Reds' manager Dusty Baker watches from the dugout as his team plays the Giants in Game 5 of their MLB NLDS playoff baseball series in Cincinnati

The Reds are dead and Dusty Baker’s fingerprints are all over the murder weapon

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Scott Rolen just struck out to end Game 5 of the NLDS. The Giants win 6-4 and now they’ll go on to face the winner of the Nats-Cardinals series.

This wasn’t all on Dusty Baker.  It wasn’t Dusty Baker who was beat around like nobody’s business in the fifth inning. That was Mat Latos, who suffered a total meltdown after not getting a couple of close calls, resulting in a grand slam by Buster Posey.  It likewise wasn’t Dusty Baker who ended a would-be Reds rally in the eighth. That had an awful lot to do with the Giants leather, first with Brandon Crawford making a diving stop at short and then Angel Pagan doing the same in center.  Indeed, the Reds stranded all kinds of runners from the fifth inning on. Sometimes, stuff just happens. You don’t get the bounce and you don’t get the clutch hit.

But Baker didn’t do his team any favors in Games 3, 4 or 5, and a good argument can be made that Baker cost them the series because of it.

On Tuesday it was Scott Rolen’s error in extra innings which opened the door for the Giants victory. Given how much Rolen struggled down the stretch, it’s an open question as to why he was playing at all.  Yesterday Baker left starting pitcher Mike Leake in for too long, and he got rocked, forcing the Reds to play come-from-behind baseball almost the whole game.  Then today in the sixth, with two on, nobody out and Ryan Hanigan working the count full, Baker ran them out of the inning with an ill-advised hit and run — or run and hit or a steal or whatever it was — which turned into a momentum-sapping double play.

Any loss is a team effort. But Baker’s decisions put the Reds in disadvantageous situations time and time again against the Giants.  In a short series, that can be death.  It certainly was here.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.