Reds on lookout for deadline deals
By David Paschall Staff Writer
Seeking their first playoff berth in more than a decade, the Cincinnati Reds are busier than normal leading up to major league baseballís July 31 trade deadline.
That is having a direct effect on their Class AA affiliates, the Chattanooga Lookouts.
The Reds were 21 games behind St. Louis at the All-Star break last year but have spent recent weeks within two games of the division-leading Cardinals. First-year Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky promised he would be aggressive this month if his team had a chance, and he began the dealings Thursday by acquiring Seattle Mariners reliever Eddie Guardado for Lookouts starting pitcher Travis Chick. Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens believes more moves could be coming.
"Absolutely, I do," Owens said. "The Reds are right there, so there could be great moves for them and some good moves for players in the minor leagues. Any time youíre traded, it means a team really likes you. Iím hoping to see the big-league team ready and right there, and maybe we can pull some strings and make a good trade with some guys who have built up their trade value."
Chattanooga has two of the most talked-about prospects in all the minors, pitcher Homer Bailey and first baseman Joey Votto. The two will be showcased on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. today at the Futures Game in Pittsburgh, but they already have proven plenty to scouts and managers throughout the Southern League.
Bailey, Cincinnatiís top pick in 2004 who signed for $2.3 million, is 3-0 with an 0.00 earned run average and 22 strikeouts in three starts since coming up from the high Single-A Florida State League. Votto, a second-round pick of the Reds in 2002 who signed for $600,000, leads the league in batting average (.327), hits (109), runs (60), home runs (19) and RBIs (56).
When asked about the trade deadline, Votto said, "I donít pay attention to that stuff at all. Not in the least."
The consensus in the Reds organization is that Bailey and Votto shouldnít worry. They are too valuable to trade.
"They are our future," farm director Johnny Almaraz said. "You can never say never, but the plan is for them to be part of the Reds for years to come. Any time you think about trading guys like that, you better make sure you are getting quality major league players back, because thatís what they are going to be."
If Bailey and Votto are off the table, do the Reds have any significant chips with which to deal?
Among the names speculated are Ryan Freel, Cincinnatiís fourth outfielder who is hitting.299, and Chris Denorfia, another outfielder who leads Triple-A Louisville with a.348 average. Denorfia ó whoíll play in Wednesdayís Triple-A All-Star Game ó played for the Lookouts in 61 games in 2004 and 46 games last year.
Third baseman Aaron Herr, who was promoted to Triple-A Louisville on Thursday, and left fielder Noochie Varner have compiled productive seasons for the Lookouts, but each came to Chattanooga after being released by another organization. Sixth-year free agents such as Herr and Varner rarely are involved in midseason trades, but Herr said it makes for fun subject matter.
"We talk about that stuff a lot, especially when the bigteam affiliate like the Reds are winning and are still in contention for the playoffs," Herr said. "I think theyíre definitely going to make some moves, and to get what you want, youíve got to give up something you donít want to give up. Thatís why itís so important to not only play good in front of your scouts but all the scouts in the stands."
Herr doesnít believe the Reds will trade Votto or Bailey, but it canít be ruled out.
"When I was with the Braves, they drafted Adam Wainwright in the first round (2000) and gave him tons of money," Herr said. "He was the golden child of the Braves just like Homer is here, but they traded him one winter to the Cardinals to get some big-league pitchers. The Reds have all that money invested in Homer, and I would be shocked, but you never know.
"Itís fun when the trade deadline comes up. Itís fun to see who is right."
Just because the deadline passes doesnít mean players canít be shipped.
Lookouts outfielder and leadoff batter Javon Moran signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003 but was traded in August 2004 to the Reds with pitchers Joe Wilson and Elizardo Ramirez in exchange for big-league pitcher Cory Lidle, who had cleared waivers. Moran has advice for any teammate he loses.
"It can hit you real quick, and you can feel stuck because you donít know who youíre going to know over there or how itís going to be over there," Moran said. "Youíre leaving all the friends you got drafted with. Itís a big change, but itís usually a change for the better for everybody. Youíre put in a better situation."
E-mail David Paschall at email@example.com