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Chat: Brad Kullman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday September 29, 2003 3:00 PM ET chat session with Brad Kullman.

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Brad Kullman is the Assistant General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Brad Kullman: Good afternoon, everyone. I am obviously in the midst of a very fluid situation here in Cincinnati, but will do my best to answer your questions regarding the Reds and the great game of baseball in general, so let's get going!

Redread (usa): What's Reds plans for building their bullpen next year? Trades have really decimated what used to be an area of strength.

Brad Kullman: A good question to get us started, addressing some of the trades that were made during the past nine weeks. I would actually argue that the bullpen is still a strength heading into next year. Four of the five relievers who were traded (Gabe White, Kent Mercker, Scott Sullivan & Felix Heredia) are going to be free agents in a few weeks. Heading into next year we are looking at Danny Graves, Chris Reitsma, John Riedling and Ryan Wagner from the right side. Phil Norton was impressive as the only lefty after coming over from Chicago. We will obviously look to supplement this group, but I think we still have a solid foundation in the pen.

Jonathan Adelman (Laramie, WY): Hi Brad; thanks for taking the time to chat! Do you believe that the current set of executives in baseball are more talented than, say, their counterparts from 20 years ago? If so, how do you imagine the top GMs of 2010 will be different than you guys?

Brad Kullman: I don't believe that today's executives are more talented anymore than I believe Babe Ruth was inferior to today's athlete. Everyone must be evaluated within the context they performed. Modern technology has afforded all of us much more access to information and resources that executives could only dream of just a few years ago. The key to being a top executive has not changed. It is still being able to maximize your resources and use all available information to the best of your ability.

John Collins (Greenville NC): Mr Kullmann: Why do you think the Reds were able to acquire D'Angelo Jiminez so cheaply? He's done well for Cincy, and did well for the Sox, too. Did he not get along with Manuel, or did they not like his defense?

Brad Kullman: Jim Bowden and I had been trying to acquire D'Angelo since two days before he was traded from the Yankees to San Diego (I was actually sitting in the stands in Columbus scouting him when he was pulled from the lineup for the trade to the Pads). When we saw the stories coming out of how Chicago had soured on him, we figured this might be our chance to grab him. Things have worked out well so far, but we realize that he got off to a good start in San Diego and Chicago, as well. We will do our best to help him continue what was a positive start with us next year, but alot is obviously up to him.

John Collins (Greenville NC): Mr Kullman, Why do you think Graves was less successful in the rotation than he had been in the pen? Was it a question of endurance, or his assortment of pitches, an injury, or something else?

Brad Kullman: I think Danny was never quite able to make the adjustment in his mind, though he gave it everything he had and was a true professional about it. We knew it was a red flag when, in spring training, he decided that he was uncomfortable going out of the windup and that he was going to work from the stretch exclusively. Right now, we are projecting him to return to the bullpen full-time next year and we expect him to bounce back to his previous, effective form.

Greg Tamer (West Lafayette, IN): What's the future hold for Ryan Wagner - starter, middle relief, setup, or ace reliever (i.e., "closer")?

Brad Kullman: Ryan had an outstanding first professional year. He will definitely enter spring training in the mix as a setup man in the bullpen. There are concerns about him starting with his delivery, but I can definitely see him being a closer as his performance dictates.

wmcdonal56 (South Bend IN): Who do you worry about more next season- the Pirates or the Brewers?

Brad Kullman: I do not worry about any of the other teams (that is not to say that I am not aware of what they are doing!). I try to focus on what we can do to be the best team that we can and continually search for ways that we can improve. I believe that if we maximize our resources and perform at the highest level that we can, the rest takes care of itself.

Erick (Columbus, OH): Mr. Kullman, As the Reds were completing their many trades in late July and August, you mentioned that these maoves would give the Reds payroll flexibility for the 2004 saeson. Would you care to explain in more detail what that means? Where do you see the Reds being most active during the offseason? Do the Reds plan to sign frontline free agents? To sign middle-tier free agents? To take on contracts of players that other teams may now deem to be too expensive? To be active signing arbitration eligible players thay may be non-tendered by their current teams? Thank you.

Brad Kullman: What I meant was, with the eight trades that we completed during that time, six of them involved players who would be free agents at the end of this season and who were earning a good chunk of change while the team languished in fifth place with numerous injuries to key players. The other two (Boone and Williamson) could easily earn close to $10 million in 2004. By saving some money this year and lowering the total for next year, it gives us some flexibility to work with from a baseball operations perspective. Where the payroll is set is an ownership-level decision and is out of the baseball operations control. If it is set higher than where we are looking right now with all of the moves, we will have the opportunity to explore the market appropriately. If it is set closer to where we are, at least we won't be forced into a situation of trading more players when there might not be a good market for them. In other words, we tried to be proactive and trade the most marketable players and maximize our return, knowing what we needed and looking at where we would need to go in the future as an organization.

Randy (Fredericksburg, VA): The Reds have stated that the payroll will NOT be $40M next year. However, they haven't said that it WILL be over $50M next year. What do you anticipate the budget to be and do you think that there will be enough money available to improve the starting pitching?

Brad Kullman: See the previous answer. Time will tell, but I feel we have positioned ourselves to be nimble enough to take advantage of a number of possibilities.

Tom (Jacksonville, FL): Both Josh Hall and Bobby Basham indicated they were pitching hurt this year, and that the Reds knew it. To the amateur outsider this seems strange. What was the Reds rationale?

Brad Kullman: I have had a number of questions along these lines, so I better address it. Many players complain of aches and pains throughout the season. Our medical staff, under the direction of Dr. Tim Kremchek (who studied under Dr. James Andrews) does an outstanding job of doing everything that they can to assist players in getting back out on the field without jeopardizing their long-term future. In the case of Basham, he actually saw Dr. Andrews for a second opinion and did not pitch after July 30 while he followed a strengthening procedure to return to 100% for 2004. In the case of Hall, he said that he would feel good for one start, bad for one start, good, bad, etc. He was examined (including an MRI) at the all-star break and nothing specific could be found at that time. He had extensive shoulder surgery in the past and that sometimes makes it difficult to determine exactly what is going on in there in subsequent examinations until you actually go in (right, Will?). We are doing everything that we can to help both pitchers return at full health in 2004.

Jonathan Adelman (Laramie, WY): A lot of analysts say that Great American Ballpark is a haven for batters, almost like a mini-Coors, while some guys are saying the park is about averege re: run-scoring. Do you think the stadium is extreme? Neutral? Somewhere in the middle? Thanks!

Brad Kullman: What looked to be a great home run hitting park in April turned out to be fairly neutral as the year progressed. Sample size, right? You readers all know not to jump to conclusions too quickly like the average fan (and broadcaster/reporter/etc.)! The assumption was that balls would jump out of here when the humid weather came in July and Aug but that simply did not happen (for us our our opponents). We will see what happens as time progresses, but it appears that the early evaluations may have been inaccurate.

Anthony (Long Island, NY): Will Brandon Claussen be in the rotation to begin 2004, and how does your medical staff feel about his recovery from Tommy John surgery?

Brad Kullman: We are very pleased with Brandon Claussen and his (amazingly quick) recovery from Tommy John. That is part of the reason we shut him down. After talking to him and examining his workload this year, we felt he had pitched plenty in his first year back off surgery. He should enter 2004 spring training with an excellent chance to show he belongs in the 2004 opening day starting rotation.

Bill (Newport, KY): Thanks for chatting, Brad. What do the Reds intend to do about the alarming number of arm injuries that the young pitchers in the organization seem to suffer? Thanks.

Brad Kullman: We have aggressively tried to approach that problem this year with an approach similar to what we did with Brandon Claussen. We did something similar with Ryan Wagner and we were much more proactive with many of our minor league prospects, as well. The initial result was the fewest arm injuries we have suffered in the last five years in the minor league system. We will continue to monitor and tweak the philosophy going forward, but we are well aware that it is an area in which we need to continue to improve.

Greg (Saline, MI): What happened to Adam Dunn, and what kind of production do you expect from him going forward?

Brad Kullman: I think Adam simply got into some bad habits up here after everything seemed to come so easily intially. He definitely has the talent to return to what looked like a path to stardom. It is just up to him to figure it out and do it. I would not be surprised to see him break out (again?) next year.

NDRed (USA): Would you work for Jim Bowden again?

Brad Kullman: In a heartbeat. Jim may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but he is a forward-thinking baseball man who empowers his people to be the best they can be and gives them freedom to do their jobs as best they can. It's tough to ask for more than that from a boss, especially in this business.

John (Long Island): Are you the Reds source who leaked the Rose details to Will Carroll?

Brad Kullman: I believe it was a Commissioner's Office source who leaked the Rose details to Will Carroll. Actually, it is beginning to look like Will Carroll leaked the Rose details to Will Carroll. (Ha! Just a joke, Will.) Seriously, Will has quickly built a great stable of sources with his quality work and I have no idea where that might have come from.

Andre (Furth, GERMANY): I miss Cincinnati and my Reds. The NL Central isn't a strong division. If Kearns and Dunn come back healthy, and you can pick up one good starting pitcher to go with Claussen, do you think you can contend next year? GO REDS!

Brad Kullman: I do believe it is possible, Andre. Obviously the key (as with all middle and small-market teams) is health. We simply don't have the depth to withstand a large quantity of injuries, such as this year. Incidentally, we finished the season with 22 of our major league players (out of 48) out for the year due to physical injuries or concerns.

Tony Craig (Chicago, IL): Does it bother you when the media looks at the trades the Reds made this year and calls it a fire sale, or claims it shows a lack of commitment to winnig? Do you think the media portrays it this way in order to create a story, or do they really not understand the concept of rebuilding?

Brad Kullman: I think many members of the media are simply like many fans in that they don't dig below the surface to get the true story. Sure, the trades did not help us on the field immediately, but they surely did not decimate us like the injuries did. Just look at the final AL stats for Boone, Williamson, et al and then see where we were lacking at the end of the season. It just bothers me that they seem to forget how badly we were struggling (10.5 games out in 5th place with just 58 games remaining) before Leland and I took over.

Erick (Columbus, OH): Good afternoon, Of all the players the Reds have auditioned since mid-July, which ones have made the most of their opportunities and are most likely to be with the team next year?

Brad Kullman: Ryan Freel has impressed with his versatility and athleticism. Dernell Stenson also made outstanding progress this year and could be in the mix for a LH bat off the bench in '04.

Greg (Indianapolis, IN): Congratulations on receiving a good return for Jose Guillen. I know some fans were upset at that trade, but you had a player who was very unlikely to return in 2004 and who had played very poorly until this year. I think you got quite a bit for Guillen. Is Harang penciled into the 2004 rotation and what is the likelihood of Joe Valentine making the team out of spring training?

Brad Kullman: The fact is that Jose had already told us that there was no way he would return in '04 (with Griffey, Dunn & Kearns all ahead of him) and that he was going to go through the ceiling (we have seen that before, as well!) if he was not traded by the deadline. Knowing internally that we had to make a deal, I think we did as well as could be expected (and I think the the Athletics got a fine addition to their offense for the playoff run, which they successfully made). Harang will get a shot at the rotation in '04 and Valentine has a good arm and definitely has a chance to contribute as well. He will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League and we will continue to monitor his progress.

Phil Raisor (Fayetteville, GA): How can ballclubs better educate the "common" fan?

Brad Kullman: I thought we were doing that right here?! It is educated and thinking fans such as the professionals who operate Baseball Prospectus that will enable fans to be more educated and for all of us to move forward and make this great game even greater!

Brad Kullman: Thanks for all of the questions. Hopefully, we can do this again sometime. Enjoy the post-season, everyone!


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