January 2014

Reds Caravan 2014 gets moving

The Reds held their annual Winter Caravan kickoff at the Reds Hall of Fame Thursday morning. Here are a few pictures:

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Mat Latos meets new catcher Brayan Pena

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Corky Miller talking with Mat Latos

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Logan Ondrusek talks to reporters

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The full caravan group gathered as Marty speaks

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Rosie Red

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Mr. Redlegs

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Bryan Price heads to the bus.

Reds not getting Sizemore

ESPN 1450 in Bowling Green, Ky., had Reds general manager Walt Jocketty on as a guest today. When asked about it, Jocketty said that the Reds are not going to sign free agent outfielder Grady Sizemore. The team had been talking to Sizemore since last month to be potential center fielder/leadoff insurance behind Billy Hamilton.

According to a source, it appears that Sizemore is going to sign with a different club. That team, at the moment, remains unknown.

More to come when I have it.

UPDATE: According to Rob Bradford of WEEI radio in Boston, Sizemore signed a one year big league contract with the Red Sox. It’s worth $750,000 in base salary but can reach $6 million with incentives.

Tuesday snow day links

Well, it’s another snow day keeping me and the family inside again. It’s been a quiet day (so far) on Reds news. Here are some links and thoughts to keep you (and me) busy today:

*I answered a few more Reds questions for the Inbox feature today. Click here to read them and my answers. If you’d like to submit a question for the next edition, email them to redsinbox2014@gmail.com.

*Spring Training is right around the corner as Reds camp opens on Feb. 14. I know some of you still haven’t gotten over the team leaving Florida and understand the very real issues of distance and expense of seeing Spring Training in Arizona. But, if you’re able to, or already live out west somewhere, I highly recommend a visit to Goodyear for Reds camp. Click here for information on the Reds web site. This will be my fifth Cactus League Spring Training and I have never missed the Florida experience once. The weather is generally beautiful. The Goodyear facility is top notch. The ballparks of all 15 teams in Arizona are relatively close together. The weather is usually spectacular. The mountains and mountain views are tremendous. There is a lot to do in the Greater Phoenix area when you need a break from baseball as well.

*Speaking of Arizona, I have published a dining guide on this blog usually later in February before the games get going. (This is the 2013 version) If you have any suggestions of new or favorite places, please let me know.

*In this video on the Players Association web site, Reds outfielder Chris Heisey shares some personal information about himself. You’ll learn about Heisey’s love of maps, ice cream sundaes and his dog, Homer, among other things.

*Switching to my second-favorite sport, I liked this Sports on Earth piece about the conversion of Yankee Stadium to a NHL hockey venue. This year’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium was fun to watch and I can envision some very cool games between the Rangers-Islanders and Rangers-Devils in New York. I’m also trying to figure out how the Kings and Ducks will manage on the ice at Dodger Stadium this weekend.

Reds still eyeing OFs, INFs

I talked to Reds GM Walt Jocketty about Friday’s signings and the negotiations that will continue with arbitration-eligible players Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman. There will be another story forthcoming on that in a little while.

Also discussed was there Reds’ interest in adding any other players on the free agent market. Jocketty is still seeking an extra outfielder and an extra infielder. I asked about Grady Sizemore but Jocketty spoke generally.

“We’re still looking at a couple of guys,” Jocketty said. “I don’t think there’s been any progress, especially this week. Once a lot of the agents get through the arbitration process this week, we’ll have more time to pursue any last minute invites for Spring Training that create more competition.”

Last Friday, I wrote about the team’s options for the extra infielder and whether it was a requisite to have a backup that can play shortstop. In a short term situation, Jocketty said he doesn’t feel compelled to have a backup shortstop. But he wouldn’t mind adding insurance in case something happened to Zack Cozart.

“We probably could [do without] but we prefer to have somebody that could play short,” Jocketty said. [Todd] Frazier could. [Jack] Hannahan probably could in a pinch. I don’t think [Skip] Schumaker has ever played over there. As long as we felt comfortable with somebody at Triple-A that we could bring up, but I’m not sure we have that guy yet.”

Leake gets one-year deal

And we have arbitration avoiding deal No. 3 for the day. The Beverly Hills Sports Council tweeted that Mike Leake and the Reds agreed to terms on a one-year contract. No numbers for you just yet.

UPDATE: Leake agreed to a one-year, $5.925 million contract. The Reds have not formally announced the deal, yet.

Leake, who was second-year eligible for arbitration, made $3.06 million in 2013 and posted a 14-7 record and 3.37 ERA in 31 starts and 192 1/3 innings. All were career bests.

The deadline to exchange salary figures ahead of arbitration was at 1 p.m. ET. With Chris Heisey done yesterday and Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon and Leake today — only Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman are left. Negotiations can continue right up until the hearing date — which falls somewhere between Feb. 1-21.

I will have more later — and the figures exchanged for Bailey and Chapman.

One-year deal for Simon

The Reds and Alfredo Simon agreed to a one-year contract to avoid arbitration. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com, the contract is worth $1.5 million. He was second-year eligible for arbitration.

Signed for $890,000 to avoid arbitration last winter, Simon had a 2.87 ERA in 63 appearances and worked higher profile situations because of injuries in the bullpen.

There are now three Reds left eligible for arbitration — Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman and Mike Leake.

LeCure gets two-year contract

The Reds and reliever Sam LeCure avoided arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a two-year contract, according to a Twitter post from his agency the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

UPDATE: It’s a two-year, $3.05 million contract. LeCure will get $1.2 million in 2014 and $1.85 million in 2015. There are some escalators that can boost his 2015 salary and 2015 performance bonuses included.

LeCure’s deal came before a Friday deadline for teams and players to exchange salary figures on one-year contracts ahead of an arbitration hearing.

Eligible for arbitration for the first time, the deal through 2015 will take care of LeCure’s first two arbitration years, leaving him eligible one more time.

LeCure made $510,000 for Cincinnati last season. In a career-high 63 games, he was 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA. He allowed 50 hits and 24 walks while striking out 66 over 61 innings.

Heisey avoids arbitration

The Reds and outfielder Chris Heisey avoided arbitration on Thursday by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.76 million, MLB.com confirmed. It was first reported by ESPN. com’s Jerry Crasnick.

Arbitration eligible for the second time, Heisey received a raise from the $1.325 million he made last season. He batted .237/.279/.415 in 2013 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs over 87 games as he also missed time with a hamstring injury.

The deal with the 29-year-old Heisey comes ahead of Friday’s deadline for clubs and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.

Instant replay expanded by MLB

I honestly wasn’t sure this day would ever come, but it’s now here. A full and detailed instant replay program will now be part of Major League Baseball games, starting with the 2014 season. All 30 MLB owners voted unanimously to approve it and the MLB Players Association and umpires’ union is also on board.

In one sense, I will miss the human element to games and the variations of outcomes you might get from game-to-game. On the other hand, it’s great that plays can be viewed and corrected. At the end of the day, the calls will be right and that’s fair to everybody. It should eliminate controversies such as Armando Gallaraga’s missed perfect game that sparked the increased cries for a better system.

As for the time delays reviews might cause, having an umpire at the command center and direct communication with the ballpark should speed the process. Is it likely to perfect? No. Will there be bumps along the way, especially in the beginning? Yes. But replay is here and I’m suspecting most fans and players will be pleased.

Click here for the MLB.com story on replay expansion being approved.

The following play types will be subject to review:
• Home run
• Ground rule double
• Fan interference
• Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
• Force play (except the fielder’s touching of second base on a double play)
• Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
• Fair/foul in outfield only
• Trap play in outfield only
• Batter hit by pitch
• Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)
• Touching a base (requires appeal)
• Passing runners
• Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)

More non-roster invites

*The Reds revealed the additions to their Spring Training non-roster invites on Wednesday, which includes a pair of recent first-round picks. Invited were: Jeff Francis, RHP Tim Crabbe, RHP Drew Hayes, RHP Michael Lorenzen and RHP Robert Stephenson.

Stephenson was the 27th overall pick by the Reds in 2011. Lorenzen was the 38th overall selection in the first-round supplemental portion of the 2013 Draft. Click here for the non-roster invitees page on Reds.com. The new names should be updated soon.

*Speaking of Stephenson, today he was named the No. 7 right-handed pitching prospect in baseball by MLB.com’s web site MLBPipeline.com. Click here for a companion story I did today about Stephenson.

*The Reds will play the Cardinals on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on May 25 at GABP. Game time is 8 p.m.

*Also a correction to a previous post: When I wrote that outfielder Thomas Neal was signed to a Minor League deal he was not given an invitation to big league camp as I had reported. Sorry for that mistake.

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