Cincinnati Reds Rumors
2:57pm: Nelson's contract contains a May 6 opt-out clause, tweets MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo.
2:28pm: Infielder Chris Nelson, who opted out of his minor league contract with Cincinnati at the end of Spring Training, has re-signed a minor league contract with the Reds and will report to Triple-A Louisville, the team announced on Twitter.
Nelson, 28, enjoyed a strong Spring Training with the Reds, batting .317/.348/.463 with a homer and three walks in 46 trips to the plate. Nelson bounced around to three teams last year, seeing time with the Rockies, Yankees and Angels. The Williams & Connolly client was originally selected by the Rockies with the ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft. Though he hasn't put together an impressive Major League stat line to this point, Nelson has raked at Triple-A, hitting .320/.367/.516 in 205 games. His best season in the Majors was in 2012, when he batted .301/.352/.458 with nine homers in 377 plate appearances.
The Braves have claimed reliever Pedro Beato off of waivers from the Reds, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Beato will go right onto the team's active roster in time for Friday's game, O'Brien adds (Twitter links), with another reliever likely to be optioned to create space.
Beato, a 6'6" righty, threw last year in the Red Sox organization. He allowed only four earned runs in ten big league frames, but spent most of the year at Triple-A, where he posted a 2.98 ERA over 51 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old saw his most extensive MLB action in 2011with the Mets, when he registered a 4.30 ERA in 67 innings.
The Reds have designated pitcher Pedro Beato for assignment, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. They also placed third baseman Jack Hannahan and pitcher Brett Marshall on the 60-day disabled list. The three moves cleared roster space to add pitcher Trevor Bell, outfielder Roger Bernadina and infielder Ramon Santiago.
Beato, 27, pitched ten innings for the Red Sox last year. The reliever spent much of the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he posted a 2.98 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 51 1/3 innings. The Reds claimed him last fall.
Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:
- The Angels have purchased the contract of infielder Ian Stewart, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The former top prospect, now 28, was brought in on a minor league contract in January.
- Ryan Rowland-Smith will make the Diamondbacks' Opening Day roster, GM Kevin Towers disclosed (via Steve Gilbert of MLB.com). Rowland-Smith was in camp on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old hasn't pitched in the majors since 2010 but was excellent last year for Boston's Triple-A club.
- The Giants announced that right-hander J.C. Gutierrez and infielder Brandon Hicks have been chosen for the Opening Day roster. Hicks had been competing with rookie Ehire Adrianza for a backup infield job, but both have made the team.
- The Braves announced via press release that pitchers Gus Schlosser and Ian Thomas have been added to the Opening Day roster.
- Reds manager Bryan Price announced that reliever Trevor Bell and outfielder Roger Bernadina have made the club's Opening Day roster, according to a tweet from the team's Triple-A affiliate. Bell hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011, but threw very well this spring in 8 2/3 innings.
- The Mets are set to add Omar Quintanilla to their Opening Day roster, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Quintanilla figures to serve as the back-up at short. He rejoined the club on a minor league deal after being non-tendered.
- Xavier Nady will break camp with the Padres, tweets AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, and thus will be added to the 40-man roster. The 35-year-old had a solid spring, and will fill in while Kyle Blanks and Cameron Maybin work back from injury.
- The Tigers have purchased the contract of Tyler Collins, the club announced. The 23-year-old, left-handed-hitting outfielder has not played above the Double-A level, but now grabs an Opening Day roster spot for a Detroit club that is without Andy Dirks to start the year. In 530 plate appearances at Double-A last year, Collins put up a .240/.323/.438 line with 21 home runs (and 122 strikeouts against 51 walks).
- The Rangers will add minor league free agent Daniel McCutchen to the roster, according to a tweet from his representatives at Sosnick Cobbe Sports. Texas will need to add the reliever to the 40-man roster in order to activate him.
- Yangervis Solarte will make the Yankees Opening Day roster, tweets Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Fellow utility infielder Eduardo Nunez, meanwhile, will be optioned to Triple-A to start the year. Solarte earned the position after a torrid spring.
- The Phillies have announced their Opening Day roster, which includes three players -- Tony Gwynn Jr., Mario Hollands, and Jeff Manship -- who must be added to the 40-man. Meanwhile, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has been put on the 60-day DL to create roster space while infielder Reid Brignac and reliever Shawn Camp have been reassigned to Triple-A, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki (Twitter links).
- The Athletics have selected the contract of infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima and optioned him to Triple-A, according to the MLB transactions page. After failing to see MLB action in the first year of his two-year, $6.5MM deal with Oakland, Nakajima was outrighted and ultimately re-signed to a minor league deal.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
Infielder Chris Nelson has opted out of his deal with the Reds and requested his release, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). The 28-year-old hoped to catch on in Cincinnati after shifting between three clubs last season.
Nelson has generally found success in the high minors, and carries a solid prospect pedigree. But last year, Nelson was unable to replicate the .301/.352/.458 mark he put up in a career-high 377 plate appearances in 2012. In 227 total MLB plate appearances, split between the Rockies, Yankees, and Angels, he managed only a .227/.273/.327 triple-slash.
The Tigers extended Miguel Cabrera at a price of (at least) eight guaranteed years and $248MM yesterday, making Cabrera the highest-paid player, in terms of average annual value, in baseball history. Such a massive contract was bound to generate a lot of commentary, and the early returns aren't positive over Detroit's move. Here are some of the opinions...
- Executives from all over baseball are panning the extension, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (ESPN Insider subscription required). While Cabrera is obviously highly respected as a hitter and extending his contract for at least some length of time isn't a bad idea, several execs and scouts suggested three different ways that the Tigers could've approached the extension differently.
- In an Insider-only piece, ESPN's Keith Law rips the extension, citing the history of how rare it is for star players to stay productive into their late 30's, especially ones of Cabrera's body type. David Ortiz could be a best-case scenario for Cabrera, and while Ortiz is still a force, Law notes that the Red Sox have kept their star DH on short-term contracts through his late 30's to protect themselves if he suddenly declines.
- The fact that a team in a troubled market like Detroit could afford such a huge contract is actually a good sign for Major League Baseball's health, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi argues, and it could lessen the threat of a work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016. Tigers owner Mike Illitch's willingness to spend and his clear desire to retain Cabrera at any cost played a role, though Morosi notes that Joey Votto's extension with the Reds might've been an even riskier long-term deal for an even smaller-market club.
- The Tigers could be expecting a major revenue bump in the form of a new TV deal, as their current local broadcast contract reportedly expires after the 2017 season, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. While this could explain how the Tigers expect to account for Cabrera's contract, however, Passan doesn't believe it excuses the decision, calling the extension possibly "the greatest debacle in the desolate baseball wasteland filled with bad-contract carcasses."
- The extension is both "terrible and understandable," according to Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. Had the Tigers not extended Cabrera, he likely would've gone elsewhere as a free agent in two years, and Illitch clearly wants to win now. On the other hand, Illitch could be leaving the franchise in tough financial shape once he passes on, the Tigers are already going cheap at a few positions due to payroll limitations and Cameron feels the deal is simply "a ridiculous overpay."
- Mike Trout could be the biggest winner from Cabrera's extension, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Trout and the Angels were reportedly negotiating an extension in the neighborhood of six years and $150MM, and Rosenthal figures Trout might as well take that deal now. "He would become a free agent at 28, and heaven knows what he will be worth then," Rosenthal writes.
- Cabrera's deal seems to guarantee that the Tigers won't re-sign Max Scherzer next offseason, ESPN's Jim Bowden opines (Insider-only piece). The timing of the extension "reeks of desperation" after the Tigers' negotiations with Scherzer broke down, "and the Tigers are giving off the vibe of a jilted lover on the rebound."
- My take: I have to agree with the consensus that this extension will end up being a major albatross for the Tigers. It would be one thing if Detroit had a bunch of well-regarded prospects ready to give the team quality production for a few seasons' worth of minimum salaries, but the Tigers' farm system was recently ranked 28th in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. With little minor league help on the immediate horizon, it makes even less sense to tie up so much money in just a few players. It also puts pressure on Nick Castellanos (the club's top prospect) to contribute right away as the everyday third baseman and puts even more pressure on GM Dave Dombrowski to restock the farm with some quality drafts.
Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement contains a provision that allows certain free agents who are signed to minor league contracts to receive a $100K retention bonus if they are not on the team's 25-man roster or the Major League disabled list five days prior to the season.
Free agents who qualify for this distinction are those who have at least six years of Major League service time and had a Major League contract expire at the end of the previous season, but signed a minor league deal ten or more days prior to Opening Day.
MLBTR has confirmed with MLB that the deadline for teams to decide on these players is today at 11am central time. By the deadline, teams with these players in camp need to decide whether to:
- Add the player to their 25-man roster or Major League disabled list (or agree to do so in writing).
- Grant the player his outright release from the minor league contract so that he may pursue opportunities with other teams.
- Pay the player a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization beyond the deadline and send him to the minors.
Here's the latest news from around the league on Article XX(B) signees and their roster statuses with their respective teams (newest updates on top).
- The Red Sox released left-hander Rich Hill this morning and then re-signed him to a new minor league contract, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Presumably this move was made so the Sox could keep Hill and avoid paying the $100K bonus.
- Ramon Santiago has been informed that he's made the Reds roster, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The 34-year-old will serve as the team's utility infielder.
The Pirates have had trade talks with the Diamondbacks about shortstop Didi Gregorius, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Last Wednesday, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported the D'Backs were making Gregorius available in trade, after Chris Owings won the team's starting shortstop job. Rubin wrote that the Diamondbacks seek an MLB-ready starting pitcher to offset the loss of Patrick Corbin.
Rubin implied potential interest from the Mets, and now we have another possible suitor in the Pirates. The Pirates enter the season with Jordy Mercer atop their shortstop depth chart, with top prospect Alen Hanson likely ticketed to return to Double-A. Though he's not Major League ready, the Pirates have a pitching prospect who's fairly close in Nick Kingham. Easier to acquire would be Jeff Locke, who will begin the season back at Triple-A, with, as he tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "a bit of a chip on my shoulder."
Aside from the Mets and Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists the Reds, Tigers, and Yankees as teams the D'Backs "have thought of as possibilities" for Gregorius.
Here's the latest from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports:
- The Tigers' recent trade for Andrew Romine suggests that they will not pursue Stephen Drew even though he's the best free agent available at shortstop. As owner Mike Ilitch ages, he may involve himself less with team business, and the team may be less likely to splurge when an opportunity arises. And the loss of a first-round draft pick is a high price to pay.
- As Opening Day approaches, the Angels still haven't signed Mike Trout to an extension. Players and teams sometimes treat Opening Day as a deadline for extension discussions. That doesn't mean the Angels won't sign Trout, Morosi notes, but as of now, a signing does not appear to be on the immediate horizon.
- With Aroldis Chapman out and with Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall returning from injury, the Reds have at least a temporary vacancy at closer. One trade option to fill it could be the Diamondbacks' J.J. Putz, who has closing experience and who worked with current Reds manager Bryan Price when both were with the Mariners.
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
- RP Manny Parra: Two years, $5.5MM
- UT Skip Schumaker: Two years, $5MM, plus 2016 option
- C Brayan Pena: Two years, $2.275MM
- Total spend: $13.775MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Jeff Francis, Chien-Ming Wang, Roger Bernadina, Ramon Santiago, Bryan Anderson, Edgar Gonzalez, Hernan Iribarren, Jason Bourgeois, Chris Nelson
Trades and Claims
- Acquired P David Holmberg from the Diamondbacks for C Ryan Hanigan in a three-team trade.
- Claimed P Brett Marshall off waivers from the Cubs.
- Claimed P Pedro Beato off waivers from the Red Sox.
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.
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
With 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.
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.