So, yesterday I asked what you guys thought about the plan that the Reds should have for the offseason. Today, I am going to lay out my plan.
I believe that Bronson Arroyo is the only free agent on the team from the pitching staff. While Arroyo was above-average this year, moving forward he is at best the teams 5th best starting pitcher and you can argue that he could be the 6th guy behind Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Cingrani and Leake. While the Reds do have some questions for 2014, they are minimal. Latos needs bone chips removed from his elbow, but should be 100% by the time spring training rolls around. Cueto struggled to stay healthy for all of 2013. Still, the rotation should be 5 deep and fully healthy. I would let Arroyo walk and I wouldn’t risk him accepting a $13-14M offer to get a draft pick. I would acquire a veteran type of guy, much like they did this year with Armando Galarraga, to put in Louisville as some insurance. Chad Rogers can also provide depth and if things go well, Robert Stephenson could be an option in the second half if a situation presents itself. The bullpen has a lot of very good arms and plenty of depth. Unless you can really acquire a big time arm for cheap, I would stand pat with the bullpen we have.
This team scored the 3rd most runs in the league, but they are losing their second best offensive player to free agency with Shin-Soo Choo. While it would be great to see him back, I just can’t see it working out with the Reds finances. That means the Reds have a huge hole to fill offensively where only Joey Votto and Jay Bruce will return as even league average bats (both were well above league average). I would also comfortably say that Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips will start 95%most of the time they are healthy next year in left and at second base. That leaves open shortstop, third base, center field and catcher as positions you could seek an offensive minded player to keep things going at the plate.
Teams don’t move catchers that can really hit, so my plan would be to just make Mesoraco the majority starter and hope his bat picks up. I would also abandon the whole “this catcher catches this pitcher” strategy. These pitchers are all good on their own. If you bring back Hanigan, and I have no reason to believe that they won’t, match up the catchers based on match ups against the opposing pitcher. Devin Mesoraco crushes left handed pitching. If Johnny Cueto or Homer Bailey are pitching against a lefty, he should be catching and there shouldn’t be a discussion about it. Against a right hander, where Mesoraco has some struggles, look at the scouting reports of the opposing pitcher and go from there.
Todd Frazier had a solid year at the plate in 2013. He posted a .314 OBP and slugged .407, both very close to league average. Defensively he rated out as above-average according to the metrics and that lines up with what my eyes tell me too. Overall, Frazier was probably an average player in 2013. So why am I considering his position one that should be up for grabs? Well, this teams is going to need an offensive boost and given that Frazier can play third, left, first and in a pinch, shortstop, he could move into a utility role and still get 400 at bats.
Shortstop is a position that is really on a downturn offensively in the Majors right now. National League shortstops, as a whole, posted a .308 OBP and slugged just .373. Finding good hitting shortstops isn’t easy and usually the ones that can hit aren’t good fielders. Zach Cozart is a good fielder, having the ability to make excellent plays and the routine plays. His bat is a problem though. Much like catchers, good hitting ones don’t make it to the market too often. The Reds however are rumored to be one of the few teams in on a Cuban shortstop. They need to really explore this option. If the Reds could land a new shortstop, you could use Cozart to acquire another piece or use him as a defensive replacement or even as a guy with a little bit of pop off of your bench. I would look into what it would take to sign Stephen Drew as a free agent.
Center field will be open due to the pending free agency of Shin-Soo Choo. Billy Hamilton is the obvious answer internally for the Reds. While they could go with Chris Heisey if Hamilton isn’t ready to begin 2014, another option would be to decide today that Hamilton needs more time in AAA and try to acquire another outfielder who could provide some offense. Acquiring someone here will not provide a big gain tot he offense since you aren’t going to grab someone like that via free agency when you have Billy Hamilton soon enough to be ready to take over. A guy like David DeJesus could be an ideal target who you could still use all around the outfield when you do transition to Hamilton. Perhaps you could trade for a stop-gap type of guy to fill this role without giving up a big time prospect.
One of these positions needs an offensive upgrade in order for the offense to not fall completely flat in 2014. An acquisition for one is a must. If you could find a way to upgrade two of them, things would be looking awfully good.
I would actively be attempting to extend both Latos and Bailey this offseason. If I could only get one done, that would be acceptable, but I would be going after both of them if possible. I would hold steady with everyone else.
Farm System Moves
While the overall depth in the system leaves it in the lower half of the rankings you will see come out during the offseason, the Reds aren’t without chips. They can’t trade Phillip Ervin or Michael Lorenzen (or any other player from the 2013 draft) for a year after they signed. They aren’t going to trade Hamilton or Stephenson. While I am not saying to actively shop guys like Jesse Winker, Yorman Rodriguez, Carlos Contreras or a few other guys, they are more likely to be moved than Hamilton or Stephenson and would draw interest from teams in the market for young talent looking to move veteran guys.
That is my thought process heading into the offseason. What did I miss? Would you do much differently? Am I a lunatic (for this post at least)? Let’s talk about it.