Monday, September 21, 2009

The Key to 2010: Yonder Looms Large

Well, we are at that all too familiar point in the season. The point at which Reds fans reflect on everything that went wrong during the season and try to figure out what what needs to be done to contend in the following season. This post will focus on the latter, but posts will undoubtedly return to the former in the not too distant future.

After a disappointing season, the pundits have turned on the Reds. After being hailed as the darkhorse in the NL earlier this year by many in the media, they are now being buried just a few months later. It's a bit surprising that there is such a massive swing in media opinion. Ideally, they would take the time to form an objective opinion about the health of the organization, rather than being so swayed by the 2009 W/L record.

Personally, I think it's difficult to look at what the Reds have done as of late and not see an improved squad. You can certainly argue that the Reds overpaid for Scott Rolen, but you can't argue that he's not an upgrade over Edwin Encarnacion. The emergence of Drew Stubbs in centerfield represents a clear upgrade over Willy Taveras. At the bare minimum, Stubbs and Rolen represent a significant upgrade in run prevention, but both are also likely to be substantial upgrades on offense. Add in a healthy and improved Jay Bruce and a potential big step forward for Homer Bailey and the Reds could be a solid team in 2010.

Still, to me, the biggest determining factor to the success of the Reds next year will be what they do with Yonder Alonso.

Extracting Value from Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso is currently the biggest chip the Reds possess, but they need to figure out how to maximize the value of that particular asset. The ability to extract the most value from Yonder Alonso may well determine the organization's success in 2010.

The purpose of an MLB farm system is to support the success of the Major League team. There are two ways for an organization to use its farm system to support the MLB team. A perfect example of the differing ways to utilize prospects are the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants over the past decade.

The Oakland A's have focused on developing prospects and making use of them at the big league level. They extract the value of the first 6 years of cost-controlled production from their prospects and then deal them when they get expensive for more young prospects.

The San Francisco Giants took the opposite approach. They traded away prospect after prospect to acquire establish veterans to round out the roster around Barry Bonds. The Giants wanted to win while Bonds was still on the team and their philosophy removed the inherent risk of prospects and allowed them to acquire players who were already past the growing pains stage of their MLB careers. Since Bonds has retired and the Giants have suffered through some lean years, they have switched their focus to developing homegrown talent.

Judging by their success, each strategy has merit. Judging by their struggles, each strategy has flaws. Obviously, a blended approach is best.

The general sentiment in the Reds nation seems to be keeping Yonder Alonso and shifting Joey Votto to left. Personally, I'd rather seem them trade Yonder for a player that better suits their needs.

Player Value

A few years ago the Atlanta Braves promoted Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the majors and were left with a catching conundrum. They already had Brian McCann entrenched behind the dish, but Saltalamacchia was one of the more promising young prospects in the game. Still, there wasn't room for both behind the plate. There was talk of shifting Salty to first base, but the Braves elected to deal him to the Rangers instead. The Braves were smart enough to recognize that Salty's value was largely tied to being a catcher, which made his trade value higher to his actual value. In short, his value as a catcher for another team was higher than his value as a first baseman to the Braves. When trade value outpaces actual value, then a trade is necessary for the organization to maximize the value of the asset.

Now, obviously, the loss of positional value from a shift from first base to leftfield isn't as significant as a shift between catcher and first base. Still, moving Votto to left to accommodate Yonder will result in a significant downgrade on defense. The presence of Joey Votto at the MLB level may well mean that Yonder's value to other teams is higher than his value to the Reds.

Overall, it seems like there is better total value (offense + defense) to be reaped from trading Yonder than there is in keeping him.

Trade Options

The obvious holes on the Reds 2010 lineup are at shortstop, catcher, and leftfield. If the Reds can flip Yonder to get an impact bat at one of those positions or fill two of those slots with solid players, then a trade would be the better course of action.

The Reds have the makings of a solid lineup in 2010, but they need to start utilizing the farm system to support the major league team. They have value in the farm system, but it may not be the type of value that they can easily plug into the MLB lineup. The better option at this point would be to trade it for an asset that better fits the organization's needs.

The Reds aren't too far off from being tough to handle, but they need to use the value in the system to support the MLB team. Over the past few years, it seems that the Reds are not extracting the maximum amount of value from their developing farm system as they should. This would be a good offseason to change all that, as a shrewd move or two will put the Reds in good position to compete in 2010.


  1. Lark-

    What, if you had control, would you do for 2010 in respect to the starting lineup?

    How does Valaika project with the Reds?



  2. Also, how often do you plan on having articles up this offseason?

  3. Hey Parker,

    Well, I've got a problem in that I'm still a big fan of both Chris Dickerson and Paul Janish. The plus on-base skills and plus defensive ability at premier defensive positions is really enticing.

    I think it's clear that Drew Stubbs is the front-runner for the centerfield job. So, the following should be pretty much set:

    1b J.Votto
    2b B.Phillips
    3b S.Rolen
    cf D.Stubbs
    rf J.Bruce

    So, you've got holes at catcher, shortstop, and leftfield. We need to find an impact player at one of those positions.

    The Reds likely won't have much financial flexibility this offseason, so three spots will have to be filled by inexpensive talent.

    I'm a really big fan of Michael Taylor in the Phillies organization. I'd love to see him in leftfield for us, so I'd definitely kick the tires on a trade for him.

    From inside the organization, I think you have Janish and Valaika as the shortstop options. Personally, I'd take Janish and hope that he proves capable of hitting .240. His glove is ridiculous. Valaika's struggles at the plate and his questionable defense at short makes me think he needs more time in the minors.

    In left, you have Juan Francisco, Jonny Gomes, Todd Frazier, and Chris Dickerson. Frazier likely starts the year in the minors. Personally, I'm not a fan of Francisco. I don't like his skill set or the way he fits into the team. So, it's down to Gomes or Dickerson. I actually like both, but they are flipsides of the coin. Gomes is all offense and very shoddy defense.

    I'd probably go with Dickerson, Stubbs, and Bruce from left to right in the outfield and hope Dickerson flashes more power in 2010. I'd also see about bringing Gomes back, if the price is right.

    Having potentially plus power in center and at second makes the idea of Dickerson in left and Janish at short a bit more palatable. And, Dickerson and Stubbs in the top two slots in the lineup would look pretty nice.

    Behind the dish, Hanigan is really the only in-house option to start. We may have to add a cheap veteran starter or look to trade. Personally, I'd look into Taylor Teagarden. I like both his offensive and defensive game. His struggles this year likely drive down his value, too.

    In short, if limited only to in-house options, I'd roll with Hanigan, Janish, and Dickerson. If we consider outside options, I'd look at Michael Taylor and Taylor Teagarden.

    It'll be an interesting offseason. We have a decent amount of ammunition, so we should be able to effectively address the catcher, shortstop, and leftfield positions.

    Thanks for the comment!


  4. Parker,

    As for the offseason schedule, I'll be posting regularly. After the MLB postseason, I'll be doing my 2010 Top 25 prospect write ups, which are quite a bit of work. And, of course, I'll have thoughts about what the Reds should do and what they actually do to build the team.

    The offseason is a fun time to talk about baseball and with the Top 25 prospect write-ups it's quite a bit of work. So, I'll definitely have a lot of posts coming up this offseason.


  5. When do you think you will be starting your top 25 lark?

  6. btw, do you not like the idea of going after J.J Hardy in the offseason?

  7. Hey Smitty,

    I'll probably get cranking on the Top 25 in November. Until then, I'll be finishing up the Rebuilding the Big Red Machine posts, looking at the player development of the organization, and probably some in-depth looks at a few guys on the 25 man roster. And, of course, whatever else comes to mind.


  8. Smitty,

    As for Hardy, he's interesting. He plays good defense and there's a chance for an offensive rebound. There are some red flags on his offensive game, so he may have regressed at the plate.

    The biggest problem is the cost to acquire him. I doubt he'd be cheap and he does come with a bit of risk. If we can get him at the right price, then I'm on board. I just suspect that the price won't be right.

    Anyway, my $.02.


  9. Lark-

    I was on and he had this link...

    Thought you would find it familiar.

  10. Parker,


    Thanks for the link, that does look oddly familiar. :)

    It's an interesting point, so I suppose it's worth making more than once. Counting stats aren't always the best measure of performance.


  11. lark its been a while sence you posted.

  12. give him a break, he is a busy guy

  13. Thanks, smitty. It's true that I've got a few things going on, but Anon is right, it's been too long. Three posts in September is pretty pathetic.

    Truth be told, I've got a big case of writer's block. I've got about three posts half-written. I get into one and end up not thinking much of it. In hindsight, I've been pretty worn down by this season. I usually get a bit bummed when the Reds drop out of contention, but this year has been a bit worse. I haven't lost any interest in the team, but it's been more frustrating this year.

    Still, I've got some ideas in the hopper and I'm getting my mojo back. I'm researching and working on the Next Step in Rebuilding the Big Red Machine. I'm going to be doling out some end of the year awards. And, a couple of other ideas. And, of course, I'll be starting to get geared up for the prospect write ups.

    Anyway, I'll likely get one, if not two, posts up this weekend. Inspiration has struck today.

    Thanks for the comments, gents!


  14. haha your crazy bud, this season was especially hard though. I have to agree with that