- It’s already been documented that the Reds aren’t planning on going with a traditional one-inning closer this season, and Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the team is going to lean heavily on right-handers Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen in the late innings. Both pitchers could end up exceeding 100 innings, writes Buchanan, as the plan is to utilize each in a high-leverage, multi-inning role. Both Iglesias and Lorenzen have recent experience as starters and are embracing a role that’s been uncommon in recent years but was far more normal a generation or two ago in Major League Baseball. Other teams around the league will be keeping a watchful eye on how the experiment plays out, as well. Milwaukee GM David Stearns spoke to Buchanan about the blurring line between starter and reliever, while Oakland GM David Forst stated that Cincinnati does indeed have “good candidates” for that type of multi-inning role. “I’m as curious as anyone to see how it plays out,” Forst said to Buchanan.
Anthony DeSclafani’s first appearance of the spring will be delayed due to the fact that the Reds right-hander is experiencing some “tenderness” in his elbow, manager Bryan Price told reporters, including C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Price stressed that the team is merely being cautious and said there’s “no red alert” surrounding the team’s presumptive Opening Day starter. “At this point in time, we don’t have any great or grave concerns or any concerns that he won’t be ready for Opening Day roster,” said Price. That’s certainly encouraging, though the situation at least merits monitoring until DeSclafani is healthy enough to take the hill. The 26-year-old missed the first two months of the 2016 season with an oblique injury but was the team’s best starter upon returning. In 123 1/3 innings, DeSclafani pitched to a 3.28 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate.
- Sticking with the Reds, Price isn’t planning on utilizing a traditional closer this season, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. The manager instead hopes to have as many as four relievers that can work in various scenarios and be available for multiple innings. Offseason acquisition Drew Storen voiced a willingness to pitch in any role and spoke to Sheldon about the evolution of bullpen management in recent seasons and added that picking up high-leverage outs in other innings can be equally satisfying. Presumably, Storen is one of those arms that Price hopes to be able to lean upon in later innings. Other candidates, from my vantage point, include Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani
Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton has gained perspective heading into his fourth full season in the majors, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Learning to manage the tension of the game, and picking up some of Joey Votto’s preparation routines, have Hamilton sporting a newfound confidence that comes from being “relaxed going to the plate.” Rather than overthinking things when he goes to bat, Hamilton says, “I know what I want to do before I go in the box.” That approach helped the 26-year-old put up a strong .369 OBP and swipe 36 bags over the final 45 games of the 2016 season; combined with an outstanding glove, that made him quite a productive player. Heading into his first season of arbitration eligibility, with two more to go, Hamilton could establish himself as a strong everyday center fielder (and, perhaps, an extension candidate) if he can continue that performance.
- While the Reds have said they are done adding to their MLB roster, Heyman suggests the organization could make a play for some of the veteran pitchers still available. Cincinnati may even have outbid the Padres for Jered Weaver, who earned $3MM, though it’s not clear whether the club ever did so.
- Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that Reds skipper Bryan Price is extremely impressed by left-hander Wandy Peralta. The hard-throwing southpaw has a genuine opportunity to crack the team’s roster as a second left-handed option behind Tony Cingrani, whom the Reds prefer not to use in specialized matchups due to the fact that he can hold his own against righties. “On the days that we don’t have [Cingrani], it would be a really nice thing to be able to matchup a left-hander against some of the better left-handers in our division and in the National League,” Price said. The 25-year-old Peralta allowed seven runs in 7 1/3 innings in his MLB debut last season, though Buchanan details some tweaks he’s made to his repertoire over the summer. And Peralta did log a 2.33 ERA in 58 Triple-A innings last season, even if that impressive mark came with a less-encouraging 38-to-23 K/BB ratio.
- 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.