Thursday, January 12, 2012
2012: Spraying Bullets
A few quick hits from Redsville:
***It's difficult for me to reconcile the flurry of activity surrounding the Reds THIS offseason with the sheer lack of activity LAST season. I still feel like there's much more to the story. It simply doesn't add up. Why would Walt Jocketty stand by and watch the season slip away last year, but make costly moves, via free agency and trade, to improve this year? What's the difference between this year and last? Were the Reds under stricter budget constraints last year? Is Jocketty motivated by a lack of job security this year? Did Jocketty receive new information of a type that made the decision to trade Yonder easier? I just feel like we're missing a big piece to the 2011 puzzle, one that would go a long towards explaining one of the most frustrating seasons of recent vintage.
***The Reds named Mack Jenkins assistant pitching coach at the MLB level. I wouldn't know Mack Jenkins if he jumped out of my soup, but I approve of this idea in the abstract. Given the struggles of the rotation last year, it certainly can't hurt to add a new voice to the coaching staff.
***For my money, the Reds should be pushing hard to trade for Travis Snider. The Reds have a hole in leftfield and could use another lefthanded bat in the lineup. Snider seems like an ideal change of scenery type player who could blossom in new surroundings. And, given that the Jays could reasonably be souring on him, Snider could be priced to move.
***Just for the record, I still think it was a mistake for the Reds not to pursue Matt Murton and Erik Bedard. Murton is a player in need of a legitimate opportunity. He plays leftfield very, very well and his offensive profile is of the type that the Reds could really use. His baseline is likely .285/.350/.450 (though it could be better in GABP), which means that he would have slotted in nicely in the 2nd spot in the lineup. He wouldn't have excelled in any area, but he would have provided a contact based approach to a lineup that is occasionally inconsistent due to the high rate of strikeouts. Murton is the type of undervalued talent who could be a very good value in his first 4-5 years of service time. Once he hits free agency, he may look less desirable, but that's a worry for a future date. Last year, Murton spent time in Japan and broke Ichiro's single season hit record. That type of experience could only increase his confidence and likelihood of success in the Majors. Now that Yonder is gone, Murton strikes me as being a borderline ideal acquisition.
As for Bedard, I think he was the steal of the offseason. The Pirates signed him for $4.5M. Last year, Bedard started slow, was truly brilliant for two months, suffered an injury that cost him a month, and then finished out the season respectably. While the injury did cost him a month or more, it was a knee injury unrelated to the arm injuries that had previously derailed his career.
I thought Bedard was a good candidate to bounce back in 2011. And, I think he's poised to contribute at a high level in 2012. In 2009, Bedard pitched only 83.0 innings for the Mariners before he underwent major shoulder surgery. After rehab, his velocity had completely returned, he was throwing well, and on the verge of returning to the majors in 2010 when he had to undergo a second shoulder surgery. That surgery cost him the entire 2010 season, but that surgery was minor in comparison to the first. So, the minor shoulder surgery was less of a threat to his career than the major one and it actually gave him more time to recover from the major surgery. So, Bedard was ready in 2011.
He'll always be injury prone, but that is more than factored into his $4.5M salary. At that price, even half a season of good production would be worth it.
***I recently wrote about the sweeping changes being undertaken in two NL Central front offices. However, what I didn't include in that write-up was an interesting Reds related subplot. It was reported that part of the reason why Walt Jocketty parted ways with the St.Louis Cardinals is that he was unable to get along with then Cardinal V.P. Jeff Luhnow. That was then. Now, Luhnow is the new GM in Houston, one of the teams completely overhauling their front office in an effort to move towards a data-driven model of operation. Of course, the dispute being Luhnow and Jocketty could have been a clash of personalities, but more likely it was a clash of ideologies.
In my previous write up, I discussed the data-driven approach that Luhnow seems to want to implement and the difference between an organization built around the skills of individual employees and an organization that creates a structure to drive the operations. All of which begs the question, was the friction between Jocketty and Luhnow driven by the latter's staunch belief in statistical analysis and the former's preference for more traditional scouting? Or, does Jocketty favor an organization built around the brilliance of the individual more than the structure of the organization? More than likely, the answer is both.
In the end, I suspect that Luhnow was tasked with implementing an organizational structure in the Cardinal organization and Jocketty simply could not operate effectively within such a structure. Either the Cardinals outgrew Jocketty or Jocketty and the Cardinals simply grew apart. Whatever the reason, I wouldn't be surprised if, on some level, bad blood developed between the Astros and Reds. Of course, the fact that MLB, in its infinite wisdom, is moving the Astros to the AL West probably undercuts such a rivalry before it could even flare up.
*** Does anyone out there believe that Aroldis will be developed as a starter? The Marshall trade and the Madson signing are "all in" kind of moves. Given that our rotation seems to be set with (1) J.Cueto (2) M.Latos (3) B.Arroyo (4) M.Leake (5) H.Bailey, there seems to be no room for Aroldis. In light of their "win now" mindset, it simply doesn't make sense for the Reds to keep Aroldis at triple-A to develop as a starter. It seems highly likely that he'll join Madson and Marshall to give the Reds an electric back of the bullpen.
For better or worse, Aroldis became a reliever the moment the Reds decided to rely on him in their MLB bullpen.