Stirring Up Some Angst

One thing off days tend to do is gives us all a chance to reflect on things. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. If you want to raise the collective blood pressure among Reds fans, simply bring up the deal between the Reds and the Texas Rangers where the Reds sent Josh Hamilton to the Rangers in exchange for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.

Why did this cross my mind? Two reasons.

One was Justin’s post about his top 5 Reds deals of the decade. The other was a post on (another of FanSided’s excellent sites) where this was recently examined. Of course, the view from that way is that the Rangers pulled off a major coup in acquiring Hamilton. While I agree that the Rangers have received the better end of the deal, there are reasons the deal went down.

Let’s get the semantics of the deal out of the way. Hamilton went to Texas and the Reds received Volquez and Herrera. While Herrera is no longer with the club (he was claimed on waivers by NL Central rival Milwaukee), he did provide the Reds with a good 2009 season in which he went 4-4 with a 3.06 ERA out of the pen. Some felt the Reds had one of the better pens in baseball that season and Herrera was a big contributor appearing in 70 games. (By the way, Herrera just served up a three-run homer to Kosuke Fukudome to gives the Cubs a 9-5 lead in the bottom of the 6th).

After that, not much else from the lefty as he was sent to Louisville early last season and never returned to the big league club.

Now…most people simply want to compare numbers when you talk about Hamilton and Volquez. There’s more to this deal than meets the eye and some of the following information is widely known.

When then-GM Wayne Krivsky made the trade, there were a couple of issues involving Hamilton. A lot of Hamilton’s Reds teammates did not like him. John Fay (who has written on this topic a time or two in his day) tweeted such and answered the question in a Reds chat on May 24th. Upon hearing of this, Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk added that the Reds clubhouse felt Hamilton had a “big league attitude” while having done nothing in order to have obtained such an attitude.

As talented and gifted as Hamilton is on the field, you must be able to co-exist with your teammates since you’re in an atmosphere where you’re around each other for so many days out of a year. It’s chemistry, and Hamilton was not part of that mixture. Yes, Walt Jocketty, who was an Reds advisor at the time (according to Fay’s chat), approved of Krivsky pulling the trigger on the deal. It was a risky proposition for both teams as the was word of maturity issues concerning both Volquez and Hamilton.

Both Hamilton and Volquez have seemed to found that maturity. Despite the grumblings by Reds teammates, Hamilton found a niche in Texas. His Rangers teammates altered their celebration of winning the AL Championship last season in order to accommodate Hamilton’s participation. It took Volquez a demotion just a month ago to possibly finally find his.

But there was another nagging issue with Hamilton: health. It has been stated that Reds doctors felt Hamilton was a high injury risk. And that had proven to be the case for Hamilton since joining the Rangers. It was not present in his first season in Texas, but it has been in the last three. Hamilton played in only 89 games in ’09 and 133 games last season in which Hamilton won the AL MVP. He has already missed significant time this season playing in only 32 out of 69 games. In the last 2+ seasons, he’s missed 139 games.

Sure, Volquez had to have Tommy John surgery after appearing in only 9 games in 2009. He missed a fair part of last season as well making only 12 starts, the same number he has thus far in 2011. The points of contention regarding Volquez are lack of control, the lack of buttoning his mouth, and that he is still referred to by some as the Reds “ace”.

Both in 2010 and 2011 have seen Volquez sent down to work on his control issues…and maybe the issue of what’s going on between his ears. If EV wants to look at someone on how to pitch, he need to look no further than Reds teammate Johnny Cueto. Same type of stuff, but Cueto has command. As I heard on a recent Reds broadcast, I believe by Chris Welsh upon having a conversation with Manny Mota, Mota stated that Cueto “gets it”. He knows how to pitch and not throw. Cueto is the ace. Yes, I got my soapbox a bit there.

Statswise, there is no question the Rangers got the better of this deal. Hamilton led the AL in RBI (130) in 2008 and led all of MLB in batting (.359), slugging (.633), and OPS (1.044) last season. He added 32 homers and 100 RBI. In 12 starts last year, Volquez was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA. Since his “breakout” of 2008, EV is 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 1.6 SO/BB, and 5.5 BB/9 while averaging less than 5.2 IP per start.

It would be nice to have Hamilton in an outfield with Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce. Yes, the potential for all three outfielders to have 25+ HR is extremely appealing…and fill the gap the Reds currently have in left. Add the likes of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and the current duo of Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan at the catching position to the mix, and the Reds may have been in position to own the best offensive lineup in the NL. The cries for a light hitting Paul Janish at short would be negligible. Scott Rolen? Play that Gold Glove defense and hit once in a while (like he did yesterday) and it’s all gravy from there.

To argue that the Reds are ahead on this deal are simply silly. No other way to put it. But I have a feeling that EV may surprise us for the rest of 2011. Yes, Volquez has proved me wrong before, and maybe I’m just too stinking stubborn to admit all of this is merely a bust of a deal.