- Catcher Stuart Turner faces an uphill battle as he attempts to make the Reds’ roster, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Stuart, who the Reds selected from the Twins in the last Rule 5 Draft, at least has the advantage of already being on the Reds’ 40-man roster, as Sheldon points out. But with two big-league catchers in front of him in Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart, Stuart will have to make the team as a third catcher (unless, of course, someone gets hurt, a possibility that’s perhaps worth keeping in mind given Mesoraco’s injury history). Turner also spent the last two seasons in Double-A, so the big leagues would be a big jump for him. “We get a six-to-seven week look at him to see if he’s ready to handle what would be a year of big league service time,” says Reds manager Bryan Price. “He’d have to play. I just don’t think we’re in a place to carry a player just to keep him.”
- Before he accepted the Padres’ one-year, $3MM offer on Saturday, righty Jered Weaver drew interest from other teams, including the Reds, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Weaver, a California native who spent the first 11 years of his career in Anaheim, could have signed for more money had he left his home state, per Heyman. In Cincinnati, the 34-year-old Weaver likely would have joined Anthony DeSclafani, Scott Feldman and Brandon Finnegan as locks for the rotation.
- While Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips claims he didn’t block the Reds’ initial attempt to trade him to Atlanta in November, members of the Cincy organization say otherwise, according to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. However, those individuals have elected against going on the record to dispute Phillips’ account so as not to create a public rift with the longtime franchise cornerstone.
“I didn’t say no to [the] trade,” Phillips told Mark Bowman of MLB.com. “I didn’t really know what was going on. When I heard about it, I was like, ’For real, why didn’t you guys make that happen?’ That’s why I didn’t want to say anything or to call anybody out. I never said I didn’t want to play for the Atlanta Braves. I’m here now, and I’m very happy.”
Regardless of the cause, the Braves temporarily abandoned their goal of trading for Phillips, which led to their signing of Sean Rodriguez in free agency at the end of November. That disappointed Phillips, who had his “head down a little bit” afterward, but the shoulder injury Rodriguez suffered in a car crash last month put Phillips back on Atlanta’s radar. The Braves ultimately picked up the 35-year-old Phillips last Sunday for two minor league pitchers who lack big league potential, and they’ll take on just $1MM of the remaining $14MM on his contract. While Bowman notes there are “some concerns” regarding the left hand injury Phillips suffered late last season, the Braves simply couldn’t pass on Phillips at such a minimal price.
For Phillips’ part, he was “jumping for joy” when the move became official. Phillips had to waive his 10-and-5 rights in order to make it happen, and it surely helped the Braves’ cause that he’s a Georgia native who owns a home near their new stadium, SunTrust Park. “It was like I signed my first check or something,” said the three-time All-Star.
“I wanted it to happen a long time ago, but things happen,” added Phillips, who had been a Red since 2006. “There are different sides. I never thought it would happen, but I told my agent, ’You’ve got to make this happen.’ I miss Cincinnati. That’s always home. But Atlanta is my home, home.”
If healthy, Phillips believes he “can be one of the best players in this game” – a level he hasn’t reached in several years. More realistically, Phillips should be a satisfactory stopgap in 2017 for an improving Atlanta club which is anticipating high-end prospect Ozzie Albies’ forthcoming major league debut. Albies, 20, reached the Triple-A level as a teenager last season and now ranks between 11th and 26th on the top 100 prospects lists of Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law and MLB.com.
The Reds have agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran outfielder Ryan Raburn, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). He’ll earn $900K if he can crack the MLB roster, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.
Raburn is now 35 years of age and is coming off of an uninspiring 2016 showing with the Rockies, in which he carried only a 77 OPS+ over 256 plate appearances. But the on-again, off-again lefty masher was spectacular just one year prior, as he provided the 2015 Indians with 201 plate appearances of .301/.393/.543 hitting. That’s part of a pattern for Raburn, who has rather inexplicably alternated between highly productive and roundly disappointing complete seasons for the better part of his career.
Of course, Cincinnati can’t exactly bank on a full rebound from the veteran. But if he’s able to show well in camp, Raburn could earn a chance to stick as a bench bat to help balance out an otherwise youthful roster. He and Desmond Jennings, both of whom are righty hitters who could spell Scott Schebler in right field, could battle with younger options for the final active roster spots in camp.
The Reds have claimed righty Nefi Ogando off waivers from the Pirates, according to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter). He follows Lisalverto Bonilla in moving from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati via the waiver wire.
Ogando, 27, already swapped jerseys earlier this winter (on paper, at least) when the Pirates grabbed him from the Marlins in another waiver move. Now, he’s on the move to the Bucs’ NL Central rivals, who are obviously still looking to bolster their relief ranks after the unit turned in an unsightly overall effort in 2017.
The righty brings a big fastball and has shown strong groundball results in his limited time in the majors, though he has recorded just ten strikeouts against ten walks over his 19 2/3 MLB frames. Over his 52 2/3 innings at the highest level of the minors, Ogando owns a 3.08 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.
FEBRUARY 13: Bailey is hoping to be ready for a return by around the first of June, he tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The righty stressed that he does not have any broader elbow concerns beyond the bone spurs that were removed.
“I knew it wasn’t the other stuff,” he said. “I went through all that, I wasn’t feeling pain where the ligament did, where the tendon did, it was in a bunch of different places. It was mainly due to the elbow swelling. … It’s nice to have some answers.”
FEBRUARY 8: Reds right-hander Homer Bailey underwent surgery today to remove bone spurs from his right elbow, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Bailey will be shut down from throwing for the next four to six weeks and is likely to begin the season on the disabled list.
For Bailey, the setback is the latest in what has been a cavalcade of injuries since signing a six-year contract extension with the Reds. Bailey inked his $105MM contract prior to the 2014 season and pitched well for much of the year, but that campaign was halted by a strained flexor mass in his right arm. The 2015 season brought even worse news, as Bailey suffered ligament damage in April that ultimately led to Tommy John surgery the following month. He missed the vast majority of the 2016 season recovering from that procedure as well.
All told, Bailey has been limited to just 34 1/3 innings over the past two seasons combined, and he’s thrown a total of 180 innings since signing the aforementioned six-year deal. While this latest setback will obviously delay his 2017 debut, the Reds can only hope that it’ll prove to be only a minor hindrance in an otherwise healthy season. Bailey is still owed a total of $68MM over the next three seasons.
In the short-term, the latest Bailey injury could open the door for one of the Reds’ many encouraging young arms to break camp with the team. As it stands, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and veteran Scott Feldman (an offseason addition) appear locks to make the Reds’ Opening Day rotation. Others in competition for the fourth and fifth spots will include Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Amir Garrett, Tim Adleman and Rookie Davis. Each of Stephenson, Garrett and Reed currently rank or have ranked among the game’s Top 100 prospects in the past calendar year, although Reed’s struggles in his 2016 debut have caused his stock to slip somewhat.
The Reds announced on Monday that they’ve claimed right-hander Lisalverto Bonilla off waivers from the division-rival Pirates. The 26-year-old Bonilla had been designated for assignment in Pittsburgh last week after the Bucs acquired righty Pat Light from the Twins.
The 26-year-old Bonilla made his big league debut with the Rangers back in 2014 but missed the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery. Once a fairly well-regarded prospect in the Phillies and Rangers organizations — the Rangers picked him up from Philadelphia in the trade that sent infielder Michael Young to the Phils — Bonilla spent the 2016 season working his way back to health in the Dodgers’ organization. In 111 innings split between the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates of the Dodgers, Bonilla logged a 3.97 earned run average with a 118-to-40 K/BB ratio. In his brief big league stint with Texas back in 2014, Bonilla pitched to a 3.05 ERA and a 17-to-12 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings. The Bucs had signed Bonilla to a Major League deal earlier this offseason.
- There weren’t many whispers about Brandon Phillips on the rumor mill this offseason, and according to C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter), “the Braves were the only team that had any interest in Phillips whatsoever.” Given this limited market and the added complication of Phillips’ no-trade protection, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the Reds didn’t get much of a return in finally dealing Phillips to Atlanta.
- The biggest benefit for the Reds is that Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera now have a clearer path towards regular playing time. Reds GM Dick Williams told Rosencrans (Twitter link) and other reporters that the two young infielders and veteran shortstop Zack Cozart will rotate the middle infield jobs during Spring Training. Cozart has himself been the subject of trade speculation, though those rumors have dried up since the Mariners (his most ardent suitor) addressed their shortstop need by acquiring Jean Segura from the Diamondbacks.
Cuban left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez has been declared a free agent and can now sign with any team, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter). Several teams are already interested in the 18-year-old southpaw, including the Astros, Braves, Mets, Padres, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.
Due to Hernandez’s young age, his signing is subject to international bonus pools. (As a reminder of how the international signing system has been altered by the new collective bargaining agreement, check out this refresher from Baseball America’s Ben Badler). One factor that hasn’t changed is that teams who exceeded their international spending limits in the last two July 2 classes are still serving their previously-mandated penalties, i.e. limited to spending no more than $300K on any pool-eligible player. By waiting until this July 2 to sign, Hernandez could open his market up to teams like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Angels, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, as those six clubs would no longer be held to the $300K limit. Boston, it should be noted, can’t sign Hernandez at all until July 2 since the Sox were banned from signing any pool-eligible players whatsoever during this signing class.
With significant interest in Hernandez’s services already, however, the young southpaw may not feel the need to wait. Also, since the old CBA’s rules are still in effect until the 2017-18 international signing period begins, Hernandez probably stands a better chance of scoring a richer contract now than he will when the stricter pool rules are instituted after July 2. Of the teams connected to Hernandez already, the Braves, Astros, Reds and Padres have already surpassed their bonus pools for the 2016-17 international signing period, so they would be paying a 100 percent tax on Hernandez’s signing bonus if a deal was reached.
Hernandez didn’t appear on any of the top prospects lists from Baseball America, Fangraphs or MLB.com for the current international signing period, though BA’s list didn’t include players who weren’t already eligible to sign. The 18-year-old does already possess a fastball clocked between 92-94mph, according to Sanchez.
- The Cincinnati-Atlanta trade that Brandon Phillips blocked in November would have resulted in a better return for the second baseman than the one the Reds have since received from the Braves, reports Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). Phillips finally agreed to waive his no-trade rights Sunday, largely because he’s going to get more playing time this year with the Braves than he would have with the rebuilding Reds, observes ESPN’s Buster Olney (subscription required/recommended).