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February 25, 2010
Proof That You Can Go Gomes Again
Purchased the contract of RHP Anthony Reyes from Columbus (Triple-A), and placed him on the 60-day DL; officially added 1B-L Russell Branyan to the 40-man roster; outrighted C/UT-R Chris Gimenez to Columbus, but kept him in camp as an NRI. [2/24]
Reyes' placement on the 60-day DL was to prevent him from opting out of his minor-league deal from earlier this winter. He's still rehabbing his way back from TJS, and he's still a non-factor as far as the first half of the Tribe's 2010 campaign, but given the alternatives, they will probably have cause to put him in the rotation towards the back end of the season, it wasn't like the Indians were risking a season's worth of service time by adding him; he'll be arbitration-eligible after the year either way.
Designated RHP Casey Fien for assignment. [2/23]
This was the ripple effect from signing Damon. Around this time of year, if add a player, somebody else pretty much has to lose, because just about every 40-man roster is full-up. That said, there are exceptions from among the 30 teams: the Cardinals, Phillies, Rays, and Angels are all at 38, and the Cubs and Marlins are at 39. We'll see what that means for the NRIs in camp, or whether that wiggle room encourages any of those half-dozen general managers to feel grabby with the waiver wire in the month to come.(They might also be the six men still taking phone calls from underemployed free agents.) Fien probably isn't grab-worthy, given that he's a middle-relief aspirant with modest stuff and a spotty performance record, but you shouldn't expect those 10 open spots on 40-man rosters to remain open forever.
Signed OF-R Jonny Gomes to a one-year, $800,000 deal, with a $1.75 million club option for 2011 (with a variable-value buyout); placed RHP Edinson Volquez on the 60-day DL. [2/22]
So, belatedly, Gomes came to terms with the idea that he wasn't going to get some great reward in free agency, and sensibly chose to come back to a venue that does him a few favors: his ISO in the Gap was .314, against "just" .238 in the rest of the major leagues.
As a result of the late addition of Gomes, the Reds' outfield picture, and particularly the issue of who's playing in left field, is more crowded than the Sultan's seraglio as far as players capable of making very different contributions or gifted with an exceptional range of disparate individual talents. Gomes isn't even the only right-handed slugger, as he's competing directly with Wladimir Balentien for that particular role, and Balentien's out of options. Balentien is a better defender, but has delivered on less of his past promise at the plate; it'll be interesting to see if he remains in favor of falls out as badly as he had in Seattle by the end. However, both could stick, if only because it's quite possible that Balentien provides some value as Jay Bruce's opposite-handed backup in right field.
But to stick with left-field candidacies, there's also Chris Dickerson, the Reds' blend of speed and OBP who figures to be kept around as perhaps the best possible backup for Drew Stubbs in center beyond however many at-bats he gets in left. He bats lefty to Stubbs' right-handed stick, and if Stubbs' problems on the road last season persist, his grasp on the job as an everyday player might slip. But there are also other left-handed alternatives: the low-OBP but more slugly-swinging Laynce Nix, like Gomes something of a Hot Stove League loser in that freedom did not generate scads of cash, is also back as an NRI. As that kind of presence in camp, Nix is keeping company with the equally well-traveled Josh Anderson and Reds organizational soldier Danny Dorn, both of whom seem likely to be in Louisville, Anderson because he's a toolsy reserve without a lot of value beyond his ability to cover ground in center, Dorn because he's a corner man already drifting towards first, and not gifted with power of the caliber to really push himself into the big-league picture as anything more than a spare part.
That's not to say there aren't prospects who can't make that push in camp, however. First off, there's Chris Heisey, who has played a significant amount of center but figures to be more of a tweener in terms of his gifts as a fielder. He's a popular scrapper who delivered a .314/.379/.521 season split between Double- and Triple-A, but he's also heading into his age-25 season, so he isn't a blue-chip talent (Kevin Goldstein gave him three stars) as much as he's someone who does enough things well that he might run, slug, field, and/or charm his way into stronger consideration during the course of the campaign to come. But then there's also the matter of sorting out what Todd Frazier's for, as well as when. The decision to reward Scott Rolen with an $18 million extension through 2012 in December shuts off that possible application for Frazier's bat. The team's best position-playing prospect could continue to mark time at second base, but Brandon Phillips is signed through 2011 (or 2012 if the Reds' brass picks up an option), which is why it seems more likely that he might end up getting an extended look in the outfield, albeit probably in the minors to start the season.
All of which creates the interesting question of who Dusty Baker will pick from among these options, as well as whether or not he'll employ them in a way that spreads out the playing time (with Gomes and/or Balentien spotting for Bruce, and Dickerson or Heisey or Nix for Stubbs in center, for example), or if he picks his favorites early and sticks with them with any regularity. Given the multitude, Baker could wind up riding hot hands and discarding people for any failure, so whether anyone gets much in the way of job security in-season figures to be an extra reason to follow Reds lineup cards.
Officialized the signing of C-R Rod Barajas; designated LHP Arturo Lopez for assignment. [2/24]
Signed OF-L Brad Wilkerson to a minor-league deal. [2/23]
Wilkerson retired last April after not making the Red Sox, and after a few days of puttering around Pawtucket. His decision to come back doesn't involve an invitation to the Phillies' big-league camp, so he's already set for re-starting his career in the piggery, where he and Andy Tracy might be Lehigh Valley's reliable heroes.
As you no doubt remember, Wilkerson's career sort of infamously went off a cliff. You can identify his Knievel-like drop easily enough, right after his age-27 season:
Year Age PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG ISO BABIP UBB% K% EqA WARP 2001 24 136 .205/.304/.325 .120 .303 11.9 30.2 .221 -0.7 2002 25 603 .266/.370/.469 .203 .348 12.4 26.7 .282 2.3 2003 26 602 .268/.380/.464 .196 .348 14.8 25.8 .281 3.0 2004 27 688 .255/.374/.498 .243 .292 14.4 22.1 .288 3.7 2005 28 661 .248/.351/.405 .157 .315 11.5 22.2 .267 2.9 2006 29 365 .220/.306/.422 .202 .292 9.9 31.8 .244 -0.4 2007 30 389 .234/.319/.467 .233 .274 11.1 27.5 .268 0.8 2008 31 309 .220/.308/.326 .106 .274 10.2 22.0 .230 -0.3
The shoulder injury that apparently first cropped up in 2005 was only the worst of a variety of ailments that kicked Wilkerson off of his career path, but it's also important to note that his peak wasn't really that high in the first place; toppling from the .280s to the .260s after cresting in his age-27 season wouldn't have been that extreme, but his 2006 AL debut with the Rangers and then his abbreviated 2008 season with the Mariners and Blue Jays involved even worse drops. The important point as that he'd already taken his spill in 2005, because after a good April he struggled to hit for power, his walk rate starting crumbling in its wake once the pitchers got the memo, and just like that, his brief stardom winked out. Perhaps a 2009 season spent at home will have him as healed up as he's ever going to get headed into his age-33 campaign. Were he to somehow wind up in the majors again, expecting his walk rate to come decisively back up over 10 percent, or for him to deliver an ISO above .200 again, would be both extremely optimistic and a whole lot of fun to see, but even if he did that, as you can see from his 2005 or 2007 seasons, we'd be talking about a placeholder in a corner.