The Reds’ recent four-game slide has brought on somewhat of a sinking feeling regarding a team always just trying to stay afloat, and recent injuries to battery mates Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco feel like bricks tied to the feet. If given the power of manager Bryan Price or GM Walt Jocketty, here are five moves I would make to ensure the Reds swim, rather than sink.
1. Bat Billy Ninth
Until Sunday, Billy Hamilton had batted leadoff in 171 of his 172 career starts, and in every game with Price as manager. That changed in the series finale against San Francisco when the Reds’ manager moved the struggling Hamilton to the eight spot in the batting order. I have no problem with the speedy Hamilton being removed from the leadoff spot—he’s hitting barely above the Mendoza line after all—but he should bat ninth, not eighth.
Hamilton’s best attribute is his ability to get into scoring position once he’s on base , something he does better than anyone else in baseball. He has 17 stolen bases this season but has yet to steal home, so you’re going to need someone to drive him in. A pitcher is the last person I want standing at the plate with two outs and Hamilton in scoring position. It’s a wasted opportunity. Move him to ninth and let the top of the order bring him home. There’s nothing wrong with batting the pitcher eighth [Editor’s note: just ask Joe Maddon], especially when capable hitters such as Mike Leake, Michael Lorenzen, and, for now, Jason Marquis are on the mound.
2. Move Marquis to the Pen
Speaking of Marquis, he’s pitched exactly like a 36-year-old who didn’t throw a single major-league inning last year. He’s 3-3 with a 6.63 ERA in seven starts this season, and provides very little upside to the Reds’ rotation.
Looking past the horrendous ERA, Marquis is pitching, on average, little more than five innings per start. That means Cincinnati’s last-ranked bullpen is responsible for the other four innings every time Marquis takes the hill. Marquis can still get batters out, but not consistently enough to start for a team trying to contend. His numbers are decidedly better when he’s limited to 30 pitches, and there is reason to believe he could make a decent relief man. So why not solve two problems at once? Strengthen the rotation and the pen with one move.
3. Make Iglesias a full-time starter
Placing Raisel Iglesias back into the rotation is a move the Reds must make if they’re serious about staying in the race. I understand that Iglesias is on an innings count, and if the Reds are still in the race in September or October, that will certainly be something they’ll have to worry about at that point.
But what are the odds they get to that point with Marquis holding down a spot in the rotation? That seems unlikely to me. Iglesias has been promising in the 15 innings he’s thrown, and has shown that he has explosive stuff, so get him back into the rotation. See what he’s got. It’s the only bet.
4. Trade Chapman
Admittedly, there are few sights at Great American Ball Park more exciting than Aroldis Chapman fanning the side to close out a Reds win. But, if the Reds fall off the rails by July, Chapman will become a luxury they can’t afford to keep.
The flame-throwing lefty is signed through next season, but if the team goes into all-out rebuild mode, what good is one of the game’s best closers when there are few games to close?
The Reds would be better off trading Chapman now. Contending teams are always looking for bullpen help, and Chapman is the best name on the market. He could command quite a bounty in return. It wouldn’t be difficult to move a guy like Tony Cingrani into the closer’s role, where he has previously thrived.
Although, the thought of Chapman pitching in Cincinnati’s long-awaited all-star game wearing a different team’s uniform is a bit unsettling.
5. Give Mesoraco a chance in the outfield
The Reds are near the bottom of almost every measurable team batting category, and it doesn’t help that one of their top hitters has only 17 at-bats in the team’s past 10 games. Mesoraco has a left hip impingement that makes it painful to squat. It’s sorta hard to catch if you can’t squat. But he can hit, and the Reds desperately miss his bat. Mesoraco has been used as a DH and pinch-hitter, but it isn’t enough. Brayan Pena has done a good job filling in, but he’s not going to replace Mesoraco’s power.
Apparently Mesoraco has recently acquired an outfield glove and has been taking some fly balls, but Price said it’s in case of an emergency. A .196 team batting average with runners in scoring position seems like an emergency to me. Why not give Jay Bruce a rest and test out Mesoraco in right? It doesn’t need to be an everyday occurrence, but rather one more way to get him into the lineup when the offense needs a jolt.
Whether you agree with these moves or think they’re grounds for firing, let Rob know on Twitter @Rob_Ogden.