7/18-7/20 Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds

(Photo Credit: Flickr user mfillhart via Creative Commons license)
(Photo Credit: Flickr user mfillhart via Creative Commons license)

The All-Star break is finally over and the Yankees are back at the office starting tonight. They kick off the second half-opening ten-game homestand with three games against the Reds this weekend. Needless to say, they need to start winning at home if they want to make a run at the postseason, and this homestand is the time to do it. This is their final interleague series of the season, by the way.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Reds won two of three from the Pirates before the All-Star break and they’ve won eight of their last eleven games overall. They are 54-44 with a +28 run differential, which puts them in third place in the NL Central, 1.5 games back of the first place Brewers.

Offense
With an average of 3.97 runs per game and a team 91 wRC+, Cincinnati is a bit below the league average offensively. They are really banged up right now too. 1B Joey Votto (127 wRC+) and 2B Brandon Phillips (92 wRC+) are both out long-term with quad and thumb injuries, respectively. UTIL Skip Schumaker (66 wRC+) is out with a concussion, IF Jack Hannahan has not played at all this year following shoulder surgery, and IF Ramon Santiago (91 wRC+) is day-to-day with a shoulder issue. We won’t see any of them other than possibly Santiago this weekend.

Hamilton. (Andy Lyons/Getty)
Hamilton. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

With all of those injuries, rookie manager Bryan Price relies on OF Jay Bruce (97 wRC+), 3B Todd Frazier (137 wRC+), and C Devin Mesoraco (170 wRC+ in somewhat limited time) to carry his offense. Bruce is having a very down year by his standards. OF Billy Hamilton (104 wRC+) is the fastest man in baseball and he sets the tone from the leadoff spot. He’s gone 38-for-53 (72%) in stolen base chances this year and has torn the cover off the ball for a month now (161 wRC+ in the last 30 days). Keeping him off base is imperative this weekend.

OF Ryan Ludwick (104 wRC+), SS Zack Cozart (61 wRC+), and OF Chris Heisey (84 wRC+) are the other names in the Reds lineup you might recognize. C Brayan Pena (76 wRC+) is the backup catcher and part-time first baseman with Votto out. OF Donald Lutz (32 wRC+ in very limited time), IF Neftali Soto (-50 wRC+ in very limited time), and IF Kristopher Negron (268 wRC+ in very limited time) are up to help fill in for all the injuries. I’m guessing Bruce, Hamilton, Heisey, and Ludwick will all be the lineup thanks to the DH this weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP David Phelps (vs. CIN) vs. RHP Mike Leake (vs. NYY)
Leake, 26, continues to be unspectacularly solid for the Reds, with a 3.54 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 19 starts and 127 innings this season. Across the board he has posted career best strikeout (6.87 K/9 and 18.3 K%), walk (1.91 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%), homer (0.92 HR/9 and 12.7 HR/FB%), and ground ball (54.1%) rates. Lefties (.374 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.272 wOBA) this year. Leake is a true six-pitch pitcher, using three upper-80s/low-90s fastballs (four-seam, sinker, cutter) to set up his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. He throws all six pitches at least 7% of the time and everything but the changeup at least 10% of the time. Leake and Phelps are actually pretty similar in terms of their pitching style.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. CIN) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (vs. NYY)
Simon was an All-Star this year thanks mostly to his league-leading 12 wins. The 33-year-old has a 2.70 ERA (4.34 FIP) in 18 starts and 116.2 innings after spending the the last few years as a full-time reliever. Simon doesn’t miss bats (5.79 K/9 and 16.0 K%) and isn’t especially good at keeping the ball in the park (1.08 HR/9 and 13.1 HR/FB%), but he limits walks (2.16 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%) and gets grounders (49.3%). He also has a small platoon split. Simon is an extreme fastball pitcher, using his upper-80s cutter and mid-90s two and four-seamers more than 70% of the time combined. His top secondary pitch is a mid-80s splitter, though he’ll also throw a handful of upper-70s slurves per start. There’s no mystery here. Simon will come right after hitters with hard stuff.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. NYY) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (vs. NYY)
Believe it or not, the 28-year-old Cueto was a first time All-Star this year. I figured he would have gone to at least one by now. He had some downright brilliant seasons from 2011-12. Anyway, the 28-year-old Cueto has a 2.13 ERA (3.16 FIP) in 20 starts and 143.2 innings so far this season. He is striking batters out at a career best rate (8.83 K/9 and 25.1 K%) while his walk (2.19 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%), homerun (0.75 HR/9 and 10.1 HR/FB%), and ground ball (49.7%) numbers are right in line with his career averages. His platoon split is small. Cueto throws two and four-seam fastballs in the low-to-mid-90s while mixing in plenty of upper-80s cutters as well. Both of his secondary pitches are excellent — a mid-80s changeup and a low-80s slider. Cueto is very, very good.

Bullpen Status
It all starts at the back-end for the Reds, who have an elite closer in LHP Aroldis Chapman (0.54 FIP). He actually tweaked his hamstring covering first base during the All-Star Game, but apparently it’s only a minor issue and he is expected to be ready for this weekend. RHP Jonathan Broxton (3.14 FIP) is setting up while LHP Manny Parra (3.98 FIP) handles the left-on-left stuff.

RHP Sam LeCure (3.85 FIP) and RHP J.J. Hoover (4.96 FIP) are Price’s primary middle innings guys while RHP Logan Ondrusek (3.46 FIP), RHP Carlos Contreras (2.66 FIP in limited time), and RHP Jumbo Diaz (5.42 FIP in limited time) handle everything else. Here is the requisite photo of the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Diaz. It’s an eight-man bullpen for the time being. Both teams have well-rested bullpens thanks to the All-Star break, but check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway. For the latest and greatest on the Reds, I recommend Redleg Nation.

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2013 Winter Meetings Day Four Open Thread

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The final day of the lamest Winter Meetings I can remember is upon us. The Rule 5 Draft starts the day — J.J. Cooper has a preview, including notes on several Yankees farmhands who figure to be selected — but the Yankees do not have an open 40-man roster, so they won’t be able to make a pick. Clubs and their executives tend to leave around midday Thursday, so don’t expect there to be many rumors or transactions in the afternoon. For shame.

Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s rumors. Late last night we learned the Yankees rejected a Brett Gardner-for-Brandon Phillips trade offer from the Reds, who are looking to unload their second baseman and the $50M left on his contract. We’re going to keep track of Thursday’s worthwhile rumors right here. All times are ET.

  • 9:26pm: The Yankees were involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before he was dealt to the Rockies. [Susan Slusser]
  • 5:31pm: While talking to Johan Santana’s agent, Brian Cashman showed some interest in hard-throwing but not-always-strike-throwing reliever Henry Rodriguez. [David Waldstein]
  • 5:28pm: The Yankees made their offer to Infante after Robinson Cano agreed to sign with the Mariners and before the Winter Meetings, which basically means last weekend. [Olney]
  • 2:49pm: Apparently there was a three way trade being discussed involving Gardner, Justin Masterson, and Didi Gregorius. Gardner would have wound up with the Indians, Masterson with the Diamondbacks, and Gregorius with the Yankees. Huh. [Sweeny Murti]
  • 1:10pm: Mark Ellis is “on the radar” as an Infante alternative for the Yankees. I looked at him as a possible target yesterday. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 12:20pm: The team’s offer to Infante is in the three-year, $24M range. He’s seeking four years and $40M. [Sherman]
  • 12:09pm: The Yankees have offered Omar Infante a three-year contract. He is still holding out for a fourth year. The Royals are in the mix as well. [Jon Heyman]
  • 9:00am: Future talks about Gardner and Phillips could be expanded to include other players, but the Yankees have essentially told teams they will only trade Gardner for a starting pitcher. They listened on Phillips out of due diligence. [C. Trent Rosecrans & Joel Sherman]
  • Masahiro Tanaka remains the team’s top pitching priority. The new posting system is expected to be ratified soon but it’ll probably be another week or so before we find out whether Tanaka will actually be posted. Maybe longer. [George King]
  • The Yankees are one of Joaquin Benoit’s likeliest destinations along with the Indians, Padres, Mariners, and Cubs. He’s seeking $7-10M annually across multiple years. Matt looked at Benoit as a free agent target earlier this week. [Jeff Passan & Buster Olney]
  • While talking to reporters yesterday, Brian Cashman said the pool of available of second baseman is “deeper” than it is at third. He also said he has not spoken to a bullpen candidate who demanded the closer’s job. [Chad Jennings]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

2013 Winter Meetings Day Three Open Thread

Could Ackley be less awful outside of Seattle? (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Ack. (ley) (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Yankees did most of their heavy offseason lifting over the last few weeks, so the first two days of the Winter Meetings have been a bit of a bore. That’s been the case around the entire league, really. Hopefully things pick up over the next 36 hours — the Winter Meetings unofficially end following the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow morning — just to add some excitement to the week. This is supposed to be the most fun time of the offseason.

Anyway, here are Monday’s and Tuesday’s Yankees-related rumors. The most important thing we’ve learned so far this week is that the club is getting a ton of calls on Brett Gardner but they’re likely to keep him. They’re pushing Ichiro Suzuki in trades instead. Good luck with that. Guys like Joaquin Benoit, Mark Reynolds, Dustin Ackley, Danny Espinosa, and Michael Young are on their radar as well. We’ll keep track of the Wednesday’s rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All times are ET.

  • 10:15pm: The Yankees rejected a Gardner-for-Phillips offer from the Reds. Happy to see the team values Gardner so highly, it would have been very easy to say yes to that offer following Robinson Cano‘s defection. [Heyman]
  • 6:47pm: The Reds are indeed interested in Gardner right now. The Yankees do not have interest in lefty reliever Sean Marshall, however. He was almost traded to the Rockies earlier this week before something popped up in his medicals. [Sherman]
  • 5:23pm: If you were hoping the Yankees would sign Bartolo Colon, forget it. He agreed to a two-year, $20M contract (!) with the Mets. That’s a lot. [Rosenthal]
  • 5:04pm: The Yankees were interested in Jason Vargas before he took a four-year, $32M deal from the Royals a few weeks ago. Weird. The soft-tossing, pitch-to-contact types are not usually the guys they target. [Nightengale]
  • 4:59pm: Freddy Garcia‘s agent reached out to the Yankees, but they said they weren’t interested. With all due respect to Sweaty Freddy, there’s no need for a reunion. [Marchand]
  • 4:05pm: Brian Cashman told reported the Yankees are “ready to rock ‘n roll” when asked if they are holding back money for Masahiro Tanaka. He also indicated they may fill out their rotation and bench with low cost pickups later in the offseason, similar to 2011. [Sherman & Andy McCullough]
  • 2:27pm: The Yankees have no intention of giving Infante a four-year contract, and rightfully so. He’s sticking to that demand though. [Feinsand]
  • 2:25pm: The Reds have “little interest” in Gardner, surprisingly. They need a leadoff man and center fielder. [Sherman]
  • 12:24pm: The Yankees like Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius. He could play second this year before taking over as the long-term Derek Jeter replacement, at least in theory. Whether he’s attainable is another matter. [Joel Sherman]
  • 10:34am: There are “no active talks” between the Yankees and Reds about Brandon Phillips at the moment. They can do better. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 10:22am: The Yankees are one of eight teams with interest in Johan Santana. All talks are in the preliminary stages and it would be a minor league contract. Johan is returning from his second torn shoulder capsule. [Andrew Marchand]
  • 10:03am: Apparently the Yankees and Tigers are discussing a deal involving Gardner and Austin Jackson. That seems … weird. I wonder if Detroit thinks it’ll be easier to sign Gardner long-term or something. [Peter Gammons]
  • 9:52am: There “are no legs” to any talks about Masterson between the Yankees and Indians. They only need his arm anyway, amirite? [Buster Olney]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees would like to get their hands on the available Justin Masterson. The Indians want young, controllable pitching in return, and since they already have three center fielders on their roster, a trade involving Gardner would require a third team. [Bob Nightengale]
  • No surprise here, but the Yankees are no longer in on Nelson Cruz or Shin-Soo Choo after signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. They remain engaged with free agent infielder Omar Infante. [Mark Feinsand]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Staff Notes: Rothschild, Thomson, Mackanin

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees re-signed Joe Girardi to a new four-year contract worth $16M yesterday, but there are still some other coaching staff and front office situations to address. Here’s the latest from George King, Andy Martino, and Andrew Marchand.

  • Pitching coach Larry Rothschild is close to signing a new contract extension. Brian Cashman recently said the team hoped to bring him back, but they needed to get the manager’s spot settled first. All of the coaches’ contracts expire on October 31st.
  • The Mariners have internally discussed the possibility of pursuing Yankees third base coach Rob Thomson for their managerial opening. They have not yet asked New York for permission to interview Thomson or any of their coaches, however.
  • The Phillies named Pete Mackanin their new third base coach earlier this week. He spent this past year as a Major League scout with the Yankees. Mackanin is very highly regarded within the game and was reportedly on the team’s short list of managerial candidates if Girardi left.
  • The Yankees will not bring back Charlie Wonsowicz, who has been an advance scout/video coordinator for the last five years. The position has being eliminated for whatever reason. Wonsowicz had been in the organization for 21 years.
  • Lastly, former Yankee and current YES broadcaster Paul O’Neill has some interest in replacing the since-fired Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. However, Reds GM Walt Jocketty confirmed the team has “not reached out to Paul regarding our managerial vacancy.”

Non-Mariano thoughts following the off-day

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The final week of the regular season is upon us. To make the postseason, the Yankees need to win each of their final six games while the Rays, Rangers, and Indians win no more than two of their remaining games. Or something like that. Let’s see the Bombers hold up their end of the bargain before we start worrying about everyone else. Mathematically, the Yankees are still alive. In reality, they’re done. Such is life. Here are some random thoughts.

1. I’m not quite sure what the Yankees are supposed to do during this final week. I want them to play kids — Zoilo Almonte, J.R. Murphy, Dellin Betances, and Cesar Cabral, specifically — but mostly because I can’t bear to watch guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Chris Stewart, and Joba Chamberlain any longer. Six games won’t tell us anything about the kids, or least not anything that should change our minds about their long-term potential and possible role in 2013. I’ve just about hit my limit with Ichiro and Stewart and Joba though. They’re unwatchable and there’s something to be said for having a watchable team. Forget looking at it as a fan, I can’t imagine all those companies paying big advertising bucks aren’t so happy with their bang for the buck this year. So please, for my sanity if nothing else, play some young players these last six games and make them interesting.

2. A team official told Erik Boland the return of Phil Hughes for next season “can’t be ruled out,” which is true of pretty much every free agent, really. That seems especially true for Hughes though because the Yankees will have an awful lot of pitching questions to answer prior to next season. If the price is right, the Bombers should definitely look to bring Phil back. The question is what’s the right price? He’s got a 5.07 ERA and 4.53 FIP in 143.2 innings this year, which is by far his worst (mostly) healthy season as a full-time starter. Hughes has alternated ~2 WAR seasons with ~0 WAR seasons since moving into the rotation four years ag0 and you’d be hoping for a rebound by re-signing him. A qualifying offer is out of the question at this point, but would one-year at $4M work? Maybe push it to $5M? I’m a) not terrible confident in the team’s in-house options, and b) in favor of adding as much pitching depth as possible this winter, so I’d definitely bring Hughes back for a year at $4-5M. The problem is he’ll probably get more on the open market — all it takes is one team to overpay.

3. You know how teams who have nothing left to play for — either because they’ve already clinched their postseason spot or have already been eliminated — will trot out a skeleton crew lineup in the final game of the regular season? I wonder if the Yankees will do that on Sunday. If they do, I’d probably use a lineup along these lines:

  1. CF Ichiro
  2. 3B Eduardo Nunez
  3. LF Wells
  4. DH Mark Reynolds
  5. 1B Lyle Overbay
  6. RF Zoilo
  7. 2B David Adams
  8. SS Brendan Ryan
  9. C Murphy

That … looks dangerously close to their regular everyday lineup, no? The only legitimate starting-caliber MLB players who would be sitting in that scenario are Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez. There aren’t that many position player call-ups this year. Hiroki Kuroda lines up to start that day, but since he’s out of gas, the Yankees could start Brett Marshall and have him thrown three or four innings before a parade of September call-up relievers take over. I suppose that depends on what they do to replace the injured CC Sabathia this week.

4. With the understanding that the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, which postseason team do you think is most dangerous in a short playoff series? A lot of people will probably pick the Red Sox because they wrecked the Yankees (twice) in recent weeks or the Tigers because hey, they won the pennant last year, but I think it might be the Reds. Johnny Cueto is back from his third lat strain, so manager Dusty Baker will have two aces (Cueto and Mat Latos) and a damn-near ace (Homer Bailey) in his postseason rotation. Their lineup is crazy deep — particularly with guys who work deep counts and make pitchers to throw a lot of pitches — and their bullpen is really underrated behind Aroldis Chapman. Sean Marshall is back from the DL, lefty Manny Parra dominates same-side hitters, and Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover are as good as any right-handed setup tandem in the game. Not big names, but big results. The Reds are probably going to have to play a wildcard play-in game, which could derail their season in an instant, but that is definitely not a team I want to play in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.