Code Reds - Five Baseball Questions for Kevin J. Elliott and Ryan Haye

Johnny Cueto's stock has never been higher. Given his injury history would you consider trading him or any other Reds pitcher for an established bat to help this anemic offense? What position needs the upgrade most of all? Who would you target in a trade? 

Kevin - Never. Despite Cueto being injury prone, he actually appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses. What pitcher these days isn't injury prone? Just look at what we got with Ryan Madson. He never threw a pitch in a Reds uniform.  I don't even think Cueto's come close to reaching his peak as a pitcher. He's looking like Bob Gibson now on one of the league's best pitching staffs. We've got to keep our ace as I think we'll see multi seasons of his dominance down the road. 

Of course we need a bat. I'm the huge optimist in thinking that Votto and Bruce -- and perhaps Frazier -- will have above average seasons and Mez might hit 35 HRs, but certainly realize someone like Albert Pujols (yes, I said it, but we've become a home for former Cards) in this order would really shake things up. Or what about a young guy like the Rays' Will Myers?  I do think Skip Shumacker is a nice addition to the line-up, filling in where needed. Defensively we are golden -- so what do we need? Upgrades in the OF and a SS who could hit for average. 

Ryan - I have to agree with Kevin on this one. There is absolutely no scenario where trading Johnny Cueto is a good idea. He may be injury prone but he is also a known commodity and it’s just not worth getting rid of your ace for a “hot young prospect,” because “hot young prospects” never (statistically speaking)  pan out.  Cueto has turned into a real pitcher and with the adjustment to his windup - notice the decreased twist - and his decreased dependence on his fastball, I feel his injuries could be a thing of the past. Assuming he stays away from the buffet table. 

Thanks in part to Walt Jocketty’s off-season coma the Red’s are thin on the bench. Schumacker is nice but we have a very small sample size, Soto is lost, and nobody outside of Donegal, Ireland thinks Jack Hannahan is a viable backup to Frazier should he go down or when Hannahan returns from the DL. Sure, a bat is needed but with the injuries they’ve sustained this year I think it’s best to wait and see what happens when Bruce, and Votto get healthy. Hopefully, we get some hot bats and Mez can stay hot and healthy. 

2) Which contract you would most like to wave a magic wand and make disappear? Joey Votto 10 years/ $225 million/ expires 2023, Homer Bailey 6 years/ $105 million/ expires 2020, Brandon Phillips 6 years/ $72.5 million/ expires 2017/ Jay Bruce 6 years/ $51 million / expires 2017.

Kevin - Though I'm a homer for Homer, it's Homer. He's really grown in our organization but he'll never be more than a 3-4 guy in your rotation and always seems to be a risk on the mound -- I don't think two no-hitters should ever warrant that type of money. 

Ryan - This is obvious, it’s Homer (dammit Kevin, we agree again). He’s nice but his slow starts and his almost heroic ability to forget how to pitch one inning per game just doesn’t lend itself to the contract they gave him, especially when you’re a team that’s as deep as the Reds are on the mound. That being said, when he’s on he’s un-hittable. 

 3) Are you happy with the job Byran Price has done replacing Dusty Baker? What do you like and what has been disappointing? Are you surprised that the talk of moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation completely disappeared this spring? Is this good or bad? 

Kevin - So far I'm on the fence with Price. I love his aggressiveness on the bases and his constant shifting of the line-up (though injuries have led to that). But I think his pitcher management has been atrocious. There is no reason guys like Ondrusek should be pitching in tight ballgames. As for Chap, when he's on there is no closer greater. I don't think that would ever translate well over 6-7 innings, though I'd love to one day see that proven wrong. 

Ryan - It kills me how much Price loves the bunt. I watched him use his last position player in a tied multi-inning marathon - his last position player! - only to send him to the plate to bunt. That is lunacy. Send a pitcher to the plate in that scenario, it’s not like your two best athletes left on the bench aren’t pitchers (Leake and Cingranni). Or DON’T BUNT. It has to be an organizational philosophy and Price is a company man. That being said, with what the Reds have had to face with injuries Price has done a fine job of managing the roster and the pitchers (mostly). Lastly, Ondrusek is the worst pitcher in the majors. I know it, and you know it.

4) Billy Hamilton is pretty damn exciting but can he become an everyday player? 

Kevin - With Choo gone, we have no choice. He should be playing his final year in AAA, but will have to buck-up and see what he can do in the big leagues. I've seen flashes that he can be a guy who gets on,   and when he gets on it's a thing to watch. But Marty was just discussing the legacy of Ricky Henderson the other night, who hit well and had an incredible OBP. Right now you just can't put Hamilton in any sort of sentence with Ricky Henderson. Fast? Yes. But boy, does he swing at some bad pitches. 

Ryan - He already is an everyday player and he seems to be getting better everyday. He’s young and he seems to be handling himself quite nicely thus far. Let’s just all calm down on the Ricky Henderson talk. Dude is a Hall of Famer and Hamilton is a kid. He’ll get there - which “there” may never be where Ricky got - but he’ll be a decent player as long as he stays healthy. 

5) The Reds are sitting at 20 -23 with one quarter of the MLB schedule complete, what is your best case win total and worst case at this point in the season. What scenerio leads to playoffs and what leads to disaster?

Kevin - Right now I think is rock bottom for this team. No Latos, no Votto, no Bruce - big holes.  If they could have scored an average of 3 runs a ballgame over that span, they'd be in first place. If the pitching holds up and we put a healthy team on the field, I don't see why we couldn't win 90 games. But, the Brewers and Cards look like superior teams, so things could get worse. 

Ryan - I’m fine with where the Reds are sitting right now. Like Kevin said they are hurt, not only hurt but they are missing three potential All-stars. They came out of one the most difficult April schedules essentially a .500 team, which considering the injuries is not too shabby. That being said, they need to be more consistent at the plate and they NEED their players to come off the DL ready to contribute. The margin of error is razor thin. I can’t see them north of the 90 win mark but that might be enough. I think the Brewers will come back to earth, the Cardinals -for perhaps the first time in years -have holes in their lineup and the Pirates just can’t seem to play consistent ball. It’s going to be a fun division to watch.

Ryan Haye and Kevin Elliott are both widely respected musicians and writers. More importantly, they know a shit ton about baseball and specifically, the Cincinnati Reds.