Cueto’s option picked up

In moves that were of no surprise, MLB.com has learned Wednesday that the Reds exercised the $10 million 2015 club option for ace starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and declined options for outfielder Ryan Ludwick and infielder Jack Hannahan.

The mutual option for Ludwick was worth $9 million and it was bought out for $4.5 million while Hannahan had a $4 million club option bought out for $2 million. Both players automatically become free agents.

None of the moves have been announced yet by the Reds.

Soto outrighted to Louisville

On today’s transaction page, it shows that infielder Neftali Soto was sent outright to Triple-A Louisville. That means Soto has been taken off of the Reds 40-man roster.

Soto made the Opening Day roster but didn’t do much at the plate in his limited chances. He batted .100 (3-for-30) in 21 games that jncluded four starts in two big league stints.

A third round pick by the Reds in 2007, Soto had long been a prospect at first base that was blocked by Joey Votto. His lack of hitting and quality defense at first base, third base (and a brief look at catcher) were not enough to keep him in a bench role.

It was telling that Soto was not included among this year’s September call-ups, so I’m not stunned he is off the roster.

Chapman changes agents

MLB.com has confirmed the report that Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has switched agents and is now represented by Relativity Baseball. Chapman was previously represented by Hendricks Sports. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan first reported the news.

Chapman had the option to enter into arbitration for the first time last winter. He avoided the hearing with a one-year, $5 million contract. Chapman will be second-year eligible for arbitration this offseason and become a free agent for the first time after the 2016 season.

Following his late start to the decision after being struck in the face by a line drive during Spring Training, Chapman had one of best seasons in the Majors in 2014. A three-time All-Star, he posted a 2.00 ERA in 54 games with 36 saves in 38 chances. Over 54 innings, he had a 17.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio and a 0.8333 WHIP.

Chapman, 26, became the first pitcher to average 100 mph (100.3 exactly) during a season as recorded by Pitch F/X.

Winker and Howard AFL All-Stars

The Arizona Fall League revealed its All-Star teams that will meet in the ninth annual Fall Stars Game, which is on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET and airing on MLB Network and MLB.com.

From the Reds organization, the West division All-Stars will include OF Jesse Winker and RHP Nick Howard.

Through 11 games, Winker is batting .341/.451/.585 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. MLB.com ranks him as the Reds organization’s No. 2 prospect.

Howard has a 7.84 ERA in three starts with nine earned runs and 13 hits allowed over 10 1/3 innings. He was a first-round selection by the Reds in the 2014 Draft and the Reds’ No. 5 ranked prospect.

Catching up

It was probably hard for you to tell, considering the quiet of the early offseason, but I was off all of last week on “staycation.” Hence, that’s why there were no blog entries, stories or tweets from me.

There was some Reds news that trickled out.

*Steve Smith was let go as third base coach on Monday. I can’t say this was a shock considering how many runners got thrown out at home this season. Late in the season, Smith had approached reporters to defend himself about the number of runners thrown out that were actually on his ledger. That was a sign that even he knew things didn’t look good. The rest of the coaching staff remains.

*Raisel Iglesias made his debut in the Arizona Fall League with a scoreless inning last Monday. On Thursday, Iglesias pitched again and worked another scoreless inning.

*My colleagues at MLB.com have written some really good stories from the World Series this past week. Alyson Footer provided my favorite one thus far with her piece on the fans with kayaks floating outside AT&T Park in McCovey Cove. Be sure to check that out.

*Finally, the news Sunday that promising Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident is just awful. Taveras was 22 and his girlfriend was only 18. On her blog, MLB.com Cardinals beat reporter Jenifer Langosch provided some personal memories about Taveras.

Wild Card World Series

Raise your hand if you predicted a Royals-Giants World Series…

The notion of adding the second Wild Card two years ago was to provide added reward to the teams that won their divisions. This year, two Wild Card entries are in the World Series for the first time under the new postseason format and it’s the first time two Wild Card teams will duel in the Fall Classic since the Angels and Giants in 2002.

Phil Rogers of MLB.com has more on the Wild Card winners reaching the World Series.

Also — neither the Royals (89 wins), nor Giants (88 wins) were 90 game winners in the regular season.

And — the Giants were the SECOND NL Wild Card team. So it is possible for it to be done.

Although they ended the 2013 regular season on a five-game losing streak, if the Reds could have found a way past Pittsburgh last season, perhaps they too could have went on a roll like the Royals or Giants. One never knows.

While every team, including the Reds, should aspire to win their division, this should emphasize how doable it is to reach the playoffs — and beyond — if a team can put together a run.

The World Series begins on Tuesday at Kansas City. For my prediction, I like the Giants in six games.

Winker is AFL player of week

The Reds No. 2 prospect, OF Jesse Winker, is off to a nice start in the Arizona Fall League. On Tuesday, Winker was named the AFL Player of the Week.

In the first week of play for the Surprise Saguaros, Winker leads the AFL with seven RBIs, a .909 slugging percentage and 1.472 OPS and was fourth with a .563 on-base percentage. He was 5-for-11 (.455) with two doubles, one home run and scored four runs in three games.

The 21-year-old Winker, who was with Double-A Pensacola, hadn’t played any games since July 17 because of a right wrist tendon injury sustained in a car accident.

Here is a full story on Winker from MLB.com.

Road food

On Monday upon the postponement of ALDS Game 3 in Kansas City, Orioles manager Buck Showalter seemed to know the pulse of the media gathered at his press conference.

“I think, if anything, it’s great for the restaurant business in Kansas City, that’s about it, I don’t know,” Showalter said. “I know you all ‑‑ room service is expensive at that hotel, boy.”

Sure enough, several of my colleagues were later tweeting pictures of their dinner. Most of them were from Joe’s Kansas City — formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. I was pretty envious.

While I really like Kansas City BBQ, I had never experienced Joe’s until the AL Wild Card Game a couple of weeks ago. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan kindly offered to take orders and bring it to the press box. I had ribs and turkey and it was marvelous.

In KC, I’ve long been a fan of Jackstack and I’ve sampled Gates and Arthur Bryant’s. But Joe’s will be on the top of my list to visit next season when the Reds are there to play the Royals.

Tastes in food are about as subjective as it gets. What I like, others may hate. But I do get to eat on the road a lot and experience different restaurants we often don’t have in Cincinnati.

So here is an incomplete list of some of the places I try not to miss when traveling. They usually skew towards the casual place and unhealthy and you’ll probably notice that I REALLY like pizza.

Running helps counter the caloric overload.

Chicago – Giordano’s Pizza
Pittsburgh – Primanti Bros.
St. Louis – Pi pizza (which has opened a location in Cincinnati this week)
Milwaukee – Smoke Shack BBQ

Los Angeles – In-n-Out Burger
Phoenix – Culinary Dropout, Federal Pizza, Pizzeria Bianco
San Francisco – Zero Zero

Minneapolis – Brit’s Pub, Manny’s Steakhouse
New York – too many to count but get an Italian hot chocolate at Max Brenner’s. It’s pretty decadent.

And I may as well mention …

Cincinnati — local favorites for me in no particular order are: The Eagle, Bakersfield, Taste of Belgium, Montgomery Inn, Dewey’s Pizza, Brooklyn Pizza and Pasta, Terry’s Turf Club, Zip’s, Arthur’s, Incline Public House, Via Vite, Tom and Chee, Moerlein Lager House.

Monday odds and ends

Good Monday afternoon…I have a few links and stories for you to keep you plugged in to the Reds and other items.

*Reds bench coach Jay Bell did not land the D-backs manager job to replace Kirk Gibson. A’s bench coach Chip Hale has been formally named. Bell and Hale were among nine candidates interviewed by Arizona. While I’m sure Bell is disappointed, but this is good news for the Reds. Bell was impressive behind the scenes as manager Bryan Price’s bench coach — he seemed very organized, easy to relate with, good with the media and a guy who knows the game very well. I would not be shocked to see his name linked to future managerial openings down the road.

*MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo covered Nick Howard’s first start in the Arizona Fall League. Howard, Cincinnati’s first round Draft pick this year, could have been in the big leagues already as a reliever. But the club likes him as a starting pitcher and are developing him that way for now. If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he can always become a reliever.

*Turning Howard into a starter seems to continue a trend that the Reds have been executing in recent years. Tony Cingrani, Michael Lorenzen and even Cuban free agent Raciel Iglesias were also relievers that the organization has ID’s as potential starting pitchers. Lorenzen had a strong first year in the Minors starting while the jury is still out on Cingrani because of injuries and pitch selection. I would not be shocked to see him in the bullpen next season, especially if the current starting five remains intact come Spring Training.

*I haven’t watched every postseason at-bat and pitch but I’ve seen enough to know it’s been an incredible playoffs to this point. I’ve watched the late innings of every game in the ALDS and NLDS and both have been incredible. Kolten Wong’s homer for a Cardinals win probably saved St. Louis’ season and most certainly — Trevor Rosenthal after a poor showing in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals very well could have been headed to San Francisco trailing by a 2-0 margin. I really wonder if we’re destined for a redux of the 1985 I-70 World Series between the Cardinals and Royals.

*I wondered why Wong’s jersey was off so quickly after he touched home plate. I soon learned why — it was literally ripped off of his back.

*Wong was just one of four homegrown Cardinals to homer in Game 2. Oscar Taveras, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams also went deep. Homegrown players seem to always come up big in recent years for St. Louis. There have been David Freese in 2011, Michael Wacha last season, Adam Wainwright going back to 2006-present and Carpenter this year as well. The Reds have a lot of homegrown players that helped them get to the postseason in 2010, 2012 and 2013 — like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, etc. Devin Mesoraco has already taken the next step with a breakout season in 2014. The next wave is likely a year or more away from joining the current crew — guys like Jesse Winker, Robert Stephenson, Lorenzen and perhaps Howard.

**Correction: Wainwright was drafted by the Braves originally. Sorry for the mistake.

Nice AFL day for Winker

From my colleague Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com:

Reds outfield prospect Jesse Winker had his season at Double-A Pensacola cut short because of a right wrist tendon injury after he had really nice start at Class A Bakersfield. In his first Arizona Fall League Game for Surprise on Wednesday, Winker was 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a double, two walks and two RBIs.

Winker is ranked as the Reds organization’s No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.

Click here for today’s box score:

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/y2010/index.jsp?gid=2014_10_08_surwin_perwin_1&mode=preview

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