The shoulder injury suffered by Jason Bourgeois this week gives the Reds front office the fig leaf they need to make amends for another dreary offseason performance. General manager Walt Jocketty should take advantage of the buyer’s market and acquire a major-league capable center fielder.

Bourgeois’ injury lays bare a gaping and embarrassing hole in the Reds roster — the extreme lack of depth in the outfield.

The fact that a journeyman minor league player like Bourgeois has been considered Plan B for center field in the event of an injury to Billy Hamilton says volumes itself. Bourgeois has only 118 major league plate appearances since 2011. Over his 14 year professional career, he has 10 times the number of PA in the minor leagues than he does in the majors. Worse, Bourgeois is at the age (33) when even good major league players begin to slide. He seemed overmatched (17.6 K%, 2.9 BB%) in his call-up to the Reds last September when he hit .242/.265/.303, well below his nothing-to-write-home-about career line of .258/.303/.324.

Bourgeois isn’t lost for the season, just 4-6 weeks. But how much of a contribution should the organization count on from a player like him (age, underlying talent) after suffering a fractured shoulder?

The only reason Jason Bourgeois had been in competition for a roster spot was his speed. He was a plausible center fielder, a rare skill on the Reds bench.

That leads to the question, who backs up Billy Hamilton, who has been dealing with a sore right shoulder himself?

We’ve got Skip Schumaker for that. But remember, Schumaker is coming off a season where he hit .235/.287/.308. And that’s not his biggest liability as a replacement for Billy Hamilton. According to every available defensive metric and anyone who was able to watch with their own eyes, Schumaker is a terrible outfielder. While he struggled in all three outfield positions (and 2B) last year, center field was his worst. Do the Reds really expect a 35-year-old player, fresh off of major shoulder surgery, to be a plausible center field backup for Billy Hamilton?

If not Schumaker, who’s next? Cue Brennan Boesch.

Boesch is the subject of the latest PR boomlet emanating from the desert. He’s put together a few hits and mashed a couple home runs. (Boesch has yet to draw a walk in 21 plate appearances, but he’s smart enough to know that the Reds organization doesn’t put value on that quality. With a walk-rate of 2.5 percent last year, he’s right at home.) Boesch has manned center field the past few days and manager Bryan Price has praised his performance.

Let’s not lose sight of Brennan Boesch. Boesch lost his roster spot with Detroit by the time the Tigers reached the 2012 postseason. After the Tigers were unsuccessful in trying to trade Boesch, they released him the following spring. The NY Yankees picked up him, but he was eventually demoted to AAA and then released in July 2013. With no other team interested in taking a chance on him, Boesch sat out the rest of the season. The LA Angels signed him as a free agent for the 2014 season. Boesch tore up the Pacific Coast League but couldn’t carry that success back to the majors. He hit .187/.203/.293 for LA. He hit more pop-ups than line drives. At the end of the season, the Angels DFA’d him.

What’s more frightening, Brennan Boesch has exactly ONE INNING of major league experience playing center field. Playing behind Mike Trout is nothing of which to be ashamed. But that lack of experience isn’t a calling card, either. (By the way, that is one more inning’s worth of experience than he has at first base in the majors — the other position the Reds are using him this spring. Ah, glorious bench depth.) Even in his heyday as a hitter, Boesch was and has remained, a butcher in the corner outfield spots. To expect him to be an effective center fielder if something happens to Billy Hamilton is sheer folly.

The Reds can use the pretext of Bourgeois’ injury to acquire another outfielder, a move overdue by more than a year. They must see through the gorilla dust of home runs hit off Louis Coleman and other meaningless spring training accomplishments.

The new player doesn’t have to be star- or even starter-caliber. Said candidate need only have demonstrated the ability to have done one of these things in the major leagues last year: (a) hit OK over at least 50 at bats; or (b) play a capable center field. Like Chris Heisey, for example.

Because right now, the Reds don’t have a player with either of those qualities on their bench.

49 Responses

  1. User1022

    Agree with the article. But not holding my breath that the organization feels the same or will act accordingly.

    I have a sinking feeling we might be seeing some ABs from Boesch this season.

  2. Jeremy Conley

    This issue really is confusing, because it seems like a self-inflicted wound that has numerous easy solutions. (1) Why would the Reds have traded Heisey for nothing? (2) If you’re going to trade Heisey for nothing, why not make a move for a decent replacement?

    It seems like the Reds are trying to be bad or something.

    • lwblogger2

      I think they really traded Heisey as a sheer salary dump. They apparently can’t afford the whopping (in the grand scheme of baseball salaries) $2-million or so that Heisey was going to cost them. Look, I’m not even saying Heisey is a very good player but I honestly feel he’s a far better solution, especially in CF than any of the Reds’ options not named Billy Hamilton.

  3. Kevin J. Brown

    Gee why can’t we have guys with a .300/.400/.500 slash line and Gold Glove caliber defense on our bench like everybody else?

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I have to agree, Kevin. Bench players are bench players for a reason. If they could hit 300/400/500, then they are probably starting somewhere. Or, in other words, if they could start “In the event of an injury to Billy Hamilton”, then they probably would be looking to start somewhere, period. Then, if we really want that guy, we would have to overpay for someone to sit the bench.

      I’m just not too worried about it. You can’t plan your team around planning for injuries. If you did, there would be less money available for those who do actually play everyday. “Who backs up Hamilton? Then, who’s going to backup Bruce? Then, who’s going to backup Byrd?” When does it stop?

      At the major league level, it’s hard enough to put together a solid starting 8. To me, the bench is just like the bullpen. It’s a crapshoot. You can’t plan on the bench starting “in case of injury”. You plan on the bench coming in during key parts and key games to give players rest.

      Bench players are bench players for a reason. Either they can’t hit, or can’t defend, or both to some degree. Or, they have something to contribute. With Willie Harris, I can’t help thinking it was purely because he could bat left handed. With Schumacher, I have to imagine he provides a kind of leadership, lead by example mentality, to this team and the younger guys.

      I find it sort of confusing when someone writes how we are sore on OF depth right now, and how we could use someone like Heisey right now:

      “(a) hit OK over at least 50 at bats; or (b) play a capable center field. Like Chris Heisey, for example.”

      But, just before the Heisey trade this past winter, they write on how we apparently don’t need Heisey:

      “Skip Schumaker signed to a 2015 contract. They are also seeking another OF this offseason and have Donald Lutz, Jason Bourgeois and possibly Jesse Winker who would play for nearly $2 million less than Heisey.”

      • Steve Mancuso

        You really do have trouble quoting statements in context. That sentence was just a statement of why it was possible the Reds might DFA Heisey, not that they should. It was before the only outfielder they signed was Marlon Byrd, whose age provides another reason for a good bench backup.

        Of course, you also deliberately skipped over these lines before the one you cherry-picked:

        “He has a career line of .247/.299/.422 over 1452 plate appearances. He has played strong defense at all three outfield positions. Heisey has also been successful as a pinch hitter. In 299 PA last year, Heisey earned 1.0 WAR (average of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference) and was paid $1.76 million.”

        Please, if you’re going to quote my work, do so accurately and in context.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Accurately, I couldn’t have been more accurate. Context? That’s for the eye of the reader to determine.

      • Steve Mancuso

        And if the Reds had a bench player who hit .300/.400/.500, which would make him a superstar in the game, you’d be complaining about his approach and saying you knew more about hitting than he did.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Actually, no, I wouldn’t say that. But we won’t bother again with you saying something that I never did say, will we? I would say, “He should probably be starting.”

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        But, then, so, which side do you take? If they were entirely different aspect of the scenario involving the same player, do you think we should or shouldn’t have traded Heisey, considering what we got back, also? That would be more informative to provide a reader. Do we trade Heisey, save the money and go with a worse bench? Or, do we keep Heisey and pay the money? It’s confusing with a reader talks both stances and doesn’t provide what they believe should be done.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I think you’re the only one confused about it.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Your sentence about my writing being confusing: “It’s confusing with a reader talks both stances and doesn’t provide what they believe should be done.”

  4. ohiojimw

    Not that he is tested or proven at the spot, but I’ve figured for some time that the true backup CF was Negron and not Bourgeois. He’s the only other guy on the team besides Hamilton who looks remotely like a traditional lead off guy; and it has looked like they want to break camp with both Boesch and Dominguez on the team. That leaves Negron as the overall 4th OF.

    • Hotto4Votto

      I agree, Negron can play a capable CF, certainly better than Boesch or Skip.

      I still can’t believe that the Reds, needing to cut 2m or so in salary traded Heisey and tendered Cozart. Heisey brings two qualities to the bench, excellent defense and PH prowess (with some power). He also had enough speed to be a pinch runner. Cozart brings defense and the worst hitting of any MLB regular last year. We have Suarez (who hit better than Cozart last year as a 22yr old) and Negron to play SS. Not to mention more viable candidates to back them up in Falu and DeJesus.

      I really hope the Reds move on from their fixation with Dominguez, his defense is horrible, and he strikes out way too much. Not what we need off the bench. If Suarez is going to the minors to play everyday, I hope we see a bench of Negron, Boesch, Pena, Skip and one of Falu/DeJesus.

  5. Kevin J. Brown

    I feel fairly confident that among Kris Negron, Yorman Rodriguez, Skip and Boesch we can somehow survive the calamity of having to play someone else besides Billy a few games in April before Bourgeois comes back.

    Heisey and his $2 million contract and inability to perform when called on to start is now history. Good riddance.

    • Chris Miller

      True about Heisey, but odd that you feel confident that even lesser players than Heisey, will somehow work out fine when needed.

    • Jeremy Conley

      This just doesn’t make sense to me. Heisey has a career OPS+ of 94, (just below average) and has been an above average defender in center. That is the absolute definition of a good bench guy in center field. He was routinely worth more than $5mil per year, so he’s actually a small bargain at $2 mil.

      Bourgeois has a career OPS+ of 73, which means he’s terrible, and has been a slightly below average fielder. He’s going to make $.5mil if he makes the team. If the Reds are that hard up for cash that they can’t spend an extra $1.5mil on a far superior player, they shouldn’t be handing out 8 figure deals left and right.

      The other guys you mention (in order) are not a real outfielder, a guy who has Heisey’s career numbers except he’s never played above AA, a terrible hitting and terrible fielding old veteran coming off surgery, and a guy with Heisey’s career number at the plate but a terrible fielder. Not a single one of those guys is as good as Heisey at being a 4th outfielder. They just aren’t.

      I’m not trying to say that Heisey was so great, but c’mon, how can you argue for getting rid of a guy and replacing him with someone worse? As a Reds fan, don’t you want them to be better?

      • jdx19

        Well stated. For someone to believe players clearly worse than Heisey will perform better than Heisey is…interesting.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Negron is absolutely a real outfielder. Just because he can play solid infield defense doesn’t mean he can’t play solid outfield defense as well. They’re not mutually exclusive.

      • Kevin J. Brown

        Heisey’s play has deteriorated over time and his numbers as a starter last year were terrible: .212/.260/.325. Even Skip was better at the plate as a starter (though not very good): .241/.289/.320. Expecting the guys I mentioned to do better in their starts than Heisey did last year is pretty reasonable.

        Hamilton played in 152 games last year. Paying another $2 million for a guy to sit on the bench is an unnecessary extravagance.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        The thing is, Kevin, they haven’t done better in their starts than Heisey. Plus, Heisey could play every OF position fairly well.

        The deal with Heisey, I’m confident of, is he was only given one opportunity to earn the position. That was with Baker during Ludwick’s first year here. Heisey went first, starting 32 of 42 games (name any other spot in his career with the Reds he started games like that out of a 2-4 week span), batting something like 288/324, very serviceable. Then, it was Ludwick’s turn, his bat got hot at the right time, and the rest is history. Heisey was a player just like Devin, I believe. Allow him to get into a routine and not just play in spots, he does a lot better. I remember him several times, for example, playing in CF one game, sliding for a ball, and missed it by about 6 feet. But, that was his first game playing in about 2 weeks. He played about 2-3 more games right after that game, and he never missed a ball like that again. He got into a rhythm/routine given game conditions that you can’t simulate in any practice, and he played better. AS caliber? Never. But, serviceable? Most definitely.

      • redmountain

        Actually, Negron was playing a lot of CF in Louisville, still not major league but not a complete stranger either.

      • earmbrister

        JC —

        Using Heisey’s career OPS+ of 94 is cherry picking at best, misleading at it’s worst. That # is a product of 2010 & 2011. Since then he’s had a steady regression: 90, then 89, then last year a whopping OPS+ of 80. An OPS+ of 80 is hardly just below average, more like just below abysmal. The Reds were wise to part ways with Heisey. The no-names can match his “production” at a fraction of the cost.

    • Carl Sayre

      Two million for a bench player who has shown pop coming off the bench and can play all 3 OF positions well. I agree that Heisey was not ever going to be the answer to LF but they shipped his proposed salary. Two million for a role player is cheap. Take at a look at Schumaker BA about the same no chance for power and a terrible fielder so again explain to me why shipping Heisey was the way to go.

      • Kevin J. Brown

        Skip’s salary is a cost we can’t avoid this year. Heisey’s was something we could get rid of.

      • lwblogger2

        The argument could be made that there is no way we should have signed Schumaker for that money but, that’s the rebuttal that makes sense. Schumaker is a sunk cost and Heisey wasn’t. Therefore, Heisey is the one they moved. Plus, I’m not sure the front-office ever was in love with Heisey and the baseball people all love Schumaker.

    • lwblogger2

      You got that right! Man, when you’re cutting costs there then there are some contracts that you really shouldn’t have signed. I’m not even talking about the big 3 (Votto, BP, Bailey) but even deals like Ludwick’s, Hannahan’s, etc. I mean this team is paying $7-million for those two this year NOT to play. Big buyouts on mid-sized contracts is bad business.

    • lwblogger2

      Honestly, I think Steve is too hard on his offense. Steve has some great points though and I think Boesch will have to prove that he can hit better than Steve thinks he can. Steve’s dead on about his defense though. I don’t know what Price is looking at but the rare times I’ve seen Boesch play the OF he’s been pretty bad. The defensive metrics say he’s really bad. I’m not a huge proponent of defensive metrics but usually when they say you’re either miserable or fantastic the eye test generally is at least in the same area code.

  6. hof13

    Is it too early to say – I hate giving up walks (especially when followed by a homer).
    Also, in the some things never change department … another runner thrown out at home.

    • I-71_Exile

      I saw that in the game description and was disgusted. Was it even close?

      • vegastypo

        It was a close play, yes. The throw from the right-fielder was on a bounce but right at the plate. The catcher made the tag just a hair before the runner hit the plate.

        I suppose we could argue that because there was one out at the time, they could have held the runner and had first and third with one out. The single to right field was hit hard and directly at the charging right-fielder, so it wouldn’t have surprised me to hold the runner at third, but it wasn’t like the guy was out by 20 feet.

  7. Creigh Deeds

    Heisey is gone. Need to get value out of Cueto and Chapman before they’re gone. Throw in BP. Get a CF, prospects, move Hamilton to 2b and down to 7th in lineup. I bet we can get a major league CF who can lead off.

    • eddiek957

      I’ve been saying the same thing for a month I’d package cueto and chapman

      • Creigh Deeds

        Maybe separate deals. Cueto and Phillips, and Chapman can each bring value.

  8. Thegaffer

    Just speaking practically I am glad Borgeouis is out, not in a negative way, just that we needed his 40 spot anyway. We can put him on the 60 day DL. If he played any real major league innings this year it would have been a waste. Heck Willy Tavares was better. Negron or even Bruce can play center if Billy is out, but I bet Billy plays 155 games anyway.

  9. Daytonian

    We can always use another outfielder. No argument there. And I would jettison Skip to make room for that new person, if need be.

    Boesch can do the job. You are too quick to dismiss his PCL record last season. The question is what he will do in the future, not what he did for the Tigers, Yanks, etc., in the past.

    Boesch is fine. Still, let’s get another pro, another bat.

  10. Woodrow068

    Spent the past few days in Arizona and caught two Reds games – Boesch looks athletic in center (unlike Dominguez at either 1B or 3B) and made a nice catch Sunday versus the Cubs. He definitely though does not appear the part. Schumaker looked gritty in right field, especially on the polar circumference routes he took to a few fly balls. But to “if not them, who” – the linked article leads to – maybe – Cameron Maybin? The glut of outfielders does not include a CF, or at least one much more confidence inspiring at any kind of value proposition.

    • lwblogger2

      Maybin is probably the only real CF that San Diego has and that’s in Petco’s large OF. I don’t think they’d move him easily. I can see him being their 4th OF and a defensive replacement that’s used a lot.

  11. WVRedlegs

    The Heisey trade is even more of a head scratcher now. The Reds definitely need to do something before spring training is over. However, this could be a huge chance for Yorman Rodriguez to step up. It doesn’t appear as though they’ll give Felix Perez a look. Does Ivan DeJesus have any OF experience in the minor leagues? He knows what a BB is, and his bat isn’t bad. That is about it in-house.
    I’ve always liked Craig Gentry when he was in Texas, but is now with the A’s. The A’s are said to be seeking a bullpen arm. LeCure or Hoover?

  12. sultanofswaff

    Short term injury to Hamilton, I have every confidence Negron could play CF…….or YRod, or Bruce (can’t be any worse than Choo).

    Long term, yeah, we might be in trouble, but I won’t get worried until all the teams get thru their roster cuts and we still come up dry. There very well could be some decent players who get released or traded simply because of the numbers game. It wouldn’t be anything for us to trade a B level pitching prospect to secure a little depth, but I’m really big on Yorman. I think he’s primed for a big season and could be ready to be a full time major leaguer by mid-season.

  13. JMO

    Pena, Negron, Skip and Boesch are locks. IMO, the 5th spot will go to C Dominguez.

  14. Frogger

    You have to develop a good bench. Get tired of people complaining about Votto’s contract. Why don’t we add up what was spent on Heisey, Schumaker, Ramon Santiago, and Roger Bernadina for 2014. Pena is a Catcher so I don’t consider him in this. Add this money to Luddys contract, and what kind of talent could we have put in leftfield. That would be a 15 Mil. left fielder. Probrably would get a better bang for your buck from that leftfielder added with a young bench than the combined WAR of -.5 for Heisey, Ludwick, Santiago, and Schumaker. We had a veteren bench, with guys who played significant amounts in 2014. Result…losing. Stop wasting money on guys like that. If your starters go down you need talented guys to replace them or your finished. Glad Heisey is gone. This town always over rated him. Reds can’t pay 3 mil. for a pinch hitter. I see the same with bullpen. Can’t tell me a boatload of talent in the minors can’t do what JJ Hoover does or many of the moderately talented veteren guys do in the bullpen. Pay for top talent like nail down guys like Chapman, Cueto, Votto, a hitter that gets on base and can hit behind him. Develop the rest. Stop paying millions for replacement level play or below. It only equals fight for mediocrity. Ain’t worried about paying 60 mil for the great players on the team. Worried about the $55+ for below average players. Agree with the point a bench player is a bench player for a reason. Reds have a habit of spending money on players that at best provide some benefit as a part time player, and on average are a waste of resources. So don’t pay more for it than need to.

  15. JB WV

    Rosters tend to change, sometimes dramatically, from the beginning of the year to the end. Waldrop and Winker have both shown that they’re fairly close to the bigs. Yes, I’m also concerned with depth, particularly in center where Heisey, if nothing else, was a more than adequate fielder. But back to the premise of this article, hell yes, this is a perfect time for Walt to make a move to address center.

  16. chrislosolivos

    Just thinking . . . how many teams would consider their #4 outfielder and #1 pinch hitter too expensive at 2M? And there lies the problem.