Cincinnati Reds Rumors

Cincinnati Reds trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Out Of Options Players: NL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I’ve included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources.  Today, we’ll take a look at the NL Central.

Cubs: Drake Britton, Welington Castillo, Felix Doubront, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Jacob Turner, Travis Wood

Wood, Turner, and Tsuyoshi Wada were expected to battle for the Cubs’ fifth starter job this spring.  Turner has been shut down due to a flexor strain and bone bruise on his elbow, however, so the Cubs can defer making a decision on him since he won’t even be throwing again until mid-April.  Wood seemed like a winter trade candidate, but Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald explains that with the Cubs’ depth thinning out, he’s the favorite to become the fifth starter.  That would force Edwin Jackson into the bullpen, unless the Cubs offload him or even eat his remaining $22MM.

Of the Cubs’ seven relievers, righties Rondon, Strop, Ramirez, Jason Motte, and Justin Grimm seem locked in.  According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago last week, the minor league deal for lefty Phil Coke is a “mere formality,” meaning he’s expected to break camp as the team’s primary southpaw reliever.

That leaves one potential spot for Jackson, out of options lefties Britton and Doubront, and a host of other candidates including Wada if his groin injury proves minor.  Doubront has been hit hard in his two spring outings, while Britton has tallied five scoreless innings.  Injuries may clear up the logjam, but something has to give by the April 5th opener.

There’s also last year’s starting catcher Castillo, pushed aside by winter acquisitions Miguel Montero and David RossMark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Castillo’s situation a few days ago, noting that Arismendy Alcantara‘s versatility could allow the Cubs to open the season with three catchers.  That might be posturing on the Cubs’ part, however, since the team would be better-served trading Castillo for a fair return.

Reds: Jason Bourgeois

Bourgeois will miss four to six weeks with a fractured shoulder, so he’ll be starting the season on the DL.

Brewers: Mike Fiers, Hector Gomez, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Jimenez

Gomez and Jimenez are hoping to earn the team’s two utility infield jobs, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel earlier this month.  Two days ago, Haudricourt tweeted he’d be stunned if Jimenez doesn’t make the team.  Luis Sardinas is in the mix as well, but he may face an uphill battle since he has options remaining.

Jeffress appears to have a spot locked up in the Brewers’ pen, wrote Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak yesterday.

Pirates: Pedro Florimon, Stolmy Pimentel, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, Arquimedes Caminero, Radhames Liz, Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Pedro Alvarez

Worley and Locke are competing to be the Pirates’ fifth starter, with Worley appearing to hold an edge after Locke was knocked around Tuesday.  The Pirates seem willing to put one of them in the bullpen, but a trade is also possible.

Pimentel, Caminero, and Liz are vying for spots in the Pirates’ bullpen.  Charlie Wilmoth of MLBTR and Bucs Dugout feels it wouldn’t be a surprise for all three to make the team, even if it means optioning superior relievers John Holdzkom and Jared Hughes.  Liz, at least, seems a good bet to get a roster spot after signing a big league deal out of Korea during the offseason.  In an online chat yesterday, Pirates beat writer Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined that Pimentel seems the most likely of the three to get dropped.

As Wilmoth wrote in February, it’s hard to see where Florimon fits on this team.  Perhaps the waiver claim made sense in November, but he seems likely to find his way off the 40-man soon.

Cardinals: Sam Freeman, Pete Kozma

MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch looked at the situations of Freeman and Kozma in January.  Freeman, a 27-year-old lefty reliever, has continued this spring to exhibit the control problems that have plagued his Major League career.  He’s a trade candidate.  Kozma, known for his defense, appears to be playing his way into making the team, wrote Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos yesterday.


NL Notes: Turner, Reds, D’Backs, Mets

Cubs righty Jacob Turner will likely not return to action for another spring game, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports, but medical review after he experienced elbow discomfort revealed no ligament damage. “I’m just going to see how it feels,” said Turner. “The plan is four to six weeks of not throwing, and then go off how I feel.” Given his lack of options, I would expect the club to bring him along quite slowly — possibly utilizing a 60-day DL stay to free a roster spot.

Meanwhile, here are some roster situations percolating elsewhere in the National League:

  • We noted earlier today that Tony Cingrani is destined for the Reds pen. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer discusses the implications of that move for the team’s rotation battle. Another candidate — David Holmberg — was bumped down to minor league camp, leaving the relatively inexperienced Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani to fight veteran non-roster invitees Jason Marquis and Paul Maholm for two permanent spots (and a temporary substitute for Homer Bailey to start the year). Skipper Bryan Price explained that considerations of control will come into play: “The thing is, we’ve got veteran guys like Marquis and Maholm and we don’t want to use them one start,” Price said. “If they’re going to be on our team, the hope is they’re on our team for the entire season if not longer. That’s how we have to look at it. You can back-and-forth a young guy. He can start a game or two, go down the minor leagues or go into the bullpen and help as a long guy. Marquis and Maholm are looking more like long-term, start-to-finish options for us.”
  • The Diamondbacks will be fascinating to watch this year, albeit not necessarily in terms of the on-field product, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. As he notes, the team’s newly-installed front office leaders seem to have different ideas than many of their counterparts in the industry. While the organization is saddled with some less-than-ideal contracts, and seems higher on several players than others, it nevertheless has no shortage of young talent, trade chips, and roster options. That should make Arizona an active player in the transactional game over the course of the season.
  • Meanwhile, it is time for the Mets to press forward with delivering a winning team, even with Zack Wheeler likely lost to Tommy John surgery, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. In the immediate term, there have been conflicting signals on how the club will fill in for Wheeler, with skipper Terry Collins saying Dillon Gee will move back to the rotation, GM Sandy Alderson declining to provide such a clear answer, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reporting that prospect Rafael Montero could have a chance at breaking camp. In the aggregate, there is enough depth and talent to make up for losing Wheeler, says Davidoff, removing his injury as an excuse if a legitimate contender does not emerge. For his part, Sherman wonders whether the club has staked too much of its future on the health and development of young arms, though it seems worth echoing Davidoff’s point here: the sheer number and upside of the alternatives in camp give New York ample options.

Central Notes: Floyd, Cingrani, Morales, Harris

Indians right-hander Gavin Floyd, who re-fractured his right olecranon last week, is set to have surgery on Tuesday, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Floyd, who has pitched sparingly over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and the original olecranon fracture in his right elbow, was expected to serve as a veteran presence in a largely inexperienced Indians rotation after signing a one-year, $4MM deal. Now, however, Cleveland is unlikely to receive any contribution from Floyd this year.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani is being shifted from the rotation to the bullpen, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as most figured the left-hander would step into the rotation following the trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Cingrani has worked as a starter in the past and racked up excellent strikeout numbers, but he’s had shoulder issues as well, so perhaps the team feels this will keep him healthier. Cuban right-hander Raisel Igesias, meanwhile, will be stretched out to work as a starting pitcher.
  • Franklin Morales is building a strong case to take the injured Tim Collins‘ spot as a left-hander in the Royals‘ bullpen, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Morales has fired six scoreless innings and impressed Kansas City decision-makers. Brandon Finnegan is a well-regarded prospect and could have a shot at making the team, but the team still would like to develop him as a starter and he also hasn’t pitched as well this spring. No final decisions have been made on the situation, writes McCullough.
  • The Tigers added another player to camp yesterday when they reportedly signed Jiwan James, and another addition may on the horizon as well. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the team may add veteran infielder Brendan Harris, presumably on a minor league deal. The 34-year-old Harris is a career .256/.314/.381 hitter in the Majors, with his best seasons coming between the Twins and Rays in 2007-08. Harris hasn’t played in the Majors much since 2010, however, receiving just 117 plate appearances with the Angels and hitting .206/.252/.355.


Offseason In Review: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds’ offseason was highlighted by two solid trades of starting pitchers who were about to approach free agency, but the team still could face tough times ahead as its core continues to age.

Major League Signings

  • Burke Badenhop, RP: One year, $2.5MM ($1MM plus $1.5MM buyout on $2.5MM 2016 mutual option)
  • Total spend: $2.5MM

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Reds’ most pressing problem was the impending departure of much of their rotation next winter, and they addressed that issue by trading Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, both of whom could join Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake on the free agent market after the season. With over $82MM already on the books for 2016 (much of that coming from long-running contracts for Joey Votto and Homer Bailey), the Reds were in a tough spot from which the Latos and Simon deals helped remove them. They also saved about $14MM for 2015, given the two pitchers’ salaries in their last years of arbitration.

The Latos deal, in particular, will help, in that the Reds got a young starting pitcher in Anthony DeSclafani who has six full years of control left and should be able to help right away, perhaps developing into a middle-of-the-rotation type. Along with Bailey, Tony Cingrani and top prospect Robert Stephenson, DeSclafani will help the Reds adjust to life without Latos and Simon, and, perhaps eventually, without Cueto and Leake as well. The Reds also got Chad Wallach, a young catcher with a good eye at the plate who will likely start the season at High-A.

Jonathon Crawford, the pitcher the Reds received in the Simon trade, is further from the Majors, and is a bit of a project — his statistics in Class A last year were nothing to write home about, and most observers haven’t thought much of his changeup. His development will depend upon how well he’s able to use his other pitches to complement his plus fastball. The Reds also added Eugenio Suarez, a capable defensive shortstop who hit reasonably well in the minors and held his own in the big leagues as a 22-year-old last season. If Suarez can continue to improve, he’ll likely eventually replace Zack Cozart, whose subpar hitting mostly canceled out his plus defense last year.

Overall, that’s a good haul for Latos and Simon, particularly given that DeSclafani and Suarez might be able to help right away. Latos and Simon both had just one year of control left, and neither of them are aces — both of them had better ERAs than peripherals last year, and Simon, in particular, is a good bet to take a step backward next season. Latos also missed time in 2014 due to knee and elbow injuries. Whether the Reds will be able to keep Cueto and Leake beyond 2015 is an open question, but those two were probably the best pair of starters from among the four facing free agency, and the Reds got good value for the lesser pair.

The Reds also shipped outfielder Chris Heisey to the Dodgers for 25-year-old righty Matt Magill. Magill walked 6.3 batters per nine innings at Triple-A last season and doesn’t throw particularly hard, so he’s unlikely to contribute much. Heisey doesn’t hit well, although he’s a strong enough defender to be an asset, and his departure leaves the Reds’ rather thin outfield vulnerable if anyone is injured.

To bolster their bullpen, the Reds added righty Burke Badenhop on a one-year deal. Badenhop is a soft-tosser whose strikeout rate has shrunk over the past three seasons and whose xFIP was a run and a half behind his ERA last year, but at $2.5MM, the Reds didn’t overpay for a reliever who can limit walks and get bunches of ground balls.

The Reds also signed two core players, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, to extensions. The Frazier contract was fairly routine — it’s a two-year pact that buys out only Frazier’s first two years of arbitration eligibility, tracking fairly closely to what his salaries would have been through the arbitration process in those two seasons. After it ends, the Reds will be able to take Frazier through arbitration once more. Frazier’s deal came in lieu of an extension to buy out free-agent seasons, but since Frazier is already 29, such a deal might not have been necessary anyway.

USATSI_8109526_154513410_lowresThe Mesoraco deal is a more significant commitment. Like Frazier, Mesoraco was arbitration eligible for the first time. But Mesoraco’s contract buys out all three of his arbitration seasons, plus one year of free agency. Mesoraco and the Reds had already exchanged arbitration figures, and the midpoint of those two figures of $3.025MM would have given the two sides a rough guide to how much Mesoraco might have made through the arbitration process in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The deal comes with risk for the Reds — Mesoraco has only had one excellent season, and by extending him, the team is gambling that his 2014 breakout is real, or mostly real. Mesoraco is also an injury risk, having missed time with hamstring problems in 2014. The Reds also didn’t get any club options. If Mesoraco keeps hitting, though, the deal will be a bargain — if we assume, somewhat conservatively, that Mesoraco would have made about $15MM in his arbitration seasons, the deal buys out Mesoraco’s age-30 season at $13MM, a good price for what might be a strong late-prime season for a quality catcher. And if Mesoraco can approximate his .273/.359/.534 2014 outburst in 2015 and 2016, he would have been able to get far more than $15MM total in his three arbitration seasons.

Questions Remaining

As a team in transition, the Reds have no shortage of questions. Many of their highest paid players (Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips among them) either had injury or performance issues or both in 2014. It will be difficult for the Reds to compete in 2015 if those players don’t stay healthy this time, since the team doesn’t have much depth, particularly now that Heisey is gone.

Key bench player Skip Schumaker is coming off a poor .235/.287/.308 season upon which he doesn’t figure to improve much. Backup catcher Brayan Pena was little better, at .253/.291/.353. The fact that Schumaker and Pena were already under contract for 2015 likely meant that the Reds weren’t going to spend much of the offseason hunting for position players who weren’t starters, but even a better crop of minor-league free agents would have helped. The team’s position player depth in the high minors is nothing to write home about, and its top hitting prospects are far from the Majors. Fangraphs’ depth chart currently lists nine Reds position players — their eight starters, plus Suarez — who project to be more than a tenth of a win above replacement in 2015. That’s a shame, because given the Reds’ veteran-heavy lineup, good backup plans could really have come in handy.

When Reds GM Walt Jocketty worked for the Cardinals, he frequently built benches full of light-hitting players like Aaron Miles, Roger Cedeno, Kerry Robinson and Miguel Cairo. But at least in St. Louis, Jocketty could lean hard on stars like Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds year-in and year-out. Jocketty did the same with the 2014 Reds, depending on players like Votto and Phillips, and it didn’t work. As of this writing, Votto, who missed 100 games last season with a knee injury, still hasn’t appeared in Spring Training action, although he’s expected to do so Saturday. If the Reds are to be successful in 2015, they need him.

The Latos and Simon deals will help the Reds beyond this season, and probably aren’t even as detrimental for 2015 as they might initially appear, but they do leave the team’s rotation thinner than it had been before. Tony Cingrani will occupy one of the last two spots, and he’s excellent as a back-end option, although the Reds will hope he’s past the shoulder troubles that ended his 2014 season. (He’s currently pitching normally in Spring Training.) DeSclafani is the front-runner for the fifth spot. The Reds also aren’t sure whether Bailey will be ready for the beginning of the season after having forearm surgery last September, which could mean Paul Maholm or Jason Marquis gets starts in his absence.

Deal of Note

The Reds spent much of their offseason dealing veterans and reshaping their roster beyond 2015, but they went the opposite direction when they traded pitcher Ben Lively to the Phillies for outfielder Marlon Byrd. With the departure of Ryan Ludwick (who did little in two years in Cincinnati to prove he’s a starting outfielder going forward anyway), the Reds had a gaping hole in left field, and Byrd might be able to fill it capably, even at age 37. After a career year in 2013, his rate stats went backward in 2014, but he still hit 25 homers, a total he could match this season in a homer-happy ballpark like Cincinnati’s. If he stays healthy, the Reds will likely be happy to be on the hook for his $8MM 2016 team option, which will vest if he manages 550 plate appearances this season.

The quality of the trade, though, depends on Lively. The Reds know him better than anyone, and perhaps thought that his blend of reasonable stuff and deception wouldn’t be enough to succeed in the long term. Lively had an excellent first full pro season, though, and could be ready for the Majors by the end of this season or early next. He would have been a good arm for the Reds to have in their system as they prepare for life without many of their top starting pitchers. Perhaps the value of having a competitive 2015 team was worth the cost of losing Lively, but acquiring a relatively cheap free-agent outfielder, like Colby Rasmus, Nori Aoki or Michael Morse, might have made more sense.

Overview

Step back a bit, and the Reds still look like they could be very good. Cincinnati has a power-hitting catcher, a first baseman with a career .417 OBP, a star veteran second baseman, a third baseman who’s coming off a career year, and a center fielder (Billy Hamilton) who gives opposing catchers nightmares. They have one of the National League’s best starting pitchers in Cueto, and a terrifying closer (Aroldis Chapman) who joins Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland among the best relievers of this decade so far. If everyone is healthy and performs at his career norms, that’s an excellent core.

A closer inspection, though, isn’t as kind. The Reds’ core is old enough and expensive enough that the team can’t necessarily fit many good complementary players into its budget. (That might not improve much in the coming years, either, with the $213MM remaining on Votto’s contract potentially causing the Reds huge headaches.) With a few obvious exceptions like Hamilton and Cingrani, the Reds’ farm system hasn’t developed the young players necessary to replace core pieces as they age. The team can’t necessarily count on Votto being healthy, and Phillips isn’t nearly as good as he once was. And Cueto is only under team control for one more year.

Perhaps a more aggressive route for the Reds this offseason would have been to trade Cueto and rebuild — one would think Cueto would have been able to land the Reds at least a couple top prospects, given his 2014 performance and ultra-cheap 2015 option ($10MM). The Phillies are having trouble getting the package they want for Cole Hamels, however, and James Shields lasted late into the winter on the free agent market. The Athletics’ return for Jeff Samardzija appears to have been relatively meager. Perhaps the Reds are gambling that they can get better value for Cueto at the deadline, or perhaps they’ll end up extending him (although it’s debatable whether a team in the Reds’ position should commit to what would presumably be a nine-figure contract that goes well into Cueto’s thirties).

In any case, the Reds appear to be in a holding pattern. This offseason’s Latos and Simon trades were steps toward a brighter future, but they were small ones, and the Byrd deal went in the opposite direction. There’s no rule stating that a team can only contend or only rebuild, and in fact many teams this offseason have pursued both goals at once. The Reds, though, don’t really seem to be doing either one. It wouldn’t be a miracle if they made the playoffs this year, but it would be a surprise, and as their core ages and departs, it’s unclear what’s on the horizon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Minor Moves: Gamel, Carpenter, Solis, Thurston

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, all via the Twitter account of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy …

  • First baseman Mat Gamel will make another attempt at a comeback, this time with the Yankees, Eddy tweets. Now 29, the former Brewers prospect had been set to try for a return last year with the Braves, but was released after yet another knee injury. Gamel has not had a full season of action since 2011, when he was productive at Triple-A.
  • Righty Chris Carpenter has inked a minor league pact with the Reds, per Eddy. The 29-year-old worked to a 4.73 ERA over 32 1/3 innings in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league last year. He has spent time with the Cubs and Red Sox previously, briefly cracking the bigs in both 2011 and 2012.
  • After being released in late February, backstop Ali Solis has re-signed with the Dodgers, according to Eddy. The 27-year-old has just 11 MLB plate appearances to his name, and owns a .237/.266/.337 line in 404 Triple-A plate appearances.
  • The Red Sox have signed veteran infielder/outfielder Joe Thurston to a minor league deal, tweets Eddy. The 35-year-old has a bit of big league experience, most of which came with the 2009 Cardinals when he hit .225/.316/.330 in 307 plate appearances. Thurston has spent the past two seasons playing in the Mexican League and the independent Atlantic League. He has a career .292/.356/.429 batting line in parts of 12 Triple-A seasons.

NL Central Notes: K-Rod, Brewers, Badenhop, Cubs

Francisco Rodriguez still has to pass a physical with the Brewers before he can have his deal officially announced, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. However, Rodriguez is still getting his visa sorted out and is therefore experiencing a delay in the process. The Brewers, of course, re-signed Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal to serve as their closer once again.

Here’s more from the National League Central…

  • Luis Jimenez, who is out of options, is competing with Luis Sardinas and Hector Gomez for a utility infield role with the Brewers, writes Haudricourt. Jimenez and Gomez may have the upper hand, but if Sardinas hits and proves himself to be capable at third base, Jimenez could be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Brewers have two bench spots to be filled by these three players, writes Haudricourt, but going with Sardinas would of course lead to the risk of losing Jimenez on waivers at the end of Spring Training.
  • Reds reliever Burke Badenhop tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that he found the free agent process “nerve-racking” despite being pleased with the results. “I continued to fall back on the point that we knew what was out there,” said Badenhop, kind of where I fit in the market. It’s kind of a funky spot, not really crystal clear. Nobody that was ahead of me was getting worse deals than I thought I should have got and nobody behind me was getting better deals.”
  • The role of Cubs‘ fifth starter is “for all practical purposes” Travis Wood‘s to lose, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wrote yesterday. The Cubs have Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks in the front four slots, with Wood, Edwin Jackson and Tsuyoshi Wada competing for the fifth slot. Rogers does note that Jackson or Wada could force their way into the role, but it seems likely that at least one of the three candidates for the final spot will be traded this spring, in Rogers’ estimation. I have a difficult time seeing any club agreeing to take on Jackson’s remaining $22MM; a release may be the more likely outcome, though that’s a large chunk of money for any team to swallow. For those wondering, Wood will earn just under $5.7MM in 2015 and is controllable through the 2016 season via arbitration, while Wada is earning $4MM this season on a one-year deal.

AL Notes: Haber, Street, Ludwick, Orioles

The White Sox announced today that they have promoted Jeremy Haber, who was previously assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and will now bear the title of assistant GM. The 31-year-old Haber led negotiations on the team’s five-year, $21MM extension with Jose Quintana last offseason, says Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), and he also leads salary arbitration negotiations. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes profiled Haber last offseason, noting an impressive educational background but little experience in the baseball world. Haber has a B.A. in political science from Brown as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Haber was initially hired as an intern with the Red Sox after a series of blind emails to teams in search of a front office opportunity, and he’s since helped in the White Sox’ hiring of hitting coach Todd Steverson in addition to making player acquisition recommendations for Hahn and the rest of the Chicago front office.

More from the American League:

  • Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto have begun swapping text messages to figure out a time when they can have more serious extension discussions in the near future. Street, who acts as his own agent, has said he wants to get a new contract worked out in Spring Training and made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing something between the four-year, $36MM deal inked by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM contract signed by David Robertson. He did say he envisions a new contract overriding his current one-year deal, so he’s essentially looking for three new years.
  • Ryan Ludwick told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that multiple teams for which he had played in the past expressed interest in bringing him back this offseason, though he declined to specify which teams. The Rangers are clearly one, as the now-36-year-old signed a minor league pact to return to Texas, where he made his big league debut 13 years ago. “It’s cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on,” Ludwick said Sunday. “I guess that means I’m somewhat of a decent guy.” The Rangers will hope that in addition to being a “somewhat decent guy,” Ludwick will bring the offense he showed as recently as 2012, when he hit .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in just 472 plate appearances for the Reds. He’s also played for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres and Pirates.
  • Replacing Nelson Cruz‘s production will not be straightforward but may yet be possible for the Orioles, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explains that the current roster not only has power across the board but does so with generally well-rounded players. And, as he notes, the team will never “grab a lot of headlines in the offseason,” as would have been needed to bring Cruz back or replace him with a single player. “We pick up players year round,” said Duquette. “We don’t do it all in the offseason.”

NL Central Notes: Wainwright, Holliday, Pirates, Leake

Adam Wainwright returned to the mound today and threw a 30- to 40-pitch bullpen session without issue, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright gave Cardinals fans a bit of a scare last week when he had to return to St. Louis to see a specialist for pain in his abdomen, but he was diagnosed with a strain and merely prescribed some rest. Manager Mike Matheny said his ace will first have to face hitters in a live batting practice session before getting into a game, but he didn’t give reporters a timeline on that next step.

More from the NL Central…

  • Matt Holliday said to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports today that he hopes the Cardinals will eventually pick up his 2017 option (Twitter link). Holliday says he’s not concerned with the financial component of the $17MM option, but rather that he likes playing in St. Louis and hopes to remain as long as he can. In reply, Goold tweeted to Heyman that team president Bill DeWitt Jr. has told the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz that the current intention is indeed to exercise the option. Of course, plenty could change that line of thinking over the next two seasons, especially considering the fact that Holliday is already 35.
  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines that new addition Jung-ho Kang is more likely to eventually cut into the playing time of Jordy Mercer or Josh Harrison than Neil Walker in the short-term. He also tackles recent reports that the Pirates are open to an extension with Andrew McCutchen at a premium price, wondering if such a move would be wise for the Bucs four years in advance of the end of a contract that already runs through McCutchen’s age-31 season. As Sawchik notes, paying for a player’s decline phase rarely proves to be a sound decision for any team, and the team could have younger assets like Gerrit Cole or Gregory Polanco on which to use that hefty sum as they enter their arbitration years.
  • Mike Leake tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s happy to have survived the Reds‘ offseason with the team, as he and fellow right-handers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon entered the offseason fully aware that they could be traded. (Latos and Simon, of course, were indeed traded.) Leake hasn’t been approached by the Reds about an extension yet and isn’t expecting them to do so, although he’d like to see them at least try to work out a long-term deal. The 27-year-old former No. 8 overall pick can become a free agent at season’s end and has enjoyed a pair of productive seasons in 2013-14, posting a 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings.

Pitcher Notes: Latos, Gutierrez, Alvares, Qualls

Mat Latos‘ fascinating interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually honest look at transactions, and team machinations in general, from the perspective of a player. Latos says he received assurances from the Padres that they wouldn’t trade him, and then they traded him eight days later and didn’t tell him. “I woke up, had like 50 text messages,” Latos says. “I called my agent. He said, ‘(GM) Josh Byrnes couldn’t get ahold of you.’ I had zero missed calls from him. I had to call him. Maybe he had the wrong number.” He speaks of “great times” in the Reds organization and says he’s satisfied to be with the Marlins, but questions the Reds for pushing him too aggressively as he returned from injury last year, and expresses lingering bitterness at going through the arbitration process with Miami. “You see it as a business,” he says. “You kind of see how much of a pawn you really are.” Here are more notes on pitchers.

  • Cuban pitchers Vladimir Gutierrez and Yadier Alvares won’t be able to sign until July 2, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. Any international free agent born later than September 1, 1995 must register with Major League Baseball to be able to sign, and Gutierrez and Alvares aren’t registered. (The rule is designed to help MLB keep track of young international free agents and prevent identity fraud, although Badler notes that the rule is tough on Cuban players, who can’t register while they’re in Cuba. The rule does not apply to Yoan Moncada, who was born in May 1995.) The two pitchers must register by May 15 to sign beginning in July. Gutierrez won Serie Nacional’s 2013-14 Rookie of the Year award, and Alvares is an interesting young pitcher who can throw 97 MPH.
  • Veteran reliever Chad Qualls is happy about the talent the Astros have added this winter, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes. “They’re going to contribute a lot to the back end of the bullpen,” says Qualls, referring to Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. “The trades and the signings we made are spot on for our offense,” he adds. Qualls’ perspective on the Astros is different than most, since he spent the first four seasons of his career with the team. In two of those (2004 and 2005), they were an NL powerhouse, advancing to the World Series in ’05. Since then, Qualls has moved around the country, playing for the Diamondbacks, Rays, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates and Marlins while the Astros eventually became the worst team in the Majors. Now he’s back with them as they’re beginning to show signs of reemerging.

Minor Moves: Daniel Cabrera

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Reds have signed righty Daniel Cabrera to a minor-league deal, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. Cabrera, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2009, issued 520 walks in 892 1/3 innings over parts of six seasons, frequently frustrating his teams despite his terrific velocity. The 33-year-old spent the last two years starting for Chunichi in Japan, posting a combined 3.49 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. He then pitched for Leones de Escogido in Dominican winter ball this offseason and walked 11 batters in 12 2/3 innings, struggling with the control issues that dogged him throughout his big-league career.