Is this the end of the line for a true baseball character?

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At the start of the season, I wrote a series of stories on the difficulties of making it to – and staying in – the major leagues.

One of those players was 35-year-old catcher Corky Miller, a classic baseball vagabond currently in the Cincinnati Reds system who has played for 14 teams, including five major league teams, over the past 13 seasons. Over the past decade, he’s managed to play at least one game in the big leagues in every season, hitting a mere .188 in only 575 plate appearances.

During spring training, Miller had this to say about his difficult journey:

“If you get to the big leagues, you bust your ass to stay there. If you’re in Triple-A, you do what you need to do to be ready when they call you.”

For the first time since 2000, it looks like they’re not going to call Corky Miller.

At least it appears that way, with the Reds planning to call up top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco when rosters expand on Thursday.

The game tosses aside players every season, and .188 hitters don’t tend to stick around as long as Miller has. But Miller has proven that a defensive-minded catcher who calls a good game and tutors pitchers well can find a place.

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with Miller, and his story from last week is both illuminating and entertaining.

Click through to read the whole story, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Dontrelle Willis credits Miller with helping him rediscover his form, saying “He’s like Halley’s Comet – he’s a once-in-a-lifetime guy.”
  • Pitcher Matt Maloney says Miller has some Crash Davis in him, “but I don’t know if he’d necessarily like the comparison.”
  • Corky is his given name, but his mother gave him Abraham as his middle name in case he became president.
  • The lone stolen base of his career was a swipe of home in 2001. “We’re still hearing about it,” Mesoraco said.
  • Early in his career, Miller was called up to the bigs, only to sit on the bench. He asked to be sent back down so he could play.

And finally:

What if this season were to be his last as a player? How would he want to be remembered?

“As a professional, a guy who went out and did his job, and a good teammate,” Miller said.

“To me, that would be everything.”

Mission accomplished.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.