COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Reds quickly promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to the club manager before the start of the World Series for a good reason: the organization has a lot of decisions to make as soon as the 2013 baseball season officially concludes. Those decisions are likely to be significant ones that will be calculated to boost the team from perennial playoff dud to World Series contender.
The Cuban Missile
The managerial selection of Price by the Reds' front office most likely puts Aroldis Chapman in the rotation, where his ability can be maximized not only during the regular season but -- more importantly -- in the postseason. The Chapman question was asked during the press conference announcing Price as manager and is already the subject of speculation that will continue throughout the winter.
The primary concerns about switching Chapman from closer to starter are an innings limit and development of a third pitch for Chapman to add to his 100-m.p.h fastball and 92-m.p.h slider. Neither concern should stop the switch by spring training unless of course the Reds decide to trade Chapman, which was recently speculated in a deal that would send Detroit Tigers' pitcher Rick Porcello and power-bat prospect Nick Castellanos to the Reds for Chapman.
Chapman is in the final year of his contract with the Reds because his $5-million player option for 2015 won't be enough to keep him with the team. His salary arbitration eligibility converted his $3-million salary for 2014 into a bonus that will be added to his arbitration value. The two-time All-Star is looking at a big pay increase that could cause the cost to keep him with the Reds in 2014 to soar over $10 million. With those kind of numbers at stake, Chapman's next defection -- to a big-market team -- is just a matter of time.
There's probably only room enough in the clubhouse for one BP and that wouldn't be Dat Dude Brandon Phillips. The last complication that a new manager wants to have to handle is the kind Phillips causes via his mouth the way he did with an obscene tirade directed toward a beat reporter and the verbal slap in the face of Reds' ownership during a magazine interview this summer.
Price has prolonged firsthand appreciation of the defense and hitting ability of Phillips, but it's hard to imagine any manager who would want to have to deal with the collateral damage Phillips is capable of causing with his words. Even though Reds' GM Walt Jocketty said there are no trade talks for Phillips right now, there will be the moment the World Series ends, especially if the Reds feel like they have a legitimate chance to win the free agent sweepstakes for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
The promotion of Price might prove an impetus for Homer Bailey to consider a contract extension because of his proclaimed appreciation for Price. If not, Bailey will be pitching his final season for the Reds unless he is traded first.
After waiting eight years for the perennial can't-miss prospect to finally produce ace-caliber numbers, the Reds now face the reality that the time is coming for Bailey to find greener pastures in a bigger market. Bailey has thrown more than 200 innings for the past two years while posting a 3.68 and 3.49 ERA respectively and tossing two no-hitters.
In his final year of arbitration eligibility, Bailey stands to reap the reward for his success to the tune of $9 million. As much as Price and Reds' Country want Bailey in the rotation for one more year, the trade yield that the Reds could command for Bailey before the season starts may prove too tempting to pass on.
The Reds will gain $6.5-million in payroll relief with the departure of veteran pitcher Bronson Arroyo via free agency but will still be on the hook for the remainder of $15-million in deferred money installments that Arroyo will receive annually through the year 2021.
Because of his appreciation for Price, Arroyo may be willing to combine a free agent qualifying offer of $14 million and the rest of the deferred money owed into a $24-million, two-year deal. If Arroyo stays, the Reds will have more latitude to trade either Bailey or Chapman with Tony Cingrani waiting in the wings to replace either.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2013 Reds' season here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Reds
- Bryan Price
- Aroldis Chapman
- Brandon Phillips
- Homer Bailey