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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reds pick up options on Dunn, Valentin, and...Hatteberg?

Today the Reds picked up the options on Adam Dunn and Javier Valentin's contracts. Those two were not surprises--Dunn finally seemed to be getting some recognition around Cincinnati near the end of the season (why then and not earlier, I have no idea), while Javier Valentin is necessary given the Reds' current problems at catcher.

But they also picked up Scott Hatteberg's option, which is a surprise to me.

I really like Scott Hatteberg. He's an excellent hitter; one of those rare guys who can simultaneously avoid strikeouts and yet work lots of walks, while still hitting the ball with reasonable authority. He has massively outperformed my (and everyone else's) expectations since the Reds signed him in '06. Despite his age (turns 38 in December), at this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see him put up yet another solid season next year. ...

The problem is that I just that I don't see how there's room for him on this team.

Here's my current anticipated breakdown of the Reds' active position player roster as of now, not including Hatteberg:


C Javier Valentin/David Ross
1B Joey Votto/Jorge Cantu
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Alex Gonzalez
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Adam Dunn
CF Josh Hamilton
RF Ken Griffey
C David Ross/Javier Valentin
1B Jorge Cantu/Joey Votto
IF Jeff Keppinger
IF/OF Ryan Freel
OF Norris Hopper

That's 13 players right there. Given that the Reds will probably continue to carry 12 pitchers most of the time, the active roster is already full. And this is not including Juan Castro, who I'm guessing will miss at least some of next season after Tommy John surgery.

Votto should be starting at first base this season, at least against right-handers. He's earned that spot, and it's silly not to plug him in there given his potential. He has a good shot to be just as productive as Hatteberg, and has the potential to be quite a bit more productive than Hatteberg--especially once he gets a year in the major leagues under his belt. I don't think anyone would argue with that.

But it does make sense to platoon Votto during his first season (just as they have Hatteberg), because the rather large lefty/righty splits he showed in the minor leagues will probably only be exacerbated as he settles in at the major league level. So he will likely be alternating with Cantu (or perhaps Keppinger) at that position...and that means that the Reds will already have two guys who really can only play first base reliably (well, three if you count Dunn...).

So what does Hatteberg bring to the Reds? He'd be a great bat off the bench, of course, but if Votto and Cantu are alternating at first, I don't see where he's going to find playing time. Furthermore, unless there's an injury, the active roster is already full of position players without him. And even if there is an injury--which, of course, is not unlikely--can the Reds afford to carry three guys who shouldn't really play anywhere but first base?

The only reasonable explanation I can think of for this move is that the Reds will try to trade either Hatteberg or Votto this offseason. Trading Votto seems to me to be a mistake, because you'd be trading away a guy with excellent potential over whom you would have low-cost control for six more years. So perhaps they'll try to swing a deal for Hatteberg...?

The other solution, of course, is that we could see Votto start the season in Louisville with Hatteberg starting again at first base. But that couldn't possibly happen on an intelligently-run ballclub like the Reds, right? Right? ... ... right?


  1. Trading Hopper away for decent RP, let Freel play 4th OF, this move will make room for Hatteberg.

    I think Hatteberg would be a nice PH if he were not traded. If Baker decides to platoon Ross/Valentin behind the plate, Hatteberg is the only left-handed hitter on bench.

    Of course, if Krivsky is able to trade Hatterberg for something valuable, I'm all for it.

  2. I am not sure if my stomach is turning because of too much Halloween candy, or from one glance at the starters/reserves listings that you posted. For whatever reasons a number of folks think that Cincinnati has a solid offense. Unless mediocre is the new solid this simply isn't the case. This was a league-average offense in 2007. Could it be a solid offense? A lot of things would have to go smoothly. Is Josh Hamilton going to be able to stay on the field? Will Junior be able to give them 500+ PAs again? Will David Ross rebound at all? Will Joey Votto have troubles in his first full season in the majors? Was the second half of the season the real EdE, or can we expect more ups and downs? Will Jeff Keppinger and Norris Hopper produce at the same level when given substantially less playing time? It is highly doubtful that everything will break the right way. Coupling a league-average offense with a very weak defense is going to put an obvious strain on the pitching staff. And this isn't a pitching staff that is capable of carrying a team in the first place. This team is more than just a starter and a couple of bullpen arms away from serious contention. If the 25-man roster isn't considerably changed by Opening Day 2008, it looks like another long, losing season in Cincinnati.

  3. I see one other possibilty for Votto. Did you notice they used him as a sub for Dunn in left field? Could this have been a test to see how well he did out there? If so and he passed, then he could be used as a sub outfielder as well as first base. Maybe this is why they picked up Hatteberg's option. Platoon Hatteberg and Cantu at first and platoon Votto with Dunn in left and first if needed. Also, if Junior is traded (This is a distinct possiblity, especially to the Braves as his dad played there and he likes Cox and he wants a ring before he quits) or retires after next year, then Votto could move to right with Dunn in left and Hobbs in center, then move him to first after Hatte is gone and Jay Bruce gets here. There all fixed!!

  4. What about Freel to an NL team that needs somebody all over the place? Of course, I'm not sure that a team with needs all over the place would have much to trade, but it does solve the logjam on this end.

  5. @Shinjyo--I'd rather trade Freel, but I see your point. Still, I don't see how the Reds can carry three first basemen.

    @Dave--I think the Reds have the potential to be a very good offense, though as you mentioned, there are a lot of ifs--especially related to health. Even so, the only guy who seems more likely than not to be a liability on offense is Ross. I'm not worried about Eddie's offense, and Joey Votto has a good chance to become a poor man's Justin Morneau.

    My concern for the position players has more to do with defense, especially at the corner positions.

    @oneeyedjack--Thanks for posting...Just not sure I agree. I'm not sure how one can platoon Votto with Dunn, given that they're both left-handed hitters and Dunn routinely plays 150+ games a season. My impressions of Votto's defense in left field weren't particularly inspired either...

    If the Reds do trade Griffey, then I'd much rather they use that opportunity to get Jay Bruce in the lineup than to (effectively) find a place for Hatteberg. -j

  6. @John, might help with the logjam, but we'd still end up with three guys who shouldn't play anywhere but first base! :( -j

  7. Just throwing this out here, but its on the rumor mill amoung some NL Scouts I talk with....

    Rangers and Reds are talking trade for Hatteberg.

  8. Justin,

    Not sure if you saw it or not, but The Fielding Bible Awards are all up and there are a lot of additional players listed.

  9. I think Hatteberg's option was too good of a deal for the Reds to pass up. I would expect him or Freel to be traded in the offseason.

    You've probably seen it already, but Trent Rosecrans had a great interview with John Dewan that's posted on his blog.

  10. Hey,

    Thanks for the comments folks.

    I like the fielding bible awards, at least as an alternative to the golden gloves. I think they tend to get it a lot closer than the official awards.

    And yeah, I did see C-Trent's interview--I actually contributed the question about tracking hang time. :)

    As for trade rumors...we'll see. ;)