CINCINNATI -- Rounding up the old band isn't going to work. If the Cincinnati Reds really want to get better next season, these guys have got to go.
Nothing personal, mind you. My skin in the game is simply watching what has transpired since the Great Salary Dump of 2015. This recent series with the Los Angeles Dodgers aside, you don't get better sitting still and waiting on suspect prospects.
So what do we know about this team, which sports the fourth-best hitting team in baseball the second worst pitching staff in the National League?
We know is this current collection of Cincinnati Reds is certainly capable of consistently losing 90 games a season. Some of them not only deserve to stay but to become the rock on which a better team is built.
The others? Nice knowing you.
So, here goes. My list of who needs to go, either by trade or simple, humane release.
1. Billy Hamilton
His speed is thrilling, but he only has 30 stolen bases in 136 games and 502 plate appearances. Why? He can't get on base.
His OBP (on base percentage) remains under .300. His 30 swipes have Hamilton tied for sixth-most in baseball, but he has the lowest batting average of any of the six players ahead or tied with him. He's also lower than then next 14 best base stealers. Jose Peraza has just ten fewer steals than Hamilton and is hitting 55 points higher.
Hamilton's defense is more than terrific -- it is borderline Gold Glove. He's a value to some contending team looking for a great pinch runner and a late inning defensive replacement.
Here, he's lost.
He's hitting .248 for the year, which is palatable for a contending team. He hit over .300 in August but didn't start hitting the ball with any consistency until June. By then, the Reds were woefully out of any playoff contention.
Do you envision Billy Hamilton, who's eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, with the Reds when the Reds are contenders again? I don't.
They've kept him around because fans like him and, in the rare occasion he does get on base, he provides the most excitement in a game. However, he isn't helping the Reds transform from one of the worst teams in baseball into a contending team.
Billy Hamilton is a great trade asset. In the off season, the Reds should use that to upgrade their starting pitching. He'll make over $6 million, probably, in 2019. And he can't or won't bunt.
In 2019, the Reds starting outfielders should be Jesse Winker in left, Scott Schebler in right and Jose Peraza in center. Phillip Ervin should be the Reds fourth outfielder.
2. Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson
They're all the same guy. Have any other Reds starting pitchers in recent memory offered so much hope and then so much letdown?
Pick two to keep and let the others walk.
Of those listed, I'd be tempted to keep Mahle. He's young and offered the most hope until he ran out of steam this season. However, his strikeout-to-walk ratio got worse as the season wore on, and he throws too many pitches to get out of innings.
'Pitch efficiency' is the key to staying in MLB and being an effective starter. Mahle has to learn that.
Castillo gives up too many home runs, which is a deadly trait in Great American Ball Park. it. Although his 'pitch efficiency' isn't all that great, it's not that bad really.
Romano has pitched an eighth inning game this season and has taken two others into the seventh, but he's in the bullpen now, in part because Homer Bailey is still hanging around. Romano's best road to staying with the Reds may be as a long term reliever.
He will probably get another shot at making the starting rotation if he's still around next spring. A lot of that will depend who the new manager and pitching coach are, but even if he does remain a starting pitcher, it's hard to see him any better than a fourth or fifth starter on a contending team.
Reed and Stephenson? We know by now, don't we?
3. Raisel Iglesias
There is nothing cheaper or easier to find in baseball than a guy who can get you saves. Period.
In this one, rare instance, real baseball is like fantasy baseball. Particularly if you're a non-contender, saves are overvalued.
Iglesias was once a starter, started Opening Day a few years back. Maybe it's a lack of pitching development, the inability to throw a change effectively over a long number of innings.
Who knows? I know, for a contending team that might over value saves or look to games lost the year before because of an ineffective back of the bullpen, Iglesias would be of interest. The Reds should actively shop him this off season.
4. Homer Bailey
It's over. This will go down as one of the worst signings in Reds history.
It's not Bailey's fault. He was legitimately hurt for almost all of his contract and looks like a shell of what he was in the 2012 season. Stats don't lie: The overwhelming majority of Major League pitchers who've had Tommy John surgery don't have a very good afterlife. Bailey's time here is over. It may be over anywhere.
So what to do with a man to whom you still owe $28 million, after this season? Some fans will say Bob Castellini should eat the remainder of the contract because it is already spent money.
Easy to say for someone who isn't spending the money.
Bailey's trade value is nil. The only way to salvage any of his worth is to either pair him with another prospect or player and send that to a team that covets the player and is willing to see if new strategy and new coaching will coax something out of Bailey.
However, the Reds would have to pay a significant amount of what remains on Bailey's contract, much like what they did when they traded Brandon Phillips to the Braves.
Either way, Bailey has to go. He'll resist going to the bullpen, as he did earlier this year. Realistically, he doesn't seem like a fit there. A former first-round draft pick and one-time 'ace' reduced to a long reliever on that same team? Recipe for trouble there.
There is no way the Reds will be taken seriously, by their fans or other teams, if they insist on keeping Bailey in the 2019 starting rotation.
It's over, and it's time to go.
5. Scooter Gennett
He should be traded, but he won't. And, really, my thinking on Gennett has evolved.
In the spring, when he was heating up for what now looks like a National League batting title, I said he had to go. The logic was simple: He remains the most attractive Reds trade candidate, and the Reds have been stockpiling infielders in recent drafts.
They took Nick Senzel a couple of years ago and Jonathan India this year, both top-10 picks. Could they play other positions besides infield? Maybe. But why do it?
Both will be cost-effective for most of the next decade. Gennett, after another year of arbitration, will be looking to sign a three-to-five-year contract averaging in excess of $10 million a season. As good as he is at the plate, is that worth it? Maybe.
So this is my 'growth point' on the Scooter dilemma: Players who have proven they can play at the Major League level, like Gennett, are far more valuable to a team that wants to be a contender than players who 'think' they can play at the Major League level.
The question become money and how it's spent.
Is $60 million from 2020-24 on a good hitting second baseman better spent on signing one of your current pitchers or luring one here in free agency? The answer to me, now, is yes.
First of all, what Reds pitcher, at this point, is worth that kind of money? None. Secondly, what top-of-the-rotation free agent pitcher is going to sign a five year deal worth $60 million? None.
The game is changing on how teams view signing pitchers to long term deals. The Reds learned the hard way with Bailey.
Look at the previous off season, when a healthy Jack Arrieta, who won 54 games in his previous three seasons, had to wait until spring training was ending to sign free agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
It's in reality a two year deal (that could extend to five under certain circumstances) and Arrieta will make $55 million. Somehow, some way, the Reds have to find a way to get better, quality pitching without trading away one of their most popular and best players.
So after that house cleaning, who's left? And how good will they be?
The infield will have an aging but still exceptional Joey Votto at first.
At second will be the guy you love, but will eventually be traded, Scooter Gennett. Nick Senzel will finally get to the Majors and start at short, and the 2018 Reds Most Valuable Player will be Eugenio Suarez.
Tucker Barnhart, one of the best defensive catchers in the game and the 2017 Gold Glove winner, will be just fine behind the plate.
In the outfield, it will be Winker in left, Peraza in center and Schebler in right.
The bullpen will be solid. David Hernadez, Jared Hughes, Mike Lorenzen, and Amir Garrett are a solid core, to go with the usual pick up or two for the pen that the Reds seem to make every off season (hold off on the Quackenbush, Gregg and Ohlendorf comments for the moment, please).
The starting rotation should be Anthony DeSclafani (who is not an 'ace' but is the best of what the Reds have at this point), Mahle, Castillo and a big, far question mark.
This is where the Reds either want to play the game or simply want to play a schedule of games. They need to, either by trade or free agent signings, find at least one and most probably two top-level pitchers.
That ain't so small a trick, but it's the price you pay for a bad contract to Bailey and failing to develop any decent starting pitching and dumping contracts under financial distress, rather than making thoughtful and effective trades.
The Reds have no one to blame but themselves from the top down. Period.
Will any of this get the Reds to a point where they could contend as soon as 2019. It might, but probably not. This year's two wild card winners in the National League will probably have at least 90 wins. The Washington Nationals are just over .500 right now and are eight games back from the second NL wild card spot.
My proposed roster looks like a .500 roster, at best, but 'rounding up the band' for another 2019 concert gets the Reds nothing. The interest in this city for this team has gone from anger to apathy. And for anything in life, that's a dangerous position.
Now then, to some thoughts that have been percolating in my head, unleashing them now in a torrent…
- I don't know what happens tonight against the Baltimore Ravens, but I think those folks who had the Bengals going 4-12 this season will be wrong. Just a hunch.
- Think the Reds really don't need better starting pitching? The Reds could have the National League batting champ in Gennett, who currently leads the league. They could have the National League leader in RBI. With 101 Suarez leads the NL And Suarez is only three homes runs shy of the National League lead. Riddle me this Batman, if they had only decent starting pitching what shape would this team be in right now?
- Bounce back wins this week for the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. All win outright. You can thank me later.
- Unless the weather experts are wrong, it's going to be a really wet weekend in the Mid-Atlantic and east coast for a lot of college football teams. I'd look for the Temple at Maryand, Marshall at South Carolina and Ohio at Virginia games to be impacted, moved, postponed or canceled. Already games at North Carolina, North Carolina State and Liberty have either been postponed or canceled.
Forty-nine years ago today, John Lennon had to play a live gig in Toronto, but Lennon was still trying to piece together a band to play that charity event the night before the charter jet left London and he still didn't have a drummer.
Lennon had wandered into a London club about a week earlier and had seen a local band, featuring a very young and talented drummer who would eventually wind up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But on this particular night, Alan White was just a 20 year old trying to make a few bucks to pay his rent. Lennon was impressed.
The next day, Lennon still in need of a drummer for his gig in Toronto, called White at his London apartment.
"I hung up on him," White told me in an interview this summer before his Hall of Fame band Yes played at Riverbend. "I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on me."
Lennon persisted and called again. This time, White didn't hang up. He was told to report to the charter lounge at Heathrow Airport the next day.
"When I did, there was John sitting with Yoko, and out of the men's room walked Eric Clapton."
White, like the rest of the band who'd never played together, rehearsed the songs for the performance on the charter jet enroute to London.
Thus began a storied career for White, who became not only a Hall of Famer with "Yes", he also has performed with George Harrison and countless other legendary musicians. And with Lennon, he recorded this hit that, he confirmed in our interview, is a drummer's dream.
Alan White, all of 20 years old on this date, jetting off to Toronto with a plane load of legends, on the way to becoming a legend in his own right.