Jason Marquis, Kevin Gregg, Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez, the expired medicine and old newspapers of their industry, were tossed to the curb by their clubs last year. Every one of the major league front offices strolled right by, passed them over for major league contracts. Then Walt Jocketty tip-toed back and signed all four to minor league deals this winter.

Hello … what’s this? Mmmm … washed-up pitchers, injury-prone veterans, a player cut by three clubs in two years, a former Cardinal! … hey, this other guy was a Cardinal, too, sorta … Let’s just quietly get these guys inside our clubhouse.

At the time of Jocketty’s curb-shopping spree, it was easy to consider the four players as nothing more than standard spring training and/or AAA roster depth. After all, major league teams that hope to compete for the division championship can’t be taken seriously by populating their 25-man rosters with four discards from other clubs. Certainly more moves were coming.

* * * * * * *

Jason Marquis (36) has a career ERA of 4.65 and hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2013, when his FIP was 5.65. In 117.2 innings, he struck out only 72 batters, and walked 68. Marquis has had Tommy John surgery and an oblique injury since then. He was released by the Phillies after pitching poorly for their AAA team last year.

Kevin Gregg (36) missed almost all of 2014 due to shoulder surgery. Shoulder surgery. He had one of those too-good-to-be-true half-seasons for the Cubs in 2013. Being clever now, they knew it and tried like crazy to trade him at the deadline and found not a single taker. Gregg predictably imploded in the second half. Like Marquis, he’s never been much more than a mediocre pitcher.

Brennan Boesch (turns 30 on April 12) has been released by three teams — the Tigers, Yankees and Angels — who have seen him perform the past two years against major league pitching. He wasn’t kept on their benches, he was cut completely loose. The Tigers left him off their 2012 postseason roster. For the Yankees, 11.9 percent of his hits were line drives (for context, that’s worse than every one of the Reds’ starting pitchers last year.) Boesch hit .187/.203/.293 for the LA Angels in two 2014 stints. He’s been a lousy outfielder. And Boesch has fought shoulder issues. Shoulder issues.

Chris Dominguez (28) was released by San Francisco after working his way through their farm system, earning just 18 plate appearances for the Giants. He’s a former Cardinal – a member of the University of Louisville Cardinals college team. As a professional, Dominguez had a high strikeout rate and low walk rate. This spring he has walked one time in 55 appearances.

These players may have had strong Spring Training performances. But it’s just bad decision making to allow a few unrepresentative innings pitched or at bats to trump a clear career arc. Is it possible that one or more of these players sustains their Spring Training production? Sure (and I’ll be cheering for it) but the odds are tall-stacked against it.

* * * * * * *

The Reds announced today that all four minor league signings – Jason Marquis, Kevin Gregg, Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez – have made the Reds 25-man major league roster.

* * * * * * *

What to make of these roster moves?

A cynic might say that the players aren’t really the best options for the Reds, but putting them on the 25-man roster papers over what was another awful offseason for the Reds.

Club narrative: Hey, the offseason moves were great after all they made the major league roster! Who needs real major league players when these old wire hangers are right here on the curb? Not Walt Jocketty.

Translation: When signing Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal is one of your “big” offseason moves, it better be one of your big offseason moves.

Clarification: The ‘C’ in CYA doesn’t stand for Cincinnati.

* * * * * * *

Does the alternative explanation for the roster choices – that these four players are actually the best suited in the organization – make Jocketty look any better?

If Jason Marquis is the fourth or fifth best starting pitcher in the organization (let alone one of the top ten) what does it say about the organization’s starting pitchers? If Kevin Gregg is the best candidate for the bullpen, what does it say about the club’s relievers? And so on.

The idea that four minor-league contract signees can make the team based on merit speaks in amplified volume about the failure to stock the organization with players more likely to be successful.

* * * * * * *

We don’t know if Walt Jocketty reads the local papers or the beat writers’ columns. If he does, Jocketty would have seen this valuable advice last winter:

“We have to do something different offensively. We need to get more guys on base to put us in a better position to score runs. Our runners on base were down quite a bit this year.”

And this:

“We have a lot of strikeout guys right now. Ideally find someone who strikes out less and gets on base more.”

We can be pretty sure that Jocketty did see that advice. Or at least he heard those statements as they were coming out of his own mouth. We need to get more guys on base. Too many strikeout guys right now. Strikes out less and gets on base more.

We have to do something different offensively.

We have to do something different offensively.

We have to do something different offensively.

And those statements are how we know that the most recent offseason was a failure, by any criteria other than budget cutting.

The Reds needed to find a starting left-fielder with an above-average on-base percentage, one who could bat lead-off if Billy Hamilton’s struggles continued at the plate. Instead, Jocketty traded for Marlon Byrd. Jocketty had said the Reds “have a lot of strikeout guys right now” and the team needs to find “someone who strikes out less.” But Marlon Byrd had the third highest strikeout rate in the National League. Jocketty said “we need to get more guys on base” and instead acquired a player whose OBP was a below-average .312 and declining.

Further, in choosing Boesch and Dominguez for the bench, Jocketty added two players with teeny-tiny walk rates. The Reds will extol their great spring training performances without mentioning the players walked twice (total) in 114 plate appearances. You can say that players in Spring Training are inclined to hit away, to show what they can do. But for smart organizations, command of the strike zone is a vital skill to demonstrate. To the Reds, it’s apparently irrelevant. And it’s an attribute even more important for bench players — you want pinch hitters to turn the lineup over for your regulars.

Easy rhetoric by the GM aside, the Reds front office once again has shown they either won’t or can’t figure out how to assemble an effective offense based on modern thinking.

Jocketty went shopping with a clear list, one that he wrote himself. And he ended up buying exactly the opposite.

When was the last time the St. Louis Cardinals failed to acquire exactly what they needed? Can you recall them ever saying they needed one kind of thing and acquiring the reverse? Does St. Louis shop in the basement bins, second-hand stores or curbsides for 16 percent of their Opening Day roster?

* * * * * * *

It may not always seem like it, but I’m one of the few remaining optimists about the Reds 2015 season. I’ll explain my reasons for that Monday morning. But I’ll give you a hint: The Reds success this year won’t be due to the moves by Walt Jocketty the past couple years. It will be in spite of them.

I’ve never owned a baseball team, but my guess is that I wouldn’t want my general manager to be a lousy shopper.