Offseason In Review: Cincinnati Reds

After an excellent four-year run, the Reds signed Homer Bailey to a huge extension but otherwise only made small moves this offseason, perhaps preparing to set aside more money to retain other members of their increasingly-expensive core.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Extensions

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Reds made only one significant trade and three small MLB-level free agent signings. The Brayan Pena contract preceded the Ryan Hanigan deal, which briefly meant the Reds had three MLB-caliber catchers (Pena, Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco). They then sent Hanigan, a better player than Pena, to Tampa for a pitching prospect (David Holmberg) who isn't likely to make a significant impact. If the Reds can get anything out of Holmberg (who lacks upside but could provide a bit of starting rotation depth), the Hanigan trade might turn into a modest win for them — Hanigan doesn't hit much, and the trade opens more playing time for the younger Mesoraco. But the Reds will likely miss Hanigan's pitch-framing.

The Reds also signed Skip Schumaker, an aging, light-hitting 2B/OF who isn't good at either position, to a perplexing two-year deal. They did much better in re-signing Manny Parra, who made lefties look ridiculous last season and who should play a key role in the Reds' 2014 bullpen. At $5.5MM, he's a great deal, especially compared to roughly-similar lefties like Boone Logan and Javier Lopez who got three-year contracts. Logan got three times as much ($16.5MM) from the Rockies as Parra did from the Reds.

Questions Remaining

The Reds have done little to compensate for the departure of Shin-Soo Choo and his .423 OBP, and instead they'll hope that Billy Hamilton can step into their outfield. The difference between Choo and Hamilton might not be quite as enormous as it initially appears, since Hamilton's baserunning is so valuable and since Choo wasn't an ideal fit for center field. But offensively, Hamilton is a big step down, and after a season in which he posted a .308 OBP at Triple-A Louisville, there are questions about how often he'll be able to reach base and use his speed. Last fall, we suggested the Reds might acquire another outfielder as an insurance policy, but they haven't, unless you count Schumaker. (Chris Heisey will be the Reds' main outfield backup.) They might have also been able to use a backup plan in left field, where the aging and often inconsistent Ryan Ludwick is anything but a certainty, particularly after a 2013 season shortened by a major injury.

With Bronson Arroyo's departure, the Reds also have concerns about their rotation depth, but there appears to be little they can do about it. (Holmberg's addition should help a bit there.) And now closer Aroldis Chapman is out for six weeks to two months after a nasty recent injury. Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are both also returning from injury. The Reds' bullpen should be strong overall once everyone gets healthy, however.

Deal Of Note

USATSI_7758155With Choo and Arroyo departing, Homer Bailey's impending free agency represented a test for the Reds, and they did open their wallets, signing him to a six-year deal with an option for a seventh. While $105MM guaranteed may seem like an astronomical figure for a pitcher with Bailey's generally undistinguished track record, it's worth keeping in mind that teams ought to pay players for what they're going to do, not what they've already done.

In recent years, Bailey has made slow but significant improvement in a number of key areas — his strikeout rate, walk rate, ground ball rate, and even his velocity. He was a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher in 2013, and at age 27 (28 in May), he's a very good bet to remain one in the near future. As MLBTR's Steve Adams recently noted, Bailey's contract is one of several (including those of Masahiro Tanaka, Freddie Freeman and Phil Hughes) that reflect the importance of age. There's a good chance Bailey will improve in the near future, unlike the vast majority of players who sign $100MM contracts.

Overview

Immediately after the 2013 season, the Reds fired manager Dusty Baker, replacing him with former pitching coach Bryan Price. That began a tumultuous offseason in which the Reds braced for Choo's departure and prepared to trade star second baseman Brandon Phillips. One might have thought that the Reds were coming off a 70-win season, rather than 90 wins and a playoff berth. The Reds ultimately held onto Phillips, but otherwise, their offseason behavior wasn't typical of a contending team. While the Reds don't usually have splashy offseasons, their quiet winter means their talent level is significantly behind that of the Cardinals, and probably behind that of the Pirates again as well.

Part of the problem might be the need to look to the future. The Reds now have Bailey locked down for the next several years, but Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake will all be eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. The Reds have one good young pitcher in Tony Cingrani and at least one more on the way in top prospect Robert Stephenson, but they may still have to either ink some combination of Cueto, Latos and Leake long-term or scramble to fill rotation spots in two years.

Meanwhile, the rest of their team is about to get very expensive. Joey Votto, Phillips and Bailey will make a total of $32MM in 2014, but they'll cost $51MM in 2016 and $55MM in 2017. Those are huge numbers for a small-market team.

At this point, the Reds have gotten lots of mileage out of their once-young core of Votto, Phillips, Jay Bruce, Leake, Bailey and Cueto — they've won 90-plus games and gone to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. As the economics of baseball drive those players' salaries north, though, it will be tougher and tougher for the Reds to keep them. It will also be tough to fill holes around them without more star-caliber talent on the way from the farm system. Baseball Prospectus recently ranked the Reds' group of 25-and-under players (led by Stephenson, Hamilton, Mesoraco and Cingrani) 23rd-best in the Majors. Baseball America (subscription required) was even less charitable, ranking the Reds 27th in the 25-and-under category.

The Reds are, to some degree, victims of their own success. They haven't had a top-ten draft pick since they selected Leake eighth overall in 2009. While recent first-rounders like Stephenson and Phillip Ervin appear to be good players, it isn't easy to develop stars when there are always at least a dozen teams picking ahead of you, especially if your team isn't traditionally a big player for Latin American amateur talent.

Within this context, their trade for Choo before the 2013 season looks like it might have been more of a one-last-shot move than the sort of deal the Reds typically make. That isn't to say it will be impossible for the Reds to contend in 2014, only that their days of being a perennial 90-win team may be nearing an end, at least for now.

The Reds' NL Central rivals in Milwaukee have had similar problems recently — the Brewers had a successful run of seasons with their Ryan Braun / Prince Fielder core, but struggled to maintain their success after those players got expensive. In the long term, the Reds' situation isn't as dire as the Brewers', because the Reds have done a better job in recent years of acquiring and developing young talent. But the parallels are hard to ignore. If you're a small-market team, it can be difficult to manage your assets as they start to earn more money. The Reds might have some tougher sledding ahead.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


43 Responses to Offseason In Review: Cincinnati Reds Leave a Reply

  1. WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 1 year ago

    The Reds are in a rough division, coming off a third place finish (granted they did win the 2nd Wild Card) and they look like a worse team than they did last year. That’s not a good combination.

    • stl_cards16 1 year ago

      If the pitching stays healthy, they’re a good team. That starting five is very, very good.

      • Jay King 1 year ago

        The pitching is looking kinda scary at the end of spring training. There are several pitchers bullpen and rotation that might start the season on the DL.

        Makes me very nervous

  2. Kevin 1 year ago

    One concern this article doesn’t address – lack of pitching depth THIS year. Beyond Cueto (injury problems) Latos, Bailey, Leake (solid) and Cingrani (injury problems in 2013) the Reds don’t have much MLB ready pitching. If (when?) one of those guys goes down the Reds are looking at Jeff Francis, Alfredo Simon, or Chien-Men Wang to fill the void. Not great options all around. Could use Stephenson late in the year, but it doesn’t seem he’s MLB ready yet.

    • ShaneRedsFan 1 year ago

      Don’t forget about David Holmberg.

    • PriceMeTheRing 1 year ago

      I’m still boiling over the fact that Chapman is not a starter. He is getting paid like one. I wish Jocketty would learn to not over pay for bullpen help, there is always cheap value for those guys. Broxton should not be on this team for that price.

      • nick bruggeman 1 year ago

        Chapman isn’t getting paid as a starter, I would say at this point he isn’t getting paid like a top 5 closer like he is. He is getting paid like a top tier set up guy. Granted this will change in two years, at that point he will make top closers money.

  3. Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

    Am I the only one who thinks Homer Bailey isn’t worth 105 million? Maybe if he pitches to expectations, but has he shown that he is worth it based on his numbers?

    • Dynasty22 1 year ago

      Not many people thought he was worth it.

    • Kevin 1 year ago

      Not the only one, no. But he is worth it. As the article mentions he was a top of the rotation arm last year. The D backs just paid $11 / yr for an aging Bronson Arroyo. Counting what the Redsa already owed Bailey they’re basically giving him $16 mil per year. Not much more for a likely top arm.

      • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

        He has some decent numbers but he’s never been a finalist in Cy Young or MVP voting or been an All-Star just to note. I’m not saying those are needed to get paid that much, but he’s being paid like a top ten pitcher when he doesn’t have any seasons that warrant distinction.

        • Kevin 1 year ago

          Research is a blessing… link to baseballprospectus.com

          Not even in the top 15… top 20 of you figure $16 per. Contracts are only getting bigger. This will be chump change in a few years.

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            Most of those players are/were batters and many of those contacts have expired. I’m talking about current contracts for pitchers, not position players.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            Scroll down the page…

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            Ok any many of those contracts are expired, I am talking about current contracts for 2014. I did not say he’s being paid like a 10 ten pitcher of all time, just for the season. The only contracts with a higher AAV then Homer’s $17.5 million for 2014 are Sabathia, Tanaka, Kershaw, Verlander, Cain, Hamels, Lee, Felix Hernandez, Zito, and Lincecum. And that’s the whole league not just the NL, so Bailey is roughly 11th. I’m off by one so sue me but my point sticks. He’s definitely being paid alot more then the 10th highest pitcher in the NL of all time.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            Edited. Price me a ring said it best. He would have easily gotten that on the open market. His peripherals support it. And its not even top 10 money RIGHT NOW. How is it overpaying 5 years from now? Its not.

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            Then name 10 pitchers who will be paid more in 2014 then Bailey (you will have to include the AL, I guarantee it).

        • stl_cards16 1 year ago

          $17.5MM per year is not being paid like a top ten pitcher anymore.

          • PriceMeTheRing 1 year ago

            Homer would have gotten that in the open market. Probably more. Reds payed market value. Can they afford it, they think they can.

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            How many pitchers have a higher AAV then Bailey? Sabathia, Tanaka, Kershaw, Verlander, Cain, Hamels, Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Barry Zito. Anyone else have a higher AAV the Bailey in 2014? So that’s 9 pitchers, Bailey makes 10. So like I said he’s being paid like a top ten pitcher. Even if he was 12th my point is still valid.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            And my point (and many others) is that this is now chump change.

            Plus he’s worth the money. Sign a bunch of pitchers to $14 mil contracts (31 year old Ervin Santana, for example) and see how far your team goes.

            Agree to disagree, Lionel. We’ll see how this plays out in 4-5 years.

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            I agree in even 3 years it maybe worth it, but only if he pitches at his current level or better. They are paying him thinking his numbers will improve. I doubt many teams would have given him that on the free market.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            And that’s why you aren’t a GM…

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            Not to be facetious, neither are you.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            Nope, I am not.

            Here’s trivia for you: Three players, all in their age 27 season:

            ERA IP WHIP SO BB

            Player A 3.83 171.2 1.200 201 45

            Player B 3.49 209.0 1.124 199 54

            Player C 3.32 198.0 1.258 197 63

            Can you guess who they are?

            Player A is Zach Greinke, now making $26 MIL through his age 34 season. Player C is Matt Garza, now making $13 MIL as a 34 year old. And Player B? Homer Bailey.

            You’ll likely try to argue All Stars and Cy Youngs, but those aren’t nearly as solid predictors as stats. Compare his against the other guys and, minus Greinke’s Cy Young year, his are as solid as any other.

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            I wouldn’t have gave Greinke that much either, but based on all this talk, these teams have themselves to blame for rising prices, not the Yankees and Sox. Bailey is pretty good but not great. Masterson just asked Cleveland for a similar deal in terms of AAV from the Indians and didn’t get it, he also isn’t worth that much. Grienke by the way is much better then Homer Bailey, who has never has a single vote for the CY Young.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            “Bailey is pretty good but not great.”

            What would you pay him?

          • Bronx Bombers 1 year ago

            I would offer him in the neighboorhood of 4-6 years with the AAV in the range of 12-15 million, probably around 14million. Chris Sale got extended for five-years, $32 million, he’s better and younger than Bailey.

          • Kevin 1 year ago

            Yes, he is. He is also 3 years away (see: one year of pre-arb and two years of arbitration) from being a free agent and was making $600,000 this year. The Sox gave him a huge pay raise and a ton of guaranteed money, and in return he gives them two years of free agency at well below market value.

            He does this because he’s coming out of it at age 29 within the prime of his career, possibly $60 mil in his pocket (yes, there are escalators and options there) and the option of signing a brand new deal.

            Two completely different scenarios.

            $16 MIL / yr extension still sounds about right for Bailey.

  4. burnboll 1 year ago

    Cincinnati reds has got Bruce Wayne as a staff ace.

  5. oh Hal 1 year ago

    Reading this article, you’d think the Brewers were an old team.

  6. Franl Edwardo 1 year ago

    Trading Hanigan is nothing but a positive. I watched 100 plus reds games each ofbthe last 3 years and he was dead weight. He had one decent offensive year and otherwise was not much more than another pitcher hitting in the lineup.

    • PriceMeTheRing 1 year ago

      All I have to say is I like Mes. He should play 75% of the time at least.

  7. Hills of Glenallen 1 year ago

    Losing Choo is going to hurt worse than they seem to want to admit. Hamilton is the next Joey Gathwright and probably won’t hit his own weight. You can’t steal first, right?

    • PriceMeTheRing 1 year ago

      no he was born to be special. Bet

      • Kevin 1 year ago

        The obp in AAA is worrisome. Hopefully that’s an aberration, but I’m inclined to think it isn’t.

    • Kevin 1 year ago

      I’m worried about it as well. Also – they should move Votto to second in the batting order. Think about all the fastballs he’d see with Hamilton on base in front of him. Hamilton will see better pitches, Votto will see better pitches, then Bruce is up third. Ludwick, Phillips, Frazier, Mesoraco, Cozart. Better lineup.

  8. PriceMeTheRing 1 year ago

    I’m a reds fan, but not a homer. I am not happy with Walt Jocketty and how he didn’t get more done this offseason. I do think that this Article forgets how important the Manager can be. Dusty Baker did hold anyone accountable for how they progressed and worked on a day to day. Brian Price will and he has some many intangibles to be a good manager. He will get the most out of these players including Brandon Phillips. Billy Hamilton will set a record for the most infield hits, so he’ll be fine. It all comes down to health. We can win 90 games this year.

    • Jay King 1 year ago

      As stated above the early pitching injury pile is getting pretty huge. I’m nervous cause The Reds April schedule is tough.

  9. Lanidrac 1 year ago

    Don’t blame their lack of prospects on recent success. The Cardinals have one of the best collections of young talent in MLB, and they haven’t had a Top 10 draft pick since 1998!

Leave a Reply