Reds Deal Away Hamilton For Pitching

The Reds had spent most of the offseason looking to acquire a starting pitcher to fit into a rotation that is led by Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang followed by plenty of question marks. They had been linked to discussions for the since-traded Dan Haren and Orioles’ ace Erik Bedard, but they ended up dealing away their outfield surplus for a less-accomplished, but also less expensive arm.

By trading away Hamilton, the Reds have opened up a spot for Minor League Player of the Year Jay Bruce, who now will likely join Ken Griffey and Adam Dunn in the Reds outfield. Volquez will join Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto to give the Reds the potential to have a trio of hard-throwing righties in the rotation.

Hamilton instantly upgrades the Rangers outfield, which didn’t have a regular slug higher than .470 last season.

The Big
Josh Hamilton was once baseball’s best prospect, but he seemed certain to become one of the game’s saddest stories when he wasted away his immense talent during three lost years due to his addiction to recreational drugs. But he straightened his life out in 2006 enough to get reinstated by Major League Baseball. That December the Reds decided to take a $50,000 risk by selecting Hamilton away from the Rays in the Rule 5 draft. He quickly proved to be one of the most astute Rule 5 pickups since the Twins swiped Johan Santana from the Astros. Hamilton exceeded everyone’s expectations, hitting .292/.368/.554 in 298 at-bats. The only downside to Hamilton’s 2007 season was his struggle with injuries. He played in only 90 games because of wrist, hamstring and stomach troubles, and there is some worry that his years of drug abuse may have taken enough toll that he might remain injury-prone. But even now there are few players in the game with more athleticism than Hamilton. He has light-tower power, the bat speed to wait on pitches and the range and arm to play any of the three outfield positions.

Edinson Volquez has had more highs and lows than your usual top
prospect. The Rangers’ top prospect in 2005, he fell apart in 2006,
going 1-6, 7.29 in eight starts with the Rangers while showing no feel
for pitching and poor command. The Rangers decided to start over in
2007, sending him all the way back to high Class A Bakersfield. At the
time, it looked like a disastrous decision: Volquez went 0-4, 7.13 in
seven starts with the Blaze, but he learned from the experience, found
his command and was dominant during a late-season stint with Triple-A
Oklahoma (6-1, 1.41). Volquez’ newfound success came after he
discovered a feel for his curveball. It’s still only an average pitch,
but that is enough to keep hitters off of his 92-94 mph fastball and
his plus changeup. The Rangers have lauded his makeup at times in the
past, but they canceled his callup to Texas last August because he
overslept and missed a bullpen session. If he keeps his head on
straight he has the stuff to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Danny Ray Herrera is the little lefty that could. Despite an 80-82 mph fastball that is slower than many pitchers’ changeups, he’s survived and actually thrived at times because his changeup is so good. It has a screwball action as it arrives at a bugs-bunny slow-ball-esque 55 to 60 mph. The changeup and a sharp, late-breaking slider have been enough to allow Herrera to get in hitters’ heads. There are clearly questions whether his well-below-average velocity will play in Triple-A or the big leagues. At best he’s a middle reliever and many will be surprised if he even has that much success, but Herrera has been surprising people ever since he was an All-American at New Mexico.

There’s plenty to like for the Rangers here. Texas turned a pitcher who has overstayed his welcome into a potential impact middle-of-the-order bat who fills one of their bigger needs.

For the Reds, it’s a more risky move since they’re gambling on being able to turn Volquez into a solid member of the big league rotation, something the Rangers failed to do in six years. But at the same time, in one year the Reds turned a $50,000 investment in Hamilton into a potential member of their starting rotation. By dealing away Hamilton, they trade away a rather injury-prone player from a position of strength to fill a clear need at another position.

Trade Central 2007