The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Offseason
There might not be a player in all of baseball being presented with an opportunity akin to the one offered to Billy Hamilton, and this offseason has surely been his. He's being penciled in as the starting CF and leadoff man for a team coming off three postseason trips in four seasons. He's being tasked with filling the choes of a guy good enough to warrant a 7 year, $130 contract from the Texas Rangers this offseason. On a team that is getting increasingly older and more expensive - yet is still absolutely expected to be a contender - he's being touted as the single largest addition to a team coming off a 3rd place finish in the NL Central in 2013. That's a lot to place on the lithe shoulders of a 23 year old with a .651 OPS in AAA and merely 22 career PAs at the big league level, but Walt Jocketty and the Reds front office has done just that. Perhaps those shoulders aren't quite ready to bear that burden, but his otherworldly legs just might be up to the task. That's some spotlight, kiddo, and well worthy of the JNMHSotO.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Tony Cingrani, whose path to breaking Spring camp as a member of the starting rotation was cleared when Bronson Arroyo signed with Arizona; Devin Mesoraco, who will get the opportunity to be a "front-line" catcher in 2014; Ryan Ludwick, who appears to have the inside track on being the starting LF despite having a threadbare shoulder; and Bryan Price, who gets his first crack at being a big league manager.
- Not even a full three days after their loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one game Wild Card playoff, the Reds kicked things off by firing manager Dusty Baker after six seasons as the team's manager. The Reds lost the final 5 games of the season to slip into being the road team for the play-in game, then lost that to finish on a basket-baby 6 game losing streak; Baker and Jocketty then reportedly had a disagreement over the potential firing of hitting coach Brook Jacoby which escalated to the point of Baker being fired himself. Offseason 1, Reds 0.
- The Reds wasted little time in striking back, however, as they moved to promote their pitching coach, Bryan Price, to manager on October 22nd. Price had long been the preferred candidate among the Red Reporter faithful, and he got the job over such luminaries as Jim Riggleman, Charlie Scrabbles, Tony La Russa, Pete Rose, Mick Cronin, and Madville, each of whom had varying levels of consideration for the position. Offseason 1, Reds 1.
- Roughly two weeks later, the Reds extended a qualifying offer to Shin-Soo Choo, who declined to accept it in order to become a free agent. Jocketty & Co. opted not to extend a qualifying offer to the team's other prominent free agent to-be, Bronson Arroyo, that same week in November. Given how the market for both now-former Reds played out, Walt read the market pretty well, and when the Reds' pursuit of Choo fell well short of the eventual huge contract he signed with the Rangers, the Reds got a compensation pick for the 2014 draft in exchange; Arroyo faced a light market - likely due to his age - and eventually signed with the Diamondbacks for 2 years and $19 million (with a $4.5 million buyout on a third year option). Offseason 1, Reds 2.
- At the start of December, the Reds finally moved to change their 2014 roster, and did so by signing former St. Louis Cardinal and Los Angeles Dodger Skip Schumaker. Schumaker, coming off a -1.4 bWAR season at age 33, was given the customary 2-year contract, and former LF Xavier Paul was non-tendered later that week to effectively cede his roster spot to Skip. Red Reporter, uhm, rejoiced? Of course they didn't...Red Reporter is smarter than that. Offseason 2, Reds 2.
- Days after the Schumaker announcement came something we'd kind of seen coming before, but still something we were surprised by: the Reds sent C Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-way trade that netted P David Holmberg in return (from Arizona). The Reds had signed C Brayan Pena some two weeks earlier, creating a logjam in the catching department that had speculation running rampant. The Reds opted to hand the primary catching duties over to Mesoraco, and shipped one of the games' best walkers and pitch-framers to the Rays instead. Hanigan promptly inked a 3 year contract, and the Reds were left with a potential back-end starting pitcher and a shiny new set of Nerts. Offseason 3, Reds 2.
- Things went super quiet after that. Maybe it was the holiday season, or perhaps it was just plain ol' inactivity, but there was less chatter about potential kerfluffling than at any point in any offseason in recent memory. Then, out of nowhere, the Reds were being linked to FA OF Grady Sizemore, a kind of move RR has lobbied for for years. Despite Sizemore's health issues, he was reportedly cleared, stable, and ready to return, and the Reds seemed to be in the driver's seat to land him as an outfield complement to Hamilton and Ludwick. Then, that didn't happen. It not only didn't happen, it got usurped, trumped, and spotlighted. Offseason 4, Reds 2.
- After that? Nothing. A big pile of absolute nothing. Jeff Francis and Chien-Ming Wang were brought in off the scrap heap to provide pitching depth, and an extension for Homer Bailey was bandied about but never signed. Ramon Santiago was signed to fill the mid-30's .500 OPS kind-of-short-stop roll previously mastered by the likes of Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Wilson Valdez, and Cesar Izturis, and despite sources galore claiming that the Reds needed fixing, nothing else was done to clear up the muddy mess. Four months later, the aftertaste of a bitter battle with the Pirates still resonates. Offseason 5, Reds 2.
- It's been a painstakingly long offseason, but that ends tonight. The Reds' pitchers and catchers officially report to the team's Spring Training facilities in Goodyear, Arizona tomorrow, which means that baseball will finally be back.
- In fact, if you think about it, tonight gives us reason to celebrate. There is no single point in the year where we have as much baseball to look forward to - without having to wait for it - than tonight, as there will be new Reds-related happenings between tomorrow and the last game of the World Series. Right?
- I used complement correctly. Your compliments are greatly appreciated.
- Damn, it feels good to be a recapper again.
- Tunes? Tunes.