On April 3rd, 2012, just two days before Opening Day, Walt Jocketty claimed Alfredo Simon off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. Simon had only pitched 9.0 innings that spring, allowing 7 runs for the Orioles. Walt Jocketty needed one more reliever, and he took a chance on a guy with a 5.18 career ERA in 78 big league games.

Simon got off to shaky start in Cincinnati. In his first appearance, he gave up two runs, including a home run to John Buck and the Marlins. In Simon’s third appearance with the Reds, he threw two wild pitches in the 10th inning, including one that allowed the winning run to score. That night, just about everyone was baffled by the Simon signing and were wondering why he was on a playoff contender’s roster. Simon proved the critics wrong. He went on to post a 2.66 ERA and a 3.19 FIP in 2012. Simon is only one of eight Reds relievers with a 2.66 ERA or lower since 2000 (minimum 60+ IP).

Simon followed 2012 with a solid 2013, posting a 2.87 ERA, and a sizzling 1.07 WHIP in 63 appearances for the Reds. His 3.96 FIP showed that his performance might have been a bit lucky, but nonetheless he was a key member of that team. Then in 2014, he joined the starting rotation after injuries to Latos, Bailey, and Cingrani, and all he did was make the All-Star team, and finish the season with a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts.

Over the course of his three year Reds career, Simon earned 4.1 bWAR, which is impressive for a guy who spent two of those seasons as a reliever. Yet a good deal of Simon’s success was due to numbers that were unsustainable. In 2014, Simon had a 4.33 FIP, which was the 11th highest in the MLB among qualifying starters. Early projections in 2015 for Simon gave him a 4.89 ERA and 4.79 FIP.

At the 2014 All-Star break, many were clamoring for Jocketty to trade Simon, as his value would never be higher. Jocketty was likely shopping Simon then, but didn’t find a deal that he felt was worthy of a trade. Instead, he kept Simon and shopped him at the winter meetings. Jocketty was able to take advantage of a team that had just traded away a SP for a bat, and got a great return for Simon.

Pitcher, Jonathon Crawford – 2013 first round draft pick, and #2 prospect in the Tigers system

Shortstop, Eugenio Suarez – MLB ready, 23-year old SS, who posted a .362 OBP over his career in the minors (played 85 games in the majors last season with an 85 wRC+)

Getting a 2013 first round draft pick, a team’s number two ranked prospect, was incredible enough for a projected sub-par pitcher with only one year left of team control. But that wasn’t all Jocketty got in return. He also received an MLB ready SS, who has been an above average hitter at EVERY level in the minor leagues. Suarez has posted wRC+ of 123, 192, 116, 126, 147, 102, 137, and 159 at his stops at different levels since his debut in the Tigers system in 2011. Suarez does have defensive concerns, but he is certainly an intriguing player with serious upside for the Reds.

The initial signing in 2012 and then the eventual dealing of Alfredo Simon is a great example of buying low and selling high. That is what you want from an organization. The job that Walt Jocketty did with handling Simon has restored serious faith in the Reds GM in my book.

33 Responses

  1. Dale Pearl

    I feel the same. I was almost to the point of boycotting the Reds until Jocketty was sent packing. Now that he pulled this magic maybe he has a good plan after all and it just,requires some patience to execute? His off season cannot be fully evaluated until he decides what to do with our left field situation.

  2. [email protected]

    I think Wally is a good defensive coordinator (Simon)

    I think Wayne is a good offensive coordinator (Phillips, Hamilton, Gomes)

    Wayne was much better at churning players for need (Cantu, Nix, Cody)

  3. Jeff in TN

    Forgotten in this article was that when Walt plucked Simon from the trash heap, Todd Frazier was sent down to Louisville to start the season. I felt so bad for the kid as he had done everything asked of him to make the big league club out of spring training and got bumped on the last day before the season. It has since worked out well for the All-Star 3rd baseman and the haul from the Simon trade will be a brighter future for the Reds.
    Thanks Walt for letting the fans know you weren’t asleep at this year’s meetings.

  4. Mike Weber

    At least we have three strong pitchers, Now all we need is some hitting and to tweek the bullpen!

  5. Jerry Davis

    I love the insanity of the FIP stat, if a pitcher is very good with high FIP numbers its called unsustainable, then as soon as he has a bad year, it’s a see, I told you it was unsustainable. The stat is meaningless in my opinion, any stat that can’t tell you a pitcher is doing well or bad is just a made up number.

    • Jerry Davis

      But as Simon proved last year a high FIP does not correlate with a bad performance, he had a heck of a year, so the stat really doesn’t tell you anything. Strikeouts, walks, home runs are all situational. You can have a guy that gives up fewer walks, home runs, and more strikeouts but he gives them up in clutch situations and loses more games, and a guy like Simon that doesn’t give up the walk or homer in a clutch situation and the team wins. Despite the love affair with these stats runs which create wins and loses are all that matter in baseball.

    • ManuelT

      I agree. It’s ridiculous to call three consecutive, good seasons luck.

    • Nick Doran

      The big reason why so many of the Reds pitchers have been able to outperform their FIP is the excellent team defense of the Reds. The Reds ranked as the best defensive team in baseball according to DER and DRS and most other metrics. Separating a pitcher’s performance from the fielders’ performance is the primary purpose of FIP, which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. Run prevention is a team effort and is not solely dependent on the pitcher. ERA ignores that distinction, giving all the credit or blame to the pitcher. FIP distills pitching down to the key elements under the direct control of the pitcher — strikeouts, walks and homeruns. It filters out the effects of the fielders and the ballpark, leaving you with a strict evaluation of the pitcher’s true performance.

      FIP has been proven conclusively to do a much better job of predicting the future than ERA does. If you want to predict a pitcher’s future performance you should use his FIP rather than his ERA if you want to be correct. xFIP and SIERA are even better than FIP for this purpose.

  6. sezwhom

    Only thing I need to read into acquiring Suarez is that Cozart now has competition.

  7. B-town Fan

    One of the writers that was on MLB tv’s coverage said the Simon trade was mostly the product of Walts and Dave Dombroski’s rooms being across the hall from each other and running into each other and talking so often, that it turned into specific trade conversation and it might not have happened otherwise.

  8. Victor Vollhardt

    My guess for the coming year–Detroit will get more out of Simon than the Marlins out of Latos. Simon will be a better pickup than Miley-McCarthy-Porcello.. Even if Latos does well–He will probably move on, but Detroit has a sign able pitcher in Simon.

    • Michael E

      Latos will stay and sign at a slight discount. South Florida is where he is from and all indications is he would love to stay in that area. That said, he still may not be a good signing…2015 will tell us what Latos is capable of moving forward.

  9. mtkal

    Obviously all stats are just tools in the toolbox to use to evaluate and compare player value and performance. Usually no one stat can tell you all you need to know about any player. Baseball people and fans alike can use all the tools available including the good old “eye test” to completely evaluate players.

  10. mtkal

    We can also look at the Latos trade and compare it to what Walt gave the Padres for Latos a few years ago. At first glance I think a lot of people felt like that was a case of buying high and selling low, but maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. The market for starting pitchers in general is different than when the Reds acquired Latos, and he is coming off of a season with a lot of concerns about his physical condition. Maybe it wasn’t the great deal that the Simon trade was, but I don’t think it was that bad, and it could turn out to be really good down the road a bit.

    • I-71_Exile

      Someone on this site mentioned that Latos had depreciated as an asset since the Reds acquired him and that really made me rethink the trade. I was pretty disappointed at first but now think that Walt did okay. The 2015 Mat Latos is a big risk and the Marlins gave up a decent amount to assume that risk for one year. The Reds can always resign him next year if they want him back.

      For this coming year, I think Matt’s looking at the DL as much as anything sad to say. I like him a lot as a player.

    • Michael E

      Yeah, I noted that the Latos of 3 years ago is not the Latos of today. Cheaper back then, improving, under team control for 3 more seasons, etc.

      Basically, would you trade 3 or 4 top 15 prospects for Latos today?

      knowing:

      – only one year of control left, then free agency
      – will cost about $9.5 million in 2015
      – has a few minor-to-moderate injury concerns along with some degradation in pitching stats the past few years

      No way we would like a trade of 3 or 4 prospects for today’s Latos. Many thought we gave up too much for Latos then and he was more valuable in every sense then than he is now (years of control, improving, cheap).

      Summary, if we should have gotten more, then if the Reds were buyers, would you give up Stephenson or some other top 5 prospect and another prospect for Latos? I wouldn’t. We got a #3 prospect (#2 at the time, after Heaney left) and and middling catching prospect for Latos. I daresay we’d want to give up any more than that and would probably argue for LESS given all the issues with Latos.

  11. UNC Reds Fan

    I know everybody said our biggest and probably most obvious needs were LF and relief pitching…but less apparent and I think still important was the need for more production offensively from the shortstop position and I think Walt deserves credit for realizing this when others were focused on more obvious things

    • Tom Reed

      Agreed. Getting Suarez in the Simon trade was big since apparently there is not a shortstop in waiting on the farm. And as fine as Cozart’s defense has been, his offense leaves much to be desired.

  12. Robby20

    More than a little premature to say the trade was a steal. Let’s see how the season plays out.

    • Carl Sayre

      I started to disagree until I started putting my thoughts together and what you said is true. Premature to call it a steal. I do however think that, even this early it is easy to see the Reds got the better of the deal. When you are able to trade an aging number 5 starter for a first round draft pick that is a pitcher that would have to be a win. When you get a SS that put up those kind of numbers in the minors for a number 5 starter that was able to stay in the majors for a half season the year before that is probably a win, but the both of them I think that is a win hands down. The SS is able to continue the OBP of 316 at the major league level then it will be a steal but you are right it is a bit premature to see if the small sample size from the majors holds.

  13. Art Wayne Austin

    While Walt did a great job don’t forget who developed him into a pitcher instead of a thrower: Bryan Price and the first year pitching coach.

  14. droomac

    While the Simon signing was obviously a good move, let’s not be too quick to chalk up the Simon signing to the genius of Walt Jocketty. Remember, 2012 was also the year that Ryan Madson signed with the Reds in January and blew out his elbow the last week of March. Had Madson not done this, the Reds’ bulllpen would have been full and Simon would have cleared.

    • doctor

      to add to that, Chapman was targeted to be a starter that year as well if I remember correctly, instead Dusty forced issue to have Chapman in bullpen once he lost his “proven” closer.

  15. Dale Pearl

    The Ryan Madsen injury injured the Reds for several years. That single injury snowballed our team

    • JU

      I’d like to see all those dots connected. Madson was supposed to close but there’s not a good way to determine how effective he would have been.

  16. bhrubin1

    Everyone is talking about Suarez as though he might be replacing Cozart, but I think he’s an intriguing addition to this team for another reason. He could be a backup middle infielder who could actually hit. As others have pointed out, the Reds’ infield defense has been critical to the pitching success. And the combo of Phillips and Cozart has been critical to that. With Cozart still being cheap, and Price being willing to bat him 8th, I don’t think we have anything to complain about there, nor should we be clambering to replace him with a guy whose glove is suspect.

    On the other hand, the Reds’ backup middle infielder has been a black hole for as long as I can remember. Jocketty has always insisted on finding a glove first guy to cover 2nd and short, figuring that they were the most important defensive positions, and we had to not just have great defensive starters there, but a great defensive backup as well, which neglects the fact that ALL bench players provide most of their value as pinch hitters, not as defensive replacements. Each of those years, I had hoped that Jocketty would have gone with a stronger offensive player, who could play middle infield occasionally and in an emergency, but who could be consistently productive as a bat off the bench. Here’s hoping Suarez fills that role!

    • Michael E

      I just hope he gets a fair shot at SS. Cozart is a very good fielder, but his range is just so-so and he is a poor hitter. All in all, Cozart is merely acceptable or mediocre at SS. Not near the best in the league, nor the worst. We could improve there, but if we get better hitting, it can’t come at the cost of 30 errors. Maybe Suarez is just bad enough with the glove (have not heard that) to not be worth the rise in offensive production. Who knows, but let him have a shot…maybe it will wake up Cozart who doesn’t seem interested in improving his hitting.

  17. DevAJS

    MLB Rumors said that he turned down a 4 year deal from an unknown team because he’d rather play for the White Sox. We know the Mariners only offered him 3 as well. Man, if the Reds were that unknown team… that would stink, but what can you do about it?

  18. Mack Ashley Potter

    Walt Jocketty’s finest work: Alfredo Simon
    Walt Jocketty’s huge failure: Alfredo Simon

    Simon turned out to be an outstanding acquisition off the waiver wire but Jocketty really messed up not dealing him when he was on fire instead of waiting until now and getting a free car wash and a bag of popcorn for him. We all knew the numbers Simon was putting up as a starter wouldn’t last and Walt just sat there and let his value diminish. The Reds should have already had a left fielder months ago when Simon was hot.

    • bhrubin1

      So, out of the 1st round draft pick starting pitcher, and the high obp major league ready shortstop, which is the car wash and which is the popcorn in your analogy? Or is it that you think we could have gotten even more at the waiver wire because none of the other GMs in baseball have stat guys to notice that Simon’s peripherals were out of whack with his performance?

      Seriously, that the Tigers would make this trade is jaw-droppingly inexplicable, and it would have been exactly as inexplicable had it happened in July. Nobody was going to give us a top tier corner outfielder for Alfredo Simon at the deadline. We got way more than his value for him. How can that possibly be construed as a failure, unless you honestly believe we could have hoodwinked someone even more completely at the deadline?

  19. Chip Newton

    fix the REDS
    They have made good moves now the tough stuff
    trade Johhny C – cant sign him and get 3 ready to go players
    trade Chapman to Toronto for 3 prospects ready to go

    the reds then win the division and are long term set
    strategy !!