Assessing Walt Jocketty and 2010


No single Reds fan will look you directly in the eye and say Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is a bad GM. His record while he held the same position within the St. Louis organization speaks for itself. It’s noteworthy. It’s impressive.

About a month or so has passed since I read a comment that somewhat shocked me. I wish I could remember where I saw it. I suppose that this comment shocked me so much it made me forget.

The comment was that Walt Jocketty should be GM of the year. Well, I do believe it’s referred to as Executive of the Year, but you get the gist. Granted, this was just one opinion. An opinion on which I do not agree. I think there will be cries for the World Series GMs to be among the top.

But let’s take a step back at 2010 and see how Walt fared.

Jocketty’s greatest move didn’t come in 2010. It was last year when he scooped third baseman Scott Rolen from the Toronto Blue Jays. The Reds sent Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart back to Toronto. Rolen assumed the role as a quite, professional leader and was moved to clean up in the batting order. He’s the cornerstone of the assembled veteran leadership that Jocketty looked to construct for the 2010 Reds.

The construction continued with the signing of veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera. While Cabrera’s offensive numbers won’t exactly knock your socks off, he plays winning baseball. Another attribute the young Reds needed on the roster.

Walt added a steady bench influence when he signed “super sub” Miguel Cairo. Hard to imagine where the Reds season would have gone if Cairo were not on the roster. He filled in for Joey Votto and Rolen when both needed time off to mend various injuries.

But Jocketty’s biggest coup came in the manner of signing the free agent fireballer from Cuba, Aroldis Chapman. While the Reds are viewed as a primarily conservative organization, it was surprising to see them invest such a hefty sum (six years/$30 million) on a talent that has never thrown a ball for a major league baseball organization. Yes, the upside, ceiling, whatever you wish to call it regarding Chapman is extremely high. With the “Cuban Missile” and his contribution to the Reds in 2010, the signing has already been viewed as a success. The excitement generated by his MLB debut alone was incomparable.

But there are also moves Jocketty made that didn’t pan out quite so well. Remember Adam Rosales? A fan favorite in ’09 for the Reds? Well, Jocketty shipped Rosales and Willy Tavares to the Oakland A’s for Aaron Miles. Miles didn’t even make it out of spring training…and the Reds were stuck with his $2.7 million salary. It was even more of a bitter pill when Miles signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

You could look at that deal as a plus/minus kind of deal. They lost Rosales, a guy who can play multiple positions, but gained Cairo, who is just as capable. But Jocketty didn’t stop there in trying to bring in “his guys”.

Enter Russ Springer, Jason Isringhausen and Jim Edmonds. All had been a part of the WS win in St. Louis. How did that go in 2010?

Springer pitched all of 1.2 innings before going on the DL, thus ending his season. Isringhausen was shut down while he was in Louisville and Edmonds (traded from Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson, still a sore subject to many) ended his season, and maybe his career, on the DL, too.

There is one last aspect of the 2010 season that a few Reds fans found a bit disappointing. The Reds made not a single move at the non-waiver trade deadline. To Walt’s credit, he did inquire about Cliff Lee. Looking back at what the Rangers gave up to get the former Cy Young winner, you wonder if the Reds could have put a similar package together. The Mariners got three minor leaguers and Justin Smoak and the Rangers got Lee and Mark Lowe.

Maybe the prices were too high for the Reds too acquire any help. That’s what the rumor was out of Toronto. The Blue Jays wanted the farm for any of their three relievers (Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor). Apparently, Walt was looking for bullpen help. When trades fell through, that’s when the button was puched on Springer and Isringhausen. When those moves didn’t go so well, it was back to relying on the youngsters. They did perform pretty good for rookies, didn’t they?

But the job will be tough for Jocketty going forward. The Reds have an abundance of excellent young arms and the Reds may have to part with one or two in order to maintain. There’s also the dollars that are most likely to be involved in potential long term deals for players such as Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

Maybe 2010 isn’t the year to really scrutinize Walt Jocketty and his job performance. It could be 2011.