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Reds news and notes

I’ve got a quick smattering of Reds items for you on this Thursday evening….

*Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has yet to hire former Padres and D-backs GM Kevin Towers to his front office. Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Towers’ hiring was likely. He and Jocketty are good friends.

“Not yet, no. We’ve talked about it but nothing has been done,” Jocketty said from Arizona. “He still has a year left on his contract. He wants to take some time and figure out what he wants to do.”

*Cuban signing and RHP Raisel Iglesias is no longer going to pitch winter ball in Puerto Rico. After two scoreless outings in the Arizona Fall League, Iglesias will remain in the desert.

“We’ve had a change of plans there,” Jocketty said. “It’s easier to manage his workload here than it is over there. That’s what we’re most concerned with.”

*The Reds have made no progress on hiring a new third base coach to replace Steve Smith on manager Bryan Price’s staff.

“Bryan took some time off and I’m going to get with him the next week or so and hopefully work on that a little more. We’re not really in a big rush,” Jocketty said.

It does not appear that former third base coach Mark Berry will be a candidate for his old job. Berry battled throat cancer during the 2013 season.

“I don’t think so,” Jocketty said. “Bryan has talked to him and I don’t think he has interest in doing that.”

Free agency begins

As you know, the World Series is over. (Wow, what a series it was too!) In the Major League calendar, the end of the World Series also marks the start of free agency.

On Thursday, 121 players became free agents. They are eligible to begin negotiations and sign with any club beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 4. At the bottom, I have the full list of free agents as provided by the MLB Players’ Association.

Only three Reds players are free agents — OF Ryan Ludwick, INF Ramon Santiago; INF Jack Hannahan.

I think Santiago has a good chance at returning. He told me last month he wanted to come back and liked playing for the Reds. And within the scope of his role, the club was pleased with his performance — namely manager Bryan Price. Santiago batted .246/.343./.385 in 75 games while earning $1.1 million in 2014. The 35-year-old also played well defensively at shortstop and second base and was a good veteran clubhouse presence.

On Reds.com, an offseason primer is coming soon. Be sure to take a look.

Free agent list:

PLAYER TEAM
1 Bonifacio, Emilio AT
2 Doumit, Ryan AT
3 Floyd, Gavin AT
4 Harang, Aaron AT
5 Laird, Gerald AT
6 Santana, Ervin AT
7 Casilla, Alexi BA
8 Cruz, Nelson R. BA
9 Johnson, Kelly BA
10 Miller, Andrew BA
11 Santana, Johan BA
12 Saunders, Joe BA
13 Young, Delmon BA
14 Badenhop, Burke BO
15 Dempster, Ryan S. BO
16 Ross, Dave BO
17 Uehara, Koji BO
18 Villanueva, Carlos CC
19 Hannahan, Jack CI
20 Ludwick, Ryan CI
21 Santiago, Ramon CIN
22 Giambi, Jason CL
23 Belisle, Matt CO
24 Cuddyer, Mike CO
25 Masset, Nick CO
26 Morales, Franklin CO
27 Konerko, Paul CWS
28 Lindstrom, Matthew CWS
29 Chamberlain, Joba DE
30 Coke, Phil DE
31 Hanrahan, Joel DE
32 Hunter, Torii K. DE
33 Johnson, Jim DE
34 Martinez, Victor DE
35 Scherzer, Max DE
36 Albers, Matt HO
37 Crain, Jesse HO
38 Veras, Jose HO
39 Aoki, Norichika* KC
40 Downs, Scott KC
41 Frasor, Jason KC
42 Hochevar, Luke KC
43 Ibanez, Raul J. KC
44 Shields, James KC
45 Willingham, Josh KC
46 Grilli, Jason LAA
47 McDonald, John LAA
48 Thatcher, Joe LAA
49 Beckett, Josh LAD
50 Correia, Kevin LAD
51 Hernandez, Roberto LAD
52 Maholm, Paul LAD
53 Perez, Chris LAD
54 Ramirez, Hanley LAD
55 Wright, Jamey LAD
56 Furcal, Rafael MIA
57 Gregg, Kevin MIA
58 Johnson, Reed MIA
59 Penny, Brad MIA
60 Duke, Zach MIL
61 Gorzelanny, Tom MIL
62 Overbay, Lyle MIL
63 Reynolds, Mark MIL
64 Rodriguez, Francisco MIL
65 Burton, Jared MN
66 Abreu, Bobby NYM
67 Matsuzaka, Daisuke NYM
68 Capuano, Chris NYY
69 Drew, Stephen NYY
70 Headley, Chase NYY
71 Hill, Rich NYY
72 Jeter, Derek NYY
73 Kuroda, Hiroki NYY
74 McCarthy, Brandon NYY
75 Robertson, David NYY
76 Suzuki, Ichiro NYY
77 Young, Chris B. NYY
78 Callaspo, Alberto OA
79 Gomes, Jonny OA
80 Gregerson, Luke OA
81 Hammel, Jason OA
82 Lester, Jon OA
83 Lowrie, Jed OA
84 Nakajima, Hiroyuki* OA
85 Soto, Geovany OA
86 Adams, Mike PH
87 Kendrick, Kyle PH
88 Nieves, Wil PH
89 Barmes, Clint PI
90 Liriano, Francisco PI
91 Martin, Russell PI
92 Volquez, Edinson PI
93 Stauffer, Tim SD
94 Beimel, Joe SE
95 Chavez, Endy SE
96 Denorfia, Chris SE
97 Gutierrez, Franklin SE
98 Morales, Kendrys SE
99 Quintero, Humberto SE
100 Young, Chris SE
101 Morse, Michael SF
102 Peavy, Jacob SF
103 Romo, Sergio SF
104 Sandoval, Pablo SF
105 Vogelsong, Ryan SF
106 Ellis, Mark SL
107 Masterson, Justin SL
108 Motte, Jason SL
109 Neshek, Pat SL
110 Pierzynski, A.J. SL
111 Baker, Scott TE
112 Cotts, Neal TE
113 Lewis, Colby TE
114 Rios, Alexis TE
115 Cabrera, Melky TO
116 Janssen, Casey TO
117 Kawasaki, Munenori* TO
118 Rasmus, Colby TO
119 Cabrera, Asdrubal WA
120 Hairston, Scott WA
121 Schierholtz, Nate WA

*Eligible per contract terms

Another 32 players may be eligible for free agency pending the option provisions in their Uniform Players Contract (UPC).

Cueto’s option picked up

In moves that were of no surprise, MLB.com has learned Wednesday that the Reds exercised the $10 million 2015 club option for ace starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and declined options for outfielder Ryan Ludwick and infielder Jack Hannahan.

The mutual option for Ludwick was worth $9 million and it was bought out for $4.5 million while Hannahan had a $4 million club option bought out for $2 million. Both players automatically become free agents.

None of the moves have been announced yet by the Reds.

Soto outrighted to Louisville

On today’s transaction page, it shows that infielder Neftali Soto was sent outright to Triple-A Louisville. That means Soto has been taken off of the Reds 40-man roster.

Soto made the Opening Day roster but didn’t do much at the plate in his limited chances. He batted .100 (3-for-30) in 21 games that jncluded four starts in two big league stints.

A third round pick by the Reds in 2007, Soto had long been a prospect at first base that was blocked by Joey Votto. His lack of hitting and quality defense at first base, third base (and a brief look at catcher) were not enough to keep him in a bench role.

It was telling that Soto was not included among this year’s September call-ups, so I’m not stunned he is off the roster.

Chapman changes agents

MLB.com has confirmed the report that Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has switched agents and is now represented by Relativity Baseball. Chapman was previously represented by Hendricks Sports. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan first reported the news.

Chapman had the option to enter into arbitration for the first time last winter. He avoided the hearing with a one-year, $5 million contract. Chapman will be second-year eligible for arbitration this offseason and become a free agent for the first time after the 2016 season.

Following his late start to the decision after being struck in the face by a line drive during Spring Training, Chapman had one of best seasons in the Majors in 2014. A three-time All-Star, he posted a 2.00 ERA in 54 games with 36 saves in 38 chances. Over 54 innings, he had a 17.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio and a 0.8333 WHIP.

Chapman, 26, became the first pitcher to average 100 mph (100.3 exactly) during a season as recorded by Pitch F/X.

Winker and Howard AFL All-Stars

The Arizona Fall League revealed its All-Star teams that will meet in the ninth annual Fall Stars Game, which is on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET and airing on MLB Network and MLB.com.

From the Reds organization, the West division All-Stars will include OF Jesse Winker and RHP Nick Howard.

Through 11 games, Winker is batting .341/.451/.585 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. MLB.com ranks him as the Reds organization’s No. 2 prospect.

Howard has a 7.84 ERA in three starts with nine earned runs and 13 hits allowed over 10 1/3 innings. He was a first-round selection by the Reds in the 2014 Draft and the Reds’ No. 5 ranked prospect.

Catching up

It was probably hard for you to tell, considering the quiet of the early offseason, but I was off all of last week on “staycation.” Hence, that’s why there were no blog entries, stories or tweets from me.

There was some Reds news that trickled out.

*Steve Smith was let go as third base coach on Monday. I can’t say this was a shock considering how many runners got thrown out at home this season. Late in the season, Smith had approached reporters to defend himself about the number of runners thrown out that were actually on his ledger. That was a sign that even he knew things didn’t look good. The rest of the coaching staff remains.

*Raisel Iglesias made his debut in the Arizona Fall League with a scoreless inning last Monday. On Thursday, Iglesias pitched again and worked another scoreless inning.

*My colleagues at MLB.com have written some really good stories from the World Series this past week. Alyson Footer provided my favorite one thus far with her piece on the fans with kayaks floating outside AT&T Park in McCovey Cove. Be sure to check that out.

*Finally, the news Sunday that promising Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident is just awful. Taveras was 22 and his girlfriend was only 18. On her blog, MLB.com Cardinals beat reporter Jenifer Langosch provided some personal memories about Taveras.

Wild Card World Series

Raise your hand if you predicted a Royals-Giants World Series…

The notion of adding the second Wild Card two years ago was to provide added reward to the teams that won their divisions. This year, two Wild Card entries are in the World Series for the first time under the new postseason format and it’s the first time two Wild Card teams will duel in the Fall Classic since the Angels and Giants in 2002.

Phil Rogers of MLB.com has more on the Wild Card winners reaching the World Series.

Also — neither the Royals (89 wins), nor Giants (88 wins) were 90 game winners in the regular season.

And — the Giants were the SECOND NL Wild Card team. So it is possible for it to be done.

Although they ended the 2013 regular season on a five-game losing streak, if the Reds could have found a way past Pittsburgh last season, perhaps they too could have went on a roll like the Royals or Giants. One never knows.

While every team, including the Reds, should aspire to win their division, this should emphasize how doable it is to reach the playoffs — and beyond — if a team can put together a run.

The World Series begins on Tuesday at Kansas City. For my prediction, I like the Giants in six games.

Winker is AFL player of week

The Reds No. 2 prospect, OF Jesse Winker, is off to a nice start in the Arizona Fall League. On Tuesday, Winker was named the AFL Player of the Week.

In the first week of play for the Surprise Saguaros, Winker leads the AFL with seven RBIs, a .909 slugging percentage and 1.472 OPS and was fourth with a .563 on-base percentage. He was 5-for-11 (.455) with two doubles, one home run and scored four runs in three games.

The 21-year-old Winker, who was with Double-A Pensacola, hadn’t played any games since July 17 because of a right wrist tendon injury sustained in a car accident.

Here is a full story on Winker from MLB.com.

Road food

On Monday upon the postponement of ALDS Game 3 in Kansas City, Orioles manager Buck Showalter seemed to know the pulse of the media gathered at his press conference.

“I think, if anything, it’s great for the restaurant business in Kansas City, that’s about it, I don’t know,” Showalter said. “I know you all ‑‑ room service is expensive at that hotel, boy.”

Sure enough, several of my colleagues were later tweeting pictures of their dinner. Most of them were from Joe’s Kansas City — formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. I was pretty envious.

While I really like Kansas City BBQ, I had never experienced Joe’s until the AL Wild Card Game a couple of weeks ago. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan kindly offered to take orders and bring it to the press box. I had ribs and turkey and it was marvelous.

In KC, I’ve long been a fan of Jackstack and I’ve sampled Gates and Arthur Bryant’s. But Joe’s will be on the top of my list to visit next season when the Reds are there to play the Royals.

Tastes in food are about as subjective as it gets. What I like, others may hate. But I do get to eat on the road a lot and experience different restaurants we often don’t have in Cincinnati.

So here is an incomplete list of some of the places I try not to miss when traveling. They usually skew towards the casual place and unhealthy and you’ll probably notice that I REALLY like pizza.

Running helps counter the caloric overload.

Chicago – Giordano’s Pizza
Pittsburgh – Primanti Bros.
St. Louis – Pi pizza (which has opened a location in Cincinnati this week)
Milwaukee – Smoke Shack BBQ

Los Angeles – In-n-Out Burger
Phoenix – Culinary Dropout, Federal Pizza, Pizzeria Bianco
San Francisco – Zero Zero

Minneapolis – Brit’s Pub, Manny’s Steakhouse
New York – too many to count but get an Italian hot chocolate at Max Brenner’s. It’s pretty decadent.

And I may as well mention …

Cincinnati — local favorites for me in no particular order are: The Eagle, Bakersfield, Taste of Belgium, Montgomery Inn, Dewey’s Pizza, Brooklyn Pizza and Pasta, Terry’s Turf Club, Zip’s, Arthur’s, Incline Public House, Via Vite, Tom and Chee, Moerlein Lager House.

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