Wagner steps up?
Reds' Graves on trading block
Pitcher doesn't want to go
By Hal McCoy
Dayton Daily News
SARASOTA, Fla. | Danny Graves realizes there is more on his back than the '32' on his Cincinnati Reds uniform.
Because he will make $6 million this year, $6.25 million next year and owns a mutual player/club option for $6.25 million in 2006, the first team that calls and says, "May we have Danny Graves," the Reds will answer, "Do you want him UPS or FedEx?"
Graves pitched pitched the ninth inning Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6-2 victory.
Graves, 30, is at the stage of his career where he makes too much money as a closer for a team that doesn't give a closer that many save opportunities.
And he sees 21-year-old Ryan Wagner, he of the $300,000 salary, sitting two lockers down in the Reds spring training clubhouse, knowing the club has Wagner pegged as a future closer.
Graves understands. That's baseball. That's the business of business.
That won't stop him from being the best closer he can be and do it happily, especially after what he endured last season when former manager Bob Boone turned him into a starter, which it turn, turned the year into the worst year of Graves' life.
He was 4-15 with a 5.33 ERA in 26 starts until new manager Dave Miley put him back where he belongs, in the bullpen as closer.
Miley said all winter that Graves was the 2004 closer and so far this spring the once-again all smiles Graves has transferred his happiness back to the mound.
In 11 appearances over 11 innings, he has given up eight hits, two runs (1.64 ERA) with no walks and one strikeout.
About a trade, Graves said, "Every year, it seems, I have to go through this. I wish it wouldn't happen, but that's out of my control. I had hoped nobody would get traded from this team because I thought we had a good thing going."
That was before pitcher Chris Reitsma, who was to be Graves' set-up guy, was dealt to Atlanta.
"We have the players to turn this organization around," he added. "Trading guys that are a big part of this team, not only on the field but in the clubhouse, is detrimental to this team."
Graves believes he came close to being traded last year during The Big Purge when bullpenners Scott Sullivan, Scott Williamson, Kent Mercker, Gabe White and Felix Heredia packed and left.
"The only reason I didn't get traded last year and one of those guys got traded (Williamson) was because I stunk," he said. "Nobody wanted to pay a lot of money for a guy that wasn't doing well.
"This year I am having a decent spring and all of a sudden my name starts popping up in trade talks again. If you pitch well, other teams want you and it will be that way my entire career. We have this conversation every spring and every July near the trade deadline."
Graves doesn't want to leave.
"That's the reason I signed a multi-year contract," he said. "If I didn't, I would have signed a one-year deal and become a free agent."
Most of last season, he did regret it as the losses mounted and the wins were as elusive as a glimpse of Neptune.
"But I think I'm a big part of this team, both on the field and as leader," he said. "I've taken more responsibility as a leader this year. I'm more vocal talking to players and I try to be friends with everybody. In the past, there were other leaders and I didn't want to step on toes.
"Barry Larkin is the only guy on this team with more time than me," he said. "I feel like it's my turn to step up and I'm ready to accept that leadership role. Guys are coming up to me and asking me questions about the game and the organization. That shows me that they are looking up to me as a leader. If I'm gone, I guess they have to pick somebody else."