Joey Votto’s lack of RBI was a talking point throughout the season, especially among those in the Cincinnati media. They lamented his lack of RBI, suggesting that rather than going up to the plate looking to drive in runs, Votto was being passive by instead aiming to draw walks. Despite hitting third in the Reds’ lineup, Votto finished the season with 73 RBI and a league-leading 135 walks and a .435 on-base percentage.
Throughout the season, Votto was asked to respond to the criticism and he always responded to it the same, defending his approach and suggesting that the focus on RBI was unfounded. He said pitchers tended to pitch around him and rather than expand the strike zone, he was content letting them toss ball four and letting Brandon Phillips — who finished with a career-high 103 RBI — take a shot.
Votto appeared on Cincinnati’s ESPN 1530 with Lance McAlister, discussing various topics, including his controversial 2013 season. Votto’s tune hasn’t changed. He still thinks he had a fine season and even likened it to his 2012 season when he finished with a 1.041 OPS. Some choice quotes from the interview:
“A lot of complaints this year were about my lack of RBIs. I know that, in an ideal world, there would have been a 100 in the RBI category, but that’s just one number. A player should not be judged based on one particular number.”
“My first goal is to drive the runner in so I can get on base. Get a hit and hand the bat to the next guy so we can continue to score runs. […] I’m really, really greedy, so I want to get a hit. And if that hit doesn’t come […] then it ends up being a walk.”
It is an enlightening interview and worth a full listen-through. You can’t argue with Votto’s understanding of the game. Given his responses during the season, I thought he was too conciliatory to the critics (and to be clear, McAlister was not one of them). He talked about the criticism motivating him and making him better, the kind of statement he might make if he were running for office. During the season, Votto told David Laurila of FanGraphs that he would prefer to lead the league in OPS and WAR. That is the correct answer to the “people have complained about your lack of RBI” prompt.
Bud Norris has found a home for his attempt at a bounceback season, signing a one-year deal with the Braves. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says it’s worth $2.5 million, which is a huge cut from his $8.8 million salary this year.
Norris had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter from 2009-2014, but had a brutal 2015 season split between the Orioles and Padres with a 6.72 ERA in 83 innings and a late-season move to the bullpen.
In announcing the signing the Braves referred to Norris as a starting pitcher, so joining the rotation for a rebuilding team gives him a chance to get his career back on track with an eye on hitting the open market as a free agent again next offseason. And if he fares well, the Braves could use him to add a prospect or two at the trade deadline.
The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:
Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.
Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.
Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.
He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.
Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.
Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.
He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.
In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.