It has become a popular meme among Cincinnati Reds fans to make fun of GM Walt Jocketty due to his lack of aggressiveness in the trade or free agent market. Many a trade deadline or winter meetings have ended with things like:
— Brent Mirgon (@bmirgon) December 10, 2014
@johnfayman Winter Meeting News: Walt unsure if it’s the time change or sea air that makes him more sleepy.
— Scott Leslie (@ScottL2526) December 9, 2014
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— BengalsGroupTherapy (@CinRedsTalk) November 21, 2014
Well, on, December 11, 2014, sleepy Walt woke up.
The first trade was with the Detroit Tigers, the Reds sending them RHP Alfredo Simon in exchange for IF Eugenio Saurez and minor league pitcher Jonathan Crawford. I’m not a huge Simon fan, as I’ve already explained in the past on my old blog Numbers in the Reds. Eugenio Saurez is probably not great shakes, but a line of .242/.316/.336 is actually quite a bit better than the incumbent Zack Cozart. If the defense plays, and I’m not going to cite a 622-inning sample for defensive numbers, then Cozart might wind up being the odd man out in that scenario.
Jonathan Crawford was the Tigers’ #2-ranked prospect by the most recent Baseball Prospectus rankings, but he’s probably starting out in High-A Daytona, so the jury’s gonna be out on that one. (that’s not Dayton….the High-A affiliate has moved from Bakersfield to Daytona, so now the A teams are Dayton and Daytona, which sounds like a bad movie title, but whatever) Crawford was solid but not spectacular for the Tigers’ Low-A team in 2014, but quite a few scouts think his future may be in the bullpen, even as a closer rather than a starting pitcher. As far as the Tigers’ perspective, since I’m not a huge Simon fan I think they might have overpaid just a bit here.
The second trade was sending Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins for RHP Anthony DeSclafani and minor league catcher Chad Wallach, son of former Expos and Dodgers 3B Tim Wallach, who was a pretty good player in his own right. Wallach is a ways away, after just spending the season in A ball, but I’m quite intrigued by his on base ability. Even though it’s the minor leagues, a career OBP of .392 is quite impressive, especially for a catcher. But DeSclafani is the interesting piece here as he’s probably going to get a chance to grab the fifth starter spot in the rotation come spring training. Steamer actually projects him to have a 4.18 FIP in 2015, which pitching in front of the elite Reds defense putting up that performance gives you a chance of success as that’s actually lower than Simon’s 2014 actual FIP and his 2015 Steamer projection and lower than Latos’ 2015 Steamer projection, although that projection for Latos is too pessimistic if Latos is healthy, but his decreasing fastball velocity over the past year is one of the reasons for that projection, as Jeff Sullivan explained on Fangraphs earlier on Thursday. DeSclafani had a 6.27 ERA for Miami in 2014 over 33 innings, but that high ERA is a little misleading due to an elevated .330 BABIP. His FIP was actually only 3.77..granted, all these numbers are small sample, but only a 35.5% Ground Ball rate is slightly alarming, as it’s not a great idea to be a flyball pitcher in our home park. But, as we don’t have batted ball data for his minor league stints, it’s hard to say if that low GB rate is a small sample issue or if that’s just his profile. This is a small risk for the Marlins, but even if Latos breaks down, he’s only signed through 2015 anyway, but this trade does signal that they think they can content for a playoff spot in 2015.
The reasoning behind these moves for Cincinnati is clear. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Tuesday that ownership had mandated payroll to be reduced by approximately 17 million dollars before anyone could be added. The team hasn’t been shy about their desire to sign pending free agent of next offseason Johnny Cueto to a deal, and they still need to add a left fielder. Since the non-tender deadline the Reds have shed from their payroll Logan Ondrusek, who would be 2nd-year Arbitration eligible so would probably get a bump up to around 2 million from the 1.35 million he was paid previously, Ryan Ludwick, who they saved 4 million on by buying out his option year, Latos, and Simon. Latos was going into his walk year, the third arb year, and after making 7.5 million in 2014 was likely going to make 9-10 million next year, and Simon make a more modest 1.5 million in 2014 but given his All Star season it’s not out of the question that it could have been doubled for next season. Let’s add all this savings up. That’s right, all these moves since the non-tender deadline have chopped approximately 16-18 million dollars from next season’s payroll, most likely giving them the flexibility to improve the team in other ways.
For the Reds, pitching has been a strength, but to improve your team sometimes you have to trade some of that strength to have balance. These trades didn’t do that, but no one expected all the key moves to happen on the same day. Cincinnati still has quite a few arms in the pipeline. The farm system isn’t busting at the seams with position player prospects, but they do have quite a bit of depth in pitching prospects. Enough that it’s a fair bet that at least one or maybe two will successfully fill rotation spots as soon as 2016. You can never count on prospects, but the more you have, the better chance one of those lottery tickets is a winner. So, let’s recap here:
- The Reds gave up 2 pitchers entering their walk years.
- They received over 15 million dollars of payflex.
- They received the Tigers’ #2 prospect.
- They received the Marlins’ #2 prospect, who already has some major league experience.
- They received a possible starting shortstop or utility man who exhibited pretty good on base skills in the minors.
- They received an A-ball catcher with a .392 career OBP and who had a .906 OPS last year.
That’ll do, Walt, that’ll do. But you still have work to do.
Don’t go to sleep.
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