Evan Reed Investigation Advances
Despite a wildly successful start to the 2014 season for the Detroit Tigers there has been a cloud hanging over the club since Opening Day regarding a sexual assault investigation involving Tigers reliever Evan Reed. There was an incident on March 30th at the Motor City Casino involving Reed and a woman which has been investigated since by the Detroit Police Department.
On Wednesday morning the DPD asked the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to issue a warrant for Reed’s arrest. Initial word, via multiple reports, seems to be that prosecutors will not likely have a final decision to issue the warrant for the remainder of the week at least. Therefore there is no real reason to speculate about on Reed’s guilt or innocence. We know very little beyond generalities at this point. Certainly it is very serious if the police are seeking to press charges further. The rest will play out in the courts as the investigative process moves forward.
One question, from a baseball perspective, is how the Tigers will handle the situation and how they will replace Reed should a move become necessary as legal matters move ahead. Reed, 28, has been pitching fairly well in medium to low leverage situations for the Tigers. The right-hander has appeared in 17 games with a 3.00 ERA. In his 18 innings of work he has a very respectable strikeout-to-walk ratio of 14:3. Despite his solid numbers and a 98-mph fastball, Reed is not one of the relievers often tasked with holding leads. He is currently on a 1-yr contract worth $503, 000.
The Tigers have decisions coming on Reed obviously. They will likely not want a reliever in their bullpen who is facing charges like this for multiple reasons. Time will tell when they decide, or are forced, to get Reed off the roster (or the prosecutor could decide against pressing charges).
If a move is necessary, how are the Tigers situated to adjust? Relievers at the back of the bullpen are very fungible commodities. Though Reed is performing adequately, it should not be hard for the Tigers to plug in another reliever and really not see their bullpen skip a beat. In fact, there may be some options that would be a solid upgrade.
The Tigers signed former National League All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan in recent weeks as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. He is currently in Lakeland, FL getting his arm ready. According to a tweet from MLB.com’s Jason Beck, Hanrahan is throwing off a mound but has yet to face hitters. A June debut from Hanrahan has always been the target. Reed may have been the person on the chopping block when Hanrahan is ready even if there had been no incident surrounding Reed.
At Toledo in Triple-A the Tigers have at least three options who could be in line to take Reed’s spot in Detroit. Justin Miller is basically another version of Evan Reed for all intents and purposes. Before being shipped back to the minors, Miller pitched 10.1 IP for the Tigers this spring with 3.48 ERA and earning his first major league victory in Baltimore. Miller would be a very easy call-up for the Tigers at this stage to replace Reed.
Two other intriguing options will be young righties who have yet to make their major league debuts. Chad Smith was a Tigers draft choice in 2012 out of USC. In 22.1 innings between stops at Double-A Erie and Toledo, Smith has struck out 22 batters and posted a sterling 2.01 ERA. Smith could definitely be on track for a major league debut in 2014 if he continues to flash solid control to go with the nice strikeout rate.
Corey Knebel is perhaps the option that Tigers prospect watchers are most excited to see in Detroit. Knebel was the 39th overall player selected in the 2013 MLB Draft. Knebel was the closer for the Texas Longhorns and came equipped with a repertoire many felt was advanced enough where he would potentially be the first player in that entire draft to appear in the majors. Knebel, so far, is performing to a level where it looks like he’ll definitely be among the first handful to make it. Knebel has also pitched at both Erie and Toledo with dominating results to this point. In 19 IP he struck out 27 batters against only 9 walks with 10 hits allowed good for a 0.95 ERA. Knebel is thought by many to be on fast track to Detroit and Reed’s situation could be what kicks open the door for him.
In the end, the most important story is what happened at the casino on March 30th. Was there an assault? Was someone injured and violated? That should be the first concern on the minds of everyone. However, we as baseball fans, always have an eye on the team and how this matter will affect the Tigers. It would appear the Tigers should be well situated to bolster their bullpen and not really skip a beat should Reed’s situation advance to the point where he can no longer be a part of the ball club.