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The Reds' new center fielder

8/20/2009

You know about the 24-hour rule, right? According to the Unofficial Rules of Blogging, I've got 24 hours to respond to breaking news. Sure, 24 minutes is better. But life's complicated and there are 30 teams and some things just don't hit my (terribly imperfect) radar screen until later than they should.
Case in point: the Cincinnati Reds finally have a new (and improved!) center fielder:

    The Cincinnati Reds placed center fielder Willy Taveras on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained right quadriceps.
    Taveras was hurt on a bunt attempt in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 8-5, 10-inning loss to San Francisco. He left the game after grounding out a couple of pitches later and jogging to first base. He was hitting .238 in 98 games.

    The Reds called up outfielder Drew Stubbs to replace Taveras, and put him in the starting lineup Wednesday night against San Francisco. Stubbs was leading off and playing center field in his major league debut.

    Stubbs, Cincinnati's first-round pick and the eighth overall selection in the 2006 draft, was hitting .268 and leading the International League with 46 stolen bases for Triple-A Louisville.

Oh. A strained quadriceps. Got it. Otherwise Dusty Baker just would have kept running Taveras and his .238/.273/.284 line out there every day. Among players with enough time to qualify for a batting title, Taveras' stats are the worst in the majors by a lot. He's fast, but doesn't get on base enough to help much. Taveras is a fine center fielder, but when you hit like he's been hitting it doesn't matter how well you play center field.
In fairness to Taveras, he's never played quite this poorly before, and may have some decent baseball -- the sort of marginally useful baseball he once played with the Astros and the Rockies -- left in him. The problem isn't that Taveras isn't a good baseball player (which is true).

The problem is that the Reds, who used the eighth pick in the amateur draft to select Stubbs just three years ago, still owe Taveras $4 million next season. Which means they've got two fast guys who don't hit enough to play anywhere but center field. And if they play the more deserving of the two next year, they'll essentially have to eat four million bucks.