It’s difficult for the fans of a tradition-rich franchise like the Cincinnati Reds to accept their role as a little fish in the big sea of Major League Baseball.
Due to the financial limitations of small-market teams under the current MLB system, which does not feature a salary cap, Reds fans enter each season knowing that they’ve started at a disadvantage.
When competing with deep-pocket teams like the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox each year, Reds management has to be creative to be successful under the constraints placed upon them by their economic reality.
However, the average Reds fan doesn’t want to hear that. In a city that hasn’t seen a World Series title since 1990, they just want results.
Walt Jocketty, Reds general manager and president of baseball operations, has taken a big step towards assuaging those concerns with the signing of shortstop Orlando Cabrera to shore up the middle of the infield.
“We are very excited. We talked about trying to improve at shortstop but didn’t think we’d be able to do it,” Jocketty said. “Acquiring a player of his ability and stature, that when you look at his career and the winning clubs he’s been on, he’s a winner.”
The Reds freed up the money for Cabrera by trading center fielder Willy Taveras and infielder Adam Rosales to the Oakland Athletics for utility-infielder Aaron Miles. He is slated to make $2.02 million this season with a $4 million mutual option for 2011.
Cabrera spoke about being the newest addition to an already solid infield.
“Defensively, I think we have a great infield,” Cabrera said. “We know we’ve got guys who can catch the ball.”
That’s an understatement.
The addition of Cabrera brings the total of Gold Glove awards for the Reds’ infield to 10 – seven for third baseman Scott Rolen, two for Cabrera and one for second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Cabrera also brings a more than capable bat. Last season, he hit .284 with nine home runs and 77 RBI for Oakland and the Minnesota Twins. He is a career .275 hitter.
He will add to the nexus of veteran players like Rolen and Phillips to complement younger, budding stars like first baseman Joey Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce.
“They have a great group of guys,” Cabrera said of his new teammates. “With Rolen, Phillips and the pitching staff, I think we’ve got a great chance this year if we stay healthy.”
Initial reports indicate he will hit from the No. 2 spot in the batting order, an area of need in seasons past.
Along with his glove and stick, Cabrera also appears to bring a sense of humor and knowledge of other Cincinnati sports figures to town with him.
When discussing his willingness to do whatever it takes to win, Cabrera alluded to the city’s highest profile athlete and wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chad Ochocinco.
“I’m going to do everything I can,” Cabrera said. “Even if I have to change my name to Uno Ocho.”