Arms race in NL West: Dodgers add Thome, Garland; Rockies get Contreras

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The Brad Penny pickup set off a chain reaction in the NL West, as the two remaining contenders also picked up pieces before the Monday night deadline to have new acquisitions qualify for postseason play.
The Dodgers landed a potential Hall of Famer in Jim Thome, but right-hander Jon Garland may well prove to be the bigger pickup. That’s because even if the Dodgers were willing to sacrifice defense at first base, Thome just isn’t much more than an emergency option in the field at this point of his career. He’ll be used strictly off the bench for his fourth major league team, at least until the World Series. He’s hit .206/.354/.365 in 63 at-bats as a pinch-hitter in his career. Over the last two years, he’s 1-for-15.
Garland is the second addition to the Dodger rotation in as many weeks, joining Vicente Padilla. He struggled in his first two months in the NL, but he’s amassed a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts since the beginning of June. Also encouraging is his 50/15 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings over the last two months. He figures to replace Charlie Haeger for now, putting him in the rotation alongside Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. If Hiroki Kuroda can return in a week or two as hoped, then Padilla would likely head to the pen.
The Rockies also wanted Garland, but settled for Jose Contreras, who was 5-13 with a 5.42 ERA in 114 2/3 innings for the White Sox. Surprisingly, they’re sending back a decent prospect in Brandon Hynick, who was thought to be a possibility to take over as their new fifth starter. Hynick has a below average fastball, but his splitter is a nice pitch and he displays very good command. He might take over the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation. Contreras will try to help replace the injured Aaron Cook in Colorado. He seems to be on his last legs, but the league switch might do him some good.
Along with acquiring Hynick, the White Sox picked up infielder Justin Fuller for Thome. A 2006 11th-round pick, Fuller has hit .254/.340/.418 in 177 at-bats for high-A Inland Empire this year. He has a quality glove and he bats left-handed, so if he starts to show some offensive ability, he’ll get looks as a utilityman. He’s a long shot, though. With Thome gone, they’ll likely give Josh Fields significant time at DH in September. It could be his last chance with the club.

Cincinnati Reds fire Bryan Price

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The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Bryan Price. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Riggleman. The team also fired pitching coach Mack Jenkins. The club also added Louisville manager Pat Kelly to the staff as the new bench coach and Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin as the new big league pitching coach.

It was only a matter of time for Price, whose Reds have begun the season 3-15. This was Price’s fifth season at the helm and the Reds never won more than 76 games in any of his previous seasons, doing so in his first year, in 2014. They won 68 games in both 2016 and 2017 and 64 games in 2015. While that’s far more attributable to the Reds talent level than anything Price ever did or did not do, at some point the manager will take the fall for a team that makes no progress.

Price’s tenure will likely be considered largely forgettable in the view of history, but he did have a pretty memorable moment as Reds manager in April of 2015, when he went on a profanity-laced tirade at the media because they reported the availability or lack thereof of certain players for an upcoming game. Which is part of the media’s job, even if Price didn’t fully grok that at the time. The tirade itself was pretty epic, though, with then Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans reporting that “there were 77 uses of the “F” word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine).” 

Taking over will be Jim Riggleman, who last managed in the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, resigning in June of 2011 because he was unhappy that he did not get a contract extension. It was a weird episode, the sort of which a lot of guys couldn’t have come back from, perhaps being considered quitters. Riggleman took a job managing the Reds’ Double-A team, however, then moved on to Triple-A and then the Reds’ big league coaching staff. There’s something to be said for persistence. And for being a big league lifer.

Anyway, Price’s exit is not likely to change the Reds’ course too much in 2018. But, as it is so often said in baseball, sometimes you gotta make a change all the same.