January 2014

Reds add Bernadina

The Reds made another late off-season free agent addition Friday when outfielder Roger Bernadina was signed to a Minor League contract and invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player.

Bernadina, 29, split the 2013 season with the Nationals and Phillies and batted .181 in 112 games. Washington released him on August 19 and he was picked up by Philadelphia two days later.

The decline in production came after a strong 2012 season for the Nationals, where Bernadina batted .291/.372/.405 in 129 games with five home runs, 25 RBIs and 15 steals.

After they were rebuffed last week by Grady Sizemore, it appears that Bernadina will be the protection behind Billy Hamilton in camp.

**UPDATE: If Bernadina makes the Reds out of camp, he will earn a $1 million salary in 2014. The deal does not come with incentives but contains out clauses on March 18, March 28 and July 1 if he has not been added to the 25-man roster. Click here for the full story on MLB.com

*The Reds now have 59 players in big league camp for Spring Training.

*Got some uniform numbers for the recently signed players.

15 Roger Bernadina
27 Chris Nelson
7 Ramon Santiago

*Here is the full list of non-roster players at Reds camp.

Out of options

The following Reds players are out of Minor League options heading into Spring Training:

RHP Homer Bailey
IF Jack Hannahan
OF Ryan Ludwick
LHP Manny Parra
C Brayan Pena
2B Brandon Phillips
IF/OF Skip Schumaker
RHP Alfredo Simon

I don’t think there are major issues here in terms of roster battles. I’d expect everyone on this list to make the 25-man roster out of camp.

Should Votto bat second?

My esteemed colleague, MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince, wrote a piece that highlighted the various merits of moving Reds first baseman Joey Votto from third to second in the lineup. (Click here to read it)

This is not a new debate and it was one that waged, especially on social media, all of last season. Anthony had some very good reasons to back up his assertion — namely that instead of forcing Votto to change his approach, embrace his patient and disciplined way. Moving him up to get more plate appearances over the course of a season for the team’s best hitter.

In the abstract, I think it makes sense. On this particular Reds club at this particular time, I’m not so sure it works — yet. Whoever hits behind Votto in the three-hole would need to be someone not prone to prolonged slumps, that doesn’t strike out a ton, who can hit for power, while also avoiding hitting into double plays. I also think that while Votto hit for less power last season than a No. 3 hitter might normally have, that his power hasn’t left him for good. He is still very capable of driving the ball and as more time has passed from his 2012 knee surgeries, he should even more confidence in his legs to drive the ball. Also, wouldn’t Votto be walked more batting second if Billy Hamilton is leading off and constantly stealing second base ahead of him?

My thinking on this “issue” keeps evolving in different directions. Depending on the scenarios and opponent, experimenting with the lineup and putting Votto second with Brandon Phillips third and Jay Bruce or Ryan Ludwick fourth wouldn’t be the end of the world. If Votto continues to bat third, it also wouldn’t be horrible and certainly not worth anyone’s wrath on Twitter.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to where Votto is most comfortable hitting, what works best for him to be the most successful.

Reds sign Ramon Santiago

The Reds, seeking infield help with experience at shortstop, signed veteran Ramon Santiago to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp at Spring Training — a source confirmed to MLB.com on Wednesday. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the deal.

If Santiago makes the club, he can earn $1.1 million in salary for 2014.

Santiago, 34, is a 12-season veteran of the Tigers and Mariners. Last season for Detroit, the switch hitter batted .224/.288/.298 in 80 games. He can play shortstop, second base and third base.

UPDATE — the Reds confirmed the deal is done.

UPDATE No. 2: Santiago has some incentive clauses in his contract: $50,000 for 300 plate appearances, $100,000 for 400 PA and $150,000 for 500 PA. He also has an out clause by March 28 if he does not make the big league club at camp.

Click here to read the story on MLB.com, with comments from GM Walt Jocketty.

Mesoraco on plate collisions

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco was on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM Tuesday talking with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on the subject of the consideration for banning home plate collisions. Mesoraco, who suffered a concussion in 2012 from a collision, felt it made sense that issue was examined. But he also seemed to want common sense implemented as well.

“I’m kind of against an automatic slide rule just I know as a catcher, me being a bigger guy, I can take away the whole home plate and the guy is pretty much automatically out,” Mesoraco said. “That isn’t fair to the runner. I don’t know what the perfect way to finish the rule is but I’m sure they will take it into consideration and write it up where it makes the most sense.”

Click here to listen to some of Mesoraco’s interview. Note that his call dropped out briefly and returned.

An MLB rules committee voted in December to outlaw home plate collisions, which effectively would force runners to slide into the plate to avoid being tagged out. Final implementation of the rule must be written and approved by the league, the players association and umpire’s union.

Chapman avoids arbitration

It appears that the Reds and closer Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5 million contract — reported Joel Sherman of the New York Post on Twitter Tuesday morning.

Update: I confirmed the deal being done.

The dollar figure is the midpoint between the two sides. Chapman, 25, filed for $5.4 million while the club offered $4.6 million. The Reds have made no announcement about a signing, yet.

All that remains now among the arbitration guys is RHP Homer Bailey.

Under the terms of the six-year, $30.25 million free agent contract he signed in 2010 after defecting from Cuba, Chapman could convert the $3 million he was owed for 2014 into a bonus if he was eligible for arbitration. So this will be a nice earning year for Chapman — $8 million total.

In 2013, he earned $2 million while posting 38 saves in 43 chances with a 2.54 ERA in 68 appearances.

Reds sign Chris Nelson

The Reds have a Minor League deal with infielder Chris Nelson that comes with an invite to big league camp. The deal was agreed to on Sunday.

“I think it’s a great opportunity, especially being in the National League,” Nelson told my MLB.com colleague, Thomas Harding. “I have a chance to be a utility man, and with the double-switches there could be a chance for playing time. It could be a good fit for me.”

Nelson sometimes works out in the off-season with Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. Both attended Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Ga.

“It’s exciting having the chance to play with Brandon,” Nelson said. “I always enjoyed watching him on TV, and getting with him during the winter every now and then.”

The Reds confirmed the signing. Nelson will be part of a mix of guys seeking backup infield spots. Already on the club is Skip Schumaker and Jack Hannahan. Henry Rodriguez will also be in camp.

Nelson, 28, is a .268/.312/.399 hitter in 255 career big league games over four seasons. He was the ninth overall Draft pick in 2004 by the Rockies. Last season, he played for Colorado, the Yankees and Angels and batted .227 in 64 games.

Most of Nelson’s experience is at third base (177 games) and second base(56 games) but he has played a little bit at shortstop (three games).

Hot links for a frozen day

Good Monday afternoon…got some news, notes and links for the time being.

*ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted a little while ago that the Reds are nearing a deal with free agent infielder Chris Nelson. I’d suspect that it would be a Minor League contract with an invite to big league camp. Nelson, who has played mostly second base and third base in his parts of a four-season big league career, is a former first-round Draft pick of the Rockies in 2004 (ninth overall) and played for the Yankees and Angels last season. His first career stolen base came in a heartbreaker for the Reds. On Sept. 9, 2010, at Coors Field, Nelson stole home for the Rockies’ winning run against Nick Masset. If and when Nelson signs, I will have more information.

*Reds pitcher Homer Bailey talked about his contract situation on Sunday. Click here for the story.

*In NL Central news, the Brewers improved their rotation by signing Matt Garza to a four-year contract.

*Did you know that former Red Adam Dunn played a part in the film, “Dallas Buyers Club” ? I have yet to see the movie but it’s on my list. MLB.com White Sox reporter Scott Merkin has a notebook item on Dunn.

*And over on Jamie Ramsey’s blog, he is correct by saying this is the most bizarre video you will see today.

Nelson Cruz not happening

The Reds held their final Caravan event back here in Cincinnati on Sunday with a season ticket “select-a-seat” event at Great American Ball Park. Like the other caravan events on the road, fans were invited to ask questions of the group.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty was asked about the potential of signing free agent Nelson Cruz to boost the offense.

“I would say no,” Jocketty replied. “We don’t want to give up the draft pick. I like the way our club is now.”

Jocketty’s response is pretty consistent with something I wrote in last week’s Reds Inbox. Cruz is the top free agent on the market and even a reduced contract would be too much of a hit to the payroll. Add in the fact that Ryan Ludwick is owed $7.5 million in 2014 to play the same position of left field, Cruz’s 50-game PED suspension and the loss of the first-round Draft pick for signing him, and to me — it just doesn’t make sense for the Reds to get him.

Louisville caravan stop

I popped over to Louisville, Ky., for a stop of the South leg of Reds Caravan on Thursday night. Due to an unexpected detour for the bus, the group was late. But the crowd of nearly 1,000 or so fans were pretty patient. The reception was warm, especially for catcher and long time Bats catcher Corky Miller.

Some pictures:

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