Revisiting Reds' trades for Phillips, Ross, Arroyo

Former GM Krivsky made splash in 2006 with three key moves

May 27th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- General managers are constantly working the phones, looking for the best deals. Not all are great, industry-rattling moves. Some of them work out well, and some certainly do not. But for Wayne Krivsky, the Reds' new GM in 2006, the first three trades worked out really well.

In those deals, Krivsky acquired pitcher , catcher and second baseman . The three players that were moved in the different trades -- Wily Mo Pena, Bobby Basham and Jeff Stevens -- would go on to play in a combined 330 Major League games from 2006 onward, while Arroyo, Ross and Phillips all enjoyed lengthy careers.

“Those are three great memories there,” Krivsky told by phone this week from his Las Vegas home.

Krivsky was hired by Cincinnati on Feb. 8, 2006, right before Spring Training. The late hire was due to the fact that the ownership group, led by CEO Bob Castellini, didn’t assume control until Jan. 20. One of Castellini’s first moves was to dismiss previous GM Dan O’Brien and bring in Krivsky, who was the assistant GM and chief National League pro scout for the Twins.

A week later, Reds camp opened in Sarasota, Fla.

“It was a very unusual hiring date, but it was because of Bob Castellini getting the club so late in January. There was no way around it,” Krivsky said. “The thing that really helped me at time was the 11 years I had worked for the Twins, because I had the National League [coverage]. I was familiar with the Reds’ 25- and 40-man rosters. I covered the Reds every spring also for those 11 years while working out of Fort Myers [Fla.]. I felt really confident that even though I was getting the job so late, I felt like I had a good feel for the roster.”

Here’s a closer look at how Krivsky’s first three trades came together.

March 20, 2006: Cincinnati acquires Arroyo from Red Sox for Pena
The Reds' pitching staff had the highest ERA in the NL, as the team was 73-89 in 2005, and it was particularly thin in the rotation behind ace Aaron Harang. Krivsky was on the lookout for starters, and he knew top executive and legendary scout Gene Bennett was covering the Red Sox that spring.

Before Krivsky was hired, the Reds had traded star first baseman Sean Casey to Pittsburgh and planned on moving slugger Adam Dunn from left field to first base. That was meant to clear left field for Pena to play every day.

“I wasn’t on board, particularly, with that idea,” Krivsky said.

Four days after becoming GM, on Feb. 12, Krivsky signed free agent Scott Hatteberg. The hope was that Hatteberg could be the regular first baseman and Dunn could remain in left field. That meant an extra left fielder had to be moved.

“[Red Sox GM] Theo Epstein called me maybe a week before the day of the trade. It got done quick,” Krivsky said. “He had interest in Wily Mo and needed some power for the outfield and liked the idea of Wily Mo in Fenway Park, and he had an extra starting pitcher. Bronson had just signed a very team-friendly deal with the Red Sox. He made the proposal. I played poker a little bit and said, ‘Let me get back to you, Theo, I have interest in Bronson.’ I called Gene and some of the scouts, but I knew in my mind that I was all over that.”

Arroyo became a big star in Cincinnati and an important part of two Reds playoff teams while going 108-100 with a 4.18 ERA and 14 complete games in 279 starts. A 2006 All-Star, he threw at least 199 innings in each of his first eight seasons with Cincinnati while also being a clubhouse leader.

Pena played parts of two seasons with Boston before stints with the Nats, D-backs and Mariners. He then played in Japan from 2012-17.

“We got a legitimate guy to go with Harang,” Krivsky said. “I was very happy to make the trade, and Bronson had a tremendous career in Cincinnati.”

March 21, 2006: Cincinnati acquires Ross from Padres for pitcher Bobby Basham
As the end of Spring Training approached, Ross was at a career crossroads of sorts. He had already been with three clubs and had hit a combined .217 with 19 home runs in 169 games. The Reds already had catchers in Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin.

“The late Kevin Towers, rest his soul, was a great guy and I miss him. He was the GM of the Padres, and Bruce Bochy was his manager at the time. Ross was out of options, and he didn’t have a spot for Ross,” Krivsky explained. “That was kind of the key.”

In his NL coverage, Krivsky scouted Ross during his big league stops with the Dodgers, Pirates and Padres.

“I always kind of liked him as a backup, defensive-oriented type that had a little bit of power but worked well with pitchers,” Krivsky said. “Kevin called me and said, ‘Wayne, I’m kind of hung up here. I don’t have a spot for David Ross, and he’s out of options.’ I think he had a contract at the time for like $500,000, and it was a straight contract. That meant they would have to pay him that in the Minor Leagues, too, and they didn’t want to do that if he cleared waivers.”

Krivsky did the deal and sent Basham, who was at Double-A, to San Diego. It was the highest level he reached in professional baseball. Ross had the good fortune to catch Arroyo in both of their first spring games with Cincinnati, and they immediately clicked. He caught 32 of Arroyo’s 35 starts in 2006 and also delivered at the plate with 21 homers and 52 RBIs in 90 games. He added 17 homers over 112 games in ’07.

Ross went on to become a personal catcher for others on different clubs, namely for Jon Lester in Boston and Chicago; the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, and the Cubs did it in ’16. Ross, who became a respected veteran, now manages the Cubs.

“He was a good clubhouse guy. I knew there was good makeup there,” Krivsky said. “It allowed us to pair him with LaRue, and Valentin was the third catcher and pinch-hitter. It kind of worked out well. At the time, it was a nice under-the-radar pickup that I was really happy to get a guy like David Ross -- as much for his clubhouse presence and handling pitchers as anything.”

April 7, 2006: Cincinnati acquires Phillips from Indians for pitcher Jeff Stevens
One of the most successful trade acquisitions league-wide -- and this century -- Phillips became a three-time NL All-Star and a four-time NL Gold Glove Award winner in 11 seasons with the Reds. But going into 2006, he was a fading top prospect about to leave his second organization. Cleveland designated him for assignment just before the regular season.

Krivsky and Indians GM Mark Shapiro had been talking off and on throughout Spring Training, but the Reds already had Rich Aurilia, Ryan Freel and Tony Womack at second base.

“[Manager] Jerry Narron said, ‘What am I going to do with four second basemen?’ Krivsky recalled. “I have to give all the credit for that trade to our scout, Bill Harford. ... I had a roster crunch at that position, but Bill was emphatic and said, ‘A guy that good, you’ve got to get him.’ He wouldn’t let me up for air, but I respected his opinion on players very much. He was a very good evaluator. I was kind of in and kind of out and went back and forth, because I’m listening to Jerry Narron and our coaching staff, too.”

Four days into the season, Krivsky decided to make the trade. Freel and Aurilia were able to play other positions, which gave Narron some flexibility.

“My scouting instincts kicked in a little bit. I agreed with Bill that we didn’t have this kind of athletic guy,” Krivsky said. “[Phillips] was more defensive-oriented at the time, and they weren’t sure how much he was going to hit. But he had Gold Glove potential at second base. I called Mark, and as it turned out, every other team had kind of dropped out. We were maybe the last team alive that he had. He wasn’t really in a great bargaining position to get a whole lot in return. I had some leverage and didn’t have to give up a lot to get him.”

Cleveland received a player to be named later, Stevens, who never played for that team. From 2009-11 with the Cubs, he posted a 6.27 ERA in 33 relief appearances.

From April 17-23, 2006, Phillips batted .452 with three homers and 17 RBIs to win NL Player of the Week honors. Womack was released on April 24.

The Reds went a surprising 80-82 in 2006 before faltering again in ’07. Dismissed by Castellini 20 games into the ’08 season and replaced by Walt Jocketty, Krivsky didn’t get to stay for Cincinnati's full resurgence and subsequent postseason appearances. But his maneuvering helped advance the process, and it shouldn’t be overlooked.