Reds Sign Boesch

The hot stove season is heating up and though not a high-profile move, the Reds have added outfield depth by signing veteran Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract. There is potential for some significant transition in the Cincinnati roster as they prepare to get back on track in 2015.

Much attention has been given to the current Cincinnati payroll and the perceived restrictions it will impose on any free agent signings. Still the Reds, like all other teams, will be active in offering minor league contracts to free agents as they look to man their AAA team with roster depth going into next season. Recently they added veteran Brennan Boesch to the fold after he spent last season with the Angels, mostly in AAA. Prior to that the outfielder, who will turn 30 years old soon after opening day, saw regular duty with the Detroit from 2010-12.

During his first season the Tigers’ 2006 3rd round selection flashed potential to be a solid MLB player when he slashed .256 AVG/.320 OB/.416 SLG with 14 HR/61 RBI, good enough for a 0.9 WAR and a few votes for Rookie of the Year. He came back the next year and showed nice improvement, raising his AVG/OB to .283/.341 while sustaining power numbers despite dealing with surgery on his thumb. After that his career took a step backwards in 2012 when he dropped to .240 and his OB slipped under .300. Since then his MLB action has been limited to a combined 50 games over the past two seasons with the Angels and Yankees.

Boesch prepped at the University of California and stands 6’4”/235#. He bats/throws left-handed and nearly all of his MLB defensive duty has been in the corner outfield positions, mostly right field. Throughout his career he’s struggled with contact, whiffing in almost 20% of his plate appearances, a number that would be tolerated easier with a higher home run frequency. He has brought enough discipline to the plate to reach with an average AVG/OB differential. Perhaps the most encouraging detail on his current status is the way he torched AAA pitching at Salt Lake City last year when he hit .332 AVG/ .381 OB/ .636 SLG with 25 HR.

It’s no surprise to see a seasoned MLB veteran thrive in the AAA level, but Boesch’s gaudy numbers can still raise an eyebrow. Unfortunately for him that didn’t translate into success with the Angels, but he was limited to only 79 plate appearances. The end result was he became available to Cincinnati and with turnover in the Reds outfield he could work his way back to some more significant action at the MLB level.

Recently there has been speculation that Cincinnati might ease some payroll constraints by dealing Jay Bruce. This signing is probably no indication that those talks are proceeding. As of right now he and Billy Hamilton are projected for regular duty in right and center fields. Pending an unexpected deal Boesch could work his way into the mix in what has been a revolving door in Cincinnati’s left field. The Reds have declined an option to bring back veteran Ryan Ludwick after he was unable to sustain a solid 2012 season that rewarded him with a two-year extension. On their 40-man roster they still have veterans Scott Schumaker, who struggled through injuries last year and Jason Bourgeios who spent all of the pre-roster expansion at Louisville after they signed him to a minor league contract last year. The only other outfielders available are Yorman Rodriguez, Juan Duran, Kyle Waldrop, and Donald Lutz who all probably need more development time in the minors.

The Reds lessened their outfield personnel by one veteran yesterday when longtime reserve Chris Heisey was dealt to the Dodgers for a minor league pitcher. Heisey had seen a lot of duty in the Reds since his first call up in 2010, but was never able to take ownership of left field. His best season was in 2011 when he knocked 18 HR in only 308 plate attempts, but last year he struggled while hitting .222 in a second consecutive season with an on-base below .300.

2015 could be one of tremendous transition for Cincinnati. Hopes were high coming into last year when they entered coming off three postseason appearances in four years that ended a fifteen year drought of no playoff action for the franchise. Last year injuries ravaged every facet of their roster under first year manager Bryan Price and they finished at 76-86 with further playoff hopes extinguished by a meltdown after the all-star break. Now there are a lot of questions on the team with tight payroll limiting options to answer them. The ability of holdovers to put injuries behind them will answer many of them. First and foremost of the remaining ones is left field. Reds fans are likely hopeful of a better answer than Brennan Boesch, but other potential deals pending his future could find anything from another season in AAA to securing regular duty in the Cincinnati outfield.

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