January 2012

More Madson

There is not a ton of new information on the Madson deal since late last night, other than that ESPN.com is reporting that it’s an $8.5 million contract. Either $10 million, or less, it’s a great deal for the Reds. I will keep trying to pin down the number if I was wrong last night.

*Even though they are paying more than they would have likely paid Cordero over one year, they get an upgrade at closer, and a younger pitcher.

*Madson is taking a hit, way down from the four-year deal he seemed poised to sign with the Phillies before the offer was pulled early in the off-season. But he positions himself to re-enter the free agent market next winter. Don’t look for an early extension with the Reds during the season, not with S. Boras driving the negotiating bus for this player.

*Seems funny now how many people complained about the lack of Reds activity during the GM meetings and winter meetings. I often had to remind folks it is a long off-season. Now the Reds are being lauded by some as having the best off-season of all clubs — even the spendy Marlins. With Latos, Marshall and now Madson on board, it’s hard to argue.

*Still nothing coming out of Great American Ball Park yet. There is a 5 p.m. press conference there for Barry Larkin today though and will keep an eye out for the GM to see if he’s willing to discuss the Madson deal. I suppose he has to take a physical in the next day or two.

How do these bullpen choices look to you?

Closer: Madson
LH Setup: Marshall
RH setup: Masset
LH setup: Bray
RH: Ondrusek
RH: LeCure
RH: Arredondo
RH: Brackman

How about the rotation options?

1. Cueto
2. Latos
3. Arroyo
4. Leake
5. Bailey
6. Chapman

*The Reds still have a hole in the LF/fourth outfielder role. Whoever it is, I don’t imagine it will be an expensive signing.

 *Who’s the favorite of the NL Central as of now – Reds, Cardinals or Brewers?

Madson agrees w/Reds

UPDATE NO. 2 –

A baseball source has confirmed to MLB.com that the Reds have agreed to terms late Tuesday on a one-year, $10 million contract with free agent closer Ryan Madson.

******

Well — this is an about face from the last blog post and a story that I wrote for MLB.com…

According to several reports, the Reds have agreed to terms late Tuesday on a one-year contract with free agent closer Ryan Madson. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported it first. I am still trying to confirm this myself and have several calls out.

Citing sources, Heyman earlier in the evening that talks between the two sides were heating up and in the serious stages. However, a source familiar with the situation had downplayed the report to MLB.com, saying it was unlikely the Reds would get Madson unless his agent — Scott Boras — came well off the demand of a four-year, $44 million contract he had been reportedly been wanting.

And with this seeming to be a one-year deal for Madson, that certainly appears to be the case.

The Reds have not announced any agreement. A message was left with general manager Walt Jocketty.

**UPDATE: According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the deal is worth in excess of  $10 million. So, wow. That’s a big jump from the Reds have seemingly indicated they had to spend. Of course, it says even more than the Latos/Marshall trades how bad they want to win the NL Central in 2012.

Madson report downplayed

There is a CBSSports.com report that the Reds are in the serious stage of talks with free agent closer Ryan Madson, even saying that things were “heating up.”

A source told MLB.com on Tuesday night that the club has contacted almost every player on the market at one time or another. The source downplayed the report on Madson, saying it was unlikely unless Madson’s agent — Scott Boras — came well off the demand of a four-year, $44 million contract he had been reportedly wanting.

The Reds have maintained talks with the other free agent closer on the market — Francisco Cordero. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said last week that the offer for Cordero would be for no more than one guaranteed year.

2012 Caravan revealed

I’ve gotten more questions asked about when Reds Caravan information would be revealed, where the stops were, etc…and I know Jamie Ramsey has gotten double the amount of questions. Well be curious no more, my friends…the club made its announcement on Tuesday.

Here is the link to the Caravan plan and itinerary.

Some tidbits:

On the Reds Caravan Southern tour are stops in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. It will feature Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, second baseman Brandon Phillips, assistant general manager Bob Miller, broadcaster and former pitcher Chris Welsh, Reds Hall of Famer Lee May, minor league catcher Tucker Barnhart and mascot Gapper.

Also part of the Southern tour is a planned home visit to Great American Ball Park for the annual “Select-A-Seat” event for prospective season ticket holders. Fans can choose their seats and purchase season ticket plans ranging from a 13-game plan to an 81-game full season plan. Autographs at the Select-A-Seat stop are limited to fans purchasing season ticket plans.  This is the third year that the Select-A-Seat stop has been included as part of the caravan.

On the Northern tour that stops in Ohio and West Virginia, fans can see broadcaster Thom Brennaman, catcher Devin Mesoraco, general manager Walt Jocketty, Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini, Reds Hall of Famer Tom Browning, minor league outfielder Ryan LaMarre and mascot Mr. Redlegs.

And the Western tour will have stops in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky and features manager Dusty Baker, infielder Todd Frazier, broadcasters Jim Kelch and Jeff Brantley, 2011 Reds Minor League Player of the Year Billy Hamilton, vice president of baseball operations Dick Williams and mascot Rosie Red.

Eric Davis and the hat

If there was anything that might have had a chance to steal a smidge of Barry Larkin’s spotlight today, it was the hat Eric Davis was rocking today on MLB Network. It was definitely the talk on Twitter for a little bit. I’ve always enjoyed seeing Davis when he’s around the club in his front office capacity and as a spring instructor. I hope he brings the hat to Goodyear this spring.

Back to Larkin, I have several audio or video links to share courtesy of the MLB.com multimedia department. Enjoy.

Larkin talking about being elected

Marty Brennaman

MLB Network breakdown

Sean Casey

Lots of praise for Larkin

Here are a bevy of quotes, via the Reds, that praised the career of Barry Larkin:

Johnny Bench, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989
“It certainly is a deserving honor for the Cincinnati native and Reds shortstop. Barry distinguished himself as a tremendous leader and a dominating player. Winning a World Series and an MVP plus Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards puts him among the elite players in Reds history. I’m very happy for his family and look forward to being with him in July on the stage in Cooperstown. Congratulations to a class act, on and off the field.”

Joe Morgan, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990
“Barry Larkin’s election to the Baseball Hall Of Fame comes at a time when statistics are as important as the eye test, and Barry passes both tests. When you watched him play you knew he was a special player.”

Tony Perez, Larkin’s teammate in 1986, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000
“I’m very happy Barry got in. Now he’s with us, another guy in the family. I’ve seen him play and do great things for the Cincinnati Reds organization and the team. He was a great player, very deserving to belong in the Hall of Fame.”
Cal Ripken, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007
“For 19 years Barry represented the Cincinnati Reds and the game of baseball so well both on and off the field. When I think of Barry I think of a steady, smart and terrific all-around player both at shortstop and at the plate. I wish we had played in the same league, but we were in 11 All-Star Games together and I always enjoyed being around him and talking baseball.”

Marty Brennaman, recipient of the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence in 2000
“Barry was a great all-around talent. Maybe he was overlooked by some people, as ridiculous as that might sound now, because he never patted himself on the back. He just went out and beat the other team every way he could, with speed, defense, at the plate with surprising power and quiet leadership. Barry Larkin is a Hall of Famer.”

Walt Jocketty, Reds President of Baseball Operations and General Manager
“The entire Reds family couldn’t be more proud of Barry. Every night, he could beat an opponent with his bat, his speed, his arm, his defense or his intelligence. He truly was one of the great all-around players of his era.”

Dusty Baker, Reds manager
“Barry not only was one of the most talented and gifted players, but he was one of the most intelligent on and off the field. He had great speed but had the ability to slow down the game, so he made very few mistakes. He is one of the few players who maximized the ability he was born with. Barry could do it all. He is the six-tool player all the scouts are looking for now, one with all the baseball skills plus intellect.”

Lou Piniella, manager of the Reds’ 1990 World Series championship team
“I congratulate Barry on a truly remarkable career. He was very professional, very dedicated, very committed to winning and a great leader. An outstanding individual both on and off the field, Barry remains one of my favorite players I ever managed.”

Bobby Cox, former Major League manager
“To me, Barry Larkin was a ‘dream’ player. He was an outstanding leader who had great physical skills. When you look at his all-around talent and ability in the field, at the plate and on the bases, he might very well have been one of the top two or three shortstops of all-time. He really has all the credentials you think of when you talk about Hall of Fame players. If there had been a draft each year for clubs to build their team from scratch, Barry would have been the first or second pick each year over the course of his career. He was just so well rounded and had all the skills.”

Eric Davis, Larkin’s teammate from 1986-1991 and 1996, elected to Reds Hall of Fame in 2005
“Barry was the most complete shortstop in the National League during his era. He could do everything. His knowledge of the game was second to none, he took pride in being an all-around player, and he did whatever it took to win a game. Barry was the most unselfish star player I ever played with. We would not have won the 1990 World Series without him. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Tom Browning, Larkin’s teammate from 1986-1994, elected to Reds Hall of Fame in 2006
“Barry was the one guy you could rely on getting the job done. Offensively, he could hit first, second or third as well as anybody in the game. Defensively, he was the best during his time but often was overshadowed by Ozzie Smith. As good as he was as a player, he was a better teammate.”

Chris Sabo, Larkin’s teammate from 1988-1993 and 1996, elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 2010
“Barry was the best baseball player overall I ever played with, no question. He had all five tools and used them all at an All-Star level. When I played with Barry, he was the best shortstop in the National League, bar none. In my opinion, he was a no-brainer first ballot Hall of Fame player. Barry made my life easy because he covered so much ground in the hole at shortstop, and I could cheat toward the third base line. He made me, as a third baseman, look better defensively than I actually was.”

Sean Casey, Larkin’s teammate from 1998-2004, elected to Reds Hall of Fame in 2012
“Barry Larkin was, hands down, the greatest pure athlete I ever played with. He was also my mentor and a great friend. I can’t tell you how many times early in my career Lark would pull me aside and try to explain a situation to me to make me a better player. He was a class act all the way in everything he did. He’s a Hall of Fame shortstop, and I can say it because I saw it first hand for seven years. I’m so grateful I got a chance to play with and learn from one of the greatest shortstops ever. Lark taught me so many lessons about the game that I passed along to so many guys I played with. Along with his baseball skills, Lark was such a great leader in the clubhouse.”

Ken Griffey Jr., Larkin’s teammate from 2000-2004
“I honestly can say Barry was the smartest player I ever played with. I am happy not only for him but for the guys who played with him, he made his teammates better. He had a combination of speed and power that changed the way teams started drafting shortstops. As the first 30/30 shortstop, Barry paved the way for guys like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra. I am  just as excited and happy for his family, because I’ve known the Larkins since 1982. He’s always been like an older brother to me.”

Aaron Boone, Larkin’s teammate from 1997-2003
“Getting to play next to Lark in the infield for so long was one of the highlights of my career. He took me under his wing the day I got to the big leagues, and we share a special friendship to this day. The Hall of Fame is a better place today with the addition of Barry Larkin.”

Paul O’Neill, Larkin’s teammate from 1986-1992
“Looking back on my career in both Cincinnati and with the Yankees, I knew I was on the field every day with two shortstops who would be Hall of Fame players, Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter. Obviously, I felt very fortunate to play with such great players, who are also outstanding people. I’m thrilled about this honor for Lark.”

Brandon Phillips, Reds All-Star second baseman
“Barry was my idol, and if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be pursuing my dream and playing baseball right now. Congratulations to him, the Reds and his hometown of Cincinnati. Getting elected to the Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor.”

Craig Biggio, played against Larkin for the Astros from 1988-2004
“Barry was a complete player. I had the chance to compete against him a lot since we were in the same division, and he could beat you in many different ways. He could beat you with his bat, on the basepaths and with his glove. He was an excellent shortstop, and he was a smart, intelligent player, which is very important. Barry was a big reason that they had success over there.”

John Smoltz, pitched against Larkin for the Braves from 1988-2004
“Barry was one of the most disciplined and complete players I ever played against. There wasn’t anything he could not do on the field.”

Tom Glavine, pitched against Larkin for the Braves and Mets from 1987-2004
““Barry was such a great competitor. He really changed the shortstop position in our generation because he was an all-around player. He was really a true five-tool player, with everything he could do to beat you.”

Gene Bennett, Reds scout who recommended and signed Larkin in 1985
“Barry was a great player with great character who represented the Reds on and off the field with style, presence and a lifelong commitment to a team that was his first love. My part-time scout, Harry Steinride, and I watched Barry play a lot. We drafted him after his senior year at Moeller High School, but he and his family made the decision that he would attend the University of Michigan. We continued to follow him closely, got to know his parents very well and signed him after he became eligible again. I have always had the greatest respect for Barry and his family. I told his mother that ‘she was my best scout.’ Barry not only was a great player, he is a great individual. Now he’s going to the Hall of Fame, where he has always belonged.”

Jack Lind, Larkin’s first professional manager, at Class AA Vermont in 1985
“Barry Larkin is one of the finest young men I was privileged to manage in minor league baseball. He came to AA in Vermont mid-1985 and made that adjustment to pro ball from major college baseball. The following season in AAA, he showed more improvement in one season than many thought possible, garnering American Association Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. Both were well deserved. Then he was promoted to the Reds, never to look back. My well wishes and congratulations to Barry on his HOF career.”

Mike Cameron, Larkin’s coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati
“Barry had physical skills far superior to the average high school athlete not only in baseball, but football as well. He would make plays in the field that left you shaking your head and saying, ‘How did he do that?’ He was an exceptional player, and I knew he would end up playing in the Major Leagues.”

Larkin headed to Cooperstown

Barry Larkin is in. The Reds great shortstop is now a Hall of Fame shortstop. Needing 75 percent for election, Larkin was named on 86 percent of ballots cast (495 votes out of 573 ballots). The 47-year-old was the only one to get in.

Others on the ballot:

Jack Morris: 67 percent
Jeff Bagwell: 56 percent
Lee Smith: 51 percent
Tim Raines: 49 percent

Congratulations to Barry Larkin. There will be much more coverage today on MLB.com and Reds.com. Click here for my first story

Is it Larkin’s day?

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its election results for the 2012 class today (Monday) at 3 p.m. ET, with coverage beginning on MLB.com and MLB Network at 2 p.m. ET.

Click here for a break down on Larkin and the other candidates, like Jack Morris.

Click here to see the ballots of my MLB.com colleagues that have Hall votes.

My prediction is that only Larkin gets in today and he will be on the high 70s-low 80s percent of the ballots. He needs to be on 75 percent of the BBWAA ballots to get in. Last year, on his second try, he was at 62.1 percent.

Larkin was a lifetime .295 hitter with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases. Of course, he was part of 1990 World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player.

Further down the list of accomplishments, Larkin was also a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a nine-time Silver Slugger.

Compare Larkin to the two other HOF shortstops of his era and he’s as good or better offensively. Larkin had a career .815 OPS (on-base-plus slugging percentage), while Cal Ripken Jr. was at .788 and the lighter hitting Ozzie Smith was at .666. Even Robin Yount, who switched to the outfield in the midst of his career, had a .788 OPS.

In case you’re wondering, there are 10 men in the HOF primarily as Reds:

Sparky Anderson, Johnny Bench, Warren Giles, Ernie Lombardi, Bill McKechnie, Bid McPhee, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Eppa Rixey and Edd Roush.

There are other HOFers that spent parts of their career with the Reds. Some of them include:

Miller Huggins, Frank Robinson, Tom Seaver and Al Simmons.

Unless MLB unexpectedly reverses course on Pete Rose, Larkin could be the last Red to enter the HOF for quite some time. So if it happens today, enjoy it.

Jenkins, camp invites

The Reds announced Friday that Mack Jenkins has been promotes to assistant pitching coach on the Major League club.

Jenkins has been with organization for 22 years, the first 16 as a minor league pitching coach and the last six as the minor league pitching coordinator.

I don’t recall an assistant pitching coach for the Reds at the big league level before. Does anyone remember that happening?

(UPDATE: It has not been done with the Reds before in a formal capacity. Click here for my short story with quotes from Jenkins)

Also the following were signed to Minor League contracts with invites to Spring Training as non roster players:

RHP Sean Gallagher, LHP Jeremy Horst, RHP Chad Reineke, LHP Clayton Tanner, RHP Kanekoa Texeira, C Brian Esposito, C Corky Miller and OF Daryl Jones

Prince out of NL Central for sure?

 Ooohh…an interesting trade went down this afternoon involving one of the Reds NL Central rivals.

The Cubs traded RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for young 1B prospect Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates.

Rizzo became expendable in San Diego after the Padres got Yonder Alonso in the Mat Latos trade. New Cubs boss Theo Epstein developed Rizzo in Boston and new Cubs GM Jed Hoyer traded for Rizzo this time last year when Boston acquired Adrian Gonzalez. Adding Rizzo clearly continues the Epstein/Hoyer plan of building for the long haul in Chicago.

What it most importantly means is that you can likely count out the Cubs for a pursuit of free agent 1B Prince Fielder. Chicago was seen as a viable option for Fielder ever since he declared his intentions to hit the open market and head out of Milwaukee.

Unless the Brewers pull off a shocker, it’s likely that Fielder will join Albert Pujols in an exodus from the NL Central, which can only be of help to the Reds.

The Nationals have been pursuing Fielder, so he may not be out of the NL altogether. But the AL’s Mariners and Rangers have been rumored contenders for the big man’s services.

In 102 games vs. the Reds since 2005, Fielder batted .276/.388/.518 with 22 home runs and 66 RBIs. It’s not exactly Pujolsian (is that a word yet?), but it doesn’t hurt Cincinnati’s feelings that he won’t play them 15-18 times a year anymore.

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