I recently helped some friends move into their new home. Loading a moving truck is often a delicate process. You need to put everything in the right place, stacking items appropriately to optimally use the space of the truck. As we loaded items into the truck, we made quick decisions about where items would go based on the idea that we had plenty of space for the amount of furniture, appliances, and other things we needed to load.
About halfway through the loading process, we realized we had more stuff than we had thought. We also realized how big the remaining items were. Thus, we had come to a crossroads: we could continue down the same path and maybe everything would turn out okay, or we could tweak our approach and improve our chances of succeeding in fittingÃ‚Â all of my friend’s stuff in the truck.
The Reds have hit a similar crossroads: continue on the same path with the same roster pieces and hope for the best or make some small tweaks now to try and improve immediately. They clearly have a flawed roster.Ã‚Â While the Reds hoped for the best out of Spring Training, a common strategy for them these days, they must have serious doubts that the current roster can contend. The team is struggling, but they have not exhausted their internal resources to maximize their play on the field.Ã‚Â In fact, I think they can make some moves right now without trading anyone to immediately improve the team. Here areÃ‚Â some suggestions if anyone is listening.
Drop Jason Marquis from the rotation and insert Lorenzen/Iglesias
Marquis is a ticking time bomb. While he has struck out more batters than anyone expected thus far, his stuff isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t scaring anyone. Marquis is averaging less than 88 MPH on his fastball. Since 2010, he has produced -0.6 WAR. In his last healthy season (2013), Marquis struck out 13.9% of batters. Compare that to Johnny Cueto who struck out 25.2% of batters in 2014. Obviously, comparing anyone to Johnny Cueto isn’t fair, but MarquisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ strikeout numbers are likely an aberration. Quite frankly, the Reds have better options.
As Doug Gray has previously suggested, I think the Reds should find a way to use both Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen as starters this year. This likely means that one goes into the rotation immediately, and the other goes into the Reds bullpen. In mid July or so, the two would switch roles. In this scenario, both players build up arm strength to go into the rotation next season while improving the Reds rotation this season. Marquis could go to the bullpen, but the Reds should probably cut bait right now. After watching several soft tossing guys (Gregg, Badenhop) work out of the bullpen early this season, do you really want to see Marquis chucking 89-90 MPH fastballs out of the pen?
Drop Kevin Gregg from the team
IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t this move obvious at this point? Honestly, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m astonished that Gregg is still on the team. The Reds jumped ship on Trevor Bell in 2014 after 2/3 of an inning. In 2015, they seem unwilling to admit they made a mistake in keeping Kevin Gregg, a pitcher who hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t had a positive WAR season since 2010. He never should have made the team and now is the time to replace him with either Lorenzen or Iglesias.
Bryan Price could do himself a favor and pitch Hoover, Cingrani, Diaz, and Chapman in all high-leverage situations. Those four have the pure stuff to succeed. With Lorenzen or Iglesias, the Reds would add another bullpen pitcher with excellent stuff. Price appears to have seen the light with Cingrani; Hopefully, the light has dimmed on Kevin GreggÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Reds career.
Platoon Marlon Byrd with a lefty
The .143/.154/.222 slash line is worrisome but not nearly as worrisome as the process that has caused Byrd to struggle so mightily early in the season. Byrd has struck out in almost 34% of his plate appearances. And he hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t walked once. Not once. He has only had two three ball counts this season. He has swung at nearly half the pitches thrown to him that were outside of the strike zone (47%). Yikes!
Unfortunately, the Reds have a depth problem. They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have anyone to step in and produce on an everyday basis. The next best thing is to platoon Byrd with a lefty. For now, that platoon partner is probably Brennan Boesch. Boesch starts against righties; Byrd starts against lefties. I put Jesse Winker on notice that if he has substantial success in the first half of the season, he will get a chance to produce at GABP. Winker has an advanced approach at the plate and that skill usually transfers well to the majors. Quite frankly, the Reds need anyone who can get on base in any form or fashion right now.
Decide what to do with Devin Mesoraco
If he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t catch in the next few days, put him on the DL. If he needs surgery, end his season. The Reds canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford to continue to carry a player who bats once every few days and has no potential for anything else. Ideally, Mesoraco would return to the lineup in the cleanup spot and push Brandon Phillips back to the 7th spot where his on base and power deficiencies arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so pronounced. But, as Steve outlined last week, Mesoraco’s return to the everyday lineup isn’t likely.
If Mesoraco canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t return to the lineup, the Reds should call up Ivan De Jesus Jr. The 27-year-old infielder hit .400/.475/.600 during Spring Training. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never seen a player hit as well as De Jesus Jr. did during Spring Training and have absolutely nobody (outside of minor league guru Doug Gray) notice. Since going to AAA, De Jesus Jr. has hit .345/.410/.473 in Louisville. He would likely improve the Reds bench immediately and could spell Phillips from time to time.
Get Jay Bruce back to his All Star form
I realize the Reds canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make a phone call and cause this one to happen. But quite honestly, a healthy Mesoraco and 2010-2013 Bruce would improve the team more than all the previous moves combined. They need big years from the big four (Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, and Bruce). Thus far, Votto has been Votto, and Frazier has played well enough. Mesoraco hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t played enough, and Bruce looks more lost than ever.
Bruce has always dealt with inconsistency. His hot streaks are legendary. So are his cold streaks. But going into MondayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game, Bruce has struck out over 35% of the time. He has swung at around 34% of pitches thrown to him out of the zone. In his two best seasons (2010 and 2013), Bruce swung at less than 30% of pitches outside of the zone. He is struggling beyond one of his cold streaks, and the Reds need him right now.
Call to Action
At our crossroads in loading the moving truck, we continued on with the status quo. We would soon regret that decision. As we had three fourths of the truck filled, we realized that we couldn’t fit everything left into the truck. This problemÃ‚Â called for desperate measures. One friend had to climb over a great deal of stuff to position himself toward the back of the truck.Ã‚Â he began re-stacking items as we handed him new items to try and situate. We eventually succeeded but not without a lot of undue trouble.
The Reds can’t afford to wait until they become desperate to begin improving the team. This is a call to action for Walt and company because the status quo just isn’t good enough right now. The Reds have shown their flaws, but it is still early.Ã‚Â TheyÃ‚Â still have time to right the ship.
These four moves plus a Bruce rebound could go a long way toward improving the Reds immediately. Walt canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t continue to sit back and wait for a flawed roster to improve on its own. Now is the time to make some small moves with the hope that the big boys start bashing. What would you do, Nation?