The Cincinnati Reds non-tender of Billy Hamilton came as both a surprise and a non-surprise last week. From a baseball perspective, it wasn’t a surprise. Many felt that he was due more money than it made sense for a team like the Reds to pay him. And it would seem most of baseball agreed as there’s almost no chance the Reds didn’t try to trade him before non-tendering him and they didn’t get any offers or they would have actually traded him instead of getting absolutely nothing in return. But, there was always the Bob Castellini side, where he’s been noted to being strongly against trading him. Seems the baseball people won out on that idea. That leaves a hole in center, though. And reportedly the Reds are trying to fill it with AJ Pollock.

The good news is that the Reds are again targeting a player that it would seem in the past that they wouldn’t have considered. Too expensive is the reasoning you would hear. The salary projections for him are a bit spread out. Jon Heyman and his expert he consulted both saw a 3-year deal at either $14M or $15M per year. Kiley McDaniels at Fangraphs believes a 3-year deal is also likely, but at a much more expensive $18M per year. MLB Trade Rumors has Pollock at 4-years and $15M per year in their estimation.

The good news is that AJ Pollock is a very good baseball player. He’s got a career OPS+ of 112, and in four of the last five seasons his OPS is .800 or better – only his 2016 season was below that and he missed 150 games that year so it really doesn’t count. He’s a capable center fielder and there’s a lot of upside with his game – as seen by his 7.2 WAR season in 2015 with Arizona.

The bad news is that his 2015 season with Arizona is the only time he’s ever played a full season. 2013 is the only other year of his career in which he’s played more than 115 games. For all of the good that AJ Pollock does while playing, he doesn’t play as much as you would hope. That could be why he may only get a 3-year deal, but there’s certainly some risk involved for the team that signs him.

There’s also the question of how will an oft-injured 31-year-old center fielder age? In 2018 he was still quite fast. Using the “sprint speed” metric from statcast he falls between Phillip Ervin and Jose Peraza on the Reds. That metric isn’t perfect and has it’s flaws, but needless to say, he’s still got wheels. With that in mind, though, among center fielders he’s not exactly near the top of the list. In fact he’s a lot closer to the bottom of it. Speed isn’t everything – reads and routes are important – but speed certainly helps. And that might be where Pollock holds up well. He rated out as an above-average to well above-average defender in multiple defensive metrics in 2018.

There’s zero question that AJ Pollock would be an upgrade for the Cincinnati Reds. The question is does the contract make sense for them? We won’t really know until he signs. But at 3-years and $45M it makes a whole lot of sense in a vacuum. For the Reds, though, there are a lot of areas that are in need of an upgrade. Does it make more sense to spend that money there and go with an internal option of maybe Phillip Ervin in center, or slide Scott Schebler over to center instead? That’s a lot tougher of a question to answer. Or maybe it’s not. If the Reds are pursuing AJ Pollock it probably tells you that they aren’t confident in any of their other center field options right now.

57 Responses

  1. redlegs4ever

    I’d much rather sign Hamilton again to a 1 year deal.

    Or any of the other CFs you could get for a year, Maybin etc..

    The one good thing about signing Pollock to a multi year deal, it will force the Reds to play Trammel in CF the bulk of the time despite their insistence not to because AJ will be hurt all the time LOL. I LOL when I’m angry it’s what I do…

    • Nep O'Tism

      Hamilton was almost a replacement level player last year. He played in 153 games and collected all of 0.3 WAR.

      I would legitimately just throw Michael Lorenzen in CF and see what happens before I brought back Hamilton.

      Hopefully Senzel can hold down CF, even if it is only for 1 Choo-like season. Then internal options will emerge if he doesn’t impress.

      I think the Reds missed their chance at a big CF upgrade when they took a nap last offseason and watched Cain go to a division rival and finish 7th in MVP voting with 6.9 WAR. (Or watched MVP Christian Yelich go to that same division rival.)

      • redlegs4ever

        The back end of that Cain deal is gonna be bad.

        I wanted in on the Yelich deal, I wonder what it woulda took along with Senzel? Guess we will never know.

        Throwing Senzel in CF for a year doesn’t really bother me. Not like if he’s bad for a year it’s gonna be the difference between this team making the playoffs or not. And if they got a shot at the playoffs they can always upgrade the position in season.

        I’d rather clear 2B for Senzel now, if you’re gonna keep him, but everyone’s already read my plan dozens of times I will spare my fingers and everyone the rambling…

      • Nep O'Tism

        I don’t know about bad.

        He could easily gather 18 WAR (very plausible, 6.9 his first year) over the first 3yr/$45m of the deal, making whatever happens the final two years worth it. He is currently a plus hitter, plus runner, big plus defender.The final two years of the deal is for $35m, which will likely be a little bit of an overpay, but he should probably still be an overall average/above average player at that time.

        Not to mention at the very least the Brewers will have an NLCS that went down to Game 7 to come out of it. That had to be a pretty exciting season for the fans.

      • abado

        Nep, I’m with you. Last year seemed like the time for the Reds to make some forward thinking moves especially with the Marlins fire sale. Cain has already produced over half of the value of his 5 year contract in just 1 year. The Brewers should never regret that deal. And if they are really worried about the last 2 years, he’ll probably hold enough value after these next 2 seasons to be able to trade him.

    • doofus

      Spend the coin on Marwin Gonzalez. Will be cheaper, younger and more durable. Capable of playing all OF and IF positions. Switch-hitter. Averaged 129 games played the last 5 years as a super-sub, something the Reds have never had. Something teams need to be contenders.

      Reds need a CF stop-gap. Frield, Trammell or Siri could be up later in ’19 to play CF. Or, maybe even Senzel, but I doubt that. I believe he’s a stud 3b or 2b.

  2. M

    I don’t understand why you need Pollock. Please someone explain. Hasn’t had obp over .330 since 2015. Have Schebler, Senzel, Winker already for OF with Trammell a year or two away. Why not save the money to resign Scooter and go get pitching help. Also agree on not getting Keuchel. Why not go get Gio Miley Morton or Happ instead? Will be cheaper for relatively similar if not better pitching. I just dont understand where they’re going. I also think trading for an elite SP is a good option but you cant give up Senzel. Fine with trading anyone else. It just seems to me right now the Reds dont really have a plan and are trying to go in way too many directions at one time right now.

    • Doug Gray

      Because the Reds don’t think any of them can play center field in 2019.

      And you don’t go get Gio because he walks as many guys as Robert Stephenson does – but you’d have to pay him $10+M a year to do it.

      • RedsinWashst

        Wait a moment Doug you just wrote a column on putting Senzel in centerfield but now you’re saying the Reds and you don’t think he can play it. First they put Senzel at shortstop then decided he can’t play it and now they put him in center and decide he can’t play it. They are really messing with this guys head. Forget Pollack and put Senzel in center and leave him there. He’ll hit 300 with 400 oba. Cut the crap out.

      • AllTheHype

        Doug I don’t think you can conclude that Reds think Senzel isn’t capable of CF just based on their interest in Pollock. Unless you have some info that isn’t public? All indications are that Senzel IS capable, at least from what the org has said and done this offseason. They could just be pursuing Pollock because it sets up other dominos like a Suarez or Scooter trade.

      • Doug Gray

        I never said I didn’t think he could. I said that I believe that the fact that the Reds are interested in Pollock suggests to me that the Reds don’t think he can in 2019 – at least at the MLB level.

        The shortstop thing. The center field thing. Heck, even at this point, the left field thing…. they were all done in non-game situations. I don’t think that’s really “messing with him”. He’s played one game at shortstop as a pro.

        I would be willing to just put Senzel out there and call it a day for 2019. If it’s a genuine mess, then put him in the corner and put Schebler or Ervin in center if you need to and address CF via trade or free agency after the season (or in season via trade if the right deal is there to be had). But it doesn’t seem the Reds are thinking that way – at least right now.

    • redleggingfordayz

      Also, I personally could see the Reds signing Pollock to play CF now, but then move him over to one of the corners once Siri\Trammell is ready. That gives you a lot of nice options in the outfield to pair with Winker, Trammell, Siri, Friedl, Schebler, etc. Schebler and Winker have had a few issues staying healthy for a full season so this might be a move to shore up depth while adding talent. I would prefer to see a lot of their focus go to pitching. If we are able to sign both Pollock and Keuchel I think the Reds are looking a lot better overall.

  3. Russell Adkins

    I could live with this signing add Wade Miley and trade for Sonny Grey…. not sure that is all feasible but sounds good. I saw somewhere they said trade Hunter Greene and Trammell for Kluber I don’t think that makes a lot of sense for this market

  4. Bill

    Pollock is really the only well rounded CF available. Going after the only and only player of his caliber at a position is a tough way to get value in the market place. I’d rather see the money spent on the rotation. Carrasco just extended with the Indians. Kluber is a difference maker with a track record of good health, whereas Pollock is good for two-thirds of a season.

  5. Oldtimer

    I think Senzel will be OK in CF if healthy. CF isn’t that big of a deal if you only had 67 W the year before.

    The 1984 Reds had 70 W with Eddie Milner as CF. The 1985 Reds had 89 W with Milner as CF. The only significant addition was a mid season (1985) trade for Buddy Bell to play 3B (moving Nick Esasky to OF).

    • Stock

      I guess Tom Browning 262 IP with 20 wins was not a significant addition.
      I guess new manager/player Pete Rose (with a .395 OBP in 1985) was not a significant addition. Dave Parker hit 16 HR in 1984 and 34 in 1985. Was he hurt in 1984? I don’t remember. Was having Pete as his manager what turned him around? I don’t remember. But I do know there were 3 more significant reasons for the added wins than the signing of Buddy Bell.

      Call me crazy but Pete was a leader and therefore a great manager. Call me crazy but Tom Browning was a huge addition in 1985.

      • Ghettotrout1

        I think that is Old timers point. He is saying you can be good and not have an elite centerfielder. Which is exactly what you are pointing out.

      • OleSkool

        Parker wasn’t hurt in 84 he played in 156 games. The reds were only 3 games over 500 in the 1985 season. The reds didn’t sign Bell they traded for him at the deadline. Improvement in 85 came from the great season Parker had, Brownings outstanding year and the emergence of Eric Davis

  6. Brad Legg

    Sign Cutch 2 years, Miley and Cahill or Happ. Hold your prospects. Start flipping if you don’t contend. Sign a supersub like Harrison.

  7. Shawn

    I would rather trade for or sign a stop gap. We have Senzel, Freidl, Trammell, Fairchild… to play CF in the future.

  8. Optimist

    Has McCutchen fallen off that much? I see that the Heyman et. al. projections are very similar to Pollock. Sounds like Pollock is clearly better on defense, but c’mon, it’s McCutchen at 150 games a year for 3/4 years.

    Plenty of time for the Siri/Trammell transition and slide him to a corner spot if needed.

    • redlegs4ever

      Cutch is not a CFer anymore, he never was a great one to begin with.

      He would be solid in a corner for another 2-3 years though. I haven’t seen his market start to take shape yet but I think he could be one of the real values of the offseason.

      • Optimist

        True, but how big a drop off is it, especially if they could have a workaround for the bigger CFs out west. Seems he’s ahead of Pollock in all categories except defense – same age, same price, better offense, more durable, and probably better upside even with the age.

        Find a Peter Bourjos type for late inning defense if needed.

      • redlegs4ever

        From Hamilton to Cutch?? It’s like Stubbs to Choo. From Pollock to Cutch it’s still fairly significant.

        If you’re asking me to chose just between Cutch and Pollock for CF I will take Cutch just because his contract doesn’t handicap the franchise but neither one plays an inning in CF for the Reds if I’m running the team.

      • Optimist

        I was thinking the drop-off from Cutch to Pollock. Obvious from BHam.

        I understand (and barely tolerate) the injury risk of 30 yr. old FA pitchers. Really don’t understand it at all for position players.

        It just seems Cutch may be available for a cut-rate price and he adds much more all around than the others.

        Also seems easier to correct an OF problem mid-season than a SP problem – we’ve been trying that for a few years as it is. Sign the pitching and see how the hitting/defense works out.

      • Doug Gray

        How would a 3-year, $15M per year deal handicap the franchise? If that kind of deal is going to just kill you, fold up shop.

      • redlegs4ever

        I highly doubt Pollock signs for that, certainly not anytime soon. Even if he does 15 Mil is a lot of money for someone you’re lucky to get 100 games out of. It’s not reasonable to expect him at 31 after years of injuries to suddenly be healthy, even if he is last 3 years he’s combined for league average OPS+.

        I think we can agree the money could surely be spent in a wiser place, especially for a pitching starved organization. Wouldn’t you much rather sign Happ for that? Happ would probably take that. You could also get a back end reliever and reliable starter for 45 Mil total albeit 2 years a piece instead of 3.

    • Stock

      McCutchen is no longer a CF. He was a huge liability in RF last summer.

  9. Bernie

    They can’t afford to add Pollock and pitching, and getting pitching is much more important. The only way they could do both is to trade Homer, and that’s not happening or to trade Votto, and most Reds fans would go crazy if that happened.

    • RedsinWashst

      I think the FO would trade Votto in a heartbeat if there were any takers. Screw the fans. Put winker at 1st.

      • Bernie

        I think there would be interest in Votto by the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays and I think he would waive his no trade clause for those teams but I don’t think for a minute the FO would trade him. I hope I’m wrong, would love to see them talk to the Yankees about a Votto-Sonny Gray trade.

  10. AirborneJayJay

    Three years isn’t bad. But it was reported that Pollock wants a deal close to what Dexter Fowler got a couple of years ago and Lorenzo Cain got last year. That is 5 years and $82.5M for Fowler and $80M for Cain. That would be insane from the Reds perspective.
    But Pollock did hit 21 HR’s in just 460 PA’s and 113 G. If he could just get a solid 145 starts in with half his games at GABP, I can see 30 HR potential in Pollock (though he only has 74 career HR). Without squinting. Pollock might be a 5.0 fWAR CF if he can stay healthy. Remember new hitting coaches.
    Plus, Pollock strengthens the top of the batting order. Most of his PA’s have come at 1st or 2nd in the order. He has a career line of .283/.343/.461/.804 batting 1st, and a .298/.350/.478/.829 batting 2nd. The Reds need that, and from a RH hitter.
    Three years with a 4th option year, maybe. But not 5 years.

  11. Scott C

    To me it is a no brainer, if you can get him at that price and length of contract then do your best to get him. At $15 mill to $18 mill a year that would be a good deal. His offensive numbers ought to perk in GABP and he won’t have as much outfield space to worry about.

  12. redwolf

    I am in for 3 at about 42-45 million…. much longer than that is a huge risk. I still think it leaves us some money to get a very good pitcher. Pollock could definitely move to a corner if Trammel is ready. Doug would be able to speak better on this, but, offensively, I am not sure Siri will ever be ready. Just a different set of problems than BH, but, I hope that I am very wrong. I think he is more of 4th outfielder/ pinch hitter type.

  13. Wes

    If pollock had a 40 million deal on the table he would have took it in 1/2 a heart beat. Free agents teams value the most sign right away.

    Think about name recognition from an owners perspective for a minute. How many people will come out to just see pollock play? How many specials is mlb/espn gonna do on AJ Pollock over next 3 seasons? So why would an owner ever pay him 18 million a season or give him a long contract ?? It’s a terrible investment. Owners are savvy to it now and that’s why pollock hasn’t signed.

    Also go look at what that site Doug references says about a guys salery like Alex Cobb of last year and then look at what he actually got.

    Reds sign pollock 3/36 million bc it’s his best offer on table and life’s good for a hitter in cincy.

    Reds sign kuechel 4/72 bc it’s most years and money he’s offered.

    That’s 30 million for those two and u keep all ur prospects and have room to sign a couple lesser name pitchers.

  14. Jon Ryker

    I hope this is inaccurate. IF he miraculously has a healthy season, you will improve the offense, which is not the team’s problem.

    For sure, you will hurt the defense and divert money which should go to the pitching staff.

  15. MK

    Would rather sign someone like Robbie Grossman to be a stopgap for a couple years.

  16. Norwood Nate

    I would be a big fan of the Reds signing Pollack (nothing crazy, but in the 15-18m 4-5 year). It would e a boost to the offense and he should manage CF just fine in GABP.

    I know that the Reds need to, absolutely must, address the rotation. But this is money well spent, IMO. With Hamilton’s salary freed up and the reported $30m available to spend there should still be room to sign someone like Happ or Kikuchi. He helps next year and if Siri and/or Trammell show they’re better options in CF he can move to a corner.

    • Tom

      The Reds need some more talent everywhere they can get it. A vet like Pollack could perhaps help in a pennant race in the next 2 years as opposed to Siri or Trammell. I like the idea.

  17. kevinz

    I like the player just not the injury Part. FA is risky as it is, much more risky for a already injury Prone player.

  18. Jasonp

    I would like it if we signed Pollock for 3 years then traded for Sonny Grey. Grey is making 6.5 mil. This would leave us money to sign a starter next year.

    Next year Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, and Alex Wood will be free agents. There are several more that look decent as well. Grey will also be a free agent so he could be an option if he does well and wants to come back.

    I have mentioned this a couple time but only trading for Grey would leave 2 spots open in our rotation for our young starters. Hopefully we would know for sure if we need to add more starts after this next year or if we have found 1-2 from what we already had. Hopefully our new pitching coach can help find who we can count on.

    Keeping Senzel and not trading him would give him a chance to back up several spots this year or take over for an injury. Next year he could start at second or be part of a trade to get pitching if we don’t find some ok to good starters from among our younger pitchers.

    One thing I though about yesterday. Is maybe that 25 mil off the books from Homer doesn’t get added to the 30 we have to spend this year. Maybe what we spend this year is just a boost for one year and equals out the payroll next year without the 25 mil. Or 30m -25m is just a 5 mil boost in payroll next year instead of a +30 this year and a +25 next.

  19. Choo Choo Coleman

    Do it. Can’t stand pat any more! Fans are leaving. Yvthe droves. This guy could have a great year in GABP, and what a huge improvement from a woefully awful #9 hitter to this. Go do it! Sign a FA pitcher. Trade for Gray, Kluber. That’s 3/5 of a new rotation & the biggest improvement you can make to offense. Status quo is last — again! Let’s go!

  20. Simon Cowell

    Sign em both. It is a roll of the dice but to gamble than not to gamble at all. Also, it isn’t my money at stake.

  21. AirborneJayJay

    Saw Jonathon Mayor’s mock draft today. Way, way, way to early mock draft. He had 8 hitters in his top 20. And he had the Reds with selecting a C out of Baylor, Langeliers. Not very enthused about a C not named Rutschman. Oh well it’s early. Going to be some good players in the top 10.

    • AirborneJayJay

      8 hitters in his top 10, not top 20. He only made 10 picks.

    • Doug Gray

      I can’t recall which site had the list, but someone just dropped a Top 50 draft prospects list this week for 2019, and it was either 8 of the top 16, or 9 of the top 18 guys were catchers. It stuck out to me because catchers – high school and college – are easily the riskiest picks to make in the draft.

    • The Duke

      I’m a little dubious about a catcher that high as well that isn’t a slam dunk pick. If Langelers does enough to make me comfortable with that pick, odds are he’ll get picked before 7. Rustchman is definitely a top 2 pick though. Witt Jr might unseat him at #1, depends on how special the top teams think he is.

      For #7 some guys I like early on and will follow when the HS and college seasons begin are Riley Greene (LF), Carter Stewart (RHP), Brennan Malone (RHP), Kameron Misner (OF), Bryson Stott (SS), and Graeme Stinson (LHP)

      • kevinz

        Very Early but seems like a weak Pitching class. Deep in Advanced hitting types. Catching limited beside the top 2 guys. 1B has depth in this class.

  22. Cguy

    Here’s a novel approach, let’s go with what we’ve got. Let Ervin & Schebler handle cf until Reds secure another year of control over Senzel. Then use Senzel as everyday cf. By late August, the Reds will have a much clearer picture as to whether Senzel can play cf or is better suited to the infield. They’ll know a lot more about Peraza as an everyday ss. They have a better idea as to whether Siri, Trammel, or Friedl will be ready to play ML outfield in 2020. They’ll know more about Blandino & Shed Long as possible 2nd base replacements when Scooter becomes a FA. They may actually sign a FA next year who augments the Reds weakest position, be it cf, ss, or corner outfielder.

  23. Mlber

    Forget this clown. Just sign Micheal Brantley to a 3yr/60mil and move schebler to center. Or trade schebler with finnegan and 3rd player, get some pitchers in the pen. Then move Irvin to center.

    • redlegs4ever

      Well I will give you one thing, Michael Brantley will definitely sign that contract. Right after him and his agent get done dancing in your office.

  24. Cbus

    I’d sign Kuechel or Happ, Pollock and trade for Grey or Stroman and call it a year. Should make for a competitive team for the next 3 years while we give more time for Senzel, Trammel and Green to develop as the next core.

  25. Krozley

    They could go really bold and sign Machado and move Peraza to CF. That would give them maybe the worst outfield defensively in the league, but it would be a fun offense. 11 years, $335 million with a $20 million salary in 2019, then have it jump to $40 million for the next 3 years and then fade it down to $20 million the last two years. Give him an opt out after 4 years (which he probably would take) and every 2 years after, which might limit the long term affect. Just an idea that won’t happen, but it certainly would be bold.

    • redlegs4ever

      Sign Machado to play SS, Harper to play CF, trade Tucker+ to Yankees for Sanchez, put kegs at the bases, petition the league to adopt Slow pitch Softball rules lol.