December 2011

Closers dwindling

As you may have heard, the Red Sox acquired closer Andrew Bailey from the A’s in a trade on Wednesday. At one point this winter, the Reds were linked to Bailey in rumors.

The once vast quantity of available closers is drying up.

Only two free agent closers remain on the market in Ryan Madson and of course, Francisco Cordero. Also on the market is a former closer in Brad Lidge and David Aardsma, who did not pitch in 2011.

Which direction do you think the Reds will go? Madson would seemingly be out of the Reds price range. But would he come way down to pitch in Cincinnati maybe for one year and re-enter the market next year? Obviously, Cordero wanted to come back when the season ended. That seems the most logical move to happen…if the price is right.

There are also in house options, perhaps. Lefty Sean Marshall was just acquired and then there are also Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek etc.

Update: My MLB.com colleague in Seattle, Greg Johns, informed me that Aardsma (a former Mariners closer) isn’t even viable since he won’t be back from Tommy John surgery until midseason. So cross him off too.

Jocketty, Marshall on trade

Snippets from today’s Reds conference call. I have a fully updated story on MLB.com and Reds.com. You can listen to Sean Marshall by clicking here.

Walt Jocketty:

“This is another one we have worked on for a while. I talked to Theo about it first at the GM meetings, expressing some interest in Sean. We kind of followed up on it after that. It didn’t really start escalating until the last week or so.”

“He’s one of the top left-handed relievers in the game, a guy we’re really impressed with and always had difficulty hitting against. We felt he’d be a great addition to our club.”

Could Marshall be the closer?

“It’s a possibility. We’re still talking with Cordero. But if we don’t sign or acquire a closer, we have several guys we feel can take over that role. Sean would certainly be one of them.”

Does shedding seven prospects indicate a big push for 2012?

“There were some areas we thought we were lacking in. The way to address it for us was to do it through the trade market. We’re not going to go out and afford high-priced free agents. That’s part of the reason we sign and develop players – whether we use them to keep for our major league club or use them in trades. I never like giving up young players. It’s always an extremely difficult call for me to talk to these young guys when we trade them. But sometimes we feel it’s necessary to do that.”

Could Marshall be signed to an extension?

“There are no guarantees. But we’re going to do our best to try and sign him. Hopefully when Sean gets to Cincinnati and sees what a great place it is to play, a great organization we have and a good ballclub, that he’s going to want to stay for a while.”

Any more moves coming?

“After the first of the year, we’ll take a look at some things. We still want to address our bench, maybe left field and see what we can do.”

Are Reds close to adding Andrew Brackman?

“I think it’s pretty close. if it’s not done, it should be done any day. I’m not sure what’s holding it up to be honest.”

What about the addition of RHP Josh Judy?
“We had very good reports from three of our top scouts ad we like his arm. He’s a guy that will fit in to the bullpen mix. He has options so he would give us depth with our pitching staff at Louisville if he doesn’t make the club.”

LHP Sean Marshall:

Is he comfortable facing both right-handed and lefty hitters?

“I’ve had similar success vs. left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. I think some of the pitches and off-speed pitches that I throw can be effective for both. I didn’t have a problem last year and the previous years when Lou or Mike Quade put me in a situation where I’d face three righties in an inning. It didn’t at all intimidate me.”

Would he be comfortable closing?

“Absolutely…”

“I enjoyed it. It was a thrill for me. I enjoyed it, being able to lock the game down and seal a win for the team. I’m more than comfortable in the closer’s role.”

How did he feel about being traded?

“It came as a surprise. But I understand the moves Theo and the crew are making. At first, it’ll be a bit of an adjustment. I had my whole career here as a Cub. But I understand I’ve been lucky in that aspect. It’s part of the game with trades and signing with different teams. I’m just looking forward to embracing the opportunity to go to the Reds and have a chance to really compete and win a division, and hopefully come home after the season with a World Series ring.”

Reds claim RHP Judy

The Reds made a second transaction today, claiming RHP Josh Judy off of waivers from the Indians. He was designated for assignment last week.

That should leave the 40-man roster at 37 players by my count. MLB.com Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian told me Judy’s nickname — shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s Josh “Judge” Judy.

Judy had a 7.07 ERA in 12 games, over 14 innings in the big leagues with Cleveland in 2011.

From the Reds press release:

Judy, 25, last season appeared in 12 games during 4 stints for Cleveland in his Major League debut. He went 6-2 with 23 saves and a 3.12 ERA (52.0IP, 44H, 23R/18ER, 25BB, 60K) in 50 appearances for Triple-A Columbus. Judy was drafted by the Indians in the 34th round of the 2007 First-Year Player draft.

Wood, Epstein on the trade

Here are some quotes from the Cubs conference call regarding today’s trade for LHP Sean Marshall, courtesy of my man Adam McCalvy.

LHP Travis Wood:

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Wood said. “The Reds do have a lot of depth in their rotation. Hopefully, I can get to Chicago and make a difference. … I’m very comfortable. I like Wrigley Field and everything.”

 Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein:

“Sean is not the type of pitcher that we set out looking to trade. He does a lot of things that we like, on the field and off the field. He’s exactly the kind of guy we want to be a Cub. But, he had one year remaining on his contract until free agency, and under the new collective bargaining rules it’s unlikely that he’ll have any Draft pick compensation attached to him. So rather than let him walk at the end of the year with essentially nothing in return, we felt turning him into a Major League starting pitcher who has five years of control was certainly worth doing, and obviously [we got] the two prospects on top of that.”

“There’s no doubt our bullpen just got weaker by losing Marshall — you can’t get around that,” Epstein said. “But I think our starting rotation just got stronger, and our farm system just got stronger. If Wood bounces back and he pitches the way he did in 2010, you can argue that maybe we even got better [for] 2012. Certainly, the future just got a little bit brighter.”

Epstein mentioned July 11, 2010, when Wood, making his third big league start, pitched eight perfect innings against Roy Halladay the Phillies. Cincinnati wound up losing that game in extra innings, 1-0.

“He caught the eye of a lot of people,” said Epstein, who was GM of the Red Sox then.

 

Marshall trade official

Seeking to shore up the back end of their bullpen, the Reds on Friday completed the trade that acquired lefty reliever Sean Marshall from the Cubs.

Clearly in the mode of going for it in 2012, Cincinnati paid a heavy price in parting with young talent for the second time in a week. Going to Chicago in the deal are left-handed starting pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor league outfielder Ronald Torreyes

Although the Reds still have an opener for the closer’s role, Marshall will be employed as a set-up with the Reds.

My take – once again a big price to pay this week in a trade, especially with Wood being a 24-year-old lefty with talent staying in the division. Personally, I wasn’t very high on Sappelt like many were. His deficiencies in the field and on the bases were exposed during his call-up and he didn’t hit all that well.

In getting Marshall, he could be a big boost in the bullpen. He’s one of the best in the league at setting up and he could really be an asset along with Masset and Bray. However, I have to wonder if there’s an extension in the works for the Reds to make such a deal when Marshall can be a free agent after 2012. He’ll make $3.1 million next season.

The merits of Marshall

 There are two reports that a possible trade is in the works that would send LHP Travis Wood to the Cubs for lefty reliever Sean Marshall.

Foxsports.com first reported the story. ESPNChicago.com reported Cincinnati would send two prospects in addition to Wood.

To me, this deal makes the most sense IF the Reds plan to use Marshall as a closer. And his numbers as a setup guy, especially the last two seasons, seem to present a guy that can close.

Marshall has been one of baseball’s best at his job, with a 2.45 ERA in 158 appearances over 2010-2011. His stats can be seen by clicking here.

His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2011 was 4.65. As a comparison, Francisco Cordero’s K/BB ratio was 1.91 last season.

Marshall can also do a decent job of getting hitters out from both sides of the plate. Last season, right-handers batted .249 while lefties batted .206. In 2010, it was .218 for RH and .196 for LH.

One negative is that Marshall is only signed through 2012. He’s due to make $3.1 million. The Reds would be giving up quite a bit for one guaranteed year of Marshall.

Check back for updates.

UPDATE:

**A source confirmed the Reds’ interest in Marshall, but said that nothing would happen today. And after my speculation, I am wrong. The Reds are interested in Marshall to be a set-up man.

UPDATE NO. 2 – ESPNChicago now reporting the trade has been agreed to in principle pending physicals — Wood and two Minor Leaguers for Marshall. With what I heard a little bit ago, I’d predict physicals aren’t completed until Thursday at some point.

My (delayed) two cents

Following the huge Reds trade for Mat Latos over the weekend, I was afforded the chance to actually take a couple of days to really think about the merits of the deal because I was on vacation.

I have no doubt the Latos acquisition is going over well with the players. They were getting irritated by the lack of action since the July Trade Deadline. They wanted to see a sign the front office was going to go for it. This would certainly qualify. It’s a move designed to go for the division title in 2012, and the NL Central seems open for taking with the Cardinals and Brewers in a state of flux.

Generally, I’m not opposed to the idea of overpaying for starting pitching. It’s not like clubs are going to give away No. 1 or No. 2 starters for role players. However for what the Reds gave up in Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez, I think they should have gotten someone with more of a track record than Latos. When the Brewers parted with four premium prospects one year ago, they got Zack Greinke from the Royals — a former Cy Young winner.

Besides his stuff and ability to keep the ball of the ground, Latos’ appeal to the Reds was his age, 24 and that he can be under club control for four more years. Economically, that’s all good. He’s had two full seasons behind him, including a very good 2010. But he’s still an “X-factor” in some ways. He does not assure the rotation of instant ace credibility at the top. He has a reputation of a hot temper and has had moments of immaturity. Within minutes of the trade, two people familiar with Latos let me know about that trait and I’ve seen stories about it out of San Diego since.

I’m already on record as saying the Reds should have kept Alonso. He could have been part of the equation in 2012, and I think he would have been serviceable in left field. Although still unproven, I felt he might have been worthy of replacing Joey Votto in 2014 — should Votto decide to move on. While relievers generally aren’t missed in trades, Boxberger seemed a good bet to help the Reds bullpen this season. As for Grandal, he was blocked by Mesoraco for the long haul. I think Volquez can find his 2008 groove again, someday, but he needed a change of scenery.

The trade in the short term makes the Reds rotation better with Latos in it. I think he can become a very good pitcher in Cincinnati. Is the new-look rotation good enough to improve from last year’s disappointment? We’ll only know next October for sure.

Alonso on the trade

I am on vacation this week and will be back on Monday. I have plenty of thoughts on the Latos trade which I hope to share.

Yonder Alonso called me back tonight. Alonso had just gotten to Spain for a vacation with friends when it all went down:

“I am in Spain with my best friend on vacation. We had just got here when I got the call. It was crazy,” Alonso said.

Feelings on the trade?

“I was kind of excited and shocked at the same time,” Alonso said. “It’s all good but it’s all bad also. Cincinnati drafted me, gave me a chance and I went to the big leagues with them. But now I’m with a team that likes me, wants me and I can’t wait to be there.

“I’m kind of relieved. I won’t be traded again any time soon. Now I can enjoy the trip and Christmas and New Year’s.”

Click here for the story from Cash Kruth on today big trade

Here is audio of Walt Jocketty and Mat Latos talking about the trade:

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=20034183

 

 

Pujols out of NL Central

The Rule 5 Draft just concluded without the Reds making a selection in the Major League phase. They both took and lost a player in the Triple-A phase.

But the buzz this morning is the stunner that Albert Pujols is leaving the Cardinals for the Angels with a 10-year, $250 million contract with a full no-trade clause.

Of course, the move has ramifications for the Reds. “The Great Pujols,” as former Reds manager Jerry Narron often called him, is now out of the National League Central.

“I think it’s a positive,” said Reds GM Walt Jocketty, who drafted and developed Pujols when he was with the Cardinals. “When they lose a guy of that stature, it’s pretty amazing.”

As for the Reds, they are leaving town without a trade or signing done. But it sounded like if he would agree to part with the player or players the other team wants, a deal could happen.

“I think so. You never know how a club will react,” Jocketty said. “A couple of things we could do. We have to decide if it’s the right direction to go in.”

As for Brandon Phillips, Jocketty finally met with his agents but the latest offer appears to have been rejected.

“I went alright I guess,” Jocketty said of the meeting. “I don’t know if they weren’t completely happy. They didn’t agree to it.”

 

Reds talk w/Rays, Cody Ross

It’s been quiet again for the Reds and Walt Jocketty admitted it’s been tough for him not being able to get some moves done.

“Very frustrating,” Jocketty said.

Jocketty said has had some meetings about trades, including with the Rays.

“I’ve talked to them several times,” he said. “I don’t think we’re close to anything.”

Jocketty did not divulge who was discussed. I can imagine James Shields had to have been one of the teams from the Rays’ end.

*Further down the list has been a search for a right-handed hitting left fielder. There has been thought given to adding free agent OF Cody Ross, who had a very brief stint with the Reds in 2006.

“We kicked it around,” Jocketty said. “I saw his agent yesterday in the lobby. It’s an interesting name. He said he’d be interested in coming back, probably on a short term thing. I told him we’d discuss it and we did. But we have some other things to do first before we start looking at extra guys.”

*When asked about OF Dmitri Young, who has been in Dallas seeking a job and comeback, Jocketty said he would consider it. He liked him when he had Young in St. Louis.

More details from Wednesday to come on MLB.com/Reds.com

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