The Cincinnati Reds must have gotten a check today because they’ve now signed two different players. Earlier today they brought in utility man Tony Kemp on a minor league deal. They followed that up with a minor league deal for first baseman Mike Ford. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that he will get $1,300,000 if he makes the big league club and could get another $125,000 in performance incentives. Ford also has opt-outs in his contract, with at least one of them being during an unspecified date in spring training.

In 2023, Mike Ford played in 83 games with the Seattle Mariners. His 251 plate appearances were the most that the now 31-year-old has ever had in the big leagues in a given season. He set career highs with 16 home runs, 34 runs batted in, 24 walks, and 81 strikeouts. Ford struggled to make contact, striking out in 32.3% of his plate appearances. But where he didn’t struggle was hitting for power. Overall he hit .228/.323/.475. And that power came in a pitcher friendly ballpark and in a division that is also pitcher friendly. The power will play anywhere. You can see his career stats here.

One question he will have to answer is can he make enough contact to make everything else work? In 2022 he struck out in 27% of his 149 plate appearances and things trended in the wrong direction last season.

When it comes to the Reds specifically the question is where will he play? The only two spots in the field he’s played in his big league career are first base and pitcher. He’s obviously not going to matter as a pitcher, so he’s basically a first base/designated hitter option. With Cincinnati that means he’s trying to get ahead of Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Jeimer Candelario at first base and designated hitter, but at designated hitter he’s also got to essentially play over everyone since David Bell is going to have to mix-and-match everyone as there are more “every day-ish” guys than there are spots in the lineup.

If everyone is healthy, it’s tough to see where there’s room on the 26-man roster for Ford. But if some injuries pile up you could argue that the team could use a big-time power hitter in Great American Ball Park.

38 Responses

  1. LDS

    Come on Krall, sign someone that actually matters and can make a difference. Depth, depth, depth doesn’t cut it. The Reds still need OF upgrades. Not more mediocre journeymen. At this point, I’d view signing Lorenzen or even Cueto as more serious signings. I saw Stark’s article on The Athletic a couple of days ago, reporting the results of a panel of 31 baseball insiders, execs, coaches, etc. The Reds received 11 votes for most improved team, which came in 4th or 5th, while Montas received 4 votes for the worst FA signing this offseason, coming in 4th. Hopefully, he outperforms expectations. I doubt Ford or Kemp will.

    • TR1

      This is just depth in case of injuries. Doubt he’s still in Reds organization after ST with opt out. Am curious how reds got 11 out of 31 votes for most improved team but that equates to only 4th or 5th most

      • LDS

        Agreed. I was surprised they got 11 votes as well. But they still project to no better than 3rd in the division at this point. With better offseason moves, they would have been favored for the division. Only Reds fans see these offseason moves as inspiring. Still no OF upgrades, no top of rotation starter candidates, etc. Hey, they spent money this offseason so that’s all that matters. Krall has a super-secret strategy that guarantees the Reds win the World Series in the next 100 years.

      • Wayne Nabors

        Dodgers got-31
        Arizona -20
        Cardinals-12
        Reds-11

      • Chris

        LDS, I’m not sure what you are expecting, but the Reds easily had not the 4th, but the 3rd best improved team. Anyone who thinks the Cardinals had a better offseason is blinded by the stature that the Cardinals carry. Secondly, anyone who thinks the Reds shouldn’t be division front runners, and thinks two teams are ahead of them isn’t paying attention. We have 2 front line starters, at least they are supposed to be, that were injured much of last season. For the most part, I love what the Reds did this offseason. Yes I wanted a top starter, but I certainly didn’t wan them to give away the farm for one of them.

  2. LT

    Do we really need another high strike out bat? The fact that he plays 1st base maybe ok, gives TS a break here and there.

  3. J

    How can Ford get TYler Stephenson any rest ?? The 1B experiment seems over with TS plus Ford isn’t likely to sniff the 26 man roster

    • MBS

      I wouldn’t say that the 1B experiment is over. If TS is swinging his 2022 bat, they’ll want him in the lineup as often as possible. He’s not going to catch 162, so 1B, or DH would still be in the mix imo.

  4. JayTheRed

    Ok enough with the depth signings. I think we might have enough infielders to play for every level of the minors and the majors. Stop wasting money. You don’t need the last 2 guys at all. Save your money for if we need something at the trade deadline. Harrison is the only signing recently that I think has a very minor chance to make the team.

  5. Klugo

    If he’s playing, we’ve hit a cataclysmic-level patch of bad bad luck.

  6. Old Big Ed

    Nothing wrong with this. Ford is pretty unlikely to play in Cincinnati, but he’ll help in Louisville. His job is to help develop Rece Hinds, Blake Dunn and Jacob Hurtubise.

    If they didn’t sign guys like Ford, then people would complain that the minor league teams have lousy records and and that the Reds need to start teaching their minor leaguers how to win games.

  7. Jimbo44CN

    Aquino without the arm in the outfield. No , no ,no thanks

  8. Schneidlywhiplash

    Nothing to get excited about. Neither of these signings are going to be on the team barring a run of injuries. If they stick with the team, they’ll be in Louisville and available for a call up again if injuries strike during the year… potentially trade bait for other teams that have a string of injuries. just Krall doing his job to minimize risk of injuries. Not sure there is an FA out there the Reds can afford that will make the starting lineup.

  9. Justin T

    A .220 something hitter who only plays first that strikes out over 30% of the time… I have no clue where guys like that even fit i to the organization anywhere at any level. This organization just seems like they have no idea what they are doing sometimes. The blind loyalists love these signings as it creates depth lol but are you deep with guys who can basically only swing hard and hit it occasionally?

    If the need for a guy like this pops up in the middle of the year they usually aren’t hard to find. I realize he isn’t in the plans right now but w the Reds manager 250 at bats isnt out of the realm of possibility.

    • BK

      His OPS+ last year was 122. This is a minor league contract–zero risk for the team. Criticism can be just as blind as loyalty.

    • Old Big Ed

      Justin, I just question why anyone would even raise an eyebrow to this kind of signing.

      Mike Ford is pretty much what 80% of AAA ball is. The Yankees, for example, used 32-year-old Jake Lamb in the second half of last season as their AAA first baseman. Lamb started the season with the Angels and put up a .612 OPS, got sent down and then released in early July. The Yankees then kept him at AAA for the rest of the season.

      Lamb had a couple of promising seasons in 2016-17 at Arizona, but then slashed .205/.306/.359 since then in 774 total ABs. That is pretty much what Mike Ford has been, slashing .211/.309/.418 in 627 career ABs, with a bit more power than Lamb. If the teams like the YANKEES are doing this, why even bat an eye when the Reds do something very similar.

      AAA teams are loaded with Jake Lambs and Mike Fords and Chuckie Robinsons and Jason Voslers. Its whole function is to provide the maybe 2 true prospects and a couple of more “maybes” with good competition. Sometimes the Lambs or Fords get a cup of coffee, like Henry Ramos and Vosler did last year in Cincinnati. The Dodgers’ most used first baseman in AAA was Justin Yurchak, a 12th-round choice of the White Sox in the 2017 draft. Yurchak doesn’t seem to have held the Dodgers back last season.

      Tony Kemp is a Vanderbilt guy, and Ford graduated from Princeton. If the organization needs a Justin Yurchak to play regularly in AAA, then what’s wrong with a smart, high-character guy like Kemp or Ford?

      • MK

        Just hope he doesn’t hold McGarry back.

    • Optimist

      The 26 man roster is for MLB. The 27th man is almost always the extra catcher. #28-33 are basically a tie between backup fielders and pitchers. So, these signings are all essentially 33rd men in the organization, at best.

      They easily fit into any organization, as OBE explains, but a better test might be what does the organization do with them. The Reds are already ahead of their past few years since these guys have MLB records instead of AAAA potential, but the real value will show if the Reds can move them for any young talent in return – i.e. teenage low-A lottery picks.

      Otherwise, there’s really no cost to these, and they certainly fill out the spring training rosters, and possibly AAA going thru May.

  10. Chad A Donnell

    I could care less what some baseball news outlet thinks. The Reds according to most on here (along with those outlets) were expected to lose 100 games. Maybe the boys in the front office might know something. They certainly made a lot of us (yes myself included) look like fools last year.

    • Old Big Ed

      Yeah, there might be a little redundancy there.

  11. Kevin Patrick

    I tend to think signings like this just make it possible to trade from any position and not have it be devastating. I think the Reds are trying to make themselves approachable trade partners… I still think they would like to upgrade a starter or an outfielder. Making signings like this make it possible to trade someone who we currently expect to be on the 25 man roster if it upgrades significantly enough someplace else. The Reds can offer youth, cheap and just about any position except perhaps catcher and still be able to field a solid lineup of positional players that Reds fans will be excited to see. But what do I know…I’m hoping Barrero is team MVP and Blandino makes the team as long reliever and spot starter…at least by June anyway lol.

  12. Rob

    In Mike Ford, they basically signed a younger, cheaper Joey Votto, another left-handed-hitting first baseman with similar 2023 stats:

    2023 Votto: 208 at-bats, 42 hits, 14 homers, 38 RBIs, 62 strikeouts, 27 walks, .202 BA.

    2023 Ford: 219 at-bats, 50 hits, 16 homers, 34 RBIs, 81 strikeouts, 24 walks, .228 BA.

    • Oldtimer

      LOL. Joey Votto is a future HOF-er. Mike Ford would have to buy a ticket to get in. LOL.

      • greenmtred

        OT, you know perfectly well that he was comparing last year’s Votto, not the Votto who put up HOF numbers.

      • Rob

        greenmtred, you are correct. I was referring to the Votto of 2023.

        Except for 2021, (the season he tried to hit home runs) Votto has not put up HOF numbers since 2017 — now seven years ago.

      • H.B.

        That’s why Votto is still looking for a job and Ford found a place to play next year in Louisville.

      • Earmbrister

        I’m sure Votto is getting into the HOF based on his results from 2023

      • Oldtimer

        Votto was injured in 2022 and 2023. He hit 36 HR and 99 RBI in 2021 when he was healthy. OPS+ 137 (I think).

        Some Reds fans are two past short of a full house in a poker game.

        I think Joey would admit over a beer (he’s from Canada and they drink beer) that it was mistake by him to stay so long in Cincinnati. He is one of the Top 5-10 Reds OF ALL TIME and he gets treated like poop.

      • Oldtimer

        Two PAIR short of a full house. There really should be an edit function.

      • greenmtred

        OT, I’m baffled that you’ve gotten so exercised about this: the comments were not a reflection on Joey’s career; they were simply pointing out that he didn’t hit well last season, and that is a verifiable fact.

    • Mac624

      I was thinking if this guy Ford can get signed then surely Votto can as well. No way Ford is better than Joey even at 40 years old.

      • Earmbrister

        Big Mac, Ford signed for $1.3MM. Votto would never sign for this and the Reds would never insult him with this low an offer.

        I was really hoping for a farewell year for Votto in a Reds uniform, but I understand why the club has moved forward without him.

        Huge fan of the player and the man.

  13. Rick

    Just glad that we have BB today; ar 4pm est.
    Hearing the bats clanging from the on deck hitter, and the players in the dugout rooting our players on. You can invasion the smell of the grass.
    Clean slate time for those on the outside looking in. Might find a Brandon Drury type, if not, we’re not thin. But I hope that our core & top reserves get the AB”s.
    I hope that Martini does enough to be the12th or 13th guy. He played pretty good bb relative to his role.

  14. TR

    The games are here. Time to check the box scores to see whose doing what in spring training, and then another month until the wins and losses start to count.

  15. TMS

    If Ford or Kemp or Harrison make the team as “depth”, it’s going to be a LONG year. That means worst case scenario on the injury front.

    I don’t mind those guys stashed away at AAA to fill in as injury insurance, but all three have opt out dates that enable them to try to catch on with another team if they don’t make this one. The chances that any of those three reporting to Louisville are less than zero.

    • Jim t

      All those signings were about adding options in case of injury or non- performance by the youngsters. Hopefully none will be needed. Let the games begin.

  16. DaveCT

    Mike Ford had of his best run in the ML’s last year and he was released by a Mariners team that needed offense, as their GM stated they had too much swing and miss in their lineup (one of the same reasons the moved Geno to the D-Backs). Ford’s career ML slash line is 211/.309/.418 in about 625 at bats. His OPS is .727 and his K rate is 26.2%.

    Nick Martini is on the 40-‘man and is two years older with a very similar profile. His career ML slash line is 268/362/.412 in about 350 at bats. His OPS is .774. His K rate is 21.%. As such, it’s hard to see Ford getting playing time before Martini, let alone CES and Candelario.

    The question may be, as they say in legal circles, moot.

    The next question for me is, will Ford accept an assignment to AAA given his opt outs, and then for how long?