Well, I guess that depends on the size of the disaster you want in 2019. One or two veteran starters and two or three relief pitchers conceivably could cut the damage from a Category 5 to a tropical storm. Anything less, fans will be ordered to evacuate.
Anything more and…
“We’ll have the highest payroll we’ve ever had,’’ Castellini pledged. The previous high was $115 million in 2015. This year it was $101 million.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on this team,’’ he said, citing front office additions, money spent to sign international players and adding another minor-league affiliate, a Rookie League team in Tennessee.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot,’’ Castellini said.
No, it doesn’t.
“But a million here, a million there, it adds up,’’ he said.
Fans hearts aren’t bleeding all over town.
As for the crucial managerial pick, Castellini assured, “We feel confident we’ll make the right decision.’’
Well, awesome. Order your World Series tickets today.
The Reds need to do big things, and they need to do them now. Maybe big things are in the works. Castellini wasn’t saying. “Turn that (recorder) off’’ was his favorite sentence when we met Thursday, followed closely by, “Is that thing off?’’
We’re left to read tea leaves.
Castellini has hired two managers. He went big name on the first one and in-house on the second. Dusty Baker brought the most happiness here since Lou Piniella. Bryan Price was a very good pitching coach whom the position players might or might not have responded to when he was their manager.
Joe Girardi was one of three finalists when Castellini hired Dusty Baker. The other was Piniella, who didn’t want the job. Girardi did good work in the Bronx (a World Series win) and Miami (one year, one lousy team, one Manager of the Year Award). Girardi has won 988 games as a major-league manager, and 55 percent of the time.
Plus, he’s a former catcher. If you want the best shot at hiring a good manager, consider anonymous middle infielders. Or catchers, the more nondescript the better. Tony La Russa appeal to you? Earl Weaver, Dick Williams (Oakland, not Cincinnati), Sparky Anderson? Craig Counsell is an outstanding manager. In 4,700 MLB at-bats, he had an OPS of .686. Ned Yost (catcher) has a World Series ring… and a lifetime OPS of .566 in 605 at-bats.
In April, seven former catchers, mostly nondescript as catchers, were managing in the majors. I’d take my chances with Bruce Bochy or Bob Melvin. Joe Maddon was an A-ball catcher for four years.
Castellini was part of the Cardinal Way harvest in St. Louis. He saw the success in an owner-GM-manager triumvirate working smoothly. Bill DeWitt Jr., Walt Jocketty and La Russa won a lot of games while same page-ing it. Castellini saw firsthand the big-ego maverick Baker could be. No more Bakers.
A big organizational problem has been a lack of defined leadership in the front office. Riggleman couldn’t address that as an interim manager. The next guy better. Clear message, proven philosophy, strong voice. Then again, Castellini has never seen that problem as a problem. That’s a problem. “We have smart guys’’ in the front office,’’ he said. OK, but a fair amount of them have been here since the recent losing started. It’s their losing.
Girardi wouldn’t be an organizational yes-man. He almost got fired in Miami for telling his owner, who was heckling the home-plate ump from his front-row seat, to shut up.
John Farrell spent the ’18 season as a Reds scout, evaluating the club’s minor-league system. Whether he wants the managing job after that experience is anybody’s guess. But he’s qualified, having won three AL East titles and a World Series while managing in Boston. So is Brad Ausmus (former catcher).
“What do you expect from your next manager?’’ I asked Bob Castellini.
The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Mason Williams batted second this afternoon and proceeded to go three for three, which brings his season batting line up to .298 on the season (with a .336 OBP and .405 SLG). Classical Gas has actually settled in fairly nicely as a bench piece for the Reds since all of Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, and Adam Duvall found their way out of the lineup for one reason or another.
I basically nothing him, and even after 130 plate appearances this season he’s got 0.0 WAR, both at Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. And considering Winker will return next season, Phil Ervin has actually played a bit better over the long term, and the Reds number one prospect is apparently going to learn corner outfield this offseason… I’m not sure that Williams fits with this team in 2019, even as a bench piece.
Still, someone had to soak up those plate appearances in 2018, and Williams was mostly cromulent doing so.
Honorable mention to Eugenio Suarez, who smacked another homer in this one. Michael Lorenzen spun 5.2 innings of 5 hit, no run baseball while also driving in a run of his own. The bullpen combination of David Hernandez, Jared Hughes, and Raisel Iglesias all pitched no run ball, with only Hernandez giving up just a hit.
Eugenio Suarez opened the 4th inning with a solo homer, his second dong in as many days. It damn near landed in the same spot. Scott Schebler and Tucker Barnhart struck out and popped out, respectively, before Dilson Herrera doubled to left. Michael Lorenzen the knocked him in, his 10th RBI of the season. Reds lead 3-0.
And that would be that. The Reds would hold the Pirates scoreless and win, 3-0.
Well, at least they won’t end the season on a eight game losing streak!
With no hits tonight, Peraza’s sitting 182 for season, three shy of Barry Larkin’s single season record for a Reds shortstop. He’ll have to have a day tomorrow to break it.
So, there are other, very more interesting things going on in the world of baseball. The Cardinals beat the Cubs this afternoon. Then Chicago watched Christian Yelich and the Brewers beat the Tigers in Milwaukee, meaning the National League Central is tied after 161 games.
Meanwhile out west, the Rockies saw their eight game winning streak snapped by the Nationals, while the Dodgers beat the Giants. You see where this is going: the National League West is all tied up after 161 games.
The best news of the day, of course, is that with the Los Angeles win, they (and now the Rockies) remain two games up on the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot. You see, dear reader, there is only one regular season game left this season. That means the St. Louis Cardinals are officially eliminated from postseason play.
Meanwhile, the Reds and Pirates will play their final game of the season, tomorrow. Against one another. With absolutely nothing on the line. Snore. First pitch is scheduled for 3:10 PM EDT.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates, the final weekend of a better-than-expected season is a time to say not only goodbye but also hello. Perhaps to the same player.
For the Cincinnati Reds, the final weekend of a worse-than-expected season is a time to begin looking ahead and not back at yet another frustrating year.
The National League Central rival Pirates and Reds wrap up their three-game series and the season Sunday at Great American Ball Park, with both teams already focusing on 2019. But not before the Pirates conclude some unfinished business.
During a 3-0 loss to the Reds on Saturday, the Pirates’ infield had the look of a few seasons ago with Jung Ho Kang at third base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Josh Harrison at second base. But the once-familiar infield might be together only one more day.
Kang, troubled by injuries and legal issues the last two seasons, started in the majors for the first time since Oct. 2, 2016, and went 1-for-4. Kang could return next season as the Pirates hold a $5.5 million club option on him, or they could decline the option and attempt to re-sign him for less money.
Mercer, however, is a pending free agent who appears unlikely to return, and the Pirates can buy out Harrison’s contract for $1 million instead of paying him $10.5 million in 2019.
“He (Kang) worked hard to try and put himself in position to come back before the season ended,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think we want to honor that responsibility and the work that he put in to get back here.”
Before losing Saturday, the Pirates (81-79) had won nine of 13 overall, a push that guaranteed them a winning season, plus seven in a row and nine of 10 against Cincinnati. The Reds (67-94) halted a six-game losing streak that came amid a late-season run of 11 losses in 14 games.
Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen (4-2, 3.11 ERA), trying to make the transition from a reliever to a starter, shut out the Pirates on five hits in 5 2/3 innings Saturday. It was the second time in Lorenzen’s three late-season starts that he didn’t permit an earned run. He also contributed an RBI single, and Eugenio Suarez hit his 34th homer and his second in as many games.
“He (Lorenzen) certainly factors in (the 2019 plans),” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Sal Romano (8-11, 5.37 ERA), another Reds right-hander who hopes to make the 2019 rotation, will make his first start since Aug. 21 on Sunday. In nine games as a reliever this month, Romano has a 5.19 ERA, with five earned runs allowed in 8 2/3 innings.
During his last time out as a starter, Romano allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings of the Reds’ 9-7 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. He didn’t figure in the decision. Romano is 1-2 with a 3.08 ERA in six career games (four starts) against the Pirates.
For now, it’s too early to forecast what role he’ll play next season.
“Our guys (pitchers) are competing like crazy, they’re working their tails off,” Riggleman said. “But we’ve got to make a few changes pitching-wise.”
The Pirates hand the ball to rookie right-hander Clay Holmes (1-3, 7.25 ERA), who makes his fourth career start. Holmes made his major league debut against Cincinnati on April 6, allowing one run in two relief innings.
Reliever Steven Brault said he believes the Pirates exceeded expectations in 2018 after losing 87 games last season. Their record, for example, is nearly identical to that of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were in first place in the NL West at the start of September.
“I would say we surpassed expectations this year. We did some really good things,” Brault told the team’s website. “We were inconsistent as a club, individually, everything. That’s why we have the record we do. (But) I think we held our own really well this year.”
For the Reds, 2018 was more of the same. They began the season by losing 15 of 18 and never recovered. Even if they win Sunday, they will lose at least 94 games for a fourth consecutive season.
The Reds are 5-13 against the Pirates this season.
Pittsburgh has dominated the Ohio River rivalry, going 13-5 this season. The seven-game winning streak was the Pirates’ longest against the Reds since 1991.
Pittsburgh was blanked for the 17th time, most in the NL and tied with Detroit for most in the majors.
The Reds let Lorenzen (4-2) make three starts to finish the season after 42 relief appearances. He went 5 2/3 innings – his longest appearance since he was a rookie starter in 2015 – and gave up five hits. David Hernandez escaped a bases-loaded threat in the sixth. Raisel Iglesias got his 30th save in 34 chances.
Lorenzen also had a run-scoring single , finishing his season at the plate with a flourish. Lorenzen batted .300 with one double, four homers and 10 RBIs in 30 at-bats as a pitcher or pinch hitter.
Eugenio Suarez homered for the second straight game off Jameson Taillon (14-10), pulling out of his monthlong slump. His two-run shot on Friday night was his first homer and RBI since Sept. 10.
Pittsburgh’s Jung Ho Kang started at third base – the first time he had been in a major league lineup in two years. He has a single in four at-bats.
The 31-year-old infielder hadn’t played in the majors since September 2016 because of visa issues related to DUI arrests in his native South Korea. Earlier this season, he played in the Pirates’ minor league system before a left wrist injury required surgery. The Pirates decided to add him to the roster for the final series.
Pirates: Right fielder Adam Frazier left in the fourth inning with a tight right hamstring. Shortstop Jordy Mercer left in the fifth with a sore right forearm.
Reds: Scooter Gennett was out of the lineup with a sore right biceps. Gennett leads the NL in three-hit games and ranks fourth with a .310 batting average. ”It’s nothing serious, but with where we are in the season, it would be stupid to go out and make it worse,” Gennett said.
Pirates: Manager Clint Hurdle was waiting until after Saturday’s game to decide his pitching plans for the final game of the season.
Reds: Sal Romano (8-11) has divided time between the bullpen and rotation. He makes his 25th start after 12 straight relief appearances.
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The 2018 season left the Cincinnati Reds with far more questions than answers.
So, with the season mercifully close to an end, let’s look at these questions:
Who will be the manager?
We know it won’t be Barry Larkin. And it probably is not going to Jim Riggleman. He will interview Monday, but the vibe you get around the team is that he knows his chance ended with the dismal finish.
John Farrell is probably the leading candidate now. I think Farrell’s chances will depend on what he tells Bob Castellini and Co. how to fix the pitching.
If not Farrell, whom? Hard to say. Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said the guy who gets the job will have managerial or coaching experience. I thought the Reds might go the unconventional, Aaron Boone route. The name I’ve thrown out there is Eduardo Perez. The Reds should at least make that call.
This, of course, is the question. Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani are the only locks to be among the starting five. Tyler Mahle is the first among the young pitchers.
But the Reds need to add through free agency or trade to have any hope that the results in 2019 will be different than 2018 — or ’17 or ’16 or ’15.
Williams said the Reds will make a call on Bailey after the new coaching staff is in place. I can’t see the Reds cutting Bailey loose. That would mean writing a $28-million check.
But the Reds have to be firm with Bailey, i.e., tell him you’re in the bullpen. If he refuses? Void his contract and fight the Players Association if necessary.
Nick Senzel plan?
When the Reds said Senzel will play outfield in the Instructional League, the general consensus was: What took you so long to make that move?
A healthy, productive Senzel could change the Reds dramatically in 2019. If he can spell Eugenio Suarez at third, Jose Peraza at shortstop, Scooter Gennett at second and play some outfield, it would be a huge boost for the Reds.
Phillip Ervin has at least proven himself as a fourth outfielder. Having 10 solid position players goes a long way. Look at the Cubs.
Gennett: Deal or no deal?
It’s become a foregone conclusion that the Reds will sign Gennett long-term. His numbers since the Reds picked him up merit that, and he’s become a leader in the clubhouse. But the Reds have lost 90-plus games in the two years he put up those numbers.
Gennett’s going make $8 or $9 million a year. Would that money be better spent on pitching? The Reds have to look at that.
He’s in the same position as Gennett. He’s eligible for arbitration for the third time. He’s going to make $8 million at least if the Reds keep him. He’s a great defensive player, but you can get a lot more offense on the open market for what the Reds would have to play Hamilton.
Joey Votto: Aberration or beginning of the decline?
Votto’s slash line last year was .320/.454/.578. It was .287/.420/.428 going into Saturday. When that happens at age 34, you have to be concerned.
Votto blames it on swing mechanics. The Reds have to hope he’s right about that.
Can David Hernandez and Jared Hughes do it again?
The veteran relievers solidified the backend of the bullpen. But relievers are notoriously up and down.
Michael Lorenzen: Starter, reliever, outfielder/pitcher?
Lorenzen wants to start. But you could make an argument that he has more value as a multi-inning reliever, especially when you consider that fact that rotation is not suddenly going to be stocked with 200-inning pitchers.
Going outside the box with Lorenzen could maximize his value. Say he comes in the fourth, and you want three innings out of him, but you don’t want him to face lefty slugger, you could move him to the outfield while Amir Garrett comes into pitch Anthony Rizzo, then bring Lorenzen back in to pitch after Garrett gets Rizzo out.
Of course, there are a lot more questions about the 2018/2019 Reds. It will make for an interesting offseason. I get the sense the Reds know they have to make a big splash — a big trade or free agent signing.
Will that be the answer? Ask me this time next year.