Dusty Baker juggles slumping Reds lineup

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Here’s a look at Dusty Baker’s new idea to break the Reds out of their offensive swoon (they’ve scored fewer runs than every team in baseball besides the Pirates):

SS Zack Cozart
CF Drew Stubbs
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Scott Rolen
LF Chris Heisey
C Devin Mesoraco

I actually really like this one, expect for the odd choice to put Stubbs behind Cozart. Cozart was batting second behind Brandon Phillips and doing an outstanding job, hitting .341/.400/.561 in the early going. He’s also got that whole prototypical NL No. 2 hitter thing going on: middle infielder, makes contact, modest power, decent runner but not exactly speedy.

Stubbs is none of those things. He’s hitting .175 this season and has struck out 13 times in 40 at-bats. Stubbs, though, is an experienced leadoff hitter, and for all the grief he takes over his strikeouts, he’s scored 123 runs in 171 games there. That’s an average of .72 runs per game. To put it in perspective, Jose Reyes has averaged .71 runs per game hitting leadoff in his career. It seems to me that if you’re going to have both Cozart and Stubbs hitting at the top of the order, it’d make a lot more sense to have them the other way around.

That’s not really so important, though. That Heisey and Mesoraco are playing are better signs, and getting Rolen out of the cleanup spot should help. It’s the best lineup the Reds have used this season.

Report: Yankees, Reds finalizing trade for Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray
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Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.

According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.

Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.