Sunday, July 28, 2002

Down on the farm

Minor-league depth helps Reds come trading time

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Tim Naehring's cell phone rings these days, he knows it might not be good news. “When I see Jim (Bowden's) number on it, I break out into a cold sweat,” Naehring said.

        “I know he's going to be asking, "Would you trade this guy for this guy?' We're going to be fighting over it. We have a different sense of these guys. We get to see them play.”

        Naehring is referring to the Reds' minor-leaguers. As the team's director of player development, those are his guys. Bowden, as the Reds' general manager, is concerned with putting the best product on the field at Cinergy.

        Naehring understands Bowden's position and he's flattered that so many teams want the Reds' minor-leaguers. That doesn't make it any easier to give them up.

        “We've got a lot of sweat equity in these guys,” Naehring said.

        The minor-league system's depth is such now that Bowden could have gotten pitchers Bartolo Colon, Jeff Weaver or Chuck Finley if he had been able to swing it financially.

        The Reds did make the deals for pitchers Ryan Dempster and Brian Moehler without giving up the best guys on their list. They also got outfielder/third baseman Russell Branyan for another prospect.

        David Espinosa, who went to Detroit in the Moehler trade, was the biggest name with whom the Reds parted. He was the No.1 draft pick in 2000 but was far enough behind Gookie Dawkins and Ray Olmedo defensively that he was moved from shortstop to second base. The Reds also owed Espinosa $2.2million, so it was easy to part with him.

        With so many other prospects, the Reds didn't have to give up Olmedo or catcher Dane Sardinha, two players the Detroit Tigers scouted before the Moehler deal.

        “A lot of it is the scouting department,” Naehring said. “They've given us players with talent. Our goal is to put one impact player in the big leagues a year.”

        Reds outfielders Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns fit that bill.

        “Would they have developed in anyone's system? Probably,” Naehring said. “We want to develop the 10th-, 15th-, 30th-round guys as well. We want to develop enough guys to give the big-league club options at trading time.”

        The Reds think they have about 10 impact players in their system. Neither Bowden nor Naehring would reveal their untouchable list, but in both cases, they say about 10 players are on it. In fact, Naehring and Bowden probably have different lists.

        But it's safe to say the following players are on both lists: outfielder Wily Mo Pena, Olmedo, Sardinha, and pitchers Luke Hudson, Ty Howington, Dustin Moseley, Chris Gruler and Ricardo Aramboles.

        A FIND: Heath McMurray, 22, was pitching for Canton, an independent league team, when the owner called Naehring looking for an infielder.

        Naehring ended up asking about pitching, and the owner mentioned McMurray. The Reds signed him, and he's 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA at Single-A Dayton.

        “We might have found somebody by dumb luck,” Naehring said.

        MATT TO DAYTON: Matt Boone, son of Reds manager Bob and brother of third baseman Aaron, has been assigned to Dayton.

        Matt Boone, obtained in the Moehler trade, will be used as a designated hitter for now because he's nursing a sore elbow.


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