ESPN column on Dusty and Youth:

Jim Leyland craves nicotine. Tony La Russa is autocratic. Lou Piniella is a walking Vesuvius. And Dusty Baker, when he’s not subjecting young pitchers to overly onerous workloads, is supposedly a “veteran’s guy.”

Not true, claims Baker, who insists this bogus notion was concocted by a San Francisco radio critic — the same guy who was fired for saying that former Giants manager Felipe Alou had Cream of Wheat for brains. Baker calls the rap against him “asinine,” along with an eight-letter word that begins with “bull.”
“When I came up to the big leagues, I had Hank Aaron not only telling me what to do, but showing me what to do, and that was a blessing,” Baker said. “I always yearned for a team full of young kids so I could teach them how to play.”

As much as I believed that Dusty was the wrong manager for this team and abhor the mistakes he’s made (and continues to make [i.e. Corey Patterson]), he’s been much better with the Reds young players than I ever expected him to be and better then the previous managers have been.

After seven straight losing seasons, the Reds are reaping the benefits of a farm system that has vaulted from 29th to third place in the Baseball America talent rankings. Former general manager Wayne Krivsky, who was fired in April and replaced by Walt Jocketty, did his part to ensure continuity with several astute moves.

True, Krivsky gave out some bad smaller contracts to the likes of Corey Patterson, Mike Stanton and Juan Castro. But he also picked up Phillips, shortstop Jeff Keppinger and reliever Jared Burton for next to nothing, and he acquired Hamilton in the Rule 5 draft and spun him into a deal for Volquez.

Even the trade for which Krivsky was most vilified — Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to Washington for bullpen help — is looking much better in hindsight. Lefty Bill Bray has pitched well in relief, and starter Daryl Thompson, 5-2 with a 1.55 ERA in the minors, could be on the verge of joining Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bailey as youthful sidekicks to Aaron Harang in the rotation.

He doesn’t mention the other contracts eaten, like Cormier.

I don’t agree with downplaying the wasted money to Patterson, Stanton, and Castro because on smaller market teams, you can’t afford signings like these. Not when players with this value can be had for major league minimum.

Also, in retrospect, though now it does look like the trade is going to fall in the Reds favor, I will never be convinced that Krivsky knew that Lopez and Kearns careers were going to drop to the depths that they have. More importantly,  the intent of the trade was to improve the team to win at that time, which it did not do.

And on Dunn…

The biggest decisions this winter will revolve around the corner outfield spots, at which Griffey has a $16.5 million club option awaiting him and Dunn is eligible for free agency.

There are legitimate reasons to think the Reds might hang on to Dunn. Owner Bob Castellini is a Dunn admirer, and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the Reds to sever ties with Dunn only to turn around and pursue a Raul Ibanez, Bobby Abreu or Pat Burrell. Dunn has averaged 41 homers and 100 RBIs per season the past four years and has a career on-base percentage of .382. You just don’t replace that kind of production overnight.

The contrasting view is that Dunn might be ready for a change of scenery at 28. He took an emotional hit when the Reds traded his buddy Kearns to Washington, and he’s grown tired of the trade rumors that have swirled around him in recent years. Sources say that Dunn also was less than thrilled last year when Bill Cunningham, a local radio provocateur who works for the Reds’ flagship station, said Dunn played left field as if he were “drunk,” and the club didn’t exactly rush to his defense.

Dunn told the Reds that if he were going to sign an extension, it would have to be during spring training. That failed to materialize, and he’s not interested in renewing talks or hashing out what-if scenarios now.

“I worry about all that stuff when the time is right,” Dunn said, “and right now the time isn’t right.”

I had not heard that Dunn had put a deadline on signing an extension or that he’s not interested in talking now. The local quotes have always been that the Reds had not contacted him. An admitted Dunn fan, I hope that the change in management and Castellini’s reported desire to keep Dunn in town will convince him to change his mind.

But I have to admit, if he’s not willing to talk now, they have to look to move him after his non-trade runs out this month. They can’t afford for him to walk and only get a draft pick for him. IMO, the Reds management is in a bad position here. There is not a wealth of offense in the minor league organization, Dunn’s offense is consistent and will not be easy to replace, and as the article states, it doesn’t make any sense to move Dunn and then go into free agency to try to replace him.

It’s easy to blame Krivsky for not talking to Dunn about an extension, but if Castellini is really a Dunn fan, he could have ordered him to open negotiations.