Walt Jocketty Rumors

NL Central Notes: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates

The National League Central saw a change atop its leaderboard as the Brewers fell out of first place for the first time since April 5 after a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Nationals. It could be temporary pending the outcome of the Cardinals’ game with the Dodgers tonight. Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty has several of his inner-circle baseball operations people on the road with him and is eyeing some additions, but that doesn’t mean anything will happen this month. “I’d like to add a bat,” Jocketty said, according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. “We just haven’t found anything that attracts us yet. It may not happen before the 31st.”  Jocketty went on to say if the Reds acquire a bat, the preference would be for the player to play multiple positions.
  • With Brandon Phillips on the disabled list, the Reds GM was asked about pursuing the recently released Dan Uggla. “We haven’t discussed that yet,” Jocketty said (as quoted by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer). “I haven’t talked to our scouts that saw him. I don’t know. We’re going to meet tomorrow and go over some stuff.
  • In a chat with Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter), Jocketty made it clear he’d like to acquire a middle of the order bat he could put into the Reds‘ lineup right away, not an injury risk type player.  When asked about Rays‘ second baseman Ben Zobrist (link), Jocketty said, “That’s a good name. That’s all I’ll say.”
  • The Reds have interest in the Phillies‘ Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo, reports CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury.
  • The Cardinals‘ top Trade Deadline priority should be starting pitching and not a replacement for the injured Yadier Molina, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • The Cardinals‘ due diligence with David Price is reminiscent of their pursuit of Matt Holliday in 2009, tweets Strauss’ colleague at the P-D, Derrick Goold (Twitter links).
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin has downplayed the prospects of making a major deal before the Trade Deadline citing the lack of playing time for a bat and the limited impact a reliever can have because of the few innings they pitch, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the ask is still high on the trade market, but the club has the payroll flexibility to make a move. “It’s the basic law of supply and demand,” Huntington said. “There’s not a lot of teams that are looking to sell, and there are a lot of teams looking to buy. There’s not a ton of players out there who are significant upgrades. There are some guys you think can be, so as a result asking prices higher than you’d like. It’s a balance of what do you give up for projected current wins for projected future wins.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Jocketty, Uehara, Kolek, Mets

The Redsquiet offseason included few depth signings, and now that lack of roster depth is being tested given the number of key players currently on the team’s disabled list.  Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that “there weren’t a lot of moves to make” and warned against too much roster turnover, though finances also played a part in the Reds’ uneventful winter.  “It wasn’t just [will we have money later], it was also ‘Do we have enough money now?,’ Jockett said.  “We’d have loved to have [Shin-Soo] Choo back, but we couldn’t afford him. And there really wasn’t anything else we felt we could do — that we felt we could financially do. Once your club is set, it’s pretty hard to make changes.”

Here are some more items from around baseball…

  • Also from Laurila’s piece, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara wasn’t sure he was ready to pitch in North America when he was first eligible at age 24, though he would’ve liked to have arrived sooner than his age-34 season.  The issue for Uehara was that his Japanese club, the Yomiuri Giants, didn’t post their players and instead required them to fulfill the entirety of their contacts.
  • Right-hander Tyler Kolek regularly hits the 100-mph plateau and “is the hardest-throwing high schooler of the draft era,” scouts tells Baseball America’s John Manuel.  Kolek has been widely predicted to be at least a top-three selection in this year’s amateur draft.
  • As pitchers like Kolek are throwing faster and harder at increasingly young ages, evaluating these young arms has become “a convergence of fascination and fear,” for scouts, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes.  Teams are as interested in ever with hard-throwers, yet are also concerned with the injury risk attached with regularly throwing at such high velocities.
  • Mets fans are losing patience with the team’s rebuilding plan and Sandy Alderson’s front office has seemed either unwilling or unable to spend to make the Amazins more competitive, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin opines.  Even the low-cost moves that were supposed to be Alderson’s forte have backfired, Rubin notes in regards to the club’s struggling bullpen.
  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler (BA subscription required) profiles five international prospects who have drawn the attention of the Yankees and Astros in the lead-up to the July 2 deadline.  New York has been linked to catcher Miguel Flames, shortstop Diego Castillo and outfielder Jonathan Amundaray, while Houston is interested in outfielder Ronny Rafael and shortstop Miguel Angel Sierra.
  • Should the Tigers use Robbie Ray as a much-needed southpaw reliever or send him back to the minors to get regular work as a starter?  Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press argues the former point while MLive.com’s Chris Iott argues the latter.
  • The revamped draft and free agent rules haven’t helped parity or benefited smaller-market teams, Peter Gammons writes for GammonsDaily.com.  Tying the draft directly to the free agent compensation system (in regards to qualifying offers) has created flaws in both areas, Gammons argues, and the real purpose of the new rules was “to lessen the power of agents and limit the money paid to amateur prospects.”

Reds Will Not Sign Grady Sizemore

2:03pm: Sizemore appears to be set to sign with a club other than Cincinnati, a source tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.

WEDNESDAY, 1:32pm: In a radio appearance on 1450 ESPN in Cincinnati, Jocketty stated that "things have changed" and the Reds will not sign Sizemore (Twitter link).

SUNDAY, 4:19pm: "Some details have to be worked out," Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We hope to get something done next week." Jocketty also told Fay both Major League and minor league deals have been discussed with Sizemore.

2:53pm:The Reds are in advanced talks with outfielder Grady Sizemore, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The sources, however, caution other teams are involved and the 31-year-old free agent could go in a different direction.

This is not the first time the Reds have been linked to the three-time All-Star, who hasn't played since 2011 because of microfracture surgery on his right knee and back and sports hernia operations. Earlier this month, Reds GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon he believes Sizemore is healthy enough to resume his career and acknowledged there has been talks with his representatives.

Sizemore slashed .281/.372/.496 with 107 home runs and 115 steals from 2005-08 winning a pair of Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. He missed only nine games over the course of that four-year run, but has appeared in only 210 games since posting a line of .234/.314/.413.

Sizemore would provide insurance for the Reds, who plan on starting rookie Billy Hamilton in center after losing Shin-Soo Choo to free agency. The Astros have also been connected to the Joe Urbon client this winter while the Twins were interested but have since moved on.



Walt Jocketty On Homer Bailey, Arbitration Cases

The Reds spoke with Homer Bailey's representatives before the holidays about a new long-term contract for the right-hander, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports.  This isn't the first time the club has explored locking up Bailey, as the two sides reportedly discussed an extension last winter before settling on a one-year, $5.35MM contract to avoid arbitration.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told Sheldon that Bailey is the only one of Cincinnati's six arbitration-eligible players who is currently being considered for a long-term deal.  Unsurprisingly, Jocketty sees Bailey as "probably the one guy that's going to be the most difficult [to sign] because of how well he's done and where he's at in this service class.  Young pitchers are getting quite a bit."

"At this point, we really haven't discussed anybody but Homer to sign long term.  Homer is the only one we've pursued, but we've had internal discussions on the other guys. We just have to see how it all fits in, financially."

Bailey is arb-eligible for the third and final time this winter, and MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects that Bailey will earn $9.3MM through the arbitration process.  Another strong reason for Bailey would almost surely net him a $100MM contract in free agency next offseason, and the mid-market Reds would be hard-pressed outbid richer clubs for Bailey's services on the open market.  Even locking him up now would be an expensive proposition for the Reds — MLBTR's Tim Dierkes opined that it might take more than a five-year, $85MM deal to keep Bailey in the fold since he's so close to free agency.

If the Reds can't extend Bailey this offseason, they could explore a trade, though Jocketty has said that the team wants to keep Bailey in order to help them contend in 2014.  I'd guess it would also be difficult for Jocketty to find fair value for Bailey in a trade considering a suitor would only have him for one season.  Since Bailey would net Cincinnati a first-round compensation pick (for turning down a qualifying offer) if he signed elsewhere in the offseason, the Reds would likely only be motivated to move the righty if they could obtain something of greater value than a first-round pick.

Of the other arbitration cases, Leake and Chapman stand out as the only possible candidates for a long-term deal.  Leake, picked eighth overall in the 2009 draft, has become a solid part of the rotation in his own right, with a 3.99 ERA and 677 1/3 IP over his first four seasons.  This is Leake's second year of arb-eligibility and Swartz projects him to earn $5.9MM.  Chapman is projected by Swartz to earn $4.6MM through his first year of arbitration eligibility (on top of the $3MM he earns from his original contract).  It's probably unlikely that the Reds would look to make a long financial commitment to a closer, especially since the chance still exists that Chapman could be moved into the rotation.


Jocketty: Reds Talking Extensions

The Reds have had preliminary extension talks with some of their arbitration eligible players, Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty acknowledged. "Nothing has gotten really serious yet,” the GM said, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. However, the Reds are interested in locking up Mat Latos and Homer Bailey to multiyear contracts.

"We've discussed that," Jocketty said. "We're taking a look to see if it works. If not, we'll go year to year. We'd prefer something long term eventually."

Mike Leake, Logan Ondrusek, Alfredo Simon, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Heisey of the Reds are also arbitration eligible this offseason, as MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last month that the Reds had had some extension talks with Bailey and intended to discuss a deal with Latos.

Bailey, a Hendricks Sports client, projects to earn $5.1MM in 2013 as a second time eligible player, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Meanwhile, Latos projects to earn $4.6MM as a first time eligible player. Bledsoe Brothers represents Latos.


NL Notes: LaRoche, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals

Today is the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American player to win the MVP Award. This would be the only such honor during Robinson's Hall of Fame career. Here's the latest news from the Senior Circuit:

  • Negotiations between the Nationals and Adam LaRoche are going slowly, a source tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson. The source also says LaRoche's top priority is to return to the Nationals, but the free agent first baseman is thinking about his two children, which is why he wants a three-year deal and has talked with several teams. 
  • A five-year, $75MM contract might be accurate for B.J. Upton but expect Michael Bourn to seek more, tweets Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Despite the declining influence of home runs to change a game, as typified by the Giants winning the World Series after slugging the fewest home runs in baseball, the Phillies still need a power surge in 2013, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Brookover.
  • Centerfield is one position where the Phillies could seek to boost their power output. ESPN's Buster Olney breaks down their various centerfield options in his latest Insiders-only blog.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer sees the Reds' 2013 payroll being $92MM, but a team insider tells him the actual number could start with an eight. This would make it difficult, in Fay's opinion, to do anything in free agency except sign a closer or re-sign Ryan Ludwick.
  • Within the same piece, GM Walt Jocketty says he will wait until after Thanksgiving to speak with Scott Rolen, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Cardinals' needs are simple for 2013, writes Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The team needs to reinforce a thin bench by adding some right-handed power and find a fourth outfielder who can generate some offense. Miklasz adds the health of shortstop Rafael Furcal is also a significant question.
  • Blessed with the deepest of pockets, the Dodgers' desire to pursue an elite starting pitcher reveals myriad ways the team can approach the process, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. Common sense, however, may still prevail at Chavez Ravine as Dodgers controlling partner Mark Walter once eloquently stated, "Pitchers break." 

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.


Jocketty Discusses Reds Offseason Rumors

Reds GM Walt Jocketty spoke to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer about some of the free agent names connected to his club this winter…

  • The Reds' first priority is trying to find a leadoff hitter, though Jocketty said that Michael Bourn is too expensive for his club and the same could be true about Angel Pagan.  Jocketty said that the team hasn't contacted Pagan yet and "not that we wouldn’t but I wonder about the money.”
  • Jocketty confirmed that the Reds have talked to Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Madson about returning to Cincinnati, while the team has also spoke to free agent Joakim Soria.  Broxton is the only one of the trio who would be able to pitch on Opening Day, as Madson and Soria are both recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Reds are likely one of the eight contenders who Soria's agent, Oscar Suarez, says has shown interest in his client.
  • The Reds talked to Torii Hunter's agent "but the money was too much," Jocketty said.  The general manager doubted that Hunter's two-year, $26MM contract with the Tigers would impact Ryan Ludwick's price since "they're different kind(s) of players."  The Reds have had "preliminary" talks with Ludwick about a new deal.
  • Jocketty told FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi last week that the Reds could deal one of their shortstops (Zack Cozart and Didi Gregorius) if the right deal came along, but Jocketty said that neither player is being shopped.  "We’re not taking offers,” Jocketty said. “That gets out and then we have to call Cozart and call Didi.”
  • The Reds have no plans to extend Jay Bruce's contract.  "We control him for five more years,” Jocketty said. “It’s so far off. It’s something we haven’t talked about.”  Matt Sosnick, Bruce's agent, raised the possibility of an extension beyond 2016 for his client earlier today.

Jocketty On Ludwick, Chapman, Votto

It’s no secret that Reds GM Walt Jocketty intends to upgrade the Cincinnati outfield this offseason. Jocketty addressed his search for outfield help and other Reds-related questions in a conversation with MLBTR at the GM Meetings in Indian Wells, California. Here are the details.

  • Jocketty said the Reds hope to re-sign Ryan Ludwick this winter. “We’ve made some progress, but it’ll probably take another week or two before we know where we’re at,” the GM said. “
  • Ideally the Reds would like to add a leadoff hitter. Whether the newcomer plays center or left field has yet to be determined.
  • The Reds view Aroldis Chapman as a starting pitcher long-term and they could make him a starter in 2013 if they acquire a free agent reliever. “If we re-sign Ryan Madson or [Jonathan] Broxton or someone else it would allow us to move Chapman to the rotation,” Jocketty said. Pitching coach Bryan Price feels strongly that Chapman can become a top of the rotation starter.
  • Signing Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips in the spring helped the Reds focus on other needs this offseason, the GM said. “That was important for us to do, for sure.”

Reds Extend Walt Jocketty Through 2014

The Reds announced that they have agreed to a three-year contract extension with GM Walt Jocketty that will keep him in place through 2014 (Twitter link). Reds owner Bob Castellini promised last week that he would bring the longtime GM back.

The Reds currently have a 76-80 record (though they have scored more runs than they've allowed) and sit in third place in the NL Central. They won the division with a 91-71 record last year and made their first trip to the postseason since 1995. They lost in the Division Series, but only after re-establishing their relevance in the division and boosting attendance by over 3,000 per game.

MLBTR's Transaction Tracker provides complete documentation of Jocketty's moves with Cincinnati. This is Jocketty's third full season with the Reds (this was the last year on his previous contract), but he has been a big league GM since 1994. Click here to see what they were saying when the Cardinals first hired him 17 years ago.


Central Notes: Indians, La Russa, Verlander

A few links to pass along regarding clubs in the Central divisions …