Reds management is talking exciting baseball as they try to rebuild the team and a dwindling fan base. However, nothing they did at the winter meetings is a harbinger of more exciting days to come…or, more fans!
Dayton – The Cincinnati Reds flew to the Baseball Winter Meetings in suburban Washington D.C. with a shopping list that ostensibly contained names of relief pitchers.
For what they got they could have driven to the nearest Kroger in Cincinnati and picked up the same thing.
They made no deals and they signed no free agents. The picked two catchers in the Rule 5 draft and if you can name either one of them you’re spending too much time on Baseball-Reference.com.
And then they immediately traded one of them for an infielder.
Confusing. If it’s one thing the Reds continue to be it is confusing.
First of all, the Rule 5 draft enables team to select unprotected players from another team’s minor league system. The catch is that players drafted cost $100,000. And they must remain on the drafting team’s 25-man roster the entire season or be sent back to his original team for $50,000.
For the record, the Reds drafted catcher Luis Torrens from the New York Yankees system and immediately traded him to San Diego for cash and a Double-A infielder named Josh VanMeter.
In the second round they drafted Stuart Turner, 24, a Double-A catcher out of the Minnesota Twins system.
What does it mean? It means the Reds are not certain about the health of catcher Devin Mesoraco, who has played only 39 games the last two seasons due to a bundle of injuries that has kept the athletic trainers busy.
They have Tucker Barnhart, who showed all season that he is a major league catcher. If Mesoraco is healthy, those two could split time next year.
If not? That’s where Turner fits in. He would be Barnhart’s back-up. Supposedly he is a defensive gem and he better be because he only hit .239 in Double-A last season.
The Reds have until the end of spring training to determine Mesoraco’s status. If he can catch and make it through spring training without falling apart, the Reds can send Turner back to Minnesota and get $50,000 of their $100,000 back.
So far, that’s the extent of what the rebuilding Reds have done to put excitement into their dwindling fan base. It’s like getting coal in your Christmas stocking.
Where are the needed bullpen pieces to go along with Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen? The bullpen’s holes are big enough for even a Cleveland Browns running back to run through.
If you were thinking about buying yourself season’s tickets, or even tickets for a few games, what is the draw?
Is Joey Votto enough to attract fans? There is no doubt Votto is the best hitter the Reds have had since Pete Rose. To baseball aficionados, he is worth spending a two tanks full of gas for a one-game ticket.
But that isn’t enough for the casual fan. A casual fan wants his team to have a chance to win when he or she spends money to watch a game.
Once upon a time the flashy Brandon Phillips was a draw. But the second baseman is aging fast and the Reds really don’t want him. They’d love to trade him — if only he would accept a trade and if only some other team wants him.
And the same with shortstop Zack Cozart. They’d love to trade him, too. That’s because the Reds want to play Jose Peraza at second base and Dilson Herrera at shortstop — or vice versa.
It has been reported that Phillips has been told his playing time would be diminished in 2017 if he is still with the team. Do the Reds have the intestinal fortitude to do that?
There are mixed messages. Manager Bryan Price says the team can find playing time for the versatile Peraza by moving him around — second base, shortstop, outfield.
And Phillips said nobody has talked to him about a trade or a shrinking playing time. He said as far as he is concerned he is still the starting second baseman. No matter what Phillips says, squatter’s rights do not apply in baseball.
Does anybody else sense a brewing controversy if Phillips isn’t traded?
With the Reds part of the National League Central, looking up at the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, a third straight last place finish is more than an outside chance.
This team is a tough sell right now. How long will this rebuild take? Joey Votto is worth seeing — and one has to admire the guy for saying he won’t give up his no-trade rights and that he wants to stay in Cincinnati. Captain Edward J. Smith stayed with the Titanic, too, and went down with the ship.
So far, as the snow flies, the Reds have come up with a backup plan with a backup catcher who may not make it out of spring training.
The worst thing a professional team can be is inconsequential, an afterthought in a sports fan’s mind. Right now, that’s where the Reds are and there is a lot of work to do to make them consequential again.