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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No Mo' Wily Mo

It didn't take long for new ownership and a new GM in Cincinnati to challenge the Reds' tired old status quo. While the Reds have a surplus of power hitters (who manage to rack up the strikeouts), they had (and still have) a dearth of quality pitching. In a somewhat risky move Cincinnati sent mercurial OF prospect Wily Mo Pena to Boston for SP Bronson Arroyo.

While this trade certainly has its risks from Cincinnati's perspective, I think it's a solid trade that had to be made. There are several factors that makes this a good trade for the Reds. Let's take a look at them in order.

The Reds absolutely had to add a starting pitcher. Before this trade their staff consisted of Aaron Harang, Brandon Claussen, Dave Williams, Eric "Flyball" Milton, and the still injured Paul Wilson. While Arroyo was set to start the season in the Boston bullpen, he should automatically vault into the #2 spot in the Reds staff. That's not necessarily a sign of how good Arroyo is, but more a sign of the weakness of the Cincinnati staff.

Money was another major factor in this trade. Arroyo's salary is one of the factors that makes him so attractive to a team like the Reds. At a cost of only $11.25 million over the next 3 years, the 29 year old Arroyo is quite a bargain for a young player with a track record. Pena who just signed a $1.25 million deal for one year can't become a free agent until after the 2008 season. The truth however is, if Pena finally realized his potential over the next two years, there is no way that the mid-market Reds could afford to lock him up for an extended period of time.

Cincinnati's offense really sputtered with Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn, and Wily Mo Pena all in the lineup. While each of those guys, especially Dunn and Pena, were threats to hit 50 homeruns in a season, all three players were also a threat to whiff 200 times. Cincinnati could stand to have more situational hitters like Scott Hatteberg and Rich Aurilia in the order. Neither Hatteberg nor Aurilia has the offensive upside, let alone the massive power, of Wily Mo, but both players put the bat on the ball far more often, and know how to drive in runs without hitting a homerun.

Lastly, Cincinnati's defense improves with Pena's move to Boston. With this trade, Dunn will move back to left field and Hatteberg will likely take over for Dunn at first. Although dubious sometimes on defense, Dunn is a better fielder than Pena, and Hatteberg is a better first baseman than Dunn.

While Wily Mo Pena certainly has tons of potential, at this point in his career he's nothing more than a good hitter of lefthanded pitching. He doesn't walk, struggles against good pitchers, and could lead the league in strikeouts if he played everyday. At 24 Pena could still develop into a very good player, but that's no longer a chance that the Reds could bank on. The new Cincinnati brain trust was smart to cash in, and get a player that they very much needed.

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