Reds owner Bob Castellini left the owners' meetings in Milwaukee a happy man.The approval of the sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane was approved with the stipulation that the Astros move from the Reds' division -- the National League Central -- to the American League West.
That means the Reds are in a five-team division again beginning in 2013.
"It's about time," Castellini said. "It absolutely helps level the playing field. Simple math tells you that."
Castellini also welcomed the expansion of the wild card. Each league will have two wild card teams, perhaps next season, definitely by 2013.
"The wild card almost wasn't approved 19 years ago," Castellini said. "It's been enormously successful. Adding another team is going to be good for the fans. What happened in Milwaukee (at the meetings) was very positive."
Losing Houston is no great loss for the Reds. The rivalry was never very hot. The Astros were the farthest from Cincinnati geographically and in the Central Time Zone.
--2B Brandon Phillips' representatives met with general manager Walt Jocketty at the GM meetings in Milwaukee to discuss a contract extension. It's the first time the sides have met face-to-face since the end of the season. "It went fine," Jocketty said. "We had a nice meeting. We made progress, good progress." Jocketty, however, added that the sides are not near a deal.
--1B Joey Votto's name continues to get some run in trade rumors even though Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has shot them down in the strongest possible terms. He has flat out said Votto will not be traded. "I don't know why people continue writing it," Jocketty added.
--3B Juan Francisco was robbed at gunpoint after a game in the Dominican Republic. Cash and jewelry were taken. "He's fine," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "Obviously, a little shook up."
--RHP Brad Boxberger ended the Arizona Fall League with a 5.40 ERA, but four of the eight runs he allowed came in his last outing. Boxberger struck out 22 and walked six in 13 13 innings.
--SS Brodie Greene put up the best number of any Red in the Arizona Fall League. He hit .299.386.494 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 20 games. He was the club's fourth-round pick in 2010.
BY THE NUMBERS: 96 -- Fastest pitch, in miles per hour, by first-round pick Robert Stephenson in the Instructional League.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've met with quite a few clubs. We're still in a phase where clubs are checking to see what everyone is trying to do. We're not close on anything. I don't think anyone's close to deal at this point." -- GM Walt Jocketty on what happened the general managers' meetings
The Reds did very little last offseason, but that is not likely to be the case this year. The team went from winning the National League Central with a 91-71 record to finishing third with a 79-83 record.
DEPARTURE: LHP Matt Maloney (waiver claim by Twins).
BIGGEST NEEDS: A top-of-the-rotation starter to go with RHP Johnny Cueto. Left field and leadoff are concerns, too, but they can be filled internally.
FREE AGENTS: C Ramon Hernandez, SS Edgar Renteria, LHP Dontrelle Willis, RHP Francisco Cordero.
The Reds will likely allow Hernandez and Renteria to walk. The Reds declined a 12 million option on Cordero.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHPs Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Nick Masset, Jared Burton and Jose Arredondo, LHP Bill Bray, INF Paul Janish.
Burton and Janish are the only ones likely to be non-tendered.
IN LIMBO: No one at the moment.
--3B Scott Rolen (left shoulder surgery in August 2011) was limited to 65 games in 2011. He is expected to be ready by spring training.
--SS Zack Cozart (Tommy John surgery on left elbow in August 2011) is expected to be ready by spring training.