Walt Jocketty Rumors

Reds To Cut Payroll, Big Names Could Be Dealt

Add the Reds to the list of teams that are slashing, rather than spending, this off-season.  Fanhouse's Ed Price and Jeff Fletcher are reporting that Cincinnati is looking to cut their payroll from $71MM in 2009 to between the $65-$70MM range next season.  While it may not sound like much of a reduction, Cot's Baseball Contracts lists the Reds as owing just under $66MM to just ten players for next season, leaving little room to fill out the rest of the roster.

Lagging attendance figures are to blame for the Reds' financial cutbacks.  Price and Fletcher noted that attendance at the Great American Ballpark dropped by more than 15 percent from 2008 to 2009.  General manager Walt Jocketty was quoted in the piece as saying, "We're going to probably have less to spend this year than we have in the past…It just depends on how [ticket] sales go this offseason."

If Cincinnati does make a deal, the likeliest candidates to be moved are second baseman Brandon Phillips (owed just under $7MM in 2010), and pitchers Aaron Harang ($12.5MM) and Bronson Arroyo ($12.25MM).  Phillips, with his .452 slugging percentage over the last four seasons, is the most attractive candidate to other clubs given his power from the second base position and reasonable contract.  Harang and Arroyo are both coming off decent years themselves, but Price and Fletcher speculate that their bigger contract numbers would require the Reds to absorb a chunk of their salaries if traded.

One star player who looks to be staying in Cincinnati is closer Francisco Cordero, who Price and Fletcher say the club "would prefer to keep" despite the $25MM he's owed through 2011.  A very intriguing trade chip could be young slugger Joey Votto, if the Reds wanted to make room for star prospect Yonder Alonso at first base.  Another team could be convinced to take on a bad contract if it meant getting Votto, who isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.

Reds Negotiating With Ramon Hernandez

The Reds seem certain to decline their $8.5MM club option on catcher Ramon Hernandez for 2010 and buy the 11-year veteran out for $1MM.  The only question now is whether or not Cincinnati will part ways with Hernandez or whether they'll bring him back at a more club-friendly price. 

Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he had met with Hernandez's agent, and gave a very neutral view of the negotiations between the team and the player: "We’ve made some progress. I don’t know if we’re close. But we’ll try to work something out.”  As MLB.com's Mark Sheldon noted, the Reds could also decline Hernandez's option but offer him arbitration, thus putting themselves in line for a first-round sandwich pick if another team signed Hernandez, a Type B free agent.

Hernandez hit .258/.336/.362 in 331 plate appearances last season, appearing in 55 games behind the plate and 30 games at first base.  He played in just four games after July 16 due to arthroscopic knee surgery.

Reds Report: Volquez, Bruce, Gomes

To put it mildly, this has been a rough year for Reds fans.  Edinson Volquez had the Cincinnati faithful buzzing after posting a 3.21 ERA with 9.5 K/9 in his first full season in 2008.  After logging just nine starts in the 2009 campaign, Volquez needed surgery to repair damage in his right elbow.  The Reds faded fast as their depleted staff wasn't getting much of a lift from their sagging offense.  Injuries to Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion (prior to being dealt to Toronto) certainly didn't do them any favors.

However, if the team's recent performance is any indication of what lies ahead, Reds fans might have something to cheer about in 2010.  Dusty Baker's squad has gone 19-11 since September 1st, thanks in part to stronger pitching (3.39 team ERA) and the return of Jay Bruce, who missed two months with a broken wrist.

Buster Olney, Baseball Prospectus and the ESPN Insider staff compiled a glance at this past season and what to expect next year in Cincy.  An ESPN Insider account is needed to read the article, but here are the brass tacks for those without:

  • It's no secret that the Reds don't have a top-flight budget.  They opened this season with a payroll of $73MM and owner Bob Castellini isn't going to "go all Steinbrenner" and tack-on much more.
  • Further exacerbating their financial woes are their pricey commitments to Bronson Arroyo, Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang and Scott Rolen.  Combined, these four players are owed $46.5 million next season.
  • Olney says that considering their lack of flexibility this offseason, Homer Bailey might be their best chance for improvement as he recorded a 2.41 ERA in September.  The velocity that made Bailey such a highly-coveted prospect has returned, with his fastball being clocked at an average of 94.5 MPH this year.  This is a big step-up from his previous big league work and could spell an even bigger jump in 2010.
  • Baseball Prospectus says that their "acceptable" rate of 4.5 runs allowed per game is due in part to their much-improved defense.  It will be interesting to see if defensive-minded yet weak-hitting shortstop Paul Janish will be the Reds' starter next season.  Manager Dusty Baker said on Friday that a "definitive decision" hasn't been made yet.
  • Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus notes that the combined efforts of all Reds batting in the top two lineup spots resulted in a slash line of .245/.301/.354.  When Willy Taveras hit the DL in August, Dusty Baker put rookie Drew Stubbs and the aforementioned Janish at the top of the order.  The team has gone 27-15 since then, but Jaffe attributes most of the credit for that to the improved performance of the pitching staff.
  • The "Rumor Central" portion of the piece encourages Reds fans that are anxious to see the team acquire a big bat to consider what the offense is capable of if they are healthy.  Injury-free seasons from Bruce and Votto should give Cincinnati a major boost.
  • The report says to expect the Reds to tender Jonny Gomes an offer as he is arbitration-eligible.  This should come as no surprise as Gomes has belted 20 HRs in 311 plate appearances while posting .266/.338/.540.
  • Jaffe says that Jocketty could deal Arroyo or Harang to give the team room to make a mid-level signing this winter.  He adds, "…It's difficult to envision this team breaking out of the middle of the pack without keen vision and bold steps."

Reds Not Likely To Make A Move

According to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said Saturday afternoon that his club plans to sit tight as the August 31 waiver trade deadline approaches.

"Nothing has changed," Jocketty told Groeschen via text message.  This backs up a similar report that was published earlier in the week by the Enquirer's John Fay.  Not a single team showed interest in closer Francisco Cordero and his monstrous contract, and it appears the Reds will hang onto trade candidate Jonny Gomes as well.

Talkin’ Reds Baseball

Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer believes the Reds need to make a "bold" move to stay in contention, but doesn't think it will necessarily happen.

"The Reds chances of trading for Matt Holliday are slim and none," Daugherty begins, "and slim just left for the church festival. … Holliday would cost the Reds precious prospects and some $7 million in salary for the rest of the year.  The chances of him remaining a Red next year wouldn't be good. … There aren't a lot of reasons even to contemplate it."

Except one: "It's a bold move.  Without boldness, the Reds will never catch the Cubs, Cards and Brewers."

Walt Jocketty, the current GM in Cincinnati, has made bold moves throughout his front-office career (click here for his full trading history), but he's used to a bigger payroll than the Reds can offer.  Even if they are "buyers" in this market, Holliday is probably a bit of a stretch. That doesn't mean it's time to give up on the '09 season, however.  There are plenty of fish in the hot stove sea.  It's clear the Reds want a bat — who, besides Holliday, makes sense?

Jocketty: “I’d Say We’re Buyers”

The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay spoke payroll and trade possibilities with Reds general manager Walt Jocketty this afternoon.  Here's a quick rundown…

Jocketty first addressed a small rumor that ran in the Boston Globe this week concerning right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who is 8-5 with a 5.16 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 14 starts this season.  The Globe's Nick Carfado implied Sunday that Arroyo might be available because the Reds are making "an effort to get younger and reduce payroll."  Jocketty refuted both claims.

"I haven't talked to anyone about Bronson," the GM said plainly.  And as for the issue of payroll:

"I'd say right now we're buyers.  We're looking for a hitter.  If we did something," he continued, "it would probably be to bring in a hitter.  Getting Joey [Votto] back is going to help.

Dunn Back To Reds Unlikely; Reds Looking At OFs

The Cincinnati Reds are still looking for outfield help, and a left-handed bat isn’t off the table.

Mark Sheldon of MLB.com wrote that much of the Reds’ search has focused on a right-handed bat, but since the market is drying up, the Reds are willing to look toward the other side of the plate.

“We’re open minded about it,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told Sheldon.

One slugger who could be on that list is former Red Adam Dunn, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in August 2008, though Jocketty is pessimistic.

“I doubt it,” Jocketty told Sheldon when asked about the possibility of Dunn returning to Cincinnati. “Especially at the price he’s looking for.”

One name Sheldon listed was right fielder Bobby Abreu, but Jocketty said he hasn’t recently spoken with Abreu’s agent.

Reds Still Looking At Baldelli, Hairston Jr.

The Cincinnati Reds remain interested in free agents Rocco Baldelli and Jerry Hairston Jr., MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told Sheldon that he has talked with their agent, Casey Close, during the weekend.

Jocketty said that he expects something to happen this week with regard to Hairston Jr.

The Reds have had no talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Andruw Jones and appear not to be interested, Sheldon notes.

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay also spoke with Jocketty. In addition to the Reds’ stance on Baldelli, Hairston Jr. and Jones, Fay notes that the Reds won’t be trading first baseman Joey Votto.

Jocketty also told Fay that Votto (Canada), Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto (Dominican Republic) might play in the World Baseball Classic.

More Jocketty Talk On The Reds

C. Trent Rosecrans of TheLotD.com also talked with Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty today. Here are some conversation highlights:

  • The Reds are still talking to Jerry Hairston Jr. to play left field. “We’re still trying to get Hairston,” Jocketty told Rosecrans. “We’ll have a different look on our club, but we still have guys like (Joey) Votto, (Jay) Bruce, (Brandon) Phillips, (Edwin) Encarnacion and even (Ramon) Hernandez with power.”
  • Jocketty hasn’t spoken with Pat Burrell in awhile. They are holding back on that one right now.
  • Health remains a serious issue with Rocco Baldelli, Jocketty said.
  • The Reds have been in discussion with the New York Yankees about their extra outfielders, but no deals are close.
  • No Barry Bonds; no Sammy Sosa.

No Sammy In Miami, Texas Or Cincy?

The MLB Hot Stove Blog is reporting that free-agent veteran Sammy Sosa won’t be playing for the Florida Marlins.

Joe Frisaro believes the Marlins want to go into Spring Training with a younger group of outfielders, in particular John Raynor and Scott Cousins, competing for a major-league job.

Raynor is a speedster and played for Double-A Carolina Mudcats in 2008. He hit .312 over 452 plate appearances, and he stole 48 bases. He can play left field or center field.

Cousins split 2008 between Carolina and High-A Jupiter. He hit .304 with the Jupiter squad and dropped to .264 with the Double-A club. He primarily saw time at right field and center field.

Frisaro wrote that Jeremy Hermida will switch from right field to left field, and Cody Ross will be in right field.

Rangers beat writer Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that the Texas Rangers don’t want Sosa’s services, either. “I don’t think we’ll pursue Sammy,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels wrote.

C. Trent Rosecrans of TheLotD.com, and formerly of the Cincinnati Post, spoke with Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty about Sosa. “I don’t think so,” Jocketty told Rosecrans.