Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quick Hits and Chin Music

Some quick thoughts about the happenings around the Red Universe:

***Interesting story about Marty Brennaman needing additional security for the return trip to Wrigley Field. Last time through, Brennaman earned the ire of the Cub fans with the following statement after fans in the bleachers threw baseballs back onto the field following an Adam Dunn homerun: "This is what makes you want to see this Chicago Cubs team lose. The most obnoxious fans in baseball, in this league, are those who follow this team right here."

Marty's always classy and objective style earned him so many additional "fans" that he has been assigned a security detail while in Chicago. However, Brennaman didn't seem too worried, simply saying that if "they want a piece of me, they know where they can find me." Yes, we know where to find you, Marty, standing right behind your security detail.

***While this season is quickly becoming another season to forget, there is a glimmer of hope in sight, as the Reds have the potential for a truly dominant bullpen in 2009. The signing of Coco Cordero gave the Reds the shutdown closer they have been lacking and the emergence of Jared Burton gives them a dominant setup man. Those two make for a mighty fine 1-2 punch, but in 2009 it is very likely that Josh Roenicke will be ready to step in and contribute.

The three power arms of Cordero, Burton, and Roenicke could give the Reds the best bullpen in the NL, especially when you factor in Billy Bray and maybe Pedro Viola. The troika of Cordero, Burton, and Roenicke could give the Reds the nastiest bullpen they have had since the Nasty Boys roamed the earth.

***The NL Central has gotten a lot tougher over the past few days, as an arms race has broken out. The Brewers pulled the trigger on a trade to acquire C.C. Sabathia and the Cubs responded by trading for Rich Harden. Sabathia earned his first win tonight for the BrewCrew, but may end up being nothing more than a half-season rental for the Brewers, who have clearly made the decision to go for it.

Interestingly enough, one of the players who the A's got in return was Matt Murton, who is a player that interests me a great deal. Murton is solid offensive player and a tremendous defensive outfielder. The A's have had a great deal of success despite a tremendous amount of player turnover, which is attributable in no small part to their consistently strong defense. Back in the days of Moneyball, the A's consisted of a team of ice wagons, but lately they have focused on fielding great defensive ballclubs and it has paid off.

Murton seems like a player who is very likely to continue that trend, as he is an elite defensive leftfielder. I would have loved to see what Murton could do for the Reds as part of a new 2009 outfield, but hopefully he'll get a chance to shine in Oakland.

While it is regrettable that the Reds couldn't reel in Matt Murton, at the very least, it's nice to see the National League acquire two of the American League's elite starting pitchers.

***It will be interesting to see how having two elite arms off the trade market affects the Reds' ability to trade Bronson Arroyo. It may be a tough sell, as Arroyo has struggled and is set to become more expensive in 2009, but the supply is already dwindling which can only help the Reds. The Phillies are rumored to be interested, so maybe we can take Jayson Werth off of their hands.

***It's odd to see three of the NL's best sluggers so slow out of the gate. Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, and Adam Dunn have all had their difficulties in the early going, but all three have too much talent to be down for long.

***While I remain very skeptical about Jerry Hairston Jr.'s reemergence, it's difficult to ignore his stellar line drive percentage of 31.5%. That is truly an astounding clip and while it isn't likely to be sustainable, if he can keep it a couple of ticks above 20% then he may well be worth a look in 2009.

Still, I have serious questions about JHJ. You really don't need to look much past his home/road splits to see why. At home, JHJ has a line of .448/.495/.644/1.138, while on the road he has a line of .232/.273/.305/.578.

It looks like JHJ is just the most recent in a long line of veterans (i.e. Joe Randa, Rich Aurilia, David Ross, etc) to find a brief resurgence in the Great American Ballpark Fountain of Youth. Still, he's a rather poor bet for 2009.

***The word from the grapevine is that first round draft pick Yonder Alonso is going to be a tough sign. There are rumors floating around that he is asking for a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $8M. However, if true, it's clear that he needs a big bite of a reality sandwich. The #1 pick Tim Beckham reportedly signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for only $6.15M and #12 overall pick Jemile Weeks just signed for $1.91M.

It's difficult to imagine that the #7 pick warrants an $8M signing bonus, given the market has been established. Yonder has a bit of leverage in that he is a college junior, so he could conceivably return to Miami for his senior year, but it's unlikely that he'll choose to do so. The 2009 draft class is deeper, so the odds of Yonder being drafted higher than #7 are unlikely, so by returning to college he risks not only injury, but also sliding down the draft and getting less money for a signing bonus.

The smart money says that Yonder will be signed before the August 15th deadline. If not, then the Reds will get the 8th pick in the 2009 draft as compensation.

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