Welcome to Spring Training, folks. The mailbag is back after a two-week layoff, and I'll try to answer questions about camp developments each Monday.
We actually woke up to near freezing temperatures here in Sarasota, Fla., the past couple of mornings. So, let's chip the icicles off of the mailbag and get going.
My roommates and I were having a little disagreement. It has potential to get violent and dangerous (we once got in a fight after a Monopoly game) unless we can get this resolved from a mediator. Being totally unbiased, if Ken Griffey Jr. retired right now, before the season even started, would he be a Hall of Famer? If not, what would he need to do in how many seasons to be guaranteed to make it? Please save us before absolute destruction occurs. -- Billy B., Bloomington, Ind.
I mentioned this in a previous mailbag, but that was in the offseason, so I'll say it again: Griffey is definitely a Hall of Famer -- right now. Even if he retired in 2000 after leaving Seattle and never played for the Reds, he'd still be a Hall of Famer. There should be no debate, no discussion and in your case, no violence.
The 18-year veteran has 563 home runs (tied for 10th all-time) and is up there in many offensive categories. He's a 12-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and was the youngest member of the All-Century Team. Griffey is one of the best players of his generation in the game, which is also part of the criteria for many Hall voters.
Who besides Homer Bailey looks like a "can't miss" prospect in the Reds system, position player or pitcher prospects? -- Russ M., Liberty, Ky.
"Can't miss" is a dangerous label, since anything from injuries to the unknown can happen on the way up the ladder to the Majors. But according to Baseball America, outfielder Jay Bruce and first baseman Joey Votto are the Reds' Nos. 2 and 3 ranked prospects, respectively, behind Bailey.
With a .291 average, 16 homers and 81 RBIs last season for Class A Dayton, Bruce was named the Midwest League's No. 1 prospect. He's considered to be a player with a great future as a corner outfielder. Scouts like his bat speed and above-average power. Turning 20 in April, look for Bruce to move up to high Class A Sarasota when the season starts.
For Double-A Chattanooga, Votto led the Southern League with a .319 average, a .408 on-base percentage and 162 hits, which earned him that league's MVP honors. He was named the Reds' Minor League Hitter of the Year. The 23-year-old will likely begin in Triple-A this season but could be in line for a big-league promotion by season's end.
Have a question about the Reds?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Reds beat reporter Mark Sheldon for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Why is Aaron Harang's new contract so back-laden? He gets $4.25 million in the first year and $12.5 million the last year? Is there some benefit to doing that other than hoping that another team will be responsible for most of the contract if he is traded away? -- Ted A.
That's not the motivating factor, no, since the club assumes it will keep Harang for the length of the four-year contract and possibly his 2011 option year. Much of it is market driven and based on years in the league, etc. Harang made $2.35 million last season and the escalating salaries will reflect his anticipated performance and service time. He probably wouldn't want to sign to get $12.5 million this year and $4.25 million in the final year. Would you sign on for a yearly pay cut? Long-term contracts, especially for players that haven't reached free-agent status yet, offer cost certainty for the club in future years and some security for the player.
I have looked up everything I can possibly find on David Dewitt Bailey, but why is he nicknamed "Homer"? -- Joe H., Cincinnati
Was he a voracious reader of Homer's "The Illiad," or "The Odyssey"? Perhaps he had a home run stroke that would have rivaled Adam Dunn's? Nope -- neither of those apply here.
Let's end the suspense. Bailey actually took the name "Homer" after his great-grandfather.
What is Barry Larkin up to? What are the chances of him coming back to the Reds as an advisor or even a coach? He was pretty handy with the glove, he could help the Reds' young infielders. -- Ben C.
Larkin remains as special assistant to the general manager with the Nationals. Therefore, he's unable to have any official dealings with the Reds in a coaching or advisory capacity. It wouldn't shock me, however, if Larkin one day is back working in the Reds' family. Owner Bob Castellini has a deep appreciation for Reds history, and Larkin has made plenty of it in Cincinnati.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.