The price was right, evidently:

Free agent Jerry Hairston Jr. is returning to the Cincinnati Reds. A baseball source told MLB.com that Hairston and the club agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $2 million on Tuesday. It’s an incentive laden deal that could be worth up to $4 million.

An announcement is expected on Wednesday. The Royals and Cardinals were the other teams competing for Hairston’s services.

It appears that Cincinnati plans to make Hairston its starting shortstop this season because Alex Gonzalez won’t be ready.

I’m glad that Hairston is returning, especially at that price. As a utility guy, he’s handy to have around. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever of Hairston putting up the same numbers he had in limited action last year, but he’s versatile. I’ll take it.

I am concerned, however, about the prospect of Hairston being our starting shortstop. With serious questions about the defensive abilities of Ramon Hernandez and Willy Taveras, the Reds are looking pretty poor up the middle right now.

40 Responses

  1. Dan

    Solid signing at that price I’d say. Now just don’t use Hairston in LF where has bat isn’t good enough! He’ll be a solid middle infield option.

    Now, if we assume Gonzalez is not an option for a while, it looks like we’ll have some combination of Phillips, Keppinger, and Hairston manning 2B and SS.

    Out of those 3… who do you think has the best SS-type skills? To me, it’s Phillips, hands down. He’s the most athletic and (I think) has the strongest arm of the 3.

    Now… why didn’t we try the Phillips at SS experiment in September of last year when the games were meaningless?? That way we’d have a much better idea of whether this is a good idea or not, rather than idle speculation and arguing on a blog! Argh…

    But, at any rate… Hairston at 1 year for $2 million… good move.

    Now get us one more BAT for the outfield, Walt! This team won’t score nearly enough runs at this point.

  2. GregD

    I expect Gonzalez’s Reds career is over.

    Hairston played 17 games at SS from 1999-2007. As I said in the other thread, this team is going to be in trouble using utility players in starting roles.

    What are the Reds short and long-term prospects at SS? Is Valaikia going to stick at SS? Short of that, I don’t know why the Reds didn’t get into the Furcal sweepstakes. That could have filled the need at SS and leadoff and possibly put the brakes on signing Taveras for leadoff.

  3. Chris

    What does this mean to the “defense up the middle” plan we just heard about last week?

    I like Hairston, appreciated his 08 season, but got a little sick of how the local media portrayed him as the second coming. As long as he’s not in LF, I’m ok.

  4. Sultan of Swaff

    I agree with Dan. We wasted a whole month on Kepp at SS last September. Ideally, Phillips would be the shortstop among this bunch. It’s not even close. Kepp and JHJ would do well at 2B with their weaker arms. This is a no-brainer.

  5. Brian

    They won’t move Phillips because he just won a gold glove at second (should have two) and you don’t move someone from a spot they play gold glove caliber at.

    I like the Hairston signing for that price but the starting SS thing is just stupid. I would rather have Janish play SS who can atleast pick it a little eventhough he struggles offensively. I would rather have Defense at SS and deal with the lack of offense, than lack defense at the number 1 and a key defensive position.

  6. Tom

    This just screams for Phillips SS and Hairston at 2B.

    Phillips Positions: 2B-692, SS-577, DH-1, 3B-1
    Hairston Positions: 2B-756, SS-182, CF-114, LF-113, RF-58, DH-33, 3B-33, OF-14, 1B-1

    Hairston spent 34 of those games at SS last season where his .740 FP would have ranked 16 of 18 for qualified MLB SS last season, MLB average was .984. His 4.28 RF rankes him about 12th out the 18 qualified MLB SS. Keppinger was at .980 FP and 4.00 RF last season for comparison. Before last season Hairston last played regularly at SS his first two seasons of pro ball 1997-1998 where he fielded .949 and .937 with 37 E in 124 games. He’s been primarily a 2B since.

    Phillips has been primarily a SS 1999-2002, half of 2004, and 2005. He’s been primarily a 2B for 2003, half of 2004, and 2006 to 2008. For his pro career that totals SS 5.5 years, 2B 4.5 years.

    It’s time common sense to rule here.

  7. Brian

    Oh and if he does start at SS on opening day it may be the most pitiful thing the Reds have done of recent memory and we both can think of a lot of dumb things.

  8. Bill

    Nice utility signing…but as an everyday starter..no. And the scary thing is I expect to hear Jocketty to crown him the starting LF shortly.

  9. Jason

    If Hairston really is the starter then all the talk about competing this year is just talk. I already thought the Reds were really waiting for next year when more prospects are ready, but if Hairston starts that pretty much seals it. If the front office actually DOES think they can compete with this lineup then, well, they are incorrect.

  10. Steve Price

    I think my “favorite” opening day move was having Jeff Jones as a starting outfielder in 1983…I believe he made the jump from A ball to opening day starter. His career lasted lasted for 57 plate appearances….but he did have two SACRIFICE FLIES (I guess that’s an important stat for an outfielder in Cincinnati these days).

    Oh….Jones’s career OPS+ was 88…which is higher than Hairston’s 85 that he’s accumulated in over 3000 plate appearances (oh…he’s had 20 sacrifice flies)

    I can understand and appreciate why everyone wants Hairston back…but, I have to think the Hairston of 2008 was bodysnatched by aliens who were developing a simulation for an instellar baseball game; his performance was so far out of career norm at an advanced age….I mean, essentially the $2 mil he just received is a bonus for last year’s performance….and not what should be expected this year

  11. GRF

    Chad I thought we had improved the defense up the middle. Isn’t that what Walt said?

    Seriously though, I have no problem at all with this signing in isolation. The question of whether we have any kind of overall plan, as opposed to just signing stop gap veteran “solutions”, to me remains a very open one.

    And if they do not at least consider moving Phillips given the current situation, they are just being inflexible.

  12. GregD

    2010 Free agent options at SS don’t look promising either

    Bobby Crosby (30)
    Adam Everett (33)
    Alex Gonzalez (32) – $6MM mutual option with a $500K buyout
    Khalil Greene (30)
    Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
    John McDonald (35)
    Marco Scutaro (34)
    Miguel Tejada (36)
    Jack Wilson (32) – $8.4MM club option with a $600K buyout

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2008/12/2010-mlb-free-a.html

    Current free agents who have not yet signed are not on the list above…2009 free agents:
    Angel Berroa (31)
    Willie Bloomquist (31)
    Orlando Cabrera (34) – Type A, offered arb
    Alex Cintron (30)
    Alex Cora (33)
    Craig Counsell (38)
    David Eckstein (34)
    Nomar Garciaparra (35)
    Chris Gomez (38)
    Tomohiro Nioka (33)
    Luis Rivas (29)
    Juan Uribe (30) – Type B, not offered arb
    Omar Vizquel (42)

  13. CeeKeR

    That’s not a bad signing. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily make the Reds any better than last year since Hairston was around… I’m not sure if any of the Reds signings have made the team better than last year – and last year’s team wasn’t any good.

  14. Mark in CC

    Good signing.

    I don’t think it would be impossible for him to put up very similar numbers to ’08. They are representative of what he has done throughout his career when healthy

    The Reds winning pct., was much better when Hairston was in the line-up in ’09. Seems to be a spark plug.

    Who has questioned Taveras’s defense?

  15. rpa

    taveras’ d looked bad (statistically, at least) in colorado. i didn’t really watch him play there that much, so i can’t say if i believe it or not. i don’t have a deep enough understanding of those outfield statistical systems to know if playing cf in coors might throw things off.

    if he’s as good as he was in houston, i think he’ll be ok (plus plus range, so-so instincts, a few more dumb errors than you might like to see) or at least as good as patterson. which is to say, probably not good enough to make up for his offense.

    i don’t know. i think the hairston signing is good for the price. i also think he might, if he stays healthy (the big IF here…) he can put up numbers a bit better than his career average. it seems his plate approach had matured a bit last year, but maybe that’s just an illusion cast by his batting average.

    the reds did win with him in the lineup, for whatever reason.

    as far as him playing ss, he doesn’t belong there. j-kepp doesn’t belong there. but what are you going to do? furcal was the best option and he’s gone (and he might not have ever wanted to sign here anyway). maybe they think valalalaika can play there in the majors… haven’t seen him myself, so i have no idea.

    as far as hairston playing lf, well, if the reds don’t go and get anyone else, i could live with a dickerson/hairston platoon until one of them returns to earth. it’s better than throwing hopper out there every game, anyway.

  16. David

    Everyone tends to jump all over these signings. Let’s not worry about who the starting SS is until the winter’s over. The Reds may look to add another 0-3 SS like Jocketty suggested. Personally, I see them adding a young SS and a LF. I understand. At 2 million I like the deal.

    Even still, right now, (depending on what they do with LF) this team is better position for position than it was at the start of last season.

  17. Matt Steele

    We don’t know if Phillips even would want to play SS. Phillips may have told the club that he won’t play SS at all. I don’t really know but there could be many reasons why they’re not trying him at SS.

    As for Hairston playing SS…. that does weaken us defensively. A lot of clubs are now putting a higher focus on defense but it doesn’t seem like the Reds really are trying that hard.

    If he plays anything at all like he did last year, then he’s a much better lead off candidate than Willy is, but I doubt that that will happen.

    the lineup will probably be something like this

    CF Taveras
    SS Hairston Jr
    1b Votto
    2b Phillips
    RF Bruce
    3b Encarnacion
    C Hernandez
    LF Dickerson
    P

    when it should look like this (my opinion)

    SS Hairston (or Dickerson)
    1b Votto
    2b Phillips
    Rf Bruce
    3b Encarnacion
    C Hernandez
    LF Dickerson (or Hairston)
    CF Taveras
    P

    we have to have guys on base to drive them in and I’m just not sure how often that is going to happen if Taveras and Hairston and at the top

  18. Phill

    Going on the assumption that the starting 8 will be:
    Ramon Hernandez-C
    Joey Votto-1B
    Brandon Phillips-2B
    Edwin Encarnacion-3B
    Jerry Hairston Jr.-SS
    Chris Dickerson-OF
    Willy Taveras-OF
    Jay Bruce-OF

    that makes the bench who?
    Ryan Hanigan-C
    Norris Hopper-OF
    Jeff Keppinger-UTIL-INF

    Makes me wonder who else makes it. Wilkin Castillo? Paul Janish? I imagine if he can have a decent spring training Castillo could make it because he’s a super utility guy playing pretty much every single position that isn’t pitcher.

  19. catcard202

    W/ JHJ back…The filled 40man roster screams: “Where’s the RHB Run-producer, Walt???”.

    I know FA OF Baldelli is still in play, but I have a feeling that he’s headed to the BoSox to DH/#5OF. And that really SUCKS! I sooo wanted him in CIN. I believe he will get his medical sit. straightened out & be the RB of old. I could imagine him & Dickerson platooning in LF to form a TWO-HEADED MONSTER (production wise) for the REDS over the next couple of years.

    Trading for Nady or Swisher make some sense, as either can cover LF & play some 1B to give Votto a day off (every now & again). Nady, in my eyes, is a much better fit..and has a better price-tag…But what would he cost??? The Yanks are going to be shrewd to deal w/ in this market. As it stands…there aren’t many guys left that fit the RHB COF that this team needs.

    But what is starting to seem more likely is…WJ makes a big play w/ Boras for Andruw Jones, after the Dodgers release him (which per Boras’s leaked info, is the 15th)…And that may be why AGon is set to see Dr. K in the next week or so. (to see if we should clear a 40 spot).

    Am I crazy??

  20. preach

    I’m just afraid that signing Hairston means we are done signing at all.

    Hairston is a great bench guy, but that’s it. Period.

    Y’know, Hernandez and Tejada are best friends. In fact, they are godparents to each other’s children. One of the reasons they both ended up in Baltimore was because they wanted to play together. Yeah, he’s older, but a two year deal for him would improve our offense and defense.

  21. CeeKeR

    I’d assume tht Janish makes it – and I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Reds WON’T carry three catchers out of spring training for the first time in years…won’t that be a nice thing?!

  22. Travis G.

    I’ve wondered if Coors is especially difficult to play CF defense, as well, rpa. I know it’s pretty spacious, as are some other ballparks, but I wonder if the atmosphere there affects the ball consistently enough to hurt an OF’s performance. Seems entirely possible, at least.

    I like the Hairston signing, inasmuch as a person can get excited about the return of a 32-year-old utility player whose career has been sidetracked by injuries. But he’s certainly less of a statue at SS than Keppinger, and he can be a useful hitter.

    And as I keep saying, the Reds needed ML players at multiple positions.

  23. doug

    I don’t have any problems with the signing of Hairston to this deal at face value. Like others have said though, the feeling I get is that this team is done signing players and that we aren’t going to be getting that ‘Run producing RH Bat for the outfield’ that Walt kept talking about. Thats fine and all, as long as they don’t keep talking about competing and be honest with us. I don’t see that as happening though.

  24. nick in va

    Did they ever release the amount they gave Taveras? I worry about the defense a bit – a grounder to 3rd makes me breakout in cold sweats (similar to when Weathers steps on the mound), but I think the offense will be ok.

  25. Phill

    Nick, Taveras is making 2.25 mil for 09 and 4M in ’10 plus small bonus’ for reaching a certain amount of AB’s. Also 1% of his base salary is to be donated to the Reds Community Fund.

  26. Tom

    Makes me wonder who else makes it. Wilkin Castillo? Paul Janish? I imagine if he can have a decent spring training Castillo could make it because he’s a super utility guy playing pretty much every single position that isn’t pitcher.
    =====

    Those two are far down my list. I’d have to say Nix would have a shot at LH PH, unless Dickerson is displaced in LF. Also Rosales and Richar will be in the mix. Both are playing well in winter ball. Wes Bankston would be a RH bat with some pop off the bench also. Janish is nothing but a designated fielder. I don’t have much use for Castillo yet until someone with the Reds says he can actually catch.

  27. David

    Personally, I would not be surprised if the Reds add two more. Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera are available. Initially, the Reds did not pursue a FA SS because it was thought that AGon would be alright. The latest quotes seem to indicate he won’t be available for at least the start of the season. I also see the Reds picking up a LF. So the bench would include Hannigan, Hopper, Dickerson, and Keppinger.

    Who is the long reliever is more interesting in my opinion.

  28. Tom

    W/ JHJ back…The filled 40man roster screams: “Where’s the RHB Run-producer, Walt???”.

    ======

    Can the Reds not count?

    RH Hitters
    Hernandez
    Phillips
    Hairston/Gonzalez
    Encarnacion
    Mystery RH LF
    Taveras

    LH Hitters
    Votto
    Bruce

    Uh, that’s 6 RH verses 2 LH I do believe. Add that to the insanity that Burrell, who we were never in on, and maybe Dye are the only two people mentioned as possibilities that have even a decent chance of out producing Encarnacion at the plate this season.

    My God end the insanity, get someone who can hit and play OF. I’d prefer a LH at this point.

    Hairston
    Votto
    Encarnacion
    Mystery LH OF (Abreau??)
    Phillips
    Bruce
    Hernandez
    Taveras

  29. GregD

    #17 – that lineup looks a little sad to me. Too bad it couldn’t have looked something like this:

    SS Furcal
    CF Dickerson/Hopper
    1b Votto
    LF Burrell or Dye
    RF Bruce
    3b Encarnacion
    2b Phillips
    C Hanigan/Zaun
    P

    #27 – where would Hudson play or would you propose they trade Phillips?

  30. Matt Steele

    If we could only get Abreu, then our lineup could be something like this

    SS Hairston
    1b Votto
    LF Abreu
    RF Bruce
    2b Phillips
    3b Encarnacion
    C Hernandez
    CF Taveras
    P

    which would be much better than what we have right now. But we’re not even going to attempt to get Abreu I fear….

    so I imagine that barring a trade, we’re looking at pretty much the roster we have now

  31. Brian

    #28
    I think the arguement is that they don’t have a middle of the lineup RH bat. You have Votto and Bruce both left handed which fit nicely anywhere from 3-5. Phillips fits as a 5,6 or 7 bat nicely but do you want to bat two young lefties (Bruce, Votto) back to back? and even though I don’t mind Phillips in the 5 spot he is a better fit 6 or 7.

    EE and Hernandez also fit the 6,7,8 spot in the lineup with Hairston an 8,1,2 hitter and Tavarez a 1 or 8 type bat.

    So even though they have a ton of RH bats they don’t have that big RH Run Producer and that is what they need. So you can’t just look at the roster and be like the only lefties assured a spot are Votto, Bruce and Dickerson because you have to look at what those bats are capable of.

    Plus if you add a big RH COF then you have a middle of the lineup of:
    3 – Votto
    4- RH COF
    5- Bruce
    6- Phillips
    7- EE
    which makes a nice LH, RH type of lineup and could also allow you to put the hot RH hand by switching EE and Phillips when one is going well and the other in a slump.

  32. Chris

    Manny is available. Honestly, it seems like the best fit. Throw $38/2 plus incentives at him and let’s get serious.

  33. David

    GregD – If Hudson is signed then I would advocate moving Phillips to SS. By signing another gold glover to man second, the argument that you weaken two positions defensively is inapplicable. The question in that case would be is Phillips/Hudson valued higher than ?/Phillips. I’d say yes. On the other hand, the Reds could sign Cabrera to SS. Cabrera is a better player overall than AGon and his price is dropping.

    Brian – I agree that conventional wisdom is driving the desire to sign a RH OF. Conventionally, splitting two LH hitters is important in late inning relief situations, because typically LH hit poorly against LHP. So a split requires a pitching change and many bullpens don’t have two decent LHP.

    The problem with the argument is Abreu’s splits against LHP and RHP are identical over the past three years. So it doesn’t really mean as much if Abreu is between Votto and Bruce.

    WHAT IS SEEMINGLY IGNORED HOWEVER is that most obsevers were sickened to see Philips hit 3rd or 4th last season. Clearly, Jocketty understand Phillips is not a 3rd or 4th bat. For those of you who say the Reds don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, I believe Jocketty’s desire to find a RH OF run prodducer shows that he does understand where a players strengths are in the lineup.

  34. Brian

    I agree that there are a few exceptions like Abreu who hits both RHP and LHP and then the Phillies are the one team that ignores the RHP and LHP by going Utley and Howard but they always had Burrell behind Howard so they still had some influence in the 5 spot because Burrell crushed LHP. But at this point in Votto and Bruce’s careers it is hard to not get protection for them with a RHB or as you bring up Abreu the only question on him would be his price tag.

    On a side note I would still like them to find someone to upgrade third defensively and either trade EE or move him to Left (whether he is quick enough to play there I don’t know).

  35. Brian

    Actually Dave I pretty much agree with your entire post including that people need to give Jocketty the benefit of the doubt because he has a winning track record.

  36. Matt Steele

    There’s no way we should even think about signing Cabrera…. not when we’d have to give up a first round draft pick to get him

  37. David

    Matt – Our first round is protected. It would be a second round pick, but I understand your thoughts. I think though that Jocketty’s unusually undecipherable quote about the health of AGon is really troubling.

    http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=blog07&plckController=Blog&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3ae57bcc87-152a-4f72-96fb-cc08b1f396efPost%3a8306f191-f5f0-414a-9291-664b312f1231&sid=sitelife.cincinnati.com

  38. brublejr

    I like the price, but for what the Reds signed Hairston, Taveras, and Rhodes they could have had Burrell who can knock people in.

  39. Travis G.

    But Burrell would have only filled one roster spot. This team wisely let a lot of free agents depart, and they had to be replaced.

  40. Dan

    Also, maybe Burrell just wouldn’t have wanted to come here.

    The Reds were 74-88 last year. Tampa was 97-65, when to the World Series, and is the best young up-and-coming team in baseball.

    Plenty of good reasons to pick Tampa over Cincinnati, even for less money.