Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty and his staff have been very busy since Cincinnati abruptly bowed out of the 2012 NLDS. After winning 97 games last season, the Reds experienced a post-season collapse of legendary proportions. Failure reveals character. A man’s character. A team’s character. An organization’s character. Response to failure is where the character lies. Failure often results in defeat and turmoil. Less often, failure results in drive and motivation. I would place the Reds response to their most recent playoff failure in the latter category.
The first issue the organization tackled was whether or not to extend the contract of Manager Dusty Baker. In October the Reds extended Baker for two years and promptly put that baby to bed. Dusty is an absolute lightning rod for criticism in this town but I’ve said it before, his players love him and his managerial style is very attractive to potentialÂ free agents. This has probably been the most debated move thus far. At times I feel like a Dusty Baker apologist although I question his lineups with the best of them. I became a believer watching him manage the roster and juggle the daily lineups in the absence of Joey Votto and Scott Rolen. I like the move.
The bullpen received some attention when Jonathan Broxton was signed to a three year contract. Broxton is a veteran closer that was acquired by the Reds from Kansas City last season. With the closing role in Broxton’s very capable hands, the Reds are grooming Aroldis Chapman to return to his normal role as a member of the starting rotation. Chapman is still a large question mark. There has beenÂ talk of him starting the season from the bullpen, pitching middle relief, then joining the rotation mid-season. This would prevent another situation like the Washington Nationals faced last season when they decided to shut down starting pitcher Stephen StrausburgÂ when his inning count peaked well before their playoff run. Strausburg’s shut down was probably the most debated move of 2012.
This team has had a monkey on it’s back for a long time now. No lead-off hitter. Well, no GOOD lead-off hitter. Walt finally had the opportunity to address this with a three-team trade that sent centerfielder and strike out machine Drew Stubbs to the Indians, Didi Gregorious to the Diamondbacks and brought lead-off hitterÂ Shin-Soo Choo here to the Queen City. Choo has primarily played right field so his ability to effectively play center field is an unknown. Obviously the Reds have conceded some defense with this trade but Choo is a marked improvement at lead-off with an OBP of .373 compared to .254 by the Reds collective lead-off hitters for 2012. Choo’s career OBP is .381. Although Choo is a hired gun, just brought here for one year to bridge the gap to the arrival of Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton in 2014, I think this is a great trade. But, I’m on record saying that I would trade Stubbs for a bag of balls. The Stubbs trade also brought us Jason Donald. Donald isÂ a utility infielder that will likely fill the role of Wilson Valdez as a back-up infielder.
The Reds snagged veteran free-agent infielder Jack Hannahan from Cleveland. Hannahan, 32, is a left-handed hitter who has played all four infield positions in his 505 Major League games, primarily at third base. Hannahan spent the last two seasons with Cleveland, hitting .247 with 32 doubles, 12 home runs and 69 RBIs. He should be a big contributor since Wilson Valdez and Miguel Cairo will not be returning for 2013.
Ryan Ludwick will be coming back for 2013 & 2014. No more platooning left field. Ludwick’s 26 HR and 80 RBI were second on the team last year behind Jay Bruce. Ludwick’s leadership is huge as well and he fits the chemistry of this team beautifully. This makes me extra happy because I can continue to tweet and blanket Facebook with, “Ludwick. Bomb. Bitches.” every time he goes yard.
With third base clearly being assumed by Todd Frazier in 2013, Scott Rolen is still an unknown. Still no official word on his return or retirement. His presence in the clubhouse / dugout isÂ extremely valuable as a team leader. Also, a yearÂ of mentoring Frazier would go a long way with Todd.
Possibly the least publicized and potentially my favorite move of the off-season so far has been signing Corky Miller to another year in the minor leagues and inviting him to spring training. Since Dioner Navarro left for the Cubs and Devin Mesoraco’s rookie season last year was somewhat iffy, this club needs some depth at catcher to back up Ryan Hanigan and the porn-stache sportingÂ Miller could see some quality time back at the Major League level should the need arise.