 27 percent of the time? Duvall will be 30-years-old on September 4 and he’s eligible for arbitration this offseason. A team may trade for him, but the Reds aren’t going to get anything of significance in return.
Benching Winker feels like a knee-jerk reaction to his recent struggles. The Reds probably realize Duvall doesn’t have any trade value. That means they benched a 24-year-old who is the midst of a slump, to hope and pray that Duvall gets hot and they can get something for him before the deadline. I don’t want my organization hoping something good happens. I want them to have a well thought out plan. If this season was about figuring out what these young players can do, why bench a player who should be a big part of the future?
I understand why Scott Schebler would play every day. Heck, I understand why the Reds want Billy Hamilton in center – he’s really, really good on defense. If you have a high-end center fielder, who can cover a lot of ground, couldn’t he make up for Winker’s shortcomings? How is Winker going to improve defensively on the bench?
Here are the WAR numbers for the four outfielders:
This decision was not Riggleman’s alone. He met with GM Nick Krall and special assistant Buddy Bell. #reds
— John Fay (@johnfayman) May 30, 2018
Winker spent six seasons in the Reds’ minor league system. No one taught him how to be a competent outfielder? I don’t expect him to win a gold glove, but the idea that he is just bad on defense is unacceptable at this stage. Hamilton gets ripped apart for his struggles at the plate and rightfully so. He’s been a bad hitter for the Reds, but what has changed since he arrived in 2014? Devin Mesoraco is thriving with the New York Mets. He gave all the credit to his new hitting coach. The Reds’ are struggling to develop players.
Just thinking about it reminded me of something Barry Larkin told the Cincinnati Enquirer during the offseason. Larkin believes there’s a ‘lack of communication’ between the major-and-minor league sides of the operation.’
“Eric Davis is a Gold Glove, 40-home run, 120-run-producing, 80-stolen base guy. He doesn’t work with Billy Hamilton,” Larkin told Zach Buchanan of the Enquirer. “I’m a Gold Glove, 30-home run Hall of Famer. I don’t work with the big-league shortstops, nor any other player at the big-league level.”
It’s fair to wonder if Winker’s benching is a sign of major problems. Are the Reds making things up as they go along? Why are they struggling to develop minor league players? Winker and Hamilton aren’t the only examples either. Robert Stephenson is another player who hasn’t developed like he was projected to. Reds legend Johnny Bench questioned Homer Bailey’s delivery a few days ago.
It’s time for Homer @Reds to change his delivery. For 4 years I’ve watched and he just shows the ball too long. No deception. I just think the change would benefit him. The hitter sees the ball for 63 ft almost.
— Johnny Bench (@JohnnyBench_5) May 29, 2018
This organization hasn’t given anyone a reason to trust them. Has anyone seen Dick Williams or Krall complete a successful rebuild? Does anyone believe owner Bob Castellini will take his Reds fandom out of the equation and put a winning baseball team on the field anytime soon? Benching Winker may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just one of the many questionable moves this organization has made throughout the rebuild.
This is the part of the rebuild that Williams, Reds ownership and Krall need to get right. They’ve traded away pieces, signed washed up veterans and have had to endure a bunch of losses. It’s not the time to deviate from the plan. It’s time for them to double down on these young players. Why bench Winker when you can let him work through his slump? He only has 315 Major League at-bats. He needs every rep he can get. They should get Blandino more playing time. That could mean moving Scooter Gennett to the outfield once in a while.
This team isn’t winning now, so why bench a player who may be able to help you when they’re actually ready to win? By the end of this year I want to know who can be a significant contributor in 2019. Duvall shouldn’t be in the conversation. Hamilton shouldn’t be in the conversation. Winker should be and that’s why I’m shocked that they decided to make this move.
Maybe I’m overreacting to the Reds’ decision to bench a young player who has struggled over the past month or maybe it’s proof that there are much bigger problems within the organization.
For more on Winker, listen to the Locked on Reds podcast below:
As the clock hit 6:30 pm, last Saturday, I was ready to go to Great American Ballpark. That’s when my wife reminded me that it was December. Every year the Cincinnati Reds put on a first class party for their fans called Redsfest and they’re pretty good at what they do.
I got to meet Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, Ibandel Isabel, and Jimmy Herget. I got my copy of “The Big 50” signed by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber, made a video with Mo Egger, and talked shop with Doug Gray. Okay, I get it, enough with the name dropping. Basically, it was fun.
I made it a point to ask some light-hearted questions (or in Lorenzen’s case, make a light-hearted, but factual, statement) to see what their reactions would be.
I first met Lorenzen. I told him that he was the real silver slugger and I am attempting to get that other guy to mail him the trophy he deserves. Lorenzen responded with, “Well, that just gives me motivation to hit twice as many homers next year.” Might have to get me a Lorenzen jersey…
I then got Mahle’s John Hancock (or is it Herbie Hancock?) on a baseball and I asked him if we can expec upwards of three, or more, 20-strikeout games this year. He replied “Let’s hope so. I’ll see what I can do.” Hope you folks in the bleachers with K’s are ready to work, this season.
I then got autographs from Isabel and Herget. Isabel just gave me an awkward smile and a chuckle when I asked if he will focus on inside-the-parkers this year instead of traditional homers, since he’s already hit a lot of those. Herget gave me a classic answer to my simple question of what his favorite pitch was when he said, “A strike.” Well played Jimmy.
The main stage offerings were also enjoyable. The best was at the kids-only press conference. Joey Votto, Amir Garrett, and Eugenio Suarez were on stage for the show, and when asked what their favorite memory of 2018 will be, Joey decided it was “When Amir tried to fight the Cubs.” Suarez bumped in, “Yeah, when he struck out Baez and stared him down. That was awesome, man!” As much as we fans may have liked that moment, it seems to have been even cooler to the team.
Memorabilia-wise, there was a ton of stuff to get. I didn’t go too crazy, this year, but I did end up with a new hat that has a Jackie Robinson 42 patch on it. Definitely my favorite hat, now. All in all, a good weekend.
If you went, let me know how your experience went!
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Live (Sorta) from Redsfest with Mo Egger
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Instant Reaction: Bye, Bye Billy
Wow! It’s the first hour of Redsfest and there are fireworks, already! The world’s fastest man (probably), Billy Hamilton, was non-tendered by the Cincinnati Reds making him a free agent. I have a few instant thoughts on this.
Firstly, I am bummed. I watched his career develop in the minors all the way up til he got the call to the Bigs. He looked like a star in the making in Pensacola, but what we now know is that he was defensively gifted and offensively challenged. He will go down, in my book, as the foremost example of “You can’t steal first.” I hope that his next step (if he doesn’t return, that is, but more on that in a second) he finds that missing piece and becomes a star.
Nextly, where do the Reds go from here? The encouragement is that we know Bob Castellini loved Billy and wanted him to be here forever and ever. That means the front office has definitely, officially been handed the reigns. If that’s the case, maybe we see Nick Senzel brought up and given the CF job, or Jose Peraza move to CF (he has a few minutes of experience there) and Senzel put in at shortstop. Those possibilities excite me. Whatever gets Senzel in the lineup is the right course of action, to me.
Lastly, maybe this is a little Michael Johnson maneuvering? For those who don’t follow the other professional franchise in Cincinnati, the Bengals made a move, right before the season, where they cut one of their longtime veterans only to resign him a few days later. They made the move to get some young guys onto the practice squad, but I digress. What if the Reds and Billy have a little head nod and handshake agreement that they will sign him for a year or two at his current rate, avoiding the arbitration-hike in salary he was about to get? This is purely a hypothetical notion by me, by the way, and I don’t know if they can do that, or if Billy would want it that way. Just a thought from a fan who can never truly be unbiased when it comes to Cool Papa Bill.
Anyway, I am sure there will be more to come from Redsfest!
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