Though the Reds haven’t been very active this winter in terms of additions, they’ve reportedly pursued upgrades at shortstop and have now agreed to a one-year deal with reliever Sean Doolittle. The 34-year-old lefty spent the last three-plus seasons with the Nationals after being traded from the A’s and had been one of the game’s premier relievers until 2019.
That’s when his strikeouts dropped and his walks went up as he posted a 4.05 ERA, the highest of his career, over 63 appearances. The shortened season was even more difficult as he battled through knee and oblique injuries that limited him to just 7.2 innings.
A healthy Doolittle should bolster a thin bullpen that could really use some lefty help, but his propensity for giving up fly balls might not be ideal for the launching pad at Great American Ball Park. He hasn’t generated a groundball rate of even 33% since his sophomore campaign in 2013 and his hard-hit percentage allowed has jumped over the past two seasons.
Even accounting for the very small sample of 2020, it may be even more alarming that Doolittle has coaxed a great deal less soft contact since 2018. As you can probably guess, his swinging strikes have dropped off as well. Part of that is due to the velocity decrease you’d expect from an injury-plagued season, so there’s legitimate reason to believe he can recover this season and be particularly effective against lefties.
Though this is the kind of move you’d expect more from a team that needs one more experienced arm in order to round out the staff, it could aid the Reds in an NL Central that only the Cardinals have really tried to win this winter.
Speaking of which, St. Louis apparently has “little interest” in re-signing second baseman Kolten Wong after previously turning down his $12.5 million option for 2021. That comes via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a Q&A column about what the Cards will do after landing Nolan Arenado. Though an infield of Wong, Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt would be among the most elite ever assembled, it doesn’t appear as though there’s momentum toward a reunion.
That could be good news for the Cubs, who’ve reportedly been keeping tabs on Wong and could use his particular skillset. The lefty-batting infielder is a Gold Glove defender with a contact-heavy approach and decent splits against lefties, exactly the traits Chicago needs. Signing him might mean giving Nico Hoerner a little more time to develop in the minors, which is probably for the best, or it could mean bringing Hoerner along in more of a platoon/utility role.
The only trouble is his asking price, which may be well outside the Cubs’ comfort zone unless he’s so motivated by spite that he’s willing to take a deep discount in an attempt to stick it to the Cardinals. That’s petty as hell and I’d be all for it if that’s how he rolls. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough one way or the other.