As I closed my post from yesterday, I left a teaser as to three questions looming over the Reds for the second half of the season. Here are those three questions.
1. What moves, if any, can Walt Jocketty make to improve an already surprising Reds club?
The one area that may need a cleansing is the bullpen. The pen was one of the team’s strong points last season, but that has not been the case so far in 2010. On three occasions this season, a team has coughed up a 6+ run lead in the ninth inning. The Reds can sheepishly acknowledge two of those. Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story, but in this case, they do. In 2009, Nick Masset surrendered 22 runs. He’s already allowed 24 for 2010. Masset was that bridge to Francisco Cordero and the Reds were extremely dependent on that. And Francisco Cordero? After blowing only 4 save chances in ’09, he’s failed on 6 save opportunities this season.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Toronto Blue Jays announcing that there are open to dealing the likes of Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Kelly Gregg. Not sure about Gregg as he’s known for blowing saves at a higher rate than Cordero, but Downs and Frasor are possibilities. But they are just that, possibilities.
A veteran bat on the bench is always appealing to any contender. The problem this year is the two names you always hear, Eric Hinske and Matt Stairs, are both on contending teams (Braves and Padres, respectively). There is one potential option that I’m a bit surprised hasn’t cropped up…Russell Branyan. With The Seattle Mariners acquiring Justin Smoak in the Cliff Lee deal, Branyan could be expendable. His $1.5 million salary could make this attractive to the Reds. The Mariners may not ask a high price considering the other prospects involved in the Lee trade. Then, there always that “player to be named later”. Things in Cincinnati are a bit different now than when Branyan was last a member of the Reds.
There’s always starting pitching. Three rookie starters could prove to be the Achilles of the Reds. Three names are linked to a few teams, none of which are the Reds. Ted Lilly (Cubs), Jake Westbrook (Indians) and Roy Oswalt (Astros) are the three. Lilly and Oswalt are within the division and despite the Rangers prying Lee from the Mariners, I cannot see the execs from those teams doing such a move unlike the Mariners-Rangers deal. Plus, Lilly and Oswat make a lot of dough. Westbrook is worthy of being considered as he has the ability to sink his pitches. In GABP, that’s a necessity. A red flag could go up due to injury issues.
Another issue could be that Bronson Arroyo will not restructure his contract and could be dealt. He’s due $11 million next year and if the Reds do not take that option, Arroyo could be bought out for $2 million. That could expedite matters on the starting staff. You also have to find a team willing to take on that situation.
Edinson Volquez will rejoin after the All-Star break. Both Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey are due off the DL in the future. Sometimes the best move you make is the one you don’t make. I know. Sounding like Yogi Berra.
That leads me to another of my questions.
2. Is there help in Louisville besides Edinson Volquez?
There might be and it does address the bullpen situation. That could be Jared Burton. In Burton’s last ten outings for Louisville, he’s produced these numbers: 11.2 IP, 0-1, 0.77 ERA, 9 H, 6 BB, 12 K. The WHIP might be a tad high (1.285), but short of making a deal, Burton could provide the best option. He’s been in the majors and that experience
3. If Jocketty can’t pull off a deal, how will that be perceived by the current roster?
Jocketty may have this one already beat. Just the thought that the Reds went after Cliff Lee will earn Jocketty marks. This also may be where having Scott Rolen on the roster is even more beneficial. Rolen knows how Jocketty works from their days in St. Louis. It doesn’t hurt that Jocketty is the reason Rolen’s a Red. Just informing the rest of the clubhouse on his past nature may be more than enough for a higher respect factor.
We saw when Jocketty was in St. Louis that he can be shrewd if the situation warrants. I don’t expect anything different from him going forward. He’s well aware what other teams are eyeing from the Reds…the apparent abundance of young pitching and you’ll always hear Yonder Alonso’s name mentioned.
I would be remiss if I did not offer my condolences to the Yankee and Steinbrenner family upon the passing of George Steinbrenner early this morning. Say what you want about George, but all he ever wanted to do was win. For an excellent perspective on “The Boss”, check out Yanks Go Yard.