By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, growing a long beard waiting for the Cincinnati Reds to make their first ‘big’ off-season move, other than saving salary by not tendering outfielder Billy Hamilton.
—The window for the Reds to acquire a notable starting pitcher (or two) is shutting quickly, down to a crack.
That’s because the list of availables keeps shrinking after the Washington Nationals signed Patrick Corbin, after the Boston Red Sox re-signed Nathan Eovaldi and after the Cleveland Indians re-signed Carlos Carrasco.
The most lukewarm rumor continues to be that the Reds are involved in trade talks with the Cleveland Indians for either Cory Kluber or Trevor Bauer. For some reason, the Tribe seems intent upon ridding itself of two of baseball’s best pitchers.
But there is, of course, heavy competition from many teams seeking rotation upgrades. And the more pitchers who are taken off the board the stiffer the competition becomes.
That includes Houston pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton. With Corbin, Eovaldi and Carrasco gone, teams are turning their attention to where the Reds are looking.
The New York Yankees were on the trail of both Corbin and Eovaldi, but with both out of focus now, the Yankees seem interested in re-signing J.A. Happ, another pitcher that has the Reds attention.
And are you ready for this? With the release of Billy Hamilton, the Reds are in need of a center fielder and there are reports out there that they are thinking about free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock. Hamilton, by the way, could end up with the Kansas City Royals.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams recently told MLB.com that an option to replace Hamilton would be to “pay up for a center fielder and just try to get the complete package you want.”
Pollock is more than adept both offensively and defensively, but appears to be injury-prone. The 31-year-old Arizona outfielder hit .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs and 13 steals for the D-backs last season.
It would take a large investment to land Pollock and if they do how much would that strap them in their chase for starting pitching?
The Reds payroll in 2018 was $99 million and they have said they have money to spend for 2019, but have not said how much they have to spend and how much higher the payroll might go.
Right off the top, two players gobble up $48 million — $25 million to Joey Votto and $23 million to Homer Bailey. And the Reds still are paying Ken Griffey Jr., on his deferred contract, $3.5 million a year through 2024.
The annual baseball winter meetings are next week in Las Vegas and one wonders what kind of gamble the Reds might take.
—One of the issues expected to be addressed at the winter meetings is if baseball should do something about the shifts. Commissioner Rob Manfred is steadfastly against the shifts, which have taken away bundles of hits, especially from left handed batters.
The combined major league batting average for all teams last season was .248, lowest since teams hit .244 in 1972.
And for the first time in baseball history there were more strikeouts than hits — and the shift certainly has nothing to do with strikeouts.
However, there were 26,322 singles hit last season, the least in this millennium and 3,000 fewer than 10 years ago. That can be traced to the shifts.
How will they limit shifts? They probably will come up with a rule as to where the third baseman, shortstop and second baseman can and cannot stationed themselves during an at bat.
It is too bad baseball has to legislate defense. The shifts are successful because left handed hitters refuse to lay down bunts when the defense leaves the left side open.
All the money is for power hitters and batters, using lift angle metrics, try to hit through the shifts by hitting the ball out of the park. That means more strikeouts, less hits.
Griffey was once asked about the shift teams put on him and he said, “They can’t put defenders in the right field seats.”
And that says it all.
Personally, I believe the shifts are part of baseball strategy and it is up to the offense to combat it. Isn’t baseball all about adjustments? There is too much legislation going on in the game these days, usually not for the better.
I agree with what former Milwaukee catcher Chad Moeller posted on his blog about the shift:
“On a professional level, the game is about winning and if shifts help a billion dollar corporation win more ballgames and get closer to the playoffs and eventually winning the World Series than it is good for that team and good for baseball.
“This game is about adjustments and defensive shifts is just another adjustments in the long line of adjustments that have been made throughout the history of the game.”
Well said, Chad, well said.
—Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals, who always seem to do something big, made a bombastic trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquiring first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, a superstar added to a superb team, a move that will make it even more difficult for the Reds, who couldn’t beat the Cardinals without Goldschmidt. And the Cardinals gave up next to nothing — pitcher Luke Weaver and a couple of other non-noteworthies.