Dusty Baker

Walt Jocketty stays, but it’s time for Dusty Baker to go

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Sure, they’ve dealt with some injuries, but the 2011 Reds have most certainly underachieved.  Playing in what’s arguably baseball’s weakest division, Cincinnati is likely to finish with a sub-.500 record for the third time in four years under Dusty Baker.  Baker is currently 319-323 at the helm of the Reds.  It gives him the same .497 winning percentage he had during his four-year stint with the Cubs.

So, it’s time for Dusty to go, again.  His handling of the Reds’ pitching staff has left much to be desired this year.  His lineups are problematic.  And he’s simply not winning.  The Reds’ have outscored their opponents by 17 runs this year, yet are currently 76-80.

Baker hardly deserves all of the blame.  It’s not his fault that the only Reds pitcher to make 30 starts this year was the extremely disappointing Bronson Arroyo.  It probably wasn’t just his call to stick with Edinson Volquez as long as he did.  Also, Scott Rolen’s injuries and ineffectiveness left the Reds minus a key bat they really had no one to replace.

However, Baker just hasn’t helped.  He kept moving Drew Stubbs out of the leadoff spot because of all of Stubbs’ strikeouts, ignoring the fact that Stubbs kept scoring runs anyway (69 in 94 games, which works out to 110 runs in 150 games).  He overworked setup man Logan Ondrusek, who went down with a strained forearm in August and hasn’t been the same since returning.  He stuck with Jonny Gomes in left field, even though Gomes was far from the team’s best option against right-handers.  He actually turned Paul Janish, whose only asset was his glove, into a utilityman so that Edgar Renteria, whose only asset was his… ummm… leadership, wouldn’t have to play anywhere other than shortstop.

Bringing back GM Walt Jocketty was the right move for the Reds.  I’m not sure I’d say Jocketty has been outstanding since coming over from the Cards, but there’s certainly been more good than bad.

Baker’s positives don’t outweigh the negatives, though.  The Reds have no reason not to make a change after such a disappointing campaign.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report: