January 2014

Tuesday items

*Today is the deadline for eligible players to file for arbitration. The Reds have six such players in starting pitcher Homer Bailey (3rd year), closer Aroldis Chapman (1st year); outfielder Chris Heisey (2nd year), right-handed starter Mike Leake (2nd year); and right-handed relievers Sam LeCure (1st year) and Alfredo Simon (2nd year). On Friday, the club and players exchange salary figures. As in past years, I expect the Reds to sign all of these guys to at least one-year contracts to avoid the hearing — which run from Feb. 1-20.

*The Reds announced that outfield great Eric Davis has been added to Western leg of the Winter Caravan, which begins on Jan. 23. For all the details about Reds Caravan, please click here. I plan on hitting a couple of stops but don’t know where just yet.

*MLB.com’s Doug Miller took a look at some bargain free agents still on the market that could be had. The list includes Grady Sizemore, who was linked to the Reds in a recent story I did.

Outfielder Thomas Neal signed

Another Minor League deal was done Monday by the Reds. Free agent Thomas Neal was added and he will be in big league camp as a non-roster player.

Neal, 26, is a .184 hitter over 15 career Major League games with the Cubs, Yankees and Indians.

In a rough way to end his 2013 season, Neal was claimed off of waivers from the Yankees by the Cubs on Aug. 5. On Aug. 7 in his second game but first start for Chicago, he suffered a dislocated shoulder while making a throw.

In eight Minor League seasons, the right-handed hitting Neal has a .301 average. He started his career in the Giants organization but was traded to Cleveland on July 30, 2011, for Orlando Cabrera.

The news of the signing was actually broken by Neal himself today on Twitter.

Francis signs with Reds

UPDATED: I have confirmed that former Rockies LHP Jeff Francis has signed a Minor League contract with the Reds and will be invited to big league camp next month. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported the deal.

If Francis’ name sounds familiar, he signed a similar contract with the Reds on Jan. 25, 2012, but never reached the Majors that season after not landing a job on the staff at Spring Training. For Triple-A Louisville, Francis went 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts. He opted for his release from Cincinnati on June 4 of that year and returned to his longtime team, the Rockies.

Now 33, Francis was 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA in 23 games, including 12 starts, for Colorado in 2013. Over 70 2/3 innings, the British Columbia native gave up 89 hits and 24 walks with 63 strikes.

The Reds have not announced a transaction regarding Francis, yet.

Without Bronson Arroyo returning, the Reds have been adding some depth behind their expected five-man rotation. Tony Cingrani is expected to replace Arroyo. The club has also traded for LHP David Holmberg from the D-backs last month and signed free agent RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a Minor League deal in December.

Monday links

Good afternoon… I’ve got some links for you to check out.

*As promised, the Reds Inbox was completed and is now live on Reds.com. Check it out and thank you if you submitted a question.

*My man Richard Justice thinks that Billy Hamilton will be the best story of Spring Training — anywhere. Click here to read that column.

*It appears that former Reds infielder Cesar Izturis has agreed to a Minor League contract with the Astros.

The Inbox is open

It’s been years, I’m guessing, since I have done a Reds mailbag (aka “Inbox”) to answer reader questions. While I do answer some here on the blog or on Twitter, it rarely happens on the web site.

Well, it’s happening on Monday. If you have Reds questions, please send them to redsinbox2014@gmail.com and I will try to answer a few each week until Spring Training begins. Be sure to include your first name and last initial along with your city and state. For the sake of this exercise, please don’t ask the questions in the comments section of this blog.

Thanks and looking forward to answering some of your Reds questions.

Wednesday odds and ends

Good afternoon…here are some mini-bits of news and links to keep you enriched, Reds-wise:

*The Reds announced their truck of gear and supplies for Spring Training is leaving GABP for Arizona on Feb. 6. Camp is right around the corner, folks.

*On SportsonEarth.com, the case is made that the Reds should trade Homer Bailey to upgrade the team offensively.

*On Fangraphs, the 2014 ZiPS projection for the Reds.

*ESPN announced that will carry the Reds’ Opening Day game vs. the Cardinals. It’s at 4 p.m. ET on March 31. I would expect that Fox Sports Ohio will also have it.

That’s it, for now.

Three more enter Hall of Fame

Congrats to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. Tough break for Craig Biggio, who fell two votes shy of the required 75 percent.

Former Red Sean Casey did not receive a single vote his first time as a candidate. By being under the five percent threshold of ballots, Casey will never again appear on a Hall of Fame ballot. Players who earn five percent or more are eligible to remain on the ballot for 15 years.

In past years, Casey might have gotten a few symbolic votes but with a crowded and star-packed ballot this year, and the usual 10-player limit, many voters (but not all) appeared to forego that courtesy this year. A 75-percent mark needed to earn induction.

Here are the voting results from the BBWAA:

Greg Maddux was the leading vote getter with 555 votes of the 571 ballots (97.2 percent), including one blank.

The rest:

Tom Glavine 525 (91.9), Frank Thomas 478 (83.7), Craig Biggio 427 (74.8), Mike Piazza 355 (62.2), Jack Morris 351 (61.5), Jeff Bagwell 310 (54.3), Tim Raines 263 (46.1), Roger Clemens 202 (35.4), Barry Bonds 198 (34.7), Lee Smith 171 (29.9), Curt Schilling 167 (29.2), Edgar Martinez 144 (25.2), Alan Trammell 119 (20.8), Mike Mussina 116 (20.3), Jeff Kent 87 (15.2), Fred McGriff 67 (11.7), Mark McGwire 63 (11.0), Larry Walker 58 (10.2), Don Mattingly 47 (8.2), Sammy Sosa 41 (7.2), Rafael Palmeiro 25 (4.4), Moises Alou 6 (1.1), Hideo Nomo 6 (1.1), Luis Gonzalez 5 (0.9), Eric Gagne 2 (0.4), J.T. Snow 2 (0.4), Armando Benitez 1 (0.2), Jacque Jones 1 (0.2), Kenny Rogers 1 (0.2), Sean Casey 0, Ray Durham 0, Todd Jones 0, Paul Lo Duca 0, Richie Sexson 0, Mike Timlin 0.

Bailey discusses trade rumors

Appearing Tuesday on MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM with hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette, Reds pitcher Homer Bailey was asked whether he’s been paying attention to the off-season trade rumors involving his name.

Basically, and not at all surprising to me, the answer was no.

“I actually don’t get around a computer very much,” Bailey replied. “Actually my agent had called and said ‘hey, this stuff is on MLBTradeRumors. My answer was just more or less ‘that’s cool, I’ve got to go workout in a little bit. I’ll talk to you later.’

“All the trade rumors, let’s be honest. How many times are they actually right, No. 1? And No. 2 … it’s January. Come on. If it were the Trade Deadline or something, you know what? It might be of importance. Realistically right now, it doesn’t matter. All I can do is get prepared for a season. Whatever happens, happens.”

As I wrote for MLB.com on Monday, Reds GM Walt Jocketty discussed how difficult it has been, and will be, to sign Bailey to a long-term contract. He is third-year arbitration eligible and a year from being a free agent. That makes him an attractive trade chip for a team that needs a pitcher and can risk losing Bailey to the open market after the 2014 season. And the Reds are a team with some needs on the offensive side. But at the moment, Cincinnati seems poised to hang on to Bailey because they feel their chances are better with him in their rotation. Assuming the club makes a qualifying offer next off-season that’s declined, the Reds get a compensation first-round pick should Bailey defect as a free agent.

Last year, Bailey and the club avoided arbitration but could not do a multi-year deal. He signed a one-year contract worth $5.35 million.

As the arbitration process gets closer, Bailey was asked if he stays in contact with his agents for negotiation details.

“Not a whole lot until it really starts getting serious,” Bailey said. “Last year, we had a bunch of guys on our team going through arbitration. It was a kind of let them go at their own pace. Arbitration is one of those things that no matter how long it takes, it will eventually get done. Even at the beginning of the process, your representatives know and so does the team, they have a pretty good idea of where you’re going to be. You might be a little bit off and that’s where negotiations come in. But it’s not like there’s any surprise once the deal gets done.”

Click here for an audio clip of the interview.

More Minor League news

Two more Minor League affiliate coaching staffs were announced on Monday.

*At Class A Bakersfield: Pat Kelly was named the new manager after managing at rookie-level Billings the last three seasons. Kelly served as an interim bench coach at the big league level for Cincinnati in 2007 as well. He replaces Ken Griffey Sr.,who held the job for the past three seasons. I have inquired to the Reds asking what became of Griffey and will let you know when I hear something.

UPDATE: A Reds official replied and told me Griffey Sr. will be transitioning into a roving instructor role, with an emphasis on hitting and bunting.

Bakersfield’s new pitching coach will be former Reds pitcher Tom Browning, who is also moving up from Billings. Ray Martinez is returning as the hitting coach for his fourth season.

*At Billings, in the Pioneer League, the new manager to replace Kelly is Dick Schofield, who was the hitting coach at Double-A Pensacola last season. Kevin Mahar is returning as the hitting coach. The new pitching coach to replace Browning is Derrin Ebert.

Other free agent center fielders

On Friday, I wrote that the Reds have inquired about Grady Sizemore as possible protection for center field. There other free agent center fielders in a pretty thin market.

*ESPN recently reported that 6-8 clubs were interested in former Brewers and Nationals player Nyjer Morgan, who played last season in Japan. Morgan batted .294 with 11 home runs last season for Yokohama. From what I have gathered, the Reds are not one of the clubs that have reached out to Morgan however.

Other guys on the market:

*Former Giants outfielder Andres Torres, who turns 36 later this month. Torres batted .250 with a .302 OBP last season over 103 games for San Francisco. Over his career, he has started 295 games as the leadoff hitter but is only a .232 hitter with a .310 OBP from the top spot.

*Rick Ankiel has played for six different clubs since a seven-year stint playing for Reds GM Walt Jocketty on the Cardinals. Ankiel, now 34, hasn’t played regularly though since 2010 for the Nationals and batted only .188 in 45 games combined for the Astros and Mets last season.

*Also out there are bench-type players like former Reds player Dewayne Wise and Trevor Crowe. I have not heard either way yet if the Reds interested in Torres, Ankiel, Wise or Crowe.

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