Dusty Baker

Reds fall 10-9 to Mets, get swept in four-game series

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Jason Bay hadn’t doubled in 51 games before finally getting one when the Mets beat the Reds on Monday.  He hit two more on Thursday, leading the Mets to a 10-9 victory that completed a four-game sweep in Cincinnati.

The Reds fell five games under .500 at 50-55 with the loss.  They have the 19th-best record of the 30 teams in baseball.  They four games worse than a Mets team that has already shed Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.  Yet, because they’re in the NL Central, the Reds can’t see themselves as sellers just yet.

Because while the Reds are in fourth place in the Central, they’re just 6 1/2 games behind a Brewers team that has lost Rickie Weeks.  The Cardinals, in second, just took a downgrade in center field that could prove terribly costly if Lance Berkman gets hurt again.  The Pirates, in third, are the Pirates, in third.

The Reds do need to shake things up a bit, though.  They already made one move this week, shipping Jonny Gomes to Washington and calling up former first-round pick Yonder Alonso.  They could go further by trading Ramon Hernandez and bringing up top prospect Devon Mesoraco.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do about the rotation besides hope for the best.  The Reds entered spring training with perhaps the deepest rotation picture in baseball: Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney.  Who possibly could have guessed that Dontrelle Willis would be one of their five starters come July?  Bailey entered the day as one of the team’s two starters with a sub-4.00 ERA.  Then he went and gave up nine runs to the Mets.

In any other division, the Reds would likely be dead in the water.  In the NL Central, they pretty much have to attempt to stay in the race.  On paper, they’re still right there with the Brewers and Cardinals, and if they prove incapable of hanging with those teams, then Dusty Baker is going to have plenty to answer for at season’s end.

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.

Marc Rzepczynski signs two-year, $11 million contract with Mariners

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 9: Marc Rzepczynski #23 of the Washington Nationals looks on before pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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After rumors of the deal surfaced on Thursday, the Mariners officially signed veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year, $11 million deal on Friday night. Per a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the lefty is due $5.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.

Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.