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Merry Christmas, Reds Fans: ‘Santa’ Jocketty Re-loads Roster

Dodgers Reds BaseballTuesday afternoon, 4 pm, Cincinnati, Ohio.

People in the Queen City are busy getting ready for Christmas, enjoying a  warm and fuzzy feeling on a 30-something degree afternoon with a little bite in the air, mainly because that very legion, Reds fans by birth, had to feel they received an early gift from Santa when they learned earlier in the day of the signing of outfielder Ryan Ludwick to a 2-year deal.

This of course came on the heels a few weeks back when the Reds began the gift-giving season to their fans by signing relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton to a 3-year deal.

A columnist was writing about the pair of moves that gave those loyalists hope that the Reds, a success story in 2012, could and would take it to the next level in the 2013 season.

Those signings, when one looks deeper into things, were uplifting, not only because the Reds secured two quality players, but quality individuals as well, both showing character, yes, even if the Reds made them rich(er).

With teams all around baseball bulking up in the offseason, if there really is one with the flurry of activity surrounding the game once the World Series is over, every team that realistically hopes to compete on the highest level with a chance to make the playoffs, has to keep up with every family named Jones on their block.

In baseball there isn’t a team that cannot get better, one without any flaws, any needs and that includes, each year, the defending champions. Just the way it is each and every year. And deal after deal makes teams better and each team is looking over their shoulder at what the other is doing and to compete they know only too well they cannot stand pat. Beef up or get buried no matter how well you did the year before to some degree when the others around you are making major moves.

In the case of  Ludwick, simply put, the guy who experienced a renaissance a year ago in Cincinnati likely could have gone elsewhere from all reports for bigger money. Thus his signing speaks volumes for the player, the organization and in large part, Walt Jocketty, a guy players have come to trust, a man of his word and fair.

It too speaks well of Cincinnati where Ludwick not only felt right at home, but had to feel there is some unfinished business to take care of in 2013 in a season that ended all too abruptly for the Reds in the playoffs. No need to get into detail here.

In essence the Reds landed a pretty big fish without having to deal players or deal with other teams directly and bargain away.

Two more years of Ludwick in the heart of the same order with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce broadens smiles here. The guy put up numbers even if a bit shorted in the beginning of the season of at bats with uncertain status until things ironed out and should put up even bigger numbers now that he knows what his status is going into 2013.

Smiles had to crease faces here even before the Ludwick news broke, not that it was surprising Cincy was the right fit, when the Reds made the move to lock up the 6-4, 300-pound proven reliever Broxton earlier.

He too showed character, a proven closer who by most accounts will be just that for the Reds this season. But that is not etched in stone as no one really knows if the probable plan to make flame-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman a starter will work out.

As exciting as that possibility seems here, there are no guarantees and Broxton knows that, but in signing on for three years he is another guy who has made it clear he wants to be in Cincinnati and knows what the Reds are capable of accomplishing.

In Broxton you have a proven closer, but one who knows only too well he could wind up one of the top setup men in the game if the Chapman experiment should fail and by signing on knowing that is seemingly good with it which speaks volumes for this guy as well.

What he gives the Reds is a whale of a insurance policy in the bullpen, is a closer that can be counted upon and one helluva setup man should that become his job. Considering the disaster that was Ryan Madson with his injury before the season began a year ago, warm and fuzzy feelings started early surrounding the Reds bullpen situation.

Broxton, likewise is invaluable when you really think about it. How can anyone in their right mind expect the kind of innings the Reds starters put up last season again, relatively injury-free. It was mind-boggling that they had to make but one call up all season and that only due to a rain-out that forced their hand, to keep in tact the regular rotation that was the epitome of consistency.

Wednesday morning, 7 pm, Cincinnati Ohio

A salty old baseball writer in Cincinnati who absolutely hates to re-write learns of another huge Reds move and gladly junks his lede and part of his column, elated when he learned of the big news the Reds behind old Walt, did it again.

Warm and fuzzy suddenly became red hot!

He junks the part of the initial essay that the Reds still have some things to address and  his diatribe about the great need (for years now) for a legitimate leadoff hitter.

The Reds may not have landed the prototypical leadoff hitter they so desired, but when they made a trade to acquire Shin-So Choo from Cleveland, they in fact landed themselves a solid one, and in so doing may have set the stage, a least in principle, for taking the 2013 edition to the next level and in the Queen City Skyline munching fans had to feel Christmas actually did come early this year.

The deal that landed Choo, essentially for Drew Stubbs, is great reason for optimism and it may not be the answer to years of prayers for a leadoff hitter, but may be close to being the answer in 2013, considering how few out there are available and actually how few there really are out there anyway.

Stubbs, a four-year fixture in center here was great with a glove but declined at the plate each season and bottomed out last year hitting a paltry .213, acceptable in no league include Pony, in that slot.

The Reds felt the gamble, if you will, was worth taking as Choo is a rangy right fielder who last played center in 2009. Not to worry, he is a good outfielder and no stranger to center and at the very least, should be at least adequate, but likely better than that.

But the reason for bringing him in, even if one and done after this year (free agent to be) is no state secret. He is pretty close to what the Reds have been missing for four years in the leadoff spot.

Choo can pick it in the outfield no matter where he plays and hit .283 a season ago with a little pop too (16 homers) and has better than average speed stealing 21 bases in 28 attempts and by all indications is pretty much what the Reds have needed for some time.

I think it is important to note that in 2009 and again the next season Choo hit exactly .300 each of those seasons with 20 homers (86 RBIs) and 22 homers (90 RBIs) respectively showing what he is capable of, if we didn’t already know.

Unlike Stubbs, whose base running blunders/decisions were at times epic, Choo can get on base because he can hit while in order to steal bases one has to hit higher than .213. You get the drift. The Reds just went with Stubbs as long as they could if not longer than they should have because the right guy was just not available, or so it seems, at the right time.

And maybe now we too can erase those horrible memories of Willy Taveras in the leadoff spot as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 5:30 pm

A writer is smiling as are a lot of people with him and a boatload of Cincinnati fans are now getting ready for the merriest Christmas they have enjoyed in a long time.

If I were hosting a holiday party this year or planning one for my company, I know who I would contact first to play the part of Santa.

Ring … ring … ring.  “Hey Walt, what are you doing tomorrow night?”