Mark Sheldon was interviewed by Marty Brennaman during the Pirates game this evening and they talked about the Reds organization and the new agreement between Walt Jocketty and the Reds. The conversation was varied and pointed. They talked about what each man views as the major need for this club and the ebb and flow of the conversation made it as interesting as any interview all season. Unfortunately the second inning went far too long due to difficulties Edinson Volquez had in recording an out but that is a discussion for another day. A quick recap of the topics they touched on included:
- Jocketty stays in Cincinnati to finish the job he started in 2008 by agreeing to a 3 year contract through 2014.
- Discussed some of the challenges he will face after this season.
- Contracts to manage including whether to keep Edinson Volquez or send him on his way.
- They skirted the issue of players reaching the end of their minor league career with no real place to fit into the major league club. These players are the fodder for trade opportunities this winter.
- Finally Marty asked Mark what the one thing is that the Reds need to do this off season.
I want to hit on a couple of these topics in a bit more detail. So lets start with Mr. Jocketty. The basic job expectations of a general manager have will be similar from team to team:
- Set a budget with the Owner.
- Work within the budget to put the best product on the field.
- Make money.
Now I probably don’t need to explain this unless you work in Washington DC but the most important requirement for most ownership groups is the third one. Make money.
There are variations on this theme from organization to organization but the only real variety is in the size of the budget. Walt Jocketty can safely guess that he will never have a budget even in the same ballpark as Brian Cashman. It is hard to build a competitive team when your budget is 37% of the maximum league budget. This season the Reds started the season with a $75m budget while the Yankees spent $202m. But competition can still occur. Consider that while the Yankees and the Red Sox break the bank, the competitive Tampa Bay Rays spent just $45m.
To accomplish these goals a frugal GM must build within the organization. Jocketty is still promoting Wayne Krivsky’s solid draft picks from 06-07. In 2011 we saw the debut’s of Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, Jeremy Horst, Devin Mesoraco, all drafted by Krivsky. So far four players have reached the majors solely under Jocketty’s watch: Yonder Alonso, Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, and Dave Sappelt. Not a bad result in a short time but the true measure of a three year tenure can better be found in class A and AA ball. The Dragons had a strong year while Bakersfield and Carolina struggled; several strong prospects emerged. Yasmani Grandal, Billy Hamilton, Bradley Boxberger, Josh Smith, Drew Hayes, Daniel Renken, Daniel Corcino and Juan Duran have all been acquired during Jocketty’s tenure. The best remaining Krivsky prospects are probably Neftali Soto and Kyle Lotzkar, though the window may be closing for the injury plagued Lotzkar in spite of his curve ball.
Success for an organization is often tied directly to stability and Krivsky was never given enough time to show his effectiveness or not. He made a few mistakes and he had successes as well. When I look at Walt Jocketty, I see a GM who striving to succeed in spite of the harsh realities of small market baseball. Our society demands instant gratification so Krivsky was sacrificed. Now a more intelligent approach is allowing Jocketty to recover from a year without the successes of last season.
The last subject Marty and Mark discussed was what the team needed most to improve next season. Mark said he feels the Reds need a solid arm in the starting rotation. On the heels of the discussion about Edinson Volquez and his bullpen killing inconsistency he felt a solid starter who could amass innings and protect the bullpen is the Reds most urgent need. Without disagreeing, Marty offered a counterpoint, suggesting a solid bat in the middle of the lineup was the most important missing ingredient. Jeff Brantley chimed in by saying that if the Reds quit allowing so many runs (ie. had more effective starting pitching) another bat would be superfluous.
Sheldon also added that the Reds are 1st in the NL in Home Runs and 2nd in the league in Runs Scored so the problem is not hitting, though more clutch hitting would be welcome. It is 4.17 ERA that is the problem.
So I asked the question of my Twitter followers: What should the Reds top priority be? And here are a few of their answers…
Ronnie Ginter at BigRedRedemption.com said priorities should be:
- Starting Pitching
- Getting rid of Renteria, Volquez and Arroyo
- Sign a team/player friendly deal for Brandon Phillips. No more than 3 years and $9m/year.
I understand what Ronnie is saying but I do not think they are all possible. The Arroyo contract is probably the biggest mistake I have seen in Jocketty’s tenure. The result is we will sink or swim with Brandon, no one else will assume that risk.
I hope the Phillips deal is just that simple but I am guessing he wants more and the Reds want to pay less. No one wants BP more in a Cincy uniform than me but that will be tough, I would guess that at $9m/year he will want at least 4 and maybe 5 years for just 3 years more like $10-11m.
Kyle McElligott, a fervent Texas Longhorns disciple who translated his love for all things Texas into becoming a Reds fan on the coat-tales of Drew Stubbs transition from college to MLB suggested the Reds need a “solid lefty in the rotation and a revamped bullpen. Hitting coach is a must also.”
The word was leaked by Mark Sheldon at about the time that Walt Jocketty informed him all current coaches were under contract for another year and would return answering the hitting coach question.
Brian Hines tweeted to me that starting pitching is his number one priority, then bullpen, then another bat if possible.
Finally I will include @HeatherKnitz response. Heather always tweets with her tongue firmly in her cheek. She removed her post when she discovered I might comment on the fact that she wants to see additional attractive players with facial hair. I don’t want to speculate though I am curious whether she is interested in facial hair similar to Sam LeCure, John Axford (who has a cult following in Brewers circles), or the dyed mess on Brian Wilson‘s chin.
My feeling is we are still a starter away but the challenge is finding a 7 inning a start pitcher, preferably left handed is both difficult and expensive. Walt Jocketty will have his hands full over the next 5 months let alone the next 3 years. I wish him the very best.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz