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Cincinnati Reds links - Odrisamer Despaigne signs, Nick Senzel getting in CF work

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Tuesday links!

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We’re all pretty much stuck in a baseball waiting game at the moment, it would seem. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Dallas Keuchel all remain unsigned despite the trio seeking somewhere in the vicinity of $700+ million in guarantees from MLB clubs, and that’s the kind of crazy earmarked coin that will take a while to trickle back down into other baseball transactions from the clubs that lose out in that trio’s sweepstakes.

While that top-tier of free agents holds out, there have been a few minor league moves of note by the Cincinnati Reds, most notably the addition of pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, as reported by Rahul Setty from our friends at Halos Heaven. Despaigne, who’ll turn 32 in April, wrapped his 2018 season in Los Angeles with the Halos, and has spent time with the Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, and San Diego Padres in his five years since defecting from Cuba.

Despaigne has never been a strikeout machine, as his 5.6 career K/9 across 349.2 big league innings suggests, but that K/9 mark did jump to a career best 8.1 during his 39 innings between Miami and LA last year, so perhaps there’s something left in his tank. Of course, that also coincided with a spike in ERA (a not-nice 6.69), H/9, BB/9, so there is obviously a lot more going on than just ‘he figured out how to miss bats.’ If anything, his 4.31 FIP from last year sat right in-line with his career 4.35 mark, and given that his four-pitch mix remained somewhat similar to where it’s always been, my best guess is he’s pretty much the middle-of-the-road arm he’s always been.

His changeup has long been regarded as a bit of a renegade pitch, one that FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan looked closely at back in early 2015. In essence, it’s a wild card because of the extreme difference in velocity between it and his fastball, something that has largely maintained as he has aged. He has consistently managed to shave between 12-15 mph off his secondary pitch relative to his fastball, which doubles the velocity gap that most pitchers can successfully pull off - at least, most pitchers not named Luis Castillo, as the young Reds phenom has been able to boast a roughly 10 mph gap between his elite fastball and devastating changeup so far in his career, and perhaps the two can put their heads together and further improve that mark once they get together in spring training.

Speaking of which, Despaigne’s days in Cuba did have him crossing paths with current Reds Raisel Iglesias and Yasiel Puig, all three of whom played against one another in Cuban National Series play in their home country before defecting. Despaigne and Iglesias spent time together on the 2013 World Baseball Classic roster, one that would’ve certainly also included Puig had he not already defected. Each of Puig and Despaigne - as well as former Reds draftees Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and others - featured prominently in this 2015 New York Times article about the last wave of Cuban players who had to escape the country, given that the modern relationship between Cuba and the United States has been working to drastically improve the conditions for players to move to MLB over the awful, often brutal ways they were forced to transition in previous eras.

Despaigne might well just be camp filler at this point, but he could well be a veteran arm that finds a way into the bullpen mix, too. And he’ll certainly be in a spring camp with some familiar faces around, too.

In other transaction news, the Reds have apparently re-signed reliever Rob Wooten to a minor league deal, according to Zone Coverage’s Brandon Warne. Wooten, now 33, pitched 68 innings of 3.22 FIP ball back in the 2013-2015 seasons with Milwaukee, who originally drafted him, and eventually signed a minor league deal with the Reds prior to the 2017 season. He’s been limited to just 40.2 IP since then, though - with 14.1 of those coming in Arizona in rookie ball on rehab last year.

Over at Reds.com, Mark Sheldon gave answers to a variety of fan questions in his latest Reds Inbox, including where Puig might play, how the club could handle their seemingly vacant CF position, and what they might still do about the starting rotation.

Speaking of which, apparently Dick Williams relayed to LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYNCE McAlister on radio yesterday that Nick Senzel is already out in Goodyear and getting in work in CF, which is awesome on a number of levels. First, it means he’s already healthy again after the elbow cleanup surgery he had that ended his time in instructs last fall. Second, it means he’s got a kick-ass work ethic and is showing it. And third, it means the current crop of dugout and front office management has enough of an open mind to actually, really see if Senzel has what it takes to take the single biggest opening on the current roster and run with it, which is incredibly refreshing to see.

(Our friends at Redleg Nation were listening to that interview, too, and have a link to the audio, including an important note on why Jose Peraza won’t be the player they’ll look to use in CF.)

Finally, the Reds announced over the weekend that former reliever Caleb Cotham will be their assistant pitching coach, which shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, all told. Cotham came to the Reds initially as a player in the Aroldis Chapman deal, but notably pitched for current pitching coach Derek Johnson while at Vanderbilt University (where he also had current Reds backstop Curt Casali as his catcher). The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale also had some insights into other signings moves on the upcoming coaching staff, which you should check out.