NLDS Preview: Reds vs. Phillies

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Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a
day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told,
however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to
read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing
possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few
previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series
matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday
afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: Cincinnati Reds (91-71) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)

How’ve they been doing?
The Phillies were phenomenal in the season’s last month, winning 23 of their last 30.  The Reds were below .500 over that time, losing a lot more games to not-so-great teams than they should have.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Phillies won the season series 5-2. The Reds beat the Phillies 3-0 in the 1976 NLCS. With the exception of Jamie Moyer, however, the rosters have turned over so that shouldn’t have much bearing here.

Who’s pitching?
The Phillies are — surprise surprise — going to trot out fellas by the name of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels. The Reds counter with Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.  You’d think that Travis Wood — a lefty who took a perfecto into the ninth inning against the Phillies back in July — would get a look-see, but I guess not. To be fair, though, that was a very different Phillies team back in July than the one playing now, and Wood has had really only one spiffy start in the past couple of months.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

I won’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does, but the “Phillies are vulnerable to lefties” thing has less traction this year than in years past. As Ken Rosenthal noted over at FOX, Chase Utley actually did better against lefties this year than he did against righties and Ryan Howard’s splits are less extreme than they have been historically. Granted, Howard’s splits were narrowed due to a bigger dropoff against righties than an improvement against lefties, but he has done better.  I’m still looking forward to seeing Aroldis Chapman brought in to face Utley and Howard, but it won’t necessarily be the same dynamic we’re used to seeing when the Phillies face a lefty late.

Oh, and the storyline we’re going to get absolutely sick of is the “Big Three” or “H20” or whatever it is we’re calling Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt these days. But just because we’re sick of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It’s basically everything in this series, I’m afraid.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

Not saying it matters too much, but I would not be at all surprised if there is a big focus on “the battle-hardened Phillies” vs. the “wet-behind-the-ears” Reds.  Such a thing is tempting to beat into the ground, but if TBS does this, they’ll have to ignore the fact that The Reds do have playoff experience. Ramon Hernandez, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Jonny Gomes and Arthur Rhodes have all played in October. And, oh yeah, Dusty Baker managed a team to within one win of a World Series title himself.  These guys won’t be deer in the headlights. Roy Halladay will be the most important guy on the field in Game 1, and he’s never played in the postseason.

What’s gonna go down?
The phrase “anything can happen in a short series” is true because, yeah, anything can happen in a short series.  And just ask Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz how often being “The Big Three” ended up not mattering in the end.  But really, the Reds are outgunned here, and there’s no way to get around that fact. Sure, I can envision a scenario in which Halladay has a bad start for some reason, Manuel has to go to the bullpen early and everything gets thrown off kilter. But I kinda doubt it. 

I’ll call it the Phillies in 4 simply because it seems rude to predict a sweep, but let’s just say that I will be none too surprised if a sweep goes down.  Too many arms on the Phillies. Too many good bats. Too many of the Reds gaudy team-offensive numbers were compiled against the NL Central.  I don’t think this will be particularly close.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.