- The Reds have selected the contract of catcher Rafael Lopez from Triple-A Louisville, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. To clear space on their active roster, they’ve optioned infielder Tony Renda to Louisville. The Reds needed an extra catcher due to a minor hand injury to Tucker Barnhart. The 28-year-old Lopez appeared briefly in the big leagues with the Cubs in 2016, but has not done so since. He’s hit a modest .213/.262/.297 for Louisville this season.
- The Blue Jays’ previously reported effort to land Reds first baseman Joey Votto at the 2015 trade deadline may have petered out with the changes in the team’s baseball operations department. But the talks likely would’ve continued had Alex Anthopoulos remained at the helm, says Heyman, and the organization had been prepared to add Votto even after paying big to land Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Per the report, though, the teams never got terribly far down the line in hashing out a deal.
The Blue Jays opened “serious discussions” with the Reds last summer about a possible deal to add star first baseman Joey Votto, according to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. But those talks “never gained momentum,” per the report.
Instead, Toronto shifted its attention to adding Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in a pair of blockbusters that helped push the club into the post-season. While the dialogue with the Reds seemingly did not get very far down the line, Griffin says that the expectation was that Cincinnati would hold onto some of the large financial commitments to Votto, who is owed $179MM after the end of the 2016 season. (Ultimately, the Blue Jays took on Tulowitzki’s own lengthy deal, but sent Jose Reyes back to the Rockies to help offset the cost.)
Of course, it must be emphasized that those moves — as well as the chatter with Cincinnati — all took place under former general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He left over the offseason after the team hired Mark Shapiro as club president, with Shapiro ultimately bringing in Ross Atkins to step into the GM role.
It’s not clear whether or not the new front office leadership would share the interest of its predecessors in adding Votto. A native of Ontario, Votto would surely be desirable to any organization, as he continues to put up stellar offensive numbers (.309/.433/.522 with 20 home runs thus far in 2016). But the monster contract is another matter, especially for a player who will soon turn 33 years of age.
We’ve yet to hear of any current interest in such a maneuver from the Shapiro/Atkins front office group, so for now it’s all hypothetical, but Griffin goes on to argue that Votto still makes sense as a target for the Jays. It seems likely that Votto will clear waivers, and perhaps he’d be amenable to waiving his no-trade clause for a chance to return to his native land. In the near-term, he’d represent a major boost to a team that has seen its best left-handed hitters fade of late, and then he’d step into the void left when Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista reach the open market after the season.
There’s certainly some facial appeal to the suggestion, but it bears noting that there are plenty of hurdles even if Toronto were to pursue Votto. Among other things, the Reds would presumably want to minimize their ongoing salary obligations while also reaping a nice package of young talent to part with their best player.
The Pirates recalled top first base prospect Josh Bell over the weekend, and he’ll have a larger role than he had in his brief initial call-up earlier this season (three brilliant pinch-hit plate appearances), GM Neal Huntington tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We brought Josh up to play a decent amount,” said Huntington of the 24-year-old Bell, who has batted a .295/.382/.468 with 14 homers in 114 Triple-A games this season. Bell’s prospect pedigree and strong minor league production, paired with a .167/.306/.250 second half from John Jaso, could well pave the way to everyday at-bats (or something close to it) down the stretch. If he can prove himself to be a consistent hitter in the Majors and one capable of playing a passable first base — Huntington tells Brink that Bell’s defense will “continue to be a work in progress” — Bell could unseat Jaso and lead the team to shop the veteran (and his two-year, $8MM contract) over the winter.
A bit more from the NL Central…
- Reds manager Bryan Price tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Jose Peraza could remain with the team for the rest of the year even if Zack Cozart returns quickly from a minor Achilles injury, but he stopped short of committing to the notion of Peraza sticking in the Majors through the end of the Triple-A season on Sept. 5. As Sheldon notes, Peraza was scarcely used when he spent a month and a half in the Majors earlier this summer, but he’s had a pair of multi-hit games since being recalled to fill in for Cozart at shortstop and could get looks at second base, in left field and in center field over the course of September in an effort to see what he can do with consistent playing time against MLB pitching. It would be somewhat strange for the Reds not to work him into the lineup as much as possible in order to get a better evaluation of Peraza, especially considering the fact that he can be deployed at a number of positions.
- Having watched Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Andrew Benintendi go from the 2015 draft to the Majors less than a year later, Reds third base prospect Nick Senzel said on the MLBPipeline.com podcast that he hopes for a similarly quick ascent (also via Sheldon). Senzel, the No. 2 overall pick in this season’s draft, is hitting .309/.400/.545 with seven homers in 46 games with Class-A Dayton. He hasn’t been moved quite as aggressively as Bregman, who played at Class-A Advanced during his debut season, but neither Swanson nor Benintendi topped Class-A last season and both still made it to the bigs this year. “You look at those guys … get there their first full year, as a player and a college hitter that makes you hungry to get up there,” said Senzel.
- Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano isn’t likely to return to the team in 2016, GM David Stearns tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The 38-year-old has been sidelined by an elbow injury since late May, and a platelet-rich plasma treatment hasn’t sped along his recovery as much as had been hoped. Stearns notes that Capuano “is still very motivated to make it back and continue his career,” so it sounds as if there’s a good chance he’ll aim to return in 2017 if he can’t do so at the tail end of the present season.
- Another Brewers southpaw, Sean Nolin, recently underwent Tommy John surgery after trying to stave off the procedure, Haudricourt further reports. He, too, tried a PRP treatment but did not improve enough to avoid a UCL replacement. Milwaukee outfielder Rymer Liriano, meanwhile, has faced slow going after being struck by a pitch in the face this spring. Though he has now begun baseball activities, Liriano won’t be able to make it to the majors this year. Instead, says Stearns, he may be able to participate in fall instructional league action.
- The Reds have yet to firmly decide whether Brandon Finnegan’s long-term future is in the rotation or in the bullpen, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Manager Bryan Price told Buchanan over the weekend that the final seven or eight weeks of the season will be used to continue the club’s evaluation of Finnegan, who currently has a 4.45 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and a 38.3 percent ground-ball rate in 129 1/3 innings. ERA estimators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA all cast a less-favorable picture, pegging Finnegan well north of the 5.00 mark. “Based on what we have in our system, what we begin the year with next year, will we win more games with him as a starter or a reliever?” Price asked rhetorically. “I can say from my perspective that hasn’t been answered.” Buchanan points out that Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey are guaranteed rotation spots in 2017, and right-hander Dan Straily has likely earned a place in the starting five as well. The Reds will also have a plethora of young arms to consider, including Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Rookie Davis, John Lamb and Cody Reed. Right-handers Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen, too, could re-enter that mix, though each is pitching well out of the ’pen right now and may remain there long-term.
- On bringing in relievers based on the handedness of the hitter, Reds pitching coach Mack Jenkins told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, “It’s silly. It’s outdated.” Jenkins would rather the Reds’ decisions come as a result of batters’ weaknesses – for example, if one can’t hit a curveball, then send in a curveball specialist. And while the Reds’ bullpen has been historically woeful this season, there are reasons for optimism with the likes of Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen in the fold. Iglesias, who moved to the bullpen earlier this year because of shoulder issues, has been nearly untouchable and has recorded at least six outs in 11 of 16 appearances. With that in mind, Rosecrans wonders if the 26-year-old could become a modern-day fireman reliever. Jenkins believes Iglesias, Lorenzen and Josh Smith are capable of taking on such a role. For his part, Iglesias told Rosecrans through an interpreter, “In Cuba, you always have your starter and then comes your best reliever, you can come in the sixth and finish the game, that’s not a problem for me if they bring me into the eighth and finish the game.”
- Raisel Iglesias recorded the first save of his big league career on Wednesday, and there could be quite a few more in his future, writes C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He’s stepped it up and I think we’re looking at a role that could be very comfortable for him and something we’ll have to weigh moving forward between starter and reliever,” said manager Bryan Price. Iglesias himself expressed an enormous amount of pride in being asked to take the ball in the ninth inning, explaining through a translator that he was as proud to pitch in that role as he was to be named Opening Day starter for the Reds. Said Iglesias: “I feel really proud because I’ve waited for this moment, this is what I’ve wanted to be on the team, this is what I want to do. I want to be the closer.” Iglesias looked like a highly intriguing rotation candidate entering the season, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for two months, and he’s pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since returning. Since being activated from the DL, Iglesias has a sensational 0.65 ERA with a 31-to-12 K/BB ratio in 27 2/3 innings.
The Reds announced on Thursday that right-hander J.J. Hoover has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Louisville. That represents a disappointing end to his work this year in Cincinnati, though a late-year return remains possible.
Entering the year, Hoover was positioned as the Reds’ closer after winning his arbitration hearing in his first year of eligibility. That didn’t last long, though, as he blew his first save opportunity and only ended up converting one on the season.
Hoover ended up being optioned in early May after posting disastrous results in the early going. He showed better immediately upon his return, but coughed up five earned runs in consecutive outings before going out on optional assignment once again. A significant decline in average fastball velocity certainly hasn’t helped. Hoover sits with a 13.50 ERA over 18 2/3 frames at the major league level in 2016, with opponents hitting a ridiculous .345/.433/.750 against him.
Ultimately, Cincinnati decided it couldn’t dedicate a 40-man roster spot to the veteran and decided on today’s outright. As things stand, he looks to be a non-tender candidate in the fall. That being said, Hoover ought to receive attention as a bounce-back candidate. Entering the year, he owned a 3.34 ERA over 223 2/3 major league innings with 9.1 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9, and he has been better this season when pitching at the Triple-A level.
That the Mariners didn’t make a trade wasn’t for a lack of effort, per Dipoto, who says that the Mariners had a lot of different discussions taking place, some of which “got very deep into the deal-making phase and just didn’t come to pass.” While Dipoto doesn’t address any specifics, one of those near-swaps was likely for Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. It was widely reported on Monday (first by Dutton himself) that the two sides were closing in on a trade that would send Cozart from Cincinnati to Seattle, but the deal never came to fruition.
Dutton now sheds some light on the talks, reporting that the two sides believed they had a basic two-for-two framework that would’ve sent Cozart and a minor leaguer to Seattle in exchange for minor league lefty Luiz Gohara and a second prospect. However, the Reds ultimately had to spend a great deal of time on Monday restructuring their trade of Jay Bruce to the Mets due to medical concerns surrounding some of the minor leaguers they were set to acquire. As such, Dutton writes that the Reds effectively “ran out of time” to assess all of the medical information on the players they would be receiving from the Mariners in exchange for Cozart. Gohara rated as the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect at MLB.com, whose scouting report notes that he’s had a breakout campaign after dropping 30 pounds in the offseason. Gohara has a 1.94 ERA and a 63-to-14 K/BB ratio in 51 minor league innings (nine starts).
Dutton adds that he spoke to some Mariners officials who didn’t rule out the possibility of revisiting talks for Cozart, though Cozart would have to pass through the entire National League and through nearly half of the American League to get to the Mariners on the waiver wire, which seems unlikely. Talks, of course, could resume in the offseason if Cozart remains in Cincinnati. It’s worth noting that Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans yesterday that Cozart is not someone he’s actively looking to move, though he’s a free agent following the 2017 season, so it makes sense for the rebuilding Reds to be highly open to the concept so long as they receive quality talent in return.
- Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty spoke with the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans about the difficulty of trading away a homegrown slugger like Jay Bruce even in the midst of a rebuild. “It was extremely tough to make the deal,” said Jocketty. “We’ve talked about it for some time, but until it actually happens, it doesn’t set in. …It was tough to say goodbye to him.” Reports on Monday indicated that medical concerns over one of the minor leaguers that was said to be in the initial iteration of the Bruce deal — said to be centered around outfielder Brandon Nimmo — slowed the deal. Rosecrans,though, hears that multiple prospects that would’ve come to the Reds failed to live up to the Reds’ medical standards, leading to further discussion. Jocketty also spoke a bit about Zack Cozart, who was reportedly nearly traded to Seattle, stating that Cozart isn’t someone the team is actively looking to move. Rosecrans adds that talks with the Mariners did take place but fell apart over the course of the day.