It’s time once again to revisit Dr. Scott’s Trade Scorecard. Since the Denny Neagle trade in the second half of 2000, I’ve been tracking all of the deals the Reds have made. I’m only leaving in the good jokes, so to those of you who haven’t read this basic document before, just remember: I’m not really that funny.
TRADE #1: LHP Denny Neagle to the Yankees for minor-league 3B Drew Henson, OF Jackson Melian, RHP Brian Reith, and LHP Ed Yarnall.
Neagle pitched .500 ball for the Yanks at the end of 2000 and did not figure heavily in the Yankees' postseason plans that year. He signed with Colorado for mega-bucks after the 2000 season and held his own (9-8, 5.38 ERA) in Coors in 2001. Despite the fact his ERA declined in 2002 (8-11, 5.26 in 35 appearances, 28 starts), he was emotionally hurt by his seven-week bullpen demotion and has been seen recently asking for a trade so he could go somewhere where he was “more appreciated”. Colorado notwithstanding, Denny hasn’t been great since the Reds traded him away.
Henson, of course, was a 5-tool jackass and went back to New York (see below).
Melian regressed in 2001, hitting .237 at Chattanooga, and was released in early 2002. Milwaukee either ditched or traded him after he batted .223-6-24 in 184 AB in AA, and he ended up in the Cubs’ system. Finally, he came alive for the wonderfully named West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (AA), hitting .308 in 234 AB, albeit with only four homers and a 17-62 BB:K ratio. He isn’t necessarily done, being only age 23 on Opening Day 2003, but Jackson has fallen from the prospect radar somewhat.
Reith took what will hereafter be called the Brian Reith Memorial Redheaded Stepchild Beating after the Reds rushed him to the majors in 2001 (0-7, 7.81, 16 HR in 40 IP). It’s not that he was bad the entire time, but his first few starts ended up obscured behind all the rest of the smackdown. After being kicked unmercifully down to AA after that, JimBo dumped him on waivers or otherwise lost him; he then serendipitously made his way back, where he mediocred his way through (8-9, 4.75 in 22 starts) at AAA Louisville. He’s 25 on Opening Day, so “sleeper” might be the proper term, but the proper connotation of the Reds’ view towards him might be better indicated with the word “coma”. I don’t blame Reith; I blame the Reds for that one. BRMRSBs will happen to many young pitchers, after all, but the Reds really seem to have thrown Brian at the Wall of Velcro. Somehow, he’s maintained his 40-man spot, if only because they traded about half a dozen guys off of it in the latter part of 2002.
Yarnall was sold to Japan's Orix Blue Wave in early 2001 for $300,000 (or 137.8 billion yen) and a case of La Choy Won Ton Noodles. As far as I know, he’s still cast as Jack Elliot in his own little personal production of “Mr. Baseball”. “Baseball and Jack come before Hiroko and Jack!”
TRADE #1.5: Henson back to the Yanks along with OF Michael Coleman for minor-league OF Wily Mo Pena.
Henson’s struggles at both the AAA level as well as in the WB-Demographic-League have become increasingly well-documented. He’s supposed to be the next Mike Schmidt (if Mike had a batting eye like Stevie Wonder and threw like Steve Sax). I mean, uh, just the first part of that. Anyway, a .240-18-65 season in Columbus, complete with 151 Ks and 37 walks, ain’t gonna get him justifying that six-year, $17 million contract he got from the Yanks. At 23 on Opening Day, the clock is ticking, and the alarm goes off in about two years. Henson continues to be watched.
Coleman had a cup o' java with the Yanks, whiffing 15 times in 38 AB (apparently, his batting eye also approximated Wonder’s), before being kicked back to the minors. He batted .239 in 2002 as a part-timer with the Red Sox’s AAA club, Pawtucket. A lethal cocktail of bad luck with injuries, too many strikeouts, and parking in JimBo’s reserved spot in Sarasota on Taco Day derailed his chance to be another LaVerne Sanders.
The Reds are saddled with Pena's major-league contract and accompanying mandate to have him in the bigs for good in 2003. He made it to The Show at the end of last season, and was pretty much as advertised (a HR in his second big-league plate appearance, 11 Ks in 18 AB). He did well at Single-A Dayton in 2001 (110 RBI), and held his own (barely) at AA Chattanooga in 2002 (.255-11-47, 8 SB, 36/126 BB/K in 388 AB). Shortly into his AFL campaign, he tore his hamstring and had surgery that is expected to push back the start of his 2003 season. Not that you ever root for someone to get hurt, but Pena’s injury will likely allow the Reds to keep him off the 25-man roster for a little longer. He also can’t easily be traded while disabled, so the sword has a second edge. At age 21, the sky is still the limit for JimBo’s Next Sammy Sosa, but so is the canyon.
ANALYSIS: The Reds had a chance to make a killing for Neagle, who was at the top of his game at the time of his trade and hasn’t been since, but most of what they got hasn’t panned out. Pena is still a huge wildcard. Consider this a missed opportunity rather than a failure.
TRADE #2: DH Dante Bichette to Boston for RHP Chris Reitsma and LHP John Curtice.
Bichette is now out of baseball after a passable 2001 with Boston. He retired before the 2002 season rather than face a bench role for the Dodgers. Rumors from The Spitter suggesting Bichette was with child were unsubstantiated.
Reitsma became the story of spring training 2001 by making the rotation. He managed to stay in for most of the year after a fast start and subsequent cool-down. Lack of support and stamina left him 7-15 with a 5.29 ERA in 29 starts and seven relief outings. He walked only 49 in 182 IP, which was excellent, but struck out only 96. 2002 saw his record continue to suffer (6-12), but less big innings and a bunch of unearned runs helped cut his ERA to a fine 3.64, with an improved K ratio (84 in 138 IP, with only 45 BB). He once again had to be cooled down midseason and sent to the bullpen, thriving in September (2 ER in 14 IP) and still is only three years removed from a broken pitching arm. Bob Boone and Don Gullett deserve kudos for the way they’ve handled Reitsma, and Chris has a very good chance of rewarding their perseverance further in 2003 and/or 2004. Something tells me he’ll have no problem wiping away that Bengalesque 13-27 start.
Curtice, a former #1 draft pick in 1997, saw his career sadly and prematurely cut short by injury.
ANALYSIS: Reds won this one easily. Trades like these are what build winners.
TRADE #3: LHP Ron Villone to Colorado for minor-league RHP Jeff Taglienti and LHP Justin Carter.
The Big Rig seems to have shown 1999 as his career year, as he posted mediocre numbers as a swingman in both 2001 and 2002, pitching for not only the Rockies but also Houston and Pittsburgh (starting on Opening Day, but booted from the rotation after seven starts, one of which was a shutout over the Reds!). With 5.89 and 5.81 ERAs the past two years and a career mark of 5.04, the Reds haven’t missed much.
Taglienti and Carter have both failed to make the majors, with Taglienti serving as a middle reliever for AA Chattanooga the past two seasons and Carter has pitched solidly if infrequently with High-A Stockton. Both are too old to be serious prospects.
ANALYSIS: While the acquisition of major leaguers is usually helpful, the Reds were right not to pay Villone what he was asking. Pitchers like him are easily turned up in the wash.
TRADE #4: C Eddie Taubensee to Cleveland for RHP Jim Brower and RHP Robert Pugmire.
Taubensee ended up the backup to Einar Diaz in Cleveland, and struggled with injuries in 2001 before hanging it up for good last season. He will always be remembered for his likable personality and exceptional character. He was able to shake off the stigma of being the “bust” traded for a young Kenny Lofton to post several strong years with the Reds, including his excellent 1999 season that contributed heavily to the Reds’ run.
Brower was a stalwart in the bullpen for the 2001 season, eating 129 innings and finishing 7-10, 3.97. After a decent start in 2002, he was flipped to Montreal for Bruce Chen, a younger lefty with more upside. He’s continued general averageness with the Expos as a middle reliever.
Pugmire saw his 2001 season in High-A cut short by injury, and did not pitch in 2002. Like Curtice, his career is either over or in need of serious resuscitation.
ANALYSIS: Reds all the way. JimBo practiced the fine art of flipping quite well here, as Chen is an inexpensive, fairly high-ceiling, versatile pitcher.
TRADE #5: IF Chris Stynes to Boston for OF Michael Coleman and IF Donnie Sadler.
Stynes was a decent utility player in Boston in 2001 (.280-8-33, 732 OPS) before moving to the Cubs in 2002 as a free agent. As utility players are wont to do, Stynes’ average bounced back down to .241 (OPS 688). His .334 campaign with the Reds in 2000 is his career year at this point. In addition, Stynes wouldn’t have had anywhere to play in Cincinnati after the acquisition of Todd Walker in mid-2001, with Walker at 2B and Boone at 3B playing steadily. Chris in the outfield is an occasional stopgap at best.
Coleman’s story has already been covered. Taco Day, Stevie, Pawtucket, etc.
Sadler batted a lofty .202 in 90 AB with the Reds before being shipped to Kansas City stamped “Buy Nothing, Get this Guy Free!” Amazingly, he’s only gone downhill from there- batting .129 and .191 in parts of two seasons with the Royals and .100 with the Rangers. He’s still fast, but without much of a glove (unlike the Charles Gipsons of the world), his sell-by date is fast approaching if he can’t return to the lofty land of .250 off the bench. Texas seems to have the idea with him, however- 38 games, 30 AB.
ANALYSIS: Red Sox won, I guess, although no one here really set the world afire. Stynes is still popular in Cincinnati, as evidenced by the way Marty & Joe still get calls about “whar that boy off the bench done went to” on the Bananaphone. Plus, he looks like Chris Sabo with a little more Josh Hartnett thrown in.
File this one next to the Neagle deal, where the Reds could have gotten much more from Stynes coming off his best season.
TRADE #6: Minor-league SS Wilmy Caceres to Anaheim for RHP Seth Etherton.
Wilmy hasn’t hit a home run either of the past two years in Triple-A, with Anaheim’s Salt Lake club or the Devil Rays’ Durham affiliate. Between Caceres and Jason Tyner, the Bulls are packing some serious firepower.
Etherton arrived as damaged goods, then suffered a series of setbacks from arm surgery. We should have known there was something funky about his arm when we thought we stole him from the Angels. In 2002, his rehab was derailed by more pain. Oh, and he was lost to the Yankees on waivers or something. But then he came back, lured by the human magnetic force that is JimBo. He’s still a former #1 draft pick with a 40-man roster spot who had some success in his 2000 rookie season, so “sleeper” still applies.
ANALYSIS: If Etherton throws one pitch for the Reds, we win.
TRADE #7: RHP Steve Parris to Toronto for minor-league RHP Leo Estrella and LHP Clayton Andrews.
Parris has been bitten by injuries or line drives or both, as he’s pitched only half of both 2001 and 2002, posting a 9-11 mark in both seasons combined with 5.17 ERA in 33 starts and 181 innings. Oh, and 222 hits and 31 HR and a 76/97 BB/K ratio. (Snif) Some things never change.
Estrella was waived and reclaimed in 2001, posting a 4.50 ERA and 47 Ks in 80 IP before heading off to the “greener” pastures of the Cubs’ system, where he’s bounced between AA West Tenn and AAA Iowa. Yay.
Andrews has dropped from AAA back to AA, where his season ended after four starts and a 7.23 ERA last season. Doesn’t look like it.
ANALYSIS: If you would have paid Steve Parris $3 million per year after his 4.81 season in 2000, then I guess the Blue Jays win, but I wouldn’t, so they don’t. Give me the variability of the younger guys and scrap-heapers over certain mediocrity any day.
TRADE #1: IF Donnie Sadler to Kansas City for minor-league LHP Cary Ammons.
The tragic story of a little man and his even littler bat is recounted above. Where have you gone, Herb Washington?
Ammons wasn't scaring anyone at the time, being 24 and in A ball, but he did go 1-4, 2.94 in 14 games (9 starts) for High-A Mudville in 2001. Then, I think he freaked out upon realizing he was traded for Donnie Sadler, left the Reds organization, and hasn’t been seen since. No, seriously.
ANALYSIS: Uh, none. Give JimBo a Snickerdoodle for getting a living, breathing human for Sadler.
TRADE #2: OF Michael Tucker to the Cubs for minor-league RHP Ben Shaffar and RHP Chris Booker.
Tucker was pretty much himself after going to the Cubs- .263-5-31 in 205 AB. The Cubs never really learned that he isn't a completely everyday player, as he continued to bat in the .250 range with a modicum of power and speed and 100 strikeouts per season. He was traded to the Royals for virtually nothing before the 2002 season and-wait for it...-he responded with .248-12-56-23 and 105 Ks, as the Royals never really learned he isn’t a completely everyday player. Turning 32 in June, Tucker’s best years have likely already happened. The Reds were fortunate enough to get a couple of them.
UK grad Shaffar was old for A ball when the Reds got him. He was flipped to Pittsburgh in the Jose Silva trade. More about that later. At age 24, Shaffar jumped up to AA Altoona and went 8-7, 3.15 in 18 starts before rupturing his patella tendon at the end of July, prematurely ending a season that would have gotten him, at the minimum, a promotion to AAA if not a trip to The Show. He’s a darkhorse candidate to contribute for Pittsburgh if he’s recovered in 2003.
Booker whiffed 101 (and walked 47) in 68 innings in 2001. Then he hurt his arm and missed all of 2002. Apparently, he’s throwing lights-out in the instructional leagues, so expect him to get a real look in spring training. Chris, this is Mr. Williamson. He'll be your tour guide this next season. Watch your step, and throw the ball in the general direction of the plate.
ANALYSIS: Interesting. Tucker is Tucker, and hasn’t been missed since Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn came to town. (Although, I admit I missed both Mike and Alex at times watching Reggie Taylor and Russell Branyan do their ceiling-fan impressions every third at-bat.) Shaffar and Booker could both still be someone, but the Reds only really win the trade if it’s Chris that pans out, of course.
TRADE #3: OF Alex Ochoa to Colorado for 2B Todd Walker and OF/1B Robin Jennings.
Ochoa, who you know and love from his hit movies Remember the Titans and The Hurricane, hit poorly in Colorado and was traded again, to Milwaukee. He then fortuitously went from Milwaukee to Anaheim at the trade deadline, where he served as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter (unfortuitously going 0 for 5 in the playoffs). He’s still one of the best fourth outfielders in baseball, but has never produced consistently when given a starting job. Was he worth $2.75 million (his 2002 salary) to the Reds? Not as a part-timer. It appears as though we traded Alex at the height of his value.
Walker, meanwhile, has turned a hole at 2B into a very solid position in the Reds’ lineup, posting OPS figures of 779 and 784 in 2001 and 2002 with the Reds. Most teams will take a .299 average, .353 OBP, and 74 RBIs from their middle infielders. (Except maybe the Yankees.) He has also worked hard on defense to turn liability into adequacy. For only $2 million in 2002 and $3 million in 2003, he’s a pretty good deal.
Jennings hit .286-3-14 in 77 AB for the Reds in 2001, but fell apart in 2002 and ended up a part-time player at AAA Louisville. .222-4-48 with a 598 OPS in 351 AB will get a man released before it gets him promoted. Assuming that’s just a bad year, Robin could still benefit the Reds as the kind of organizational depth that all teams need.
ANALYSIS: Reds win, due to Walker’s consistency and durability. Excellent trade by JimBo.
TRADE #4: RHP Mark Wohlers to the Yankees for minor-league RHP Ricardo Aramboles.
Wohlers tallied 31 appearances in three months in 2001 with the Yanks, despite a terrible start in pinstripes and a 4.54 ERA. He was foolishly signed to a two-year contract by Cleveland after the season, rewarding them with a 4.79 ERA in 71 appearances. For only $4 million! No knock on Mark, as he’s a great comeback story and his loyalty to the Reds in 2000-2001 is to be praised, but the Indians made multiple free-agent mistakes before the 2002 season, of which he was one. Average middle relief pitchers pretty much grow on trees, and there’s no reason to pay that much for one.
Aramboles had already been through one Tommy John surgery by the time he reached the Reds. More injuries ruined his 2002 season, allowing him to pitch but 23 innings at AA Chattanooga. He has AAA experience (four starts with Columbus), so don’t be surprised if the Reds push him to Louisville quickly. Believe it or not, he’s still (allegedly) only 21 for Opening Day 2003. BRMRSBs would be a very bad thing for Rico to go through so soon.
ANALYSIS: Reds win this one so far on potential. Don’t rush or overwork Rico, and we could have anything from Luis Pineda to Jose Rijo Version One.
TRADE #5: RHP Rob Bell to Texas for OF Ruben Mateo and 3B Edwin Encarnacion.
Well, the board generally disliked this trade originally, but Bell has gotten nothing but tattooed since going to Texas (7.18 and 6.22 ERAs) while remaining a frequent passenger on the Arlington-to-Oklahoma City shuttle. He’s out of options in 2003, so expect him to be traded again if he doesn’t put that 12-to-6 yakker to better use.
Not that Mateo has been all that much better. He was called up in mid-2002 as a backup after hitting .301-9-23 in 209 AB at Louisville. Ruben batted .256-2-7 in 86 AB with the Reds, acquitting himself decently but unspectacularly. Reports had his hustle and determination down around Kal Daniels levels during his AAA time in 2001, but he has gotten better reports since then. He’s only 25 for Opening Day, but believed out of options, so he’s a prime candidate to be dealt for pitching prospects.
Encarnacion is definitely not being rushed, as he was a Single-A player when acquired, but was booted back to rookie-level Billings for the remainder of 2001 before putting in a full season at Low-A Dayton in 2002. Returns are encouraging, as Edwin posted a .282-17-73-25 line, slugging .458 with the help of 32 doubles. At the tender age of 20 for 2003, Encarnacion’s numbers look mighty promising.
ANALYSIS: This is turning out reasonably well for the Reds whether they trade Mateo or keep him on the roster. Encarnacion may very well be the eventual heir apparent at third as Aaron Boone approaches free agency eligibility and the saga of Brandon Larson unfolds, so you can bet he’ll be watched closely. Bell is not necessarily washed up, but it looks like he could use yet another change of scenery at the minimum.
TRADE #6: OF/1B Dmitri Young to Detroit for OF Juan Encarnacion and RHP Luis Pineda.
Many fans blasted this trade when it happened, citing Young’s consistent .300 averages and Encarnacion’s bad 2001 (where he hit .244 with an OBP under .300). Then, after the trade was consummated, it was discovered that Pineda was 27 and not 23. Yet, after the 2002 season started, things turned out pretty well.
The Tigers begged Da Meat to take $28.5 million through 2005, then he promptly needed hernia surgery a few weeks into that season. Moneybags weigh a lot, I guess. Other injuries limited him to 54 games, and his OPS fell to 786 from his traditional mid-800s range. Young is only 29 for Opening Day and should bounce back, but he’s now overpaid for a guy who’s a good No. 5-7 hitter on a good team. The Tigers don’t fit that description.
Encarnacion won a starting job in spring training and blew out of the gate, slamming 16 homers, anchoring the Reds lineup early on, and slugging almost .500 in the first half of 2002. With the emergence of Austin Kearns, Juan was traded to Florida for Ryan Dempster (see below). After a poor July, he recovered to post his best full-season line: .271-24-85-21. The fact that his lack of plate discipline (46 BB, still a career high by far) earned him but a 773 OPS for that shows he isn’t as valuable to a lineup as it might appear. We should still be satisfied with what the Reds got out of him, however. Entering his age 27 year in 2003, he has a significant chance to post Alfonso Soriano-ish numbers sometime between now and the end of the decade.
Pineda won a spot in the Reds bullpen as well as a couple of starts (one good, one terrible), but suffered a torn labrum and rotator cuff in June and finished his season 1-3, 4.18 in 32 innings, whiffing 31 (and walking 24). His ERA was 2.81 until his doomed final start (5 ER in 1/3 IP against St. Louis). He didn’t pitch after that. After surgery, he’s probably going to miss most, if not all, of the 2003 season. Assuming he can return, he showed Octavio Dotel-type potential out of the pen, with an electric fastball and sharp breaking stuff.
ANALYSIS: The Reds were wise to trade Young and let someone else pay him too much to be an average hitter at hitter’s positions. Encarnacion’s work was solid, and although Dempster has struggled much of the time since coming to Cincinnati, the fact that the Reds were able to wangle a proven starting pitcher as well as a power bullpen arm for a player they turned out not to need is commendable.
TRADE #7: 2B Pokey Reese and LHP Dennys Reyes to Colorado for LHP Gabe White and RHP Luke Hudson.
This trade was well-received originally for the divestiture of Reese, although no one was particularly excited about seeing Gabe White again. As it turned out, the Rockies immediately non-tendered Reese, and Pokey ended up in Pittsburgh, where he hit .264 with a 682 OPS and turned in his usual excellent, if slightly overvalued, defense. Fortunately, the Pirates were able to pay him a little less ($1.75 million) than the Reds had originally offered in 2000. Many were sorry to see Reyes go, as he was a five-year veteran at age 25, but he served as a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY) for Colorado before his shipment to Texas as part of the Todd Hollandsworth/Gabe Kapler trade that is working out pretty well for Colorado at this point. Reyes did get a few starts in Texas, but also got beat up to the tune of a 6.38 ERA, finishing his year at 4-4, 5.33. He remains as enigmatic as ever.
White was the Reds’ most consistent reliever in 2002, posting a 6-1, 2.98 mark in 62 appearances. (It would have been around 80 if it wasn’t for the freak broken toe he suffered in July.) He made $2.25 million in 2002 and is scheduled to make $3.15 million in 2003, so he’s not cheap, but as long as he pitches this well, the Reds will take it. The salary does make him a constant trade candidate.
Hudson is a favorite of both JimBo and Tim Naehring, and whatever your feelings on his chances, he does have a power arm. He whiffed 129 (and walked 57) in 118 IP at Louisville, posting a 5-9, 4.51 mark. He's also K'd 41 in 28 IP in the AFL this season. Luke will be 26 in May '03, so now is the time. The Reds are likely to give him every chance to win a spot in the bullpen out of spring training. His presence increases the likelihood that the Scott Sullivans are traded and the Joey Hamiltons and Jose Rijos released.
TRADE #8: Minor-league RHP Ben Shaffar to Pittsburgh for RHP Jose Silva.
This didn’t seem like much of a risk, as the Reds jumped at a chance to acquire the oft-injured, talented Silva for a guy that increasingly looked like he was not going to make the majors before his golden years. Unfortunately, Silva did what he does best- get hurt- and pitched only 23 average innings for the Reds before being released at the end of the year. Upon his release, Silva landed wrong and broke his ankle. Oakland has just signed him to a minor-league contract, on the condition that he wear a body cast at all times when not on the mound, hurling fastballs juuuuuust a bit outside.
Shaffar then jumped a level and saw excellent results in AA before injuring himself as well (see previous).
TRADE #1: Acquired OF Reggie Taylor from Philadelphia for a PTBNL (LHP Hector Mercado).
This trade was a bit of a head-scratcher when it happened, as stories throughout spring training consistently poked fun at the glut of toolsy outfielders the Reds had sitting around (while, ironically, it was the guys with baseball skills like Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns who won out in the end). So, what did JimBo do right before the season? Of course, he went out and got another! Mercado wasn’t going to make the Reds’ staff in April, but he had flashed powerful if inconsistent stuff out of the ‘pen in two previous seasons. Still, I wonder why the Reds would give up on yet another lefty with a fastball like Hector’s... my guess is that he acquired some sort of “bad in pressure situations” stigma within the organization.
Anyway, Taylor ended up appearing in no less than 135 games due to Griffey’s injury, and acquitted himself better than was expected. He hit .254-9-38 with 11 steals, but was caught eight times and posted an OBP of .291 due to a 14-79 BB/K ratio. He does have a lot of tools, of course, but Boone and Bowden need to be careful not to overuse him at this stage, as outfielders with a 719 OPS don’t help a team as much as their tools might appear to. Treat him like a Brian Hunter with a slightly better stick; don’t bat him at the top of the lineup, and he’ll be a useful pinch-runner and late-inning gloveman who isn’t an automatic out at the dish.
Mercado got mauled early in the season, went down to the minors, and came back to post okay numbers (2-2, 4.62, 40 Ks and 25 BB in 39 innings) and even got three late-season starts (!). He’ll be 29 at the end of this coming April, and is out of options, so he’ll either make the team, get traded, or be outrighted. I still think he’s got a shot at being Octavio Dotel or Felix Rodriguez for two or three seasons.
ANALYSIS: I’m still iffy on this one. The 2003 season should push me one way or the other, as we see if Mercado can put it all together and/or Papa Boone learns when to leave Gookie’s cousin on the pine.
TRADE #2: Acquired OF/3B Russell Branyan from Cleveland for 1B/”LF” Ben Broussard.
Branyan is a guy the Reds had coveted for a long time. He remains, in the Rob Deer tradition, one of the greatest all-or-nothing propositions in baseball today, able to hit tape-measure home runs or cool whole sections of the stadium with one swing. Stagnating in Cleveland, Russ was grabbed by the Reds in exchange for Broussard, who had never played in the majors at the time of the trade and played a position (first base) blocked by a popular player’s large contract.
Branyan finished the season at .228-24-56 (777 OPS), although he whacked sixteen of those bombs with Cincinnati, pushing his Reds OPS to 865. Most anyone will take that from a multi-position part-time player. At age 27, however, he’s at the point where the Reds will start having to pay him decent money to do this. This may just result in him being traded again if he doesn’t grab a full-time job due to injuries.
Broussard put up excellent numbers in the minors, but is only nine months younger than Branyan and just had his first major-league exposure in 2002. He hit .241-4-9 in 39 games, whacking his first major-league homer off Boston’s Pedro Martinez. The Indians think he can play left field, but he’ll likely never improve beyond Dmitri Young-level, being far better suited for first base or DH. Should the Indians lose Jim Thome to free agency (likely), we’ll see Ben get first crack at the starting 1B job.
ANALYSIS: Broussard wasn’t going anywhere with the Reds, but he’s extremely likely to put up better numbers with Cleveland than Branyan will with Cincinnati. Call this one a push for now, likely to be a loss later.
TRADE #3: Acquired LHP Bruce Chen from Montreal for RHP Jim Brower.
After Brower, 29, helped save the Reds’ young arms from more BRMRSBs in 2001, JimBo was able to move him to Montreal for Chen, who won’t be 26 until June and has more upside. Chen didn’t pitch well for the Expos, and Bowden was able to capitalize on that by swapping a player whose value had peaked in exchange.
Brower posted a 4.37 ERA on the season in 52 appearances, 3.89 with the Reds and 4.83 with Montreal. Chen compiled a terrible 6.99 mark for the Expos, but a 4.31 with the Reds (and if you take away the one start he had in Cincinnati, it drops much lower). At a minimum, Chen is a worthy and more consistent replacement for Dennys Reyes; at a maximum, he could be the No. 4 or No. 5 starter, only 2-3 years removed from Atlanta Phenomhood.
ANALYSIS: Excellent flip by JimBo. There are a lot more Browers in waiting out there than there are Chens.
TRADE #4: Acquired RHP Ryan Dempster from Florida for OF Juan Encarnacion, UT Wilton Guerrero, and minor-league LHP Ryan Snare.
Reds fans cheered when this trade was announced, as we hoped we’d get a chance to see a pitcher who won 14 games in 2000 and 15 in 2001 help drive Cincy towards a pennant. But, as it turns out, that was not to be, and Dempster was part of the problem. He ended up 5-5, 6.19 in 15 Cincinnati starts, many of the better ones made in September after the Reds were out of the race. In 209 IP, he allowed 228 hits and 93 walks, far too many. There is upside-Dempster won’t even be 26 until next May, and he's got proven major-league stuff-but he’s been worked EXTREMELY hard for a young pitcher (three consecutive seasons of over 200 IP) and the majority of pitchers worked that hard at ages 23, 24, and 25 break down in their late twenties. He’s eligible for arbitration and already making $2.5 million, so the 10-13, 5.38 line should prevent him from getting too much of a raise. Arbitration, however, is a strange bird. Assuming he doesn’t break down, he should be a lock to anchor the Reds’ 2003 rotation. After that… who knows?
Encarnacion is covered above. He’s a decent player entering his prime who can do a little of everything, improving in plate discipline, but he’s now stopped being cheap and he wasn’t going to beat out anyone in the Reds’ Griffey-Dunn-Kearns trifecta.
Guerrero was simply the divestiture of a foolish signing (along with Castro and Stinnett), quickly passed along by Florida to the Expos, and was waived by Montreal after a terrible season (509 OPS in 140 AB). He did do well off the bench in 2001 for the Reds, however.
Snare, 24 going into Opening Day 2003, had compiled an 8-2, 3.07 line for High-A Stockton before moving to AA Chattanooga just before the deal. After moving to AA Portland, he went 4-2, 3.44 in 11 appearances (nine starts). His ratios were quite good. However, he is not a particularly hard thrower, relying on a sharp curveball to get his Ks. He hasn’t done anything to tarnish his prospect status, and as a college pitcher, isn’t necessarily too old for AA. He should begin 2003 in AAA, and may crack The Show for Florida if all goes well.
ANALYSIS: This is still a decent deal for the Reds despite lackluster results from Dempster. Ryan is not a good risk for a multi-year deal despite the down year due to overwork, but he should be good to go for 2003. Encarnacion won’t be regretted by the Reds unless he hits fifty homers, and maybe not even then, as their own outfield’s got a good shot at 120-150 between them as it is. Snare will probably pitch in the big leagues, and the trade’s ultimate outcome is likely to rest on the status of his left arm.
TRADE #5: Acquired RHP Brian “Scuffy” Moehler and minor-league OF/3B Matt Boone and CASH~! from Detroit for minor-league INF David Espinosa and two PTBNLs (RHP Jorge Cordova and OF Noochie Varner).
Even if you assume Moehler was going to do better than the 6.22 ERA and DL stint he turned in during his first half-season in Cincy, this trade is a question mark at best on paper. Moehler was coming off arm surgery and missed virtually all of 2001 and a large chunk of 2002, and even during his four seasons anchoring the Tigers rotation, he consistently gave up tons of hits with a below-average strikeout rate. Never mind the 47-48 record; do mind the 11 hits per nine innings he was routinely surrendering. He wasn’t necessarily a bad acquisition; what hurts is what the Reds gave up for him. He should be a decent buy as a free agent if the Reds are so inclined.
Matt Boone isn’t a prospect, no matter what his dad says. Not that he would have swung the trade either way if he was named Matt Jones.
Espinosa was the Reds’ #1 pick a couple of years back, and showed promising skills in plate discipline and baserunning, although he was struggling with the move to second base the club forced on him. The Reds appear to have grown impatient with his slow progress, as 26 errors in 95 games at 2B and a .245 average at High-A Stockton punched his ticket out of town. He did not play for any Tigers minor-league teams the rest of the year, due to injury, I believe. He is the sort of player who could definitely come back to haunt the Reds later, although I’ll need to see him make a leap in 2003 before I go that far.
Cordova closed for AA Chattanooga in 2002, notching 13 saves in 35 appearances. He’ll be 25 by Opening Day, although similar longshots have taken the league by storm before.
Varner had a banner year for Low-A Dayton before the deal, ending his season at .306-10-70 with 37/41 SB (!). However, his BB/K ratio of 32/121 left something to be desired. At 22, it’s time to see if Noochie can hang with the big kids.
ANALYSIS: If the Reds had gotten a better talent than Moehler, an average pitcher when he wasn’t coming off major arm surgery, for the package they gave up, then it’s not so bad. And while none of the three is a lock for stardom, it’s too much talent to be tossing around for what they got.
TRADE #6: Acquired LHP Shawn Estes and CASH~! from the New York Mets for minor-leaguer LHP Pedro Feliciano, OF Elvin Andujar, and two PTBNLs (OF Brady Clark and OF Raul Gonzalez).
Again, it wouldn’t look like a bad deal if Estes hadn’t pitched horribly (1-3, 7.71 in six starts) for the Reds. Honestly, they were probably out of it by the time they acquired Shawn (thank Dempster, Moehler, and Adam Dunn’s second-half swoon). Again, the amount of talent they give up is a little too much, whether the Mets covered Estes’ salary or not.
Feliciano, 25, must not be any great shakes; he’s already been outrighted/waived by the Mets and claimed by Detroit. The lefty control artist (16 BB in 75 IP) was 2-1, 2.56 for AA Chattanooga and 1-1, 4.04 for AAA Louisville and Norfolk before getting bombed in a cup o’ Java in the Big Apple.
Andujar, 22, is still in Low-A ball (where he batted .153 for the Mets after .286 in 40 G with Billings)… does that tell you anything? He appears to be one of JimBo’s Five-Tool Flops.
Gonzalez, 28, would have left the Reds at the end of the season anyway if he wasn’t put on the 40-man, but he ended up getting 81 AB in NY after the Mets had punted the season. He hit .260-3-12 in 104 AB overall, after an phenomenal .333-13-69 911 OPS season in Louisville. All excitement aside over his great showing in AAA, guys like this grow on trees, and a little resourcefulness should net the Reds a couple of reasonable facsimiles without too much trouble.
Clark, 30 shortly after Opening Day, was a favorite in Cincinnati for his hustle and underdog appeal, and I’m sad to see him go. But, at his advanced age and .152 average for the Reds in 2002, he wasn’t helping much. As if to say “thanks”, he lashed five hits in 12 AB for New York after being named as part of the trade. He had a great 2001 for the Reds, and stands to have another year or two of solid fourth outfieldership before his days are over. Along with Stynes, Guerrero, and many of the other reserve players we’ve seen here, he shows the high variability rate of part-time players.
ANALYSIS: This trade will likely end up meaning very little, as none of the guys the Reds traded away are likely to contribute beyond bench roles, and Estes should be gone for an incentive-laden free agent deal. You could argue the Reds thinned the depth in their farm system trading away all these guys, but only a few were true commodities.
2002 VERDICT: I don’t think the Reds did too much to hurt themselves on the trade market in 2002, although Broussard, Snare and Varner could come back to hurt later (especially the first two). The Reds have a knack for getting and getting rid of players at just the right times in their careers. Virtually no one the Reds divested themselves of in 2000 and 2001 has had success beyond what they enjoyed in Cincinnati, and an uncanny number have fallen completely off the ledge. It’s exciting to see young players with potential come to the Reds; it’s a little scary to see them leave like they did in 2002. But such is the price you pay to contend; JimBo deserves some credit even though the Veterans’ Club 84 (mph) tanked like Peter Frampton on film. I hope the Reds will hit the pavement hard this winter for minor-league talent, as they depleted a good portion of their depth this past season. Along with that, of course, is the excitement of any Jim Bowden Offseason; whether the moves fly or flop (and they usually fly), he’s never, ever boring.