Now and/or Later

The Reds have had a tough year defending their NL Central title.  Except for the dominance shown by the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates the Reds biggest enemy is themselves.  Walt Jocketty assured us on July 21st that he was a “buyer” in the run up to the 4PM MLB trade deadline and after being swept by the Mets in answer to rising questions he reassured Reds fandom that his approach had not changed. Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon reported Jocketty’s approach:  “Not at all,” Jocketty said. “Because our focus and our objective all along was to improve the club if we can now in a way that would help us the rest of the season, but also hopefully going into next year. That’s still what we’re working on. That’s not going to change.”

So who are the winners and losers moving as we have crossed the trade deadline forcing teams to use the waiver wire now to make a trade.  My opinion might surprise you a bit as we check out each team in the NL Central.

These are the changes I have recorded.  I do not include additions to the 15 day DL but I did add in players that were moved this week from the 15 day to the 60 day DL as that effectively ends their season.

Fukodome is a decent outfielder but at 34 years of age and with a $13,500,000 salary to pay in 2012 he was never in the long term plans of the Chicago Cubs.  The two minor league prospects that Chicago received from Cleveland do not elicit much excitement when you look over their statistics.  Abreu, 21, is in the second year in Advanced Class A ball hitting .240 this year after hitting just .252 last year.  He does have some speed but strikes out 1 in every 4 at bats.  Smith, 25, has a 4.40 ERA in his second year in AAA as a right handed reliever.  He has a 2.30 K/BB ratio.  All in all this trade was done as a means of dumping salary and in that sense they succeeded admirably.  Grade:  B

 The Reds have confounded the hopes of many fans.  I am not one of these.  I actually prefer the lack of action upon hearing the cost that the selling teams were asking of their prey.  The only move the Reds made was to trade popular, if unproductive, left fielder Jonny Gomes.  I admit when Kerry Moss posted a poll asking what Reds should take to expedite Jonny’s departure I voted to give him away.  The truth is their is room for players like Jonny Gomes for a single reason.  Jonny has heart.  His struggles this year were not for a lack of effort, baseball is not an easy game at this level and Jonny gives everything he has to make the most of his abilities.  I hate to see him go but I am happy with the return from Washington for his services.

Christopher Manno is 22 years old and is already steadily progressing through the minor leagues.  For the Washington Class A affiliate Manno had a 1.04 ERA in 43.1 innings of work and his reward is a promotion to the Reds Advanced A affiliate in Bakerfield.  Bill Rhinehart has spent the season in AA ball and has a .285 batting average this year.  He has definitely made a splash with Carolina.  In 4 games he has 4 hits on 12 at bats with a double and a home run.  Not a bad way to introduce yourself.  At 26 years of age, Rhinehart needs to make a move quickly if he ever wants a chance at MLB.

To put the Reds maneuvering or lack of maneuvering into perspective I read an amusing blog post comparing Gomes to his new teammate, $126 million man Jayson Werth.  The horrifying statistic is that Gomes has a higher OPS score.  I shudder at the thought.  Grade: B+

Houston was a team with no present AND no future.  The trades of the past week may have changed all of that.  The talent offered up by the Astros was considerable.  The three starters who left the team sported batting averages of .303 (Bourn), .307 (Keppinger), and .308 (Pence).  This is quality talent.  So are the prospects the Astros acquired.

Jarred Cosart became the franchises number 1 prospect the minute he laced up his cleats in Lancaster.  At 21 years of age with a fastball in the mid 90’s with good motion he should have a bright future.  Time will tell.  Jonathan Singleton is 19, and has also been assigned to Advanced A Lancaster.  In his third year in the minors he has consistently hit within 3 points of .289 eah year as he continues to progress.  He is now the Astros number 2 prospect.

Jordan Schafer is an average outfielder with speed, hits a few doubles along the way.  Abreu has a very servicable 2.25 ERA in 48 innings and at 26 years of age should project well into the Majors.

The last 5 pitchers are all in AA ball, 4 right handers and 1 left hander.  LHP Brett Olberholtzer is just 21 with a 3.70 ERA and averages over 6 IP/start with a 9-9 record.  RHP Paul Clemens is 6-5 with a 3.73 and averages 5.1 innings per start.  RHP Henry Sosa hit a bump in the road this year when he attempted pitching in AAA ball but has been solid on his return to AA.  He is 25 years of age so his window may be closing but currently has a 2.68 ERA this time averaging 6.2 IP per start with 8 K/9IP.  Jason Stoffel has been a closer this year in AA ball and has a 3.98 ERA and 13 saves.  At 22 years of age he still has plenty of time to move on up the ladder.

The Astros weren’t winning with these three players and their minor league system was depleted so the addition of this wealth of pitching along with Singleton and Schafer make this a risk worth taking.  Oh and now they don’t have to deal with Scott Boras when Pence’s contract discussions begin at the end of the 2012 season.  Always a bonus.  Grade:  A

I no longer consider the Reds a viable contender this season.  If they were behind just one team they might have a chance but the numbers do not favor the possibility of passing 3 contenders.  The Brewers are the first of the three contenders and currently are the front runners.  Injuries are hurting their campaign though with All Star 2nd baseman Rickie Weeks on the DL along with 4 other players.  To solve the 2nd base problem and the ongoing difficulty at 3rd base, the Brewers added Jerry Hairston and Felipe Lopez.  Neither light the world on fire but they may be a slight improvement over other possibilities.  They do not effectively replace Weeks and the speed with which he can return may determine the Brewers chances.  Francisco Rodriguez is a quality relief pitcher who was most recently the Mets closer.  He is a one year rental before becoming a free agent so I do not really understand why they needed him but they gave away no prospects so more power to them.  Grade:  C

In a season that qualifies in my book as a minor miracle, the Pirates did a good job tyring to boost their ability to win the division.  Lyle Overbay has been terrible at first base all season and the addition of Derrek Lee is an extremely bold mood to add a veteran bat for the stretch run.  Ryan Ludwick certainly doesn’t hurt but is also not much of a help to the Pirates but the price was right.  They gave up nothing of significance and certainly improved their prospects.  Given the Pirates current losing streak though it may be too little, too late.  Grade:  A- (feeling generous)

I am of two minds when I look at the moves the St. Louis Cardinals have made at the trade deadline.  They added a quality starter to a good rotation in Edwin Jackson, his first start is a win for the Cards.  Octavio Dotel has a solid 3.68 ERA but at 37 years of age is coming to the end presumably of his career.  Marc Rzepczynski is an excellent young reliever with an ERA of 2.83 on the season and is only 25 years old.  Jackson is 27, so these two could help the Cardinals for years to come.

In my opinion though, the price was too high.  In addition, if I were team owner William DeWitt, I would fine Tony LaRussa for his comments prior to the trade of Colby Rasmus about the Cardinals difficulties with Rasmus.  He is allowed to feel dissatisfaction with Rasmus efforts on and off the field but just before you are about to trade any valuable asset why in the world would you tell the world that he is a problem thus lowering his value in the eyes of others.  Or he would have if anyone in all of baseball listened to anything the cantankerous LaRussa said.  With that in mind the Cardinals traded Rasmus away.  Colby is 24 years of age and has shown flashes of brilliance.  With players of this age patience is important and I would guess in the end Toronto will have the last laugh.  Throw in Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters and in my Toronto received a bargain.  Cincinnatian DeWitt would be better off just trading away LaRussa but, of course, no one would want him.  Grade: C+