An era officially came to an end in Cincinnati this week as lefthanded pitcher Eric Milton, for three years an icon for the Reds’ starting pitching woes, filed for free agency on Tuesday.
Milton was signed by former GM Dan O’Brien to a three-year, $25.5 million free agent contract in December of 2004. The payoff for the Reds? A 16-27 record, a 5.83 ERA in 66 starts, and a league-leading 40 homers allowed in 2005. Does anyone still wonder why one of the very first things Bob Castellini did when he took over the club was to show O’Brien the door?
A few weeks ago, one of the mainstream national sports magazines did a preview of this winter’s free agent market and actually listed Milton among the top 20 free agent pitchers likely to be available this offseason. That speaks volumes about the quality of the pitching that is likely to be available to the Reds (or any other team for that matter) via free agency this winter. You know the pickin’s are going to be mighty slim when a guy with an 0-4 record and 5.17 ERA in 2007 who is recovering from a torn ligament in his pitching elbow is one of the top 20 pitchers to be fought over by 30 major league teams, most of whom could use an upgrade in the pitching department.
So, any significant additions to the Reds’ pitching staff for 2008 are most likely going to have to come through trades. Or maybe new manager Dusty Baker pulls a few rabbits out of his nice, spanking-new red hat (Kerry Wood became a free agent on Monday and Mark Prior is expected to become one if the Cubs don’t offer him arbitration). Or maybe GM Wayne Krivsky has a couple more bargain-basement acquisitions up his sleeve. Or maybe all of the above.
Baseball’s winter meetings are still a month away, but there should be some big news on the Reds’ player personnel front in the next week or so. The Reds must exercise Adam Dunn’s $13 million option for next season by Sunday if they wish to do so, and Eddie Guardado’s $3 million option must be exercised by Friday. Then there is Scott Hatteberg’s $1.85 million option, and of course, the $1.3 million option on longtime RHM favorite Javy Valentin.
One thing’s for sure – Baker is now officially on the job. His contractual obligation to ESPN ended when the World Series did. On Tusday, the Reds named the two new members of the coaching staff. Chris Speier becomes Baker’s new bench coach, as well as the Reds’ new infield coach. Juan “Porky” Lopez takes over as bullpen coach. Both of these guys worked for Baker on other teams, as did pitching coach Dick Pole, so Dusty will have some familiar faces around as he bends to the task of turning the Reds into a force in the NL Central.