If it sorta kinda snuck up on you, that's totally OK. It sorta kinda snuck up on me, too. Either way, it's dang near here already, as the Cincinnati Reds play an actual, on-radio baseball game in just three days. Yep, on Friday we'll see a lineup that makes no sense, a pitcher on the mound we may never hear from again, and most all of the regulars that actually play out of the lineup by the 3rd inning. We'll see guys in the outfield and running the bases that require decent WiFi and binoculars to identify, and we'll probably be able to hear an entire inning pitched while the announcers can't tell who's actually doing the pitching.
But it'll be baseball. Reds baseball, at that. First pitch is set for 3:05 PM ET in Scottsdale Stadium against the San Francisco Giants, and here's where you can buy tickets if you're either one of the lucky ones in the Arizona sun at the moment (or if you just like to torture yourself for not being out there at all.)
As for how they're going to do the baseball thing, manager Bryan Price took one progressive stand this week, hinting that he'd like to use up to four different guys to close out games this year. There are no surprises as to the four in which he'd prefer, as both Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen were largely dominant in late-inning roles in 2016, Drew Storen was brought in as a back-end piece with ample closing experience, and Tony Cingrani actually led the team in saves last year; however, given how most every team under the sun operates with some form of delineated hierarchy in the bullpen, this does come with at least a bit of intrigue. In reality, it's more a byproduct of Price wanting each of those guys (and perhaps others) to get six outs in efficient fashion when they appear, which means there may be more days in which an otherwise designated "closer" or "8th inning guy" can't go due to having pitched multiple innings the day before. A four man rotation through two roles with twice the expected amount of pitching as those roles classically asked for is...well, it's a drawn out version of a math equation that adds up. Trust me.
Of course, a byproduct of that byproduct is that there won't be a "40 saves guy" or "closer" in the Cincinnati bullpen this year, which will be interesting to monitor in potential arbitration hearings after the year. Saves have long been one of the counting stats that hold plenty of value in the arcane arbitration process - just like dingers and ribbies instead of wRC+ or OBP, for instance - and that played out quite publicly in the recent arb process for New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances. MLBTR's Matt Swartz took a deeper look at how bullpen usage (read: the brilliant de-emphasis of "saves" as important stats) has progressed past the way the arbitration process assigns value to players, and it's a great read for any baseball enthusiast, much less a fan of a team that's going to have several distinct case studies on the topic if its proposed bullpen alignment holds true.
In other Reds news, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon caught up with catcher Stuart Turner to discuss his role in Reds camp this spring. Turner, you'll recall, came to the organization as a Rule 5 pick this offseason, and despite never having played above the AA level, he's basically third on the catching depth chart at the moment. Considering how big of a question mark Devin Mesoraco is atop that depth chart, Turner's going to have a lot of chances to impress in Cactus League play, though the question of whether or not to carry three catchers on the active roster is going to linger regardless of how he plays. Especially given that none of the three can play other positions, now that I think about it.
ESPN's Dan Szymborski joined us last night on the latest edition of the RR Podcast (stay tuned!), and he also dropped an interesting article at ESPN.com this morning: the 10 worst contracts in Major League Baseball right now. It's based on the expected value of each deal based on dollar amount when compared to the expected production from each player by Dan's ZiPS projections, and while it's behind a paywall, it's a dang interesting group of names to consider. I won't give away too much, but I will relay one note from Dan that should both make Reds fans - and the front office - grin a bit:
And no, Joey Votto was not an omission. ZiPS now think he'll contribute within $10 million of his contract remaining.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) February 21, 2017
I'm no mathemastatistician, but methinks that'd have him on the way to Cooperstown, if true.
Finally, The Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans looked at the connection made between reliever Raisel Iglesias and fellow Cuban Vladimir Gutierrez, the latter of whom the Reds threw big money at to sign in the most recent international signing period. Bryan Price chimed in with several interesting quotes in the piece, all of which should have you plenty excited to watch Gutierrez's development as he climbs through the minors.