Fay: Reds take a gamble with Bonilla, Ogando

Fay: Reds take a gamble with Bonilla, Ogando
Posted at 1:33 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 15:28:11-05

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Unless you’re really paying attention, you probably don’t know that Lisalverto Bonilla and Nefi Ogando are Reds.

They were waiver claims the club made Monday and Tuesday. Both were in camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Waivers claims usually occupy the last few spots on the 40-man roster.

But it’s like buying a lottery ticket. A claim can really pay off. Bronson Arroyo was a waiver claim at one time. That’s how the Reds got Alfredo Simon in 2012; in 2013, he was an All-Star.

It’s also really not like buying a lottery ticket at all -- that is, a lot goes into whether the Reds make a waiver claim or not.

“The job of pro scouts is to watch these guys all year long,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “So we have pro reports on each of these guys. When a guy hits waivers -- typically they’re on waivers for 48 hours -- we’ll put out his statistical information and we’ll ask for people’s opinions.

“(And we in the front office) will go look at the stats, the scouting reports. We’ll give our staff an opportunity to call in and say ‘Hey, I really like this guy. I really don’t like this guy. I turned in a scouting report on this guy. He’s gotten even better.’ Over the course of those 48 hours, we’ll form an opinion over whether or not it makes sense to claim him.”

In the case of Bonilla and Ogando, the Reds were in camp, so all the coaches got a chance to see video of them.

“On Monday, we were having our pre-spring training meeting upstairs,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We had nine computers up and running and taking a look at both guys.”

But Price defers to the scouts.

“As much as I may form an opinion watching on video, we’ve got big league scouts and pro scouts that are going around looking at these guys,” Price said. “I put more credibility in what they see because it’s what they do. It’s nice to be asked. We all like to be asked our opinion.”

The Reds also had open spots on the 40-man -- one from the Brandon Phillips trade, another because Homer Bailey was going on the 60-day disabled list -- that make it easier to make a claim.

The call is ultimately up to Williams, but anyone can weigh in.

“It’s a combination on multiple pieces of input,” Williams said. “Some guys will go more out on a limb and push real hard. It’s not usual to have conflicting opinions.

MLB GUIDE: How waivers work

“If you have a roster spot, it’s kind of low threshold. You grab him, and, if like someone better, you take him off. In this case, we liked the guys.”

Bonilla, 26, spent last year in the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers after missing 2015 with Tommy John surgery. He was 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA in ’14 with Texas. The Reds will stretch him out in spring to point where he could start or pitch in middle relief.

“We see him as a guy who can compete for the big league club,” Price said. “We know what the roles are that are open. We’re undefined four and five spots in the rotation. We’re undefined in at least bullpen spots, in my opinion. We see him competing for both -- a middle relief, potentially a starting spot.”

Ogando, 27, went 0-0 with 2.30 ERA in 14 games for Miami last year.

“We really like his arm,” Price said. “We’re stockpiling good, quality arms. He’s got a little bit of big league time, and that certainly benefits him. We want to see him improve his command. . . he’ll compete for a job in the bullpen.”

Picking up both Bonilla and Ogando was the no-risk, potential-high-reward move a rebuilding team like the Reds makes.

“It’s not like they were being cut,” Williams said. “It’s usually that the other team has a roster issue. They might be signing a major league free agent. A guy at the bottom of their roster has to come off. It’s not a guy that they want to lose, they’re not putting him on release waivers. They’re putting him on outright waivers and they’re hoping that other teams don’t claim him. Then they’ll put him in their minor league system for inventory.

“Bonilla was signed to a major league contract. The Pirates thought about keeping him.”

So it was worth the risk for the Reds.

Will it turn out?

It’s impossible to say. But it’s worth price of a lottery ticket -- a well-researched lottery ticket.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at