Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hot Stove Review: Edgar and Freddie

Well, as we steam towards those magic words that all baseball fans long to hear, "Pitchers and catchers report", it's becoming increasingly likely that the Reds are done with their offseason improvement efforts.

Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), this should be fairly short.

Edgar Renteria signed a one-year contract worth $2.1M in base salary and an additional $900,000 possible in incentives

I'm not an Edgar Renteria fan, so let's get that out of the way up front. If you asked me to write up a list of shortstop options that I would have pursued this offseason, Edgar wouldn't even have made the list. For the record, Jed Lowrie was the guy I wanted, but his late season offensive production means that the Reds probably waited too long to get him. And, given the Reds reticence to spend (either prospects or money) to acquire impact talent, they were left with their choice of the retreads and stopgaps. So, that constriction is the framework under which this signing must be measured.

Now, all that said and despite all efforts to the contrary, I am having a hard time working up much angst over this signing. Evidently, I've either been placated by the first taste of postseason baseball in years or just started going soft in my old age. Either way, it just doesn't seem like an acquisition to get too riled up over.

I value defense more highly than most, so I view Paul Janish as the clear cut choice to start at shortstop. Of course, that's what I wanted to see last year as well. Obviously, that didn't happen and because it didn't, the Reds really have no choice but to have a legitimate fallback plan for shortstop in place.

Part of the problem with the Reds gifting so much playing time to an underwhelming O-Cab was that Janish was arguably more productive when you factor in both offense and defense. However, the remaining part of the problem with giving so many innings to O-Cab was that it precluded the Reds from getting an extended look at Paul Janish. And, without an extended look, it's damn difficult to properly evaluate Paul Janish.

As I think I wrote in the year-end review of the infielders, Janish had solid overall numbers (.723 OPS), but his splits were volatile and occasionally illogical (.554 OPS at home vs. .858 OPS on the road, .824 OPS during the day vs. .648 OPS at night, etc). Unfortunately, the sample size is just too small to draw any definitive conclusions. If that weren't the case, then the signing of a veteran insurance policy would be much less defensible.

So, the Reds need a fallback option. You could (quite effectively) argue that Zack Cozart would be a sufficient fallback option, but the baseball industrial complex has always preferred its security blankets to have a lot of mileage on them.

Was Edgar the right fall back option? I think it's debatable. The type of production he will provide isn't exactly a mystery. It will be fairly minuscule. He should get a bit of a boost from Great American Ballpark, which is a real tonic for aging righthanded hitters (i.e. Rich Aurilia, Joe Randa, etc), but Edgar will be just a tick above replacement level. As for defense, Edgar will likely be a notch below O-Cab. So, the aggregate production will undoubtedly be uninspiring.

If they were willing to pay that kind of cash, why not just bring back Orlando Cabrera?

The Reds had a $4M mutual option on O-Cab, which cost them $1M to buy him out. So, the total cost of replacing O-Cab with Edgar will be between $3.1M and $4M ($1M buyout of O-Cab + $2.1M base salary with possible $900K in incentives). So, there are two possible outcomes to switching from O-Cab to Edgar.

First, Edgar won't perform well enough to justify enough playing time to reach the incentives, so the Reds will save $900K. Second, Edgar performs well enough to justify the playing time necessary to reach the incentives, so he'll cost exactly the same as O-Cab's $4M but probably provide better production. Either outcome represents an upgrade over O-Cab at his option price.

In essence, by switching from O-Cab to Edgar, the Reds ensured either better production or cost savings. Of course, it's entirely possible the Reds could have brought back O-Cab for less money or found a different veteran option. But, all in all, Edgar seems to fill the role that the Reds covet, that of the "veteran insurance policy", sufficiently, so maybe it IS worth the loss of continuity and intangibles to justify going from O-Cab to Edgar.

Of course, it's still not way I would have gone.

Freddie Lewis signed a one-year, $900,000 base salary with possible incentives

Now, here is a signing I can support, the second cousin of the perennially underrated Matt Lawton. I've been a fan of Fred Lewis for a number of years and I'm glad to see him get an opportunity with the Reds.

Lewis is a good athlete with a nice blend of skills. He has some pop and can swipe some bags. He covers a lot of ground in leftfield and has a patient approach at the plate. He also has a smooth lefthanded swing that should get a nice boost from the Great American Ballpark. All in all, Lewis has a lot of attributes that you look for in a ballplayer.

However, Lewis will likely split the fan base for one simple reason. He just doesn't seem to possess great baseball instincts. For example, despite his good range in the outfield, he is prone to making errors and his routes to the ball aren't always the best. As a result, people who watch him play frequently believe him to be a below average outfielder. Additionally, despite his good speed his stolen base success rate simply isn't that impressive. He gets nabbed more often than one would expect, as evidenced by his 74% career mark. In short, he's just not a very good percentage player.

Regardless, even with a few missteps and a bit of inefficiency in translating his tools into production, there is more than enough production left to justify his acquisition. In 2010, Lewis hit a respectable .262/.332/.414/.745 with 8 homers and 17 stolen bases for the Blue Jays. And, for his career, his line is .272/.348/.418/.766, so if anything he could do better in Cincinnati. Lewis could very easily become the best leadoff hitter the Reds have had in a number of years. And, the more ducks on the pond for Bruce and Votto, the better.

Overall, Lewis is a very good risk/reward acquisition and one that is MUCH more likely to pay off than Edgar Renteria. There should be very little to prevent Lewis from at least claiming the heavy half of a leftfield platoon with Jonny Gomes. And, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him claim the job outright, though that seems unlikely with Dusty at the helm.

And, for those who want to get to know a little bit about Fred Lewis, I highly recommend this ESPN story about a tragic accident that has shaped his life. It's damn near impossible not to root for him to make good after reading the article.


  1. sorry i havnt posted in a few days, housekeeping broke my laptop :(

    I LOVE the Lewis signing, anything that starts over gomes is an upgrade

    Im not a fan of the Renteria signing, way too much money and he is way to old. I value defense about as much as you do and if he is worse than slocab... ouch.

    Hopefully Cozart starts out the season on fire in AAA and they package Renteria for something of value to make room for him.

    Lark what do you think about the few position battles we have this spring?

    Im really interested to see if Hermida can beat out Heisey for the last outfield postion

    Im holding out hope that Willis will impress enough in the spring so that walt and co think they can spare allowing Chapman to start in AAA

    Wood or Leake? Im hoping for Leake honestly, last year he started out the best pitcher on the staff, then he became tired. If he starts out in AAA then your wasting his strong arm innings in games that dont matter. Wood can dominate AAA competition and when Leakes arm starts to tire he can replace him and still be effective for the rest of the year

  2. I'd say we are all of like mind on these signings. Lewis is solid and potentially could be one of the better acquisitions of the offseason by any team. Renteria I am right with you on it's mostly a meh move and though I want to get riled up over it I can't for whatever reason. But I will say this, you really can't compare he and Ocab because Ocab wanted to start somewhere whereas Renteria is willing to take on a reserve role.

    I hope Paul has grown his hair long so he'll have somewhere to pull more strength from. I have him projected to have something like the following slash line .230/.300/.335 for a .635 OPS and that is being a smidge optimistic. And if Dusty sticks him in the 2 hole OMG, he'll be Paul Mendoza by the break.

    As for Smitty's comments.
    - Would love to see a minor but somewhat lengthy injury force their hand on Cozart starting at the big league level right off the bat. And him running with it and Wally Pipp Janish.
    - I hope Heisey and Hermida both beat out Gomes, Heisey and Lewis is a much better platoon in every way.
    - I could get behind Willis as a loogy if it meant Aroldis would log starters innings at Louisville. Doubt it happens though because I believe it was always in the Cards for Aroldis to stay in the pen once he found himself comfy there.
    - Wood though I wish Leake too could make the team. I'm actually still holding out hope that Bailey somehow finds himself in another uniform come opening day, I just have no faith in him ever being that top of the rotation starter we had all hoped for, I don't think his stuff is good enough for that.


    Not necessarily in that order but that is my best expectation of the rotation based on what I think may happen.

  3. Smitty,

    Agree on Fred Lewis. He could be a sneaky good value. He's raw, but also has a sweet swing and good athleticism. He might make up for the Reds otherwise standing pat.

    As for Edgar, I find it difficult to believe that we could actually trade him for anything of value. If Cozart steps up and Edgar scuffles, then I'd say a DFA is much more likely a trade. Unfortunately, I don't see Edgar going anywhere unless he completely falls on his face.

    As for the position battles, we don't have many.

    I think it's rather unlikely that Hermida beats out anyone for a 25-man roster spot. He's on a minor league deal and simply hasn't proven he can hit at the MLB level. I suspect he'll have to go down to Louisville and light it up for a while before he's an option. His only chance is likely to be if the Reds feel the lineup is short on lefthanded hitters. Outside of that, I suspect he's gotta be ticketed for the minors.

    As for Dontrelle, I'm still skeptical that he'll be able to contribute. Even if he does crack the 25-man, I don't think that sends Aroldis to the minors. I suspect that Aroldis spends the year in the majors and the bullpen. I think that ship has set sail.

    As for the Wood/Leake/Homer battle, I think it's gotta be Wood and Homer. First, Wood was dominant last year and actually spent time developing in the minors. He's also ready to handle a full season workload. And, finally, he's the only lefty in the rotation.

    As for Homer and Leake, Homer is out of options. That alone will likely land him in the rotation. Leake started strong, but could likely do with a bit of time in Louisville. Also, even now I'm not sure he's ready for a full season workload.

    Obviously, the Reds like the idea of having pitching depth, so I think Leake has to be the odd man out. Wood was too good to send down and Homer still has too much potential to get rid of or send to the bullpen. So, Leake is left without a seat when the music stops.

    Anyway, my $.02. Thanks for the comment!


  4. Will,

    Interesting that you, too, struggle to get too worked up about Edgar. Not sure why, but probably because it was an inevitability.

    As for Cozart, I don't see him as being a better option than Janish at this point. Cozart wasn't great offensively in the minors last year, so I'd be more than a little nervous to hand him the starting gig out of the gates.

    As for leftfield, I'm surprised that so many people are ready and optimistic on Hermida. I think he's a good option on a minor league deal, but I really need him to prove that he can hit before I give him a gig. Hermida has a nice line drive swing, but the sample size of his struggles is rather large. I'd make him earn his way to the majors.

    On Aroldis, I tend to agree. If he's in the bullpen again this year, then I don't see him being shifted back to the rotation. It'll be similar to Neftali Feliz. He'll be an asset out of the bullpen and it'll be questionable whether he can succeed as a starter. So, the safe route will be to keep him in the pen. I just don't see Dontrelle having the enough juice to send Aroldis to the minors. I'd love to be wrong.

    As for Homer/Wood/Leake, I agree that Leake is the odd man out. However, I don't think Homer's stuff is the problem, I think it's his attitude and mental fortitude. As I think I wrote in review of starting pitchers, I think there is something telling in Homer's injury and subsequent refusal to take a cortizone shot. Still, I don't think we can give up on him yet. I think we have to run him out there and give him another shot to produce. His trade value is nothing right now and he still has potential.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!