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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Today with the Reds (4/7/06)

Two topics today:

1. Just listened to the end of the ballgame on MLB Gameday. Scary. But it's so nice to see Eric Milton get in a good start at GABP to start the season. Should do a world of good for his confidence. It has to be among his best performances there. ...I was hoping the high strikeout totals that he was showing back in spring training would carry over to the regular season (his k's were down last season), yet he only struck out 3 in seven innings. But that's splitting hairs--at least he didn't walk anyone. Go Milton! I hope he can be a league-average pitcher for us. Also very nice to see Felipe Lopez getting off to a great start with his two homers tonight and his multiple-hit game yesterday. And Ryan Freel is awesome. My goodness that boy can play.

Chris Hammond still hasn't gotten anyone out this year.

2. The Reds purchased 24-year old infielder Brandon Phillips from the Cleveland Indians today for the infamous "player to be named later or cash considerations." Some stats:
Year/Team PA K/BB SB/% OBP SLG OPS GPA EqA VORP
2003/CLE-AAA 170 1.83 7/70% 0.247 0.279 0.526 0.181 0.186 -16.8
2003/CLE 388 5.50 4/44% 0.242 0.311 0.553 0.187 0.200 -20.9
2004/CLE-AAA 609 1.27 14/56% 0.353 0.416 0.769 0.263 0.259 20.7
2004/CLE 24 2.50 0/00% 0.250 0.273 0.523 0.181 0.170 -2.6
2005/CLE-AAA 516 2.31 7/58% 0.326 0.409 0.735 0.249 0.234 0.0
2005/CLE 9 --- 0/00% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.0
Previously a highly-touted prospect out of the Montreal farm system, this guy is apparently going to sit on our bench this year. He is out of options, and the Reds seem to have acquired him from the Indians because they didn't want to lose him via waivers and he's not good enough to be on their team. Phillips had a very good half-year as a 21-year old in the then-Expos' AA franchise, hitting 0.327/0.380/0.506/0.886 in 245 at bats in '02. But that's the last time he had a really outstanding, prospect-like season. He was probably rushed a bit to the majors in '03, but was thoroughly ineffective there and hasn't done a whole lot since. His '04 campaign with the Indians' AAA affiliate was decent (0.353 OBP), but he regressed a bit in '05. Krivsky mentioned in his rain delay interview with Marty Brennaman today that Phillips hit 15 homers last year in AAA, which is good. But his slugging percentage was a fairly poor 0.409, particularly given those HR totals. Overall...I wouldn't expect much from this guy's bat this season, and perhaps not ever.

One thing that is clear is that Phillips should not be allowed to steal bases. He did steal 14 in '04 with Buffalo, but his stealing percentage was a woeful 56%. That's well below where you need it to be in order to be beneficial.

Krivsky indicated that the primary reason they wanted him was that Phillips has a good glove. The only source I have that gives fielding stats for this guy are Clay Davenport's fielding stats in Baseball Prospectus '06. Here they are (rate-adjusted as if he played 150 games):
Pos. Year Level Games Davenport (runs/yr)
2B 2003 AAA 42 7
2B 2003 CLE 103 12
2B 2004 AAA 69 2
SS 2004 AAA 65 -21
SS 2005 AAA 109 8
Well, the numbers support what Krivsky said--always nice. If these data are to be believed, Phillips is a plus defender at both second and shortstop (he struggled at short in '04--post-demotion blues?--but seemed pretty solid in '05). And that's not something the Reds have right now. There is something to be said for late-inning defensive replacements.

So yeah, it is absolutely nice to have a solid defensive infielder on the roster... Except that we already have too many middle infielders. True, Freel and Womack can essentially be thought of as IF/OF guys, and some combination of Freel, Aurilia, Womack, and Hatteberg will be starting every night with the other two on the bench. But that's still often going to be two infielders on the bench every game before Phillips enters the mix. On top of that, we might be carrying 3 catchers, one of which (Valentin) can also start a bit at first.

So we're certain to see some roster moves when Phillips arrives on Sunday and LaRue returns on Monday. The most obvious thing that I see is that Andy Abad is going back to AAA. Nice knowin' ya, man, but you're completely redundant with others on the roster. Aside from that, we essentially have Ross, Denorfia, and maybe Mike Burns on the edge. I frankly can't see Burns going back, as that'd put us at 11 pitchers...and with our bullpen being as ineffective as they have been thus far, I don't see how we can do that. If Denorfia is sent back down, that would leave Freel and Womack as our "reserve" outfielders. Which is fine, except that one of them will probably be starting every day for us. On the other hand, if Ross is designated for assignment, we'll probably lose him as he goes through waivers. He may(?) also have the ability to refuse assignment to Louisville even if he does clear, which I can see happening. My head is spinning with the possibilities.

My bet? Despite Krivsky's infatuation with Ross, I just can't see us keeping a third catcher on the roster and only having one replacement option in the outfield per game. So I think we're going to say goodbye. At least that's the logical thing to do.

...unless a trade happens between then and now, which wouldn't surprise me a bit. Looking at the roster now, I can see trades potentially happening just about anywhere. If they trade a catcher, that resolves the LaRue/Ross/Valentin debacle. If they trade an outfielder, then the Freel/Womack platoon can move to the outfield and Aurilia will start at 2B (at least mostly...yes, I know this should also open up a spot for Denorfia, but I don't see the Reds giving him a shot over Freel/Womack at this point). If they trade an infielder, that would obviously free up a space for Phillips too. Only problem with the latter option is that the only guys who would bring a decent return are Encarnacion and Lopez. And both are currently productive and cheap, makes me not want to trade them.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider a Lopez trade. The return would have to be superb in terms of the starting pitching he brings (I'd say a #2, groundball guy at the minimum), but Lopez did have an amazing season last year and there are a number of projections indicating his offense might decline this year...perhaps significantly....though I'm not sure that I believe those projections. Nevertheless, Aurilia can play SS for at least this year without any drop in defense (his offense will almost certainly not be as good). Such a deal would once again give us a long-term problem at SS, of course, but a lot of decent teams have to deal with that on a yearly basis....and maybe Phillips will eventually hit well enough to become an Adam Everett-type player.

Listening to him this afternoon, I'm not even sure that Krivsky knows what he's going to do. But no matter what happens, it's bound to be an interesting couple of days for the Reds.