Sunday, December 30, 2001
Shaw, Harnisch, Stynes would pay for themselves
By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Reds could add Jeff Shaw, Pete Harnisch and Chris Stynes to next year's roster for $5 million up front plus some deferred money and incentives.
That's a lot of money any way you look at it. But to get three proven players, three good clubhouse guys, three guys who can help immediately, it's the biggest bargain in baseball.
But chances are the Reds won't sign any of the three, much less all three. The player payroll is going to be between $40 million and $43 million come hell or a hundred-loss season.
The Reds aren't even talking to Shaw anymore. They haven't approached Stynes. And they remain far apart with Harnisch.
I'm not optimistic, Reds general manager Jim Bowden said about signing Harnisch.
Bowden is operating with a budget that doesn't allow him to shop even the sale rack in the bargain basement. But you can make a case that investing in Shaw, Harnisch and Stynes would be money well spent.
First, look at the Reds without the aforementioned trio.
The five-man rotation probably would come from these six players: Elmer Dessens, Chris Reitsma, Lance Davis, Jose Acevedo, Scott Williamson and Seth Etherton three second-year guys, two guys coming off surgery and one journeyman.
If the Reds sign Harnisch and Shaw, the rotation becomes Harnisch, Dessens and Danny Graves, plus whoever emerges from the competition. The bullpen's better with Shaw in it.
Williamson and Etherton can be brought back slowly from their surgeries. If one of last season's rookies Davis, Reitsma or Acevedo needs work in the minors, he can get it.
Stynes offers pop in his bat and speed. If Aaron Boone gets hurt like he did last season, the Reds don't have to make their left fielder a third baseman. They can put in Stynes, who hit .280 with eight homers and 33 RBI in 361 at-bats last season, and barely miss a beat.
But the Reds live by the bottom line these days, so how does this make sense financially? It doesn't if Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin and Boone miss all the time they did last season. It doesn't if the young pitchers don't get better. It doesn't if Harnisch has more arm problems. And it doesn't if Graves can't make the transition to starting.
But it does if the Reds stay relatively healthy. It does if the young pitchers get better. It does if Harnisch is Harnisch again. And it does if Graves becomes a 12- to 15-game winner. If all of that happens, the Reds could compete. Not beat the Yankees, but just hang in there in the National League Central.
If that happens, fans might continue to buy tickets after Flag Day. And if that happens, the Reds could draw 2.2, 2.3 million instead of 1.8 million like last season.
Those extra 400,000 or 500,000 tickets pay for Shaw, Harnisch and Stynes. Sure, this is one very iffy proposition. But if it works, Carl Lindner and Co. break even, which is what they want, and the Reds have some momentum going into 2003 and the opening of Great American Ball Park.
If the Reds don't sign the trio, or some other bargain players, chances of another disaster season like 2001 are very real. At this point, results may not be as important as effort. The fans are searching for some sign that the Reds care about winning in 2002. Right now, the average Joe on Vine Street doesn't believe they do.
HARNISCH UPDATE: Bowden reports no progress in talks with Harnisch. The sides are $1.25 million apart on base salary on a one-year deal. The Reds are offering $500,000 with up to $1.5million in incentives. Harnisch's agent, Greg Clifton, countered with a base of $1.75 million with up to $250,000 in incentives.
The deadline to sign Harnisch is Jan.8. If the Reds don't sign him by then, they can't until May15.
SHAW UPDATE: After a deal between Shaw and Pittsburgh fell through last week, Shaw is without suitors.
In the final analysis, if all the circumstances are not right, Jeff will not play next year, said his agent, Joe Bick.
Bick said he won't be going back to the Reds. He gave them what he considers a great offer ($1.5 million for 2002, $4.5 million deferred over 10 years) and never got a counter.
I'm not sure what I would go back with, he said.
BUYERS' MARKET: There are 101 free agents unsigned. Many can be obtained at bargain rates. But, like the Reds, most teams don't have the money.
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