The GM's Office: Cincinnati Reds

'94 strike: From 1st place to headed home 

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
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Davey JohnsonStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesManager Davey Johnson and the Reds led the NL Central with a 66-48 record when the strike arrived.
Oh, what could have been.

We, the Cincinnati Reds, had worked to get to the top of our division and become one of the better teams in baseball. Over the course of a short, 20-month span, we had rebuilt and reshaped the team to make a playoff run. We were finally there. We felt we even had a shot at a World Series title.

Had a shot, that is, until Aug. 11, 1994, when at 9:45 p.m. PT, Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson struck out Oakland's Ernie Young, and the baseball players went on strike, resulting in a devastating 7-month work stoppage, which at that time was the longest in the history of major North American professional sports leagues.

The 1994 season was taken from us, and I wonder to this day how far that team could have gone.

1993 struggles

For me, the general manager of the Reds, it was especially tough to take, given the years that led up to it. I was hired by Marge Schott to become the GM of the Reds on Oct. 16, 1992. At the time, I was the youngest GM in the history of baseball, at age 31, and I came out swinging by hiring Tony Perez as manager, trading for Kevin Mitchell and Roberto Kelly, and signing free-agent starting pitcher John Smiley to a four-year contract. I was feeling pretty good about the progress we had made, and Baseball America even referred to me with the headline "Boy Wonder."

The next several months were a different story, and after them, the more appropriate headline would have been "Boy Blunder." Let's just say everything quickly turned into a nightmare.

Five GMs under pressure to make a deal 

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
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Ruben Amaro Jr. AP Images/Matt SlocumThe Phillies must start the rebuilding process; Ruben Amaro Jr. has until 4 p.m. Thursday to begin it.
It's go time for major league general managers. This is the time they shine and broker deals that could make or break a team's season, or set in motion its offseason. But certain GMs are under more pressure to make deals than others. Who's under the most pressure? Let's take the temperature of the following GMs and see just how critical it will be for them to get something done.

1. Ruben Amaro Jr. | Philadelphia Phillies

There hasn't been a GM under this much pressure to make multiple deadline deals in a decade.


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Jorge De La RosaAP Photo/Joe MahoneyRockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa could make an excellent addition for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The National League Central has the best four-team race in baseball, with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds all battling for either a division title or a wild-card berth.

And so, with the exception of the Chicago Cubs, every team in the division will likely be buyers at the deadline. The Reds are unique in that they are the only team that really needs to make a significant trade to stay in the race. They'll be looking for a bat. The Brewers, on the other hand, need only an extra bullpen arm, while the Pirates and Cardinals are searching for starting pitching help.

Outside of bullpen arms and bench pieces, the Cubs don't have much left to sell.

I wouldn't expect a blockbuster deal to come out of this division over the next week. Still, I think the NL Central will be active with some smaller deals. Here's the breakdown of what might be coming.

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ViciedoAP Photo/Mark DuncanWhite Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo is on pace for 19 homers and 57 RBIs this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Dayan Viciedo | OF | Chicago White Sox

Possible destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals


Seattle Mariners

Why? The Mariners are second in the American League in team ERA, behind only the Oakland Athletics, and the top of their starting rotation gives them the chance to run the table in October. So what can prevent them from even making the playoffs? Their offense, or rather the lack thereof; they are dead last in the American League in team OPS. M's GM Jack Zduriencik must make moves to improve this lineup, and without a lot of impact bats available, he might have to focus on Viciedo's 20-homer power (albeit with a low OBP).

Who? The White Sox could ask for any one of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero or Michael Saunders to see how the Mariners truly value Viciedo.

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Josh WillinghamBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Josh Willingham | LF | Minnesota Twins

Possible destinations: Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners


Cincinnati Reds

Why? The Reds are already dealing with Joey Votto's quad injury, which has taken away much of his power and now has him sidelined. As such, it’s imperative that they get power from the left-field position, something starter Ryan Ludwick (five home runs) and backups Chris Heisey (two) and Skip Schumaker (one) haven't provided, and that's despite playing half their games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

This team is blessed with Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier having All-Star-caliber seasons, but that doesn't lessen its need to lengthen the lineup by improving the left-field production. Willingham is a below-average defender, but he has a good track record for hitting home runs. Cincinnati could use Heisey as his late-inning defensive replacement. Willingham also has tremendous makeup and character and would fit nicely in the Reds' clubhouse.

Who? The Reds have good stock in their farm system thanks to the great job done by scouting director Chris Buckley and the scouting department, but they won’t be parting with Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, Jesse Winker or Phillip Ervin at the deadline. However, a deal including pitcher Jon Moscot or pitcher Sal Romano could get it done.

Will it happen?

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Huston StreetAndy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty ImagesThe Padres' Huston Street could fill either the closer or setup role for a number of teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Huston Street | RHP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati Reds

Baltimore Orioles

Why? Orioles GM Dan Duquette told me that the bullpen and offense at second base were the two main areas that needed improvement.

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Rookie Rankings: Tanaka dominating 

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
12:49
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 Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kathy WillensIt's been all thumbs up for Masahiro Tanaka this season.
As we near the halfway point in the season, a dozen rookies are having impact upon their pennant-chasing teams thus far. Let's look at my latest rankings and assess the best of the 2014 rookie class.

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | New York Yankees
If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level. Tanaka has been brilliant -- his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.

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The Reds are better than you think 

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
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Bryan PriceAP Photo/Paul SancyaNew Reds manager Bryan Price has some very specific changes for the 2014 season.
Somewhat fittingly, the Cincinnati Reds open their season on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty built the Cardinals into a perennial power and 2006 World Series champion during his tenure as St. Louis’ GM from 1994 to 2007.

With the Reds, Jocketty is trying to do the same, and although some have criticized him for "standing pat" this winter, I believe he built a team that is poised to be in the mix for the National League Central crown once again.

Jocketty still is scouring the trade market for more offensive help for his lineup, and at the very least, some offensive help that can also back up in the infield. But believe in the Reds; they're going to be better than everyone thinks. This past offseason, the Reds made no significant moves, and that was the right move, for another 90-win season and a wild-card berth are well within their grasp in 2014.

No moves, better team



So how can the Reds lose Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo via free agency and still have a better team? Thanks to its farm system, Cincinnati has a chance to be better, and here's why:

Hamilton takes over center field: Billy Hamilton might get some bad jumps and take some poor angles, but because of his speed he has so much more range than Choo.

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Seven bold predictions for 2014 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
9:25
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Cliff Lee Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesCliff Lee has a lot to be worried about if things go sideways for the Phillies.
With the start of the 2014 season upon us, it's time to take a guess at what might happen this year.

In this space last season, I predicted that Yasiel Puig would become an instant hit in Los Angeles and envisioned a last-place finish for the New York Yankees. Although the Yankees did not end up in the AL East cellar, they definitely fell off, and "Puigmania" did indeed ensue. So here are seven predictions I'm making for 2014.

1. Phillies finish last in the NL East

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have the worst roster in baseball, but they do have the oldest, and it's a team that has been on a steady decline for the past few years.

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Reds betting on Bailey's improvement 

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
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Homer BaileyJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesHomer Bailey has thrown a no-hitter in each of the last two seasons.
Earlier this winter, I estimated that a contract extension for Homer Bailey would come in at six years for $102 million. Therefore, I am not at all surprised that the right-hander agreed to a six-year, $105 million deal to stay with the Cincinnati Reds.

A gamble on the future

It is not uncommon for a player to get a big contract based on what he has already accomplished. In Bailey's case, he is getting paid for what the Reds still think he can be.

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Players who could lose jobs this spring 

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
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Some players use spring training to get into playing shape, get their timing down, work on a new pitch or tweak their mechanics. Other players, however, know that time is running out, and if they have a poor spring, they could be out of a job.

Nothing is guaranteed during spring training, and that includes jobs. Here are seven players who are at risk of losing their jobs this spring.

1. Dan Uggla | 2B | Atlanta Braves

Uggla, 33, was a consistent performer from 2007 to '11, belting 30 home runs a season and playing a solid second base. He’s a three-time All-Star who signed a five-year, $62 million deal back in 2011.

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GM buzz: Latest on free agents 

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
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Nelson Cruz Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsNelson Cruz is still looking for a home. Will he find one in Seattle?
With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training in a couple of weeks, the rumor mill continues to churn because many quality free agents are still on the market, including: Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz.

Why are so many players still on the market? Well, the agents and union have their theory, while the clubs have a different view. Multiple agents representing free agents who are still on the market told me over the weekend that they, as well as the players' union, are concerned that social networking and the media’s advanced coverage of the sport are hurting the market value of their clients.

Some even went so far as to suggest that teams are possibly violating the clause in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents clubs from influencing a free agent's market value by relaying to the media the offers they’ve made to free agents, and whether clubs plan to make an offer or decline to make an offer. Certainly media coverage of baseball’s offseason is the best it’s ever been, but these conclusions have very little merit when you look at the enormous contracts that were given out this offseason to the likes of Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka, among others.

On the other hand, general managers and assistant GMs have a different opinion. The majority believe the main reason so many free agents remain on the market is that all have some type of negative issue surrounding them, whether that's injury history, a performance-enhancing drug suspension, career inconsistency or draft-pick compensation. GMs also point to the agents’ inflated expectations in terms of years and dollars considering the risks associated with these players.

With that in mind, here’s the latest scuttlebutt from the front offices around the league.

Where will they land?

David Price is staying in Tampa. Rays GM Andrew Friedman has listened to every club that had a trade proposal for Price and came away knowing his best decision is to keep him and try to win this year.

The Rays know that trading Price at the deadline probably won’t be an option because the team will be in a pennant race, so it will be next offseason when he’s finally traded.

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Elite pitchers set for big 2015 paydays 

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
10:30
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Max ScherzerLeon Halip/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw's contract could lead to a $200 million payday for Max Scherzer next winter.
Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers has set the ceiling for next offseason's free-agent starting pitching market. This is a significant event for a market that’s seen record-breaking deals for almost every top-tier pitching free agent over the past several years.

While the 2015 free-agent class is light on position players, it has plenty of elite pitchers, led by Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson and Homer Bailey. None of them are expected to top Kershaw's deal; it probably will be the next generation of Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey to do that.

Nonetheless, Scherzer, Shields, Lester, Masterson and Bailey should all benefit from Kershaw and his agent, Casey Close, eclipsing the $30 million bar because that will only bring their deals closer to that threshold. Here is a quick look at the top of next year's free-agent starting pitching class with my early contract predictions and the chances of each pitcher leaving his current team:




1. Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Predicted contract:
Seven years, $196 million ($28M average annual value)

As soon as Kershaw closed his deal with the Dodgers, Scherzer quickly became the No. 1 starting pitcher expected to hit the free-agent market next November.

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The missing link for every NL team 

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
12:22
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Clayton KershawAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Dodgers likely will cease chasing Masahiro Tanaka after Clayton Kershaw gets his extension.
For the vast majority of major league teams, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training exactly a month from now. Usually teams are simply fine-tuning their rosters, whether it's that last utility bench guy or an additional bullpen arm.

But with teams from both leagues waiting on the fate of free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, many teams still have significant moves they must make to shape their team into a championship club. What is the missing link for each team? On Tuesday I will focus on the National League teams and Wednesday I’ll present the American League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Missing link: Top-of-the-rotation starter
Solution: Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza
Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson’s option years for 2015 were not picked up, leading Towers to admit that both are on the hot seat to win this year. Every move they’ve made this offseason has involved trading future assets for win-now results. With this type of pressure on him, Towers knows the best way to keep his job is to add an elite starter.

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2015 FAs who should be traded now 

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
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Chase Headley Mike McGinnis/Getty ImageThe tough competition in the NL West should force the Padres to trade Chase Headley.
Next year’s free-agent class is top-heavy, and features three of baseball’s best starting pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. While seen some big-name players traded a year before free agency, that won't happen with any of these guys because their teams have a shot at the World Series and they all play for big-market clubs that can afford to re-sign them.

In fact, don't be surprised if these guys get contract extensions before hitting the market next winter, with Kershaw being the most likely of the three to get a new deal.

However, there are five players who will be eligible for free agency next fall who probably should have already been traded since they haven’t been locked up to multiyear deals. Some of these players are on contending teams, but none of which are large markets and really can’t afford to let them walk as a free agent and receive only a draft pick as compensation.

Here is the breakdown of the five players I think should be traded by Opening Day if they are not given a contract extension.

1. Chase Headley, 3B | San Diego Padres
Headley, 29, had 31 doubles and 31 homers in 2012 and finished in the top five in NL MVP voting. His power numbers were down this year (.400 slugging), but he still plays a position where there is a lot more demand than supply and could fetch a lot in a trade.

The Angels, Dodgers, Marlins and Yankees all started the offseason with needs at third base and could have matched up well in a deal for the Padres, though the Angels and Dodgers have patched that hole for at least the next couple of years with David Freese and Juan Uribe, respectively.

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