January 2010

Reds have offer to Cabrera

The Reds remain in the running for free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera, and it appears there are only two other suitors — the Rockies and Nationals — a Major League source told MLB.com on Thursday night.

I’ve learned that Cincinnati has definitely made an offer to Cabrera. He is trying to decide between Cincinnati, Colorado and Washington.

Nothing was likely to be done tonight. Stay tuned.

No Damon, maybe Cabrera?

Reds GM Walt Jocketty was on his way to Batesville, Indiana on a Reds caravan bus when he called me back and multiple topics were brought up.

Despite a report of there being a potential fit on Wednesday, the Reds are not in on free agent left fielder Johnny Damon. The Reds were talking to the Scott Boras agency about another player recently and Damon is also epresented by Boras.

“They talked about Damon but it doesn’t fit financially,” Jocketty said. “I don’t see us pursuing it.”

How about the possiblity of adding free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera?

“He is more realistic,” Jocketty said. “We’re still talking to a number of free agents. We’ve really exceeded where our budget should be. We’re still trying to upgrade the club if we can manage it financially.”

If the Reds add anyone, it would probably be under a minor league contract.

“We don’t have a roster spot right now and it will be tough to find one,” Jocketty said. “But it will be tough to get many of the people out there to take a Minor League contract.”

Next week, the Reds will have a scout to check out free agent lefty Noah Lowry, who will throw in a public workout. Lowry has not pitched since 2007 because of multiple injuries, including something called thoracic outlet syndrome.

“We’ll probably watch him to keep an eye on him,” Jocketty said. “We inquired about him in the past. We sent someone to look at Ben Sheets too but knew he wouldn’t be in our price range. But we wanted to keep track of him.”

 

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Catching up with Arroyo

If you haven’t, please be sure to check out the story I did today about Bronson Arroyo’s unique donation to the victims of the Haiti earthquake. The Reds made me aware of it last week while I was out and I didn’t want to overlook it this week.

Because it was out of context from the story, I didn’t mention other elements of the phone conversation I had with Arroyo. He has spent his off-season traveling all over the country doing various things. Of course, he’s played his guitar in shows but he also just got back from New York, where he shot a cameo scene for an independent movie.

The film is called “Goat.” It stars Armand Assante and Vincent Pastore, who is an alum from “The Sopranos.” Arroyo, who is friends with the film’s writer and is listed as an executive producer, shot the scene in a barbershop with Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis and former Red Eduardo Perez.

“It probably took four or five hours to get everything right,” Arroyo said. “It was amazing how much detail goes into making a movie.”

Arroyo believed the movie could be out by the end of the year.

“I’m not 100 percent sure it will hit theatres,” he said. “They think it will but you never know.”

Earlier in the chat, Arroyo was clearly focused on baseball and getting to camp.

“I’m healthy and strong,” he said. “I’m ready to go. This is the most I’ve ever wanted to get Spring Training going my whole career. The more years that go by and the older I get, I appreciate the hard work if takes to stay at this level.

“These days, I enjoy going to the weight room and killing myself and trying to see if I can pitch 200 innings again. It’s a constant battle to stay on top of it. This is a game that when you’re 35, you are supposed to go downhill. I’m looking to improve.”

Arroyo will turn 33 next month. He has pitched at least 200 innings over each of the last five seasons. He won 15 games the past two seasons. 

Here was Arroyo’s take on the Aroldis Chapman signing:

“I was totally shocked. I didn’t even know the Reds were in the running at all. I assumed a bigger market team like the Red Sox or Blue Jays would get him. The Reds have talked about not being able to spend a whole lot of money. I was surprised but I’m glad. A left-handed arm that throws 94-99 mph, you can’t help to think good things will come — either now or in a couple of years.”

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Anyone for Goodyear?

Sorry for the lack of blog action this past week. I was off on a stay-cation for my final break before things get busy and I head to Goodyear.

Speaking of that developing suburb, is anybody out there going to Goodyear to see Spring Training? I’ve got my place there and even though it won’t be scenic Siesta Key/Sarasota, I’m looking forward to the new experience. There will be new ballparks to see, new routines to learn and new highways to navigate. Anything has to be better than getting stuck on I-75 in Florida…right? Well if you do happen to be out there, don’t be afraid to say hello if you’re at the practice fields or ballpark. I will pretty much be there for the duration.

Although I would rule nothing out, it seems like the Reds are going to camp with what they currently have. How do you feel about that? It wouldn’t shock me if someone was signed just before camp, or even during camp. Orlando Cabrera is one of three free agent shortstops left on the market but I don’t see it happening. His price will probably fall but not low enough to make him a fit for the Reds.

Did anyone notice the signing of right-handed reliever Jose Arredondo on Friday? A minor league deal, it won’t do a thing for the Reds in 2010. But for 2011, it could be a shrewd addition for the bullpen if he is back and healthy. In 2008, he had 1.62 ERA while going 10-2 in 52 games for the Angels. A nice stat was his 55 strikeouts compared to 22 walks in 61 innings.

Arredondo is due to have Tommy John surgery soon and will miss all of next season. It should cap what has been a lousy off-season. After he was 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA, he was not offered a contract by the Angels in December and then was reportedly stabbed in the left arm in the Dominican Republic. The injury wasn’t considered serious according to the reports.

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Masset gets two-year deal

Nick Masset avoided arbitration on Saturday by agreeing to a new two-year contract with the Reds through 2011.

The deal is worth $2.58 million in guaranteed money. The reliever will get $1.035 million in 2010 and $1.545 million in 2011. The are performance-based incentives as well.

Masset went from falling way short of the fifth starter’s job in Spring Training to a indispensible right-handed set-up man for the Reds.

“It was important to get him signed,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We were glad to get a two-year deal. It gives him a little security and us some payroll security. He worked hard and deserved it. We’re happy to get it done.”

Reliever Jared Burton remains the lone Reds player up for arbitration. Numbers are exchanged Tuesday. Based on the previous post last night, odds are strong there will be an agreement before the two sides enter a hearing.

Jocketty also drew a line in the sand. If there isn’t a deal before the numbers are exchanged, there will be no willingness to settle before the hearing date.

“We are taking a little tougher approach,” Jocketty said. “We’re telling agents that we want to get deals done before the numbers are exchanged. Hopefully, it’ll be done by Monday. If not, we’re going to arbitration. We’re not messing around with it. Too many agents want to exchange numbers so they can inflate them. We’re not doing it anymore.”

Reds arbitration history

Relievers Nick Masset and Jared Burton both filed for arbitration on Friday. It was a formality and both can avoid a hearing if they reach agreements on contracts. Players and teams will exchange figures on Tuesday. Hearings are scheduled any time between Feb. 1-19.

Based on the Reds history, it’s a good bet hearings will be avoided with both players. Last year Edwin Encarnacion flew all the way to Arizona for his hearing but signed a two-year contract before it was time to go inside.

Here is the history of the Reds and arbitration through 2009:

2009
2008 Salary               $3.3 million
Weathers                   $4.6 million
Team                          $3.0 million
Settled                       $3.5 million with
1/28/09                       club opt for 2010
                                    $400,000 buyout

2008 Salary               $450,000
Encarnacion             $3.7 million
Team                          $2.55 million
Settled                       2-year deal for
2/17/09                       $7.6 million

2008
Phillips          Settled
Belisle            Settled

2004
Beat Chris Reitsma

2003
Beat Bruce Chen

2001
Beat Danny Graves
Beat Osvaldo Fernandez
Lost to Sean Casey

1999
Beat John Hudek

1994
Lost to Joe Oliver

1993
Lost to Bip Roberts

1992
Beat Greg Swindell
Beat Glenn Braggs

1990
Beat Randy Myers

1989
Lost to Danny Jackson

1988
Beat John Franco

1987
Beat Ted Power

1986
Lost to Dave Van Gorder
Beat Eddie Milner

1984
Lost to Paul Householder
Beat Joe Price

1983
Lost to Joe Price
Lost to Mario Soto
Beat Bruce Berenyi

1982
Lost to Tom Hume
Lost to Mario Soto
Beat Frank Pastore

1981
Beat Dave Collins
Beat Paul Moskau
Beat Mike Vail

1980
Lost to Dave Collins
Lost to Ray Knight

Baker talks about Chapman

Reds manager Dusty Baker had spent the last few days out in the woods hunting but called me back today regarding the Aroldis Chapman signing on Monday.

Baker said he didn’t know a ton about Chapman and hadn’t seen him pitch. But he’s had previous experience working with Cuban pitchers. Osvaldo Fernandez and Livan Hernandez bothe pitched for Baker on the Giants. Fernandez was 28 when he started in San Francisco in 1996-97, missed two seasons and then pitched for the Reds in 2000-01. Hernandez was with the Giants in 1999 after he started his MLB career with the Marlins.

“A lot of Cuban pitchers are older when they get here with a lot of miles already on their arm,” Baker said on Tuesday. “[Chapman] is young and hasn’t pitched a whole lot.”

Baker, who will be able to speak Spanish to the non-English speaking Chapman, expects the 21-year-old to need time adjusting to his new culture and surroundings.

“This isn’t your normal Latin player,” Baker said. “It’s going to be far different environment from about anything else in the world he’s experienced. It’s not an easy transition. There will be an adjustment in the language, in the customs, eating and being away from family.”

More…

“Put any one of us in that envrionment under the same circumstances and see how we fare. I played winter ball and I was gone just five months. But I could go home. That’s why we have to help him. Hopefully he will contribute this year but at the same time, we can’t rush him.”

Earlier today, I wrote a rather lengthy story that goes over how the Reds were able to sign Chapman and some of what it took.

Read it here

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Aroldis Chapman to the Reds

Amazing. Stunning. Surprising.

When Cuban defector and left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman and his agents scheduled a workout last month and started the bidding process, I will freely admit that I never once expected the Reds to be major players for his services.

Not only were they major players, the Reds were the winners of the sweepstakes.Yahoo Sports first reported that Chapman and the Reds agreed on a five-year, $30 million deal. I’m hearing from my source that it was five years at $25 million with a sixth year option at another $5 million. The money will be spread over several years, which keeps the financial hit less severe up front.

The deal will be announced either Sunday night or Monday morning. Chapman still must take a physical.

Published reports over the last month have compared the 22-year-old lefty as a Cuban Randy Johnson. Although, I believe he’s 6-foot-4 and not 6-10 like the just retired Big Unit. 

There has been mentions that Chapman throws power stuff in the 95-97 mph range but that he has touched 100 mph on the radar gun. The stories also said his control needs a lot of work, much like Johnson in his early years. Some clubs liked Chapman as a starter, and others as a reliever.

What makes this development remarkable is the Reds appeared to have outbid teams like the Blue Jays, Angels and Red Sox. Cincinnati has barely made a whisper with moves this winter. This is the same club that non-tendered Jonny Gomes because it feared he might get $3 million in arbitration. They have also avoided dabbling in the free agent market because of what’s been said was an inflexible payroll.

I have messages left with GM Walt Jocketty and Chapman’s agents — the Hendricks brothers.

I’d imagine Chapman would start 2010 in the Minors but if and when he joins the rotation, he would be teamed with other young guys like Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and when he’s back from Tommy John surgery rehab, Edinson Volquez.

Keep in mind that Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are headed for their final guaranteed seasons. Both have 2011 options.

So what do you think? Happy? Not happy?

Fans have been clamoring for a big signing all winter and this definitely qualifies. However, it’s not a proven big league veteran and the risk is a little higher.

Respond.

10:20 p.m. update: The Reds revealed they are holding a 12 p.m. ET press conference on Monday to make a “major announcement.”

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No HOF yet for Larkin

The Hall of Fame results were just announced on MLB Network and surprisingly, only one name was called to Cooperstown, Andre Dawson. He received 77.9 percent of the vote on 420 ballots, according to the HOF web site.

I wasn’t surprised that Barry Larkin didn’t get in on the first try but I was surprised that he only got 51.6 percent (278 votes). I thought it would be higher.

The good news for Larkin and his fans is that this vote was still a solid indication that he will get in someday, and probably pretty soon. It could certainly be worse — his shortstop contemporary, Alan Trammell, got just 22 percent of the vote on his seventh try.

I feel bad for my friend and former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven, who fell a mere five votes shy from getting in. Blyleven received 74.2 percent. He still has two more tries and next year should be his time.

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Reds sign OF Josh Anderson

The Reds have signed outfielder Josh Anderson to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training as a non-roster player.

Anderson, a Somerset, Ky., native, was thrilled about coming to Cincinnati.

“I’m looking forward to getting started with them,” Anderson said. “I’m extremely happy about it. I grew up a Reds fan. I was about three hours from their stadium. I look forward to helping out any way I can.”

Anderson, 27, batted .240/.276/.304 with one homer and 24 RBIs for the Tigers and Royals in 118 games last season. He is a left-handed hitter and stole 25 bases in 30 attempts. He started 2009 in camp with the Braves and was traded to Detroit near the end of spring. He was dealt to Kansas City on July 30.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Anderson said. “I’ve been fortunate to have a little time up there [in the Majors]. I’m trying to get an opportunity to stay and get a chance to play.”

In 179 games over three seasons with the Astros, Braves, Tigers and Royals, Anderson is a .272 hitter with a .313 OBP. He’s walked 26 times compared to 82 strikeouts. Experienced at all three spots, he will be part of an increasing crowd of outfielders vying for a spot — along with non-roster invite Laynce Nix, Chris Dickerson, Willy Taveras and others. 

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