Former Reds helping their new teams thrive in 2016
The Chicago White Sox are off to a great start to 2016, currently in first place ahead of defending world champion Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. However, part of Chicago’s success is due to the team that currently ranks last in the center of the National League, the Cincinnati Reds.
The cleanup hitter in the middle of the batting order came to Chicago through a winter trade with Cincinnati. Todd Frazier leads the White Sox in home runs, and has been their biggest power threat during the slow start to 2014 Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu.
Frazier isn’t the only former Reds player who has been a critical part of their success this season. Wide receiver Dioneer Navarro, who left Cincinnati to help Toronto win a divisional championship last year, has provided Chicago with decisive blows and an invaluable playing calling.
One of those pitchers he has helped is himself a former Cincinnati Red. Mat Latos left Cincinnati after 2014, but has overcome last year’s struggles to win every one of his decisions so far with Chicago.
It was last year that the Reds had a similar positive effect on the ball club on the north side of Windy City. The Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series last year with contributions from former Cincinnati players. David Ross, who recently caught Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter against the Reds, served as Chicago’s backup receiver. Left-hander Travis Wood became a flexible part of the Cubs pitching staff, splitting time between opening and leaving the bullpen.
Joining the Cubs and White Sox in first place right now are the Washington Nationals, who are also in debt to the Reds. Manager Dusty Baker led Cincinnati to four postseason appearances during his tenure, and now he has led the Nationals off to a great start in his first season at the helm in Washington.
Baker has had the help of some of his former Reds players, especially Chris Heisey. The veteran played for Baker in Cincinnati for four seasons, and is now the fourth outfielder for the Nationals. Washington reliever Matt Belisle is also a former Reds player who was in the Cincinnati bullpen during Baker’s tenure there.
Other former Reds will help different teams in 2016, in addition to Toronto All-Star slugger Edwin Encarnacion, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius and Texas outfielder Shin Soo-Choo. Starter Mike Leake and catcher Brayan Pena are playing for Cincinnati’s rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Marlon Byrd is starting outfield for the Cleveland Indians, and Ryan Hanigan is now the backup catcher in Boston. Cincinnati’s first-round pick of several years ago, Yasmani Grandal, continues to be the starting catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Yonder Alonso is now the everyday first baseman for the Oakland Athletics.
Cincinnati fans, who have so far not had much to be happy about in 2016, should wait to see how much their former closer Aroldis Chapman will help the last-place Yankees. Because he violated Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, Chapman is ending a thirty-game suspension and should return next week to bolster New York’s chances of turning the season around.