Even though the Reds are one of the most successful teams in baseball this season, that doesn't mean that that everything is calm and quiet within the organization.
An MLB front office is a hotbed for rumors regrading trades, contract extensions, and impending roster moves. So what is Cincinnati's upper-level management team discussing right now?
The Reds want to extend Shin-Soo Choo
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Reds are interested in signing Shin-Soo Choo to a long-term contract. Rosenthal notes that the process probably wouldn't begin until much later in the season, but the interest is there for an extension.
For Reds fans, this should come as little surprise. Choo came to Cincinnati this offseason as a replacement for Drew Stubbs and has been a vast improvement in his short time with the club.
In 45 games, the 30-year-old outfielder is slashing .300/.449/.535 with nine HR, 11 2B, 19 RBI, 36 R, five SB and an impressive 34:43 K/BB ratio.
John Fay also responded to a tweet this week asking whether or not the Reds would be able to swing an extension given their fiscally conservative approach to team building.
Fay does not seem to believe that the money will be an issue, and that may very well turn out to be the case. The Reds will see some salary relief in the form of Bronson Arroyo's $6.5 million coming off the books.
Nick Masset's $3.5 million contract will also run out and Joey Votto's salary will decrease from the $17 million he made in 2013, down to $10 million in 2014.
All in all, that results in about $17 million worth of salary reprieve. Although some of that money will go toward increasing salaries for other players, and to try to re-sign Homer Bailey amongst others, the money will be there to sign Choo.
Fay seems to think that the number of years Choo will inevitably want is going to be the issue and the final year of his contract could be a "poison-pill" season given the fact he'll likely be 34 or 35 by the end of said deal and overpaid for his age.
Tony Cingrani was sent down to work on his off-speed stuff
The baseball world had a feeling that Tony Cingrani would be returning to Triple-A Louisville once Johnny Cueto returned from injury. The 23-year-old lefty performed well in limited action with the Reds. In six starts, Cingrani worked to a 3.27 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and ratios of 11.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.56 K/BB and 6.8 H/9.
Most fans hoped for Mike Leake to be sent to Louisville, but in fact, he earned his chance to stick with the big-league club. In the time Cingrani spent with the Reds, Leake pitched to a 2.72 ERA, a 1.49 WHIP and ratios of 6.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 2.78 K/BB and 10.6 H/9.
Reds beat writer John Fay says that the decision to send Cingrani back to Triple-A had to do with Cingrani's lack of a viable off-speed pitch.
Cingrani threw his fastball 83-percent of the time—no other pitch in his repertoire was used more than nine-percent of the time. In contrast, Leake throws a sinking fastball 42 percent of the time, and features three other pitches which he throws at 11-percent frequency or higher, per Brooksbaseball.net.
While Cingrani was able to get by in his first six starts while throwing very few pitches other than a fastball, it's unreasonable to think that a starter could continue at Cingrani's pace while featuring only a fastball.
It makes sense to send Cingrani down to Triple-A to work through his issues. As Dusty Baker said in Fay's article, “We want him to get comfortable with it on the sideline so he can take it to the game. Everyone says throw the breaking ball. Everyone doesn’t have the delivery or the hand size to throw certain pitches."
Having Cingrani work on his off-speed pitches in-game at the major league level could lead to his getting hit around a little bit, and it's better to allow that to happen where the results of games don't really matter.
GM Walt Jocketty is looking for a right-handed bat?
Remember last year when the Reds roster lacked a viable left-handed bat to come off the bench? Yeah, well, 2013 has brought about the exact opposite problem.
This year, the team's bench—at times—consists of Donald Lutz/Xavier Paul, Jack Hannahan, Derrick Robinson, Cesar Izturis and Devin Mesoraco/Ryan Hanigan. Lutz, Paul and Hannahan all bat left-handed, Robinson and Izturis are switch hitters while Hanigan and Mesoraco represent the team's only right-handed bench bats.
With Mesoraco or Hanigan serving as the Reds' back-up catcher on a nightly basis, they're essentially off limits when it comes to pinch-hitting opportunities. That leaves them with two weak-hitting options—Robinson and Izturis—for spots that require a right-handed pinch-hitter.
This was not an issue at the beginning of the year. With Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey out, the team was forced to bring up replacement players, and it just so happened that the most big-league ready options were Robinson and Lutz.
According to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, this need has forced Cincinnati's general manager Walt Jocketty, to look for a right-handed bench bat.
The team could bring in an outside player, but as Jocketty claims, "There is really nobody out there that would make much of a difference. We’re just biding our time to see what happens.”
Jocketty's right. At this point in the season, the market is thin and it isn't worth giving up young players in return for a bench player. This leaves the team to ponder over in-house options.
The Reds could just continue with what has worked and wait until Ludwick and Heisey are healthy enough to return to the team. However, they could also bring back the 24-year-old Neftali Soto from Triple-A Louisville to occupy that role.
Soto was recently called up when starter Tony Cingrani returned to Triple-A. He was immediately sent back down however, after just one at-bat, to clear a roster spot for Johnny Cueto upon his return from the DL.
Soto is a power-hitting corner infielder who could be just what the Reds need off the bench. In 36 games this year, Soto is slashing .278/.325/.410 with four HR, seven 2B, 19 RBI and 19 R.
He does strike out a bit, but not as often as most corner infielders—20-percent strikeout rate this year—however, he averages 23 home runs per 162 games played, and that kind of power off the bench could be of great value for the Reds.