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Reds Lop Off a Wily in More Ways Than One
2006-03-21 09:41
by Mike Carminati

The Cincinnati Reds will start the season Wily-less, but will have another mediocre pitcher to shove into their abysmal rotation.

They traded Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox for Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo is 29 and has had one decent full season (2004—10-9 with a 121 adjusted ERA) since breaking into the Pirate rotation in 2000. Those Pirates seem to crank out the mediocre pitchers, don't they? Arroyo was about a league-average pitcher last year (98 adjusted OPS) and just signed a three-year, $11.25 M contract this winter.

Pena had a very good year subbing for most of the Red outfield in 2004 (26 homers, .527 slugging percentage, and 121 adjusted OPS). Last season was a push, but he is just 24 and should start to blossom over the next couple of years. Oh, and he made just $440 K last year and will not be eligible for free agency until 2008. The worst you can say about him is that he doesn't know how to draw a base on balls.

Pena plays all three outfield spots and should move into an instant platoon in right with lefty Trot Nixon. The Sox have never seemed enamored or Nixon even in his best seasons and 2005 was not one of them. He could start to decline quickly at 32. Expect Epstein to start shopping him should Pena fit in well.

Arroyo was probably not going to make the rotation given the development of Jon Papelbon. So he would have become an expensive albatross who would be at best a long reliever and rotation insurance.

The best you can say for Arroyo going to the Reds is that he will fit in well with the rest of their rotation dreck. I guess being saddled with Eric Milton's execrable contract wasn;t enough.

Arroyo could start anywhere from number two to number five (I guess Harang is the number one). What's the difference? If he keeps his ERA under 5.00 in Cincy, I'll be surprised. Not that it'll matter. He'll be in the rotation if he still has a pulse by the All-Star break. It seems that the Reds have five guys destined for 10-14 records with a 4.00-5.00 ERA. Bless 'em.

So on the surface, the Red Sox get a younger, cheaper, better. They jettison a player that would not have a major role this year or in the future for a player who should make a significant impact this year and for years to come.

But if you delve deeper it's even worse for the Reds. First, it effectively reverses just about the only decent deal the Reds have made this century. They originally acquired Pena from the Yankees in the Drew Henson deal, a major embarrassment for New York.

Wayne Krivsky, the new GM, carries on in the proud tradition of his predecessor, Dan O'Brien. That is, he got fleeced. The Reds were once a GM machine cranking out in rapid succession Larry MacPhail, Warren Giles, Gabe Paul, Bill DeWitt, and Bob Howsam. Now, the can't find a credible rendition of a general manager.

This line from Krivsky says it all, "Signing Hatteberg was the key" to the deal.

You see, the Reds needed to jettison Pena to move Adam Dunn back to left field in order to clear a starting spot for Scott Hatteberg. Oh, it all makes sense now!?! It was a trade of Pena for that stellar veteran Scott Hatteberg. Incredible.

Even if Hatteberg were Lou Gehrig, he's 36. Pena's 24. Even when he's not involved, Billy Beane gets the last laugh. Hatteberg was a washed up backup catcher whose career was resurrected by Beane when he became a role-playing first baseman in Oakland. Beane held onto him until it was clear that he was done. He signs with the Reds and now becomes probably the worst starting first baseman in baseball.

He replaces fan fave Sean Casey, who though overrated, had his points. The Reds trade him for another mediocre Pittsburgh pitcher (Dave Williams), and then putz around until eventually they replace him with Hatteberg? Way to bring in the fans! At least you can justify it with shifting Dunn there. What a screwed up team!

Krivsky further effuses, "They needed a right-handed bat to complement Trot Nixon. It all fell into place rather quickly. Theo Epstein and I have been talking about this for three or four days." Sheez, he sounds like a fantasy GM trading Barry Bonds for Andy Ashby circa 1999. Of course, it fell in place quickly. Epstein got him to bite at the bait and then reeled him in.

I hope the fans remember this trade fondly around the All-Star break when the Reds are fighting the Pirates for last in the NL Central, Ryan Freel is starting at two of the outfield spots (when was the last time Griffey, Dunn, and Kearns didn't go down with a season-ending injury at some point in the year?), Hatteberg is stinking up the lineup, and Williams and Arroyo are major albatrosses in the rotation.

The Reds are a perfect team. Perfectly awful. The only question is how bad they will be. They should compete with the Marlins, Rockies, and Pirates for worst team in the NL. Florida will be hard to beat since they have a different agenda besides trying to win. Krivsky's really going to have to try to out-awful them, but I know he can do it.

2006-03-21 10:50:28
1.   joejoejoe
I'm glad you confirmed that Boston stole Pena from Cincinnati. I'm a regular reader of Bronx Banter and the comments have been tilted towards wishful thinking on the Arroyo trade. Epstein simultaneously gave Papelbon room to thrive and improved his OF depth. It doesn't hurt that Wily Mo Pena is Dominican and has the two most feared Dominican hitters as teammates in Ortiz and Ramirez. Sure Pena strikes out a ton but Big Papi struck out 133 times last year but nobody seemed to mind. It's very easy to see Pena having a league average OBP and a monster SLG% with the Red Sox.
2006-03-21 21:13:51
2.   Voxter
Here's hoping Theo & Krisky have become great friends.

I tend to be slightly more optimistic about Arroyo than you are, but he had almost no utility for the Red Sox whatsoever, and even if he posts another ERA+ over 100 is of no use to the Reds this year, and seems unlikely to be a part of their next winning ballclub, whenever that may be. (At this rate, it looks like Kearns & Dunn might not be a part of that club, either.) He's likely to be somewhat better than Milton at about half the cost. Fine for a borderline contender with a hole in the 4 or 5 slot of the rotation; unneccessary for a ship without a rudder like Cincy.

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