02/20/2006 3:41 PM ET
Mailbag: Filling out the roster
Sheldon answers questions about the Reds
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Greetings from the Reds' complex Ed Smith Stadium, my home away from home until April.
Spring Training workouts have begun for pitchers and catchers and full-squad workouts are scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Reds fans will no doubt have questions and concerns over the next several weeks as the roster takes shape. Well, fire away and I'll do my best to answer some of them for you.
I don't really understand some of the signings that we have done. I can sort of understand the Scott Hatteberg signing, but Timo Perez, Quinton McCracken, and Tuffy Rhodes? For a small-market team on a tight budget, don't these signings seem like a waste? If we are looking to bring 35-plus-year-old veterans to the team, maybe we can fill our opening for a closer and bring back Jeff Shaw. I just wanted your thoughts on the signings.
-- Christopher M., Columbus, Ohio
I think you're making more of these moves than is necessary. Signing extra players to Minor League deals with invites to camp is a way for organizations to improve depth and increase competition, with little risk on the team's end. And in the Reds' case, general manager Wayne Krivsky came on the scene very late in the offseason and wanted to do things his own way. You can bet that the players without assured jobs will have to earn a spot and not win one by default.
McCracken will get $600,000 if he makes the 25-man roster. While $600,000 is a lot of clams to you and me, it's not too big of a big dent on a Major League team, even a small-market one on a tight budget, as you put it. Reds manager Jerry Narron appears to prefer having experienced players with strong preparation skills. McCracken and Hatteberg have a track record of coming off the bench and performing. Rhodes is a lesser-known entity since he's spent the last decade in Japan, but it never hurts to take a look.
What are the chances of letting Hatteberg play first base and leave Adam Dunn in the outfield with Ken Griffey Jr. and Austin Kearns? It would add another productive bat to the lineup. Then, maybe they could trade Wily Mo Pena for a decent pitcher. What do you think?
-- C.J., Kokomo, Ind.
If the regular season opened today, Dunn would be starting at first base with Hatteberg as an option off the bench. The other day, Narron left open the possibility that the scenario could change if "Dunn can't play or somebody gets traded or somebody gets injured." Read into that as much as you'd like. At this time of year, you don't see too many decent pitchers getting dealt because every club craves pitching depth -- unless it has a key injury and a sudden hole to fill elsewhere. I don't expect Pena will be going anywhere for now.
Who do you predict to win the second and third base jobs this upcoming year? -- Torry F., Chicago
Without seeing a single inning played yet, my guess is the spot at third base is Edwin Encarnacion's to lose. The Reds think quite highly of him and now he just has to earn the role, or risk losing it to Rich Aurilia. Second base really seems wide open. Ryan Freel hustles and has tremendous speed but is considered very valuable in the utility role because he can play well anywhere. That might be enough reason for the team to give Tony Womack every opportunity to claim the spot outright, barring a poor spring.
Besides promoting Johnny Almaraz and Tim Naehring, what will GM Krivsky do differently than the prior regime to beef up the Reds' scouting and player development program? To me that is the most important missing link for bringing back the winning tradition to Cincy. -- Dan W., Birmingham, Ala.
In a short amount of time, Krivsky has already begun assembling and adding new scouts and evaluators for his front office. Many, I'm sure, will bring in a different perspective than what was around in past regimes. The new GM also comes with a lengthy scouting background of his own and a successful blueprint in Minnesota from which to emulate. The Twins are among the leaders in scouting and development and were better than most at identifying and signing prospects. The dedication also helped that organization make some shrewd trades over the years. Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano and David Ortiz are three examples -- all were acquired by Minnesota when they were in the lower ranks of the farm system.
With the NBA changing and not allowing players to go straight from high school to the pro league, what are the chances Major League Baseball will change its ways? In my opinion, hopefully they never will.
-- Andrew H., Brandon, SD
It's an apples and oranges comparison. Unlike MLB, the NBA lacks a true player development system or Minor Leagues. Yes, there have been the NBADL and CBA, but most of your high school hoops standouts were bypassing those leagues to go straight into the NBA draft to face competition much older and more experienced. Many were washing out and were unable to play college hoops because they hired agents.
In baseball, most high school kids are drafted and begin at the lowest rungs of the Minors and often take four to six years to reach the Majors. But in that time the young men are usually playing with people near their own age and skill level. They also are afforded the time to grow up and learn about the game and life while honing their skills. After that, clubs hope when they do call a player up to the Majors, that person is ready to handle it.
What are the chances of trying to make a deal with the likes of Roger Clemens or Rafael Palmeiro or one of the big name free agents?
-- Tommy H., Colerain Township, Ohio
How does zero percent sound? Clemens made $18 million last season and would be way out of the Reds' budget. From what I've read and heard, I get the feeling Rocket will retire after the World Baseball Classic, unless the Astros, Yankees or Red Sox blow him away with a great offer. If it's Houston, Clemens would have to wait until May 1. As for Palmeiro, I think Cincinnati and other clubs would prefer to stay clear of the circus he created during last year's scandal in Baltimore.
Do you think the Reds could swing a deal for Eric Gagne? With the Reds' overload of outfielders and No. 5 starters and the Dodgers needing healthy outfielders, could it ever happen? -- Kyle B., parts unknown
I'll go ahead and slap a zero percent chance on this happening, too. Although Gagne is still recovering from an elbow injury, he is considered one of the most elite closers in baseball. No way would the Dodgers deal him away unless someone better comes along.