Non-Tender Market May Yield Surprises

The Cincinnati Reds have done little throughout the Winter Meetings but the result of this appearance of inaction may provide unimagined success in the end result.  But action will ultimately be required.  Let’s take a look this morning at what may be available, what the Reds needs appear to be, and develop a blue print for April.

Infield

  • 1st Base – Joey Votto (signed through 2013)
  • 2nd Base – Brandon Phillips (option picked up through 2012)
  • Shortstop – Zack Cozart (should be ready for Spring Training after season ending Tommy John surgery in 2011, only appeared in 11 games so 2012 will be considered his rookie campaign.)
  • 3rd Base – Scott Rolen (was close at the end of 2011, should be ready in April.  Signed through 2012.)
  • Catcher – Devin Mesoraco, Ryan Hanigan (Hanigan is signed through 2013.  Mesoraco only appeared in 18 games and is still considered a rookie.)
  • Utility – Paul Janish, Juan Fransisco, Todd Frazier

Outfield

The going gets a bit more challenging here.  We can make a few educated suppositions or we can just call them what they are:  guesses.

Relief Pitching and Closer

  • Jose Arredondo – Will be tendered a new contract according to John Fay.
  • Brad Boxberger – Rookie season, just a gut feeling but I think he will make the team.
  • Bill Bray – Will be tendered a new contract according to John Fay.
  • Sam LeCure – Becomes arbitration eligible in 2014.
  • Nick Masset – Will be tendered a new contract according to John Fay.
  • Logan Ondrusek – Becomes arbitration eligible in 2014.
  • Travis Wood – Becomes arbitration eligible in 2014.

Starting Rotation

  1. Johnny Cueto – Signed through 2014 with an option for 2015.
  2. Mike Leake – Controlled through 2016.
  3. Aroldis Chapman – This expensive experiment needs to work.  Signed through 2014.
  4. Bronson Arroyo – Signed through 2013.  Pray he returns to form.
  5. Homer Bailey- Will be tendered a new contract according to John Fay.

You do not need to be much a mathematician to realize that I have listed 26 players.  I would expect who the odd man out becomes will be contingent on the relative health of the Infield and Outfield starting 8.  I expect the Reds will have 12 pitchers and 13 fielders so a fielder needs to be sent down or traded.

So that leaves us with a couple of last questions.

  1. What are the Reds looking for?
  2. Who might be expendable (ie. trade bait)?
  3. Are any players left to fill the voids we have?

The first question is pretty simple. Left Field, Starting Pitcher, and a Closer.  It sounds so easy.

The Reds need a left fielder to hit consistently that is not a defensive liability.  If Yonder Alonso sheds a few pounds from his physique and can improve his defensive footwork, he might be just good enough defensively to warrant making use of his prolific bat.  He just needs to be average, not great.

The Reds are looking for a top of the rotation starting pitcher.  This one is a bit tougher; I penciled in a rotation but Cueto, Leake, Chapman, Arroyo and Bailey hardly inspire confidence.  Cueto’s small frame seems to lend itself to injury.  Leake can be good, but is quite inconsistent.  Chapman is an enigma, the Reds have no need for a $30 million reliever but questions abound whether he can manage 6 effective innings per start.  Arroyo needs to find something he lost.  Control.  Speed.  Ability to keep balls inside the park.  Given his untradable contract, this may be the most vital question the Reds face.  Bailey can be great, and sometimes…he just can’t.  This rotation needs to average over 6.2 IP with an ERA under 4.00 for this team to win consistently.  I am not sure they are up to it.

The closer job is still an issue, Cordero is gone (maybe) and Chapman is moving into the rotation.  This leaves Bill Bray, who is tough on left handed batters but is inconsistent.  Nick Masset is regarded as having good “stuff”, and whatever his stuff was in 2011, it wasn’t fooling as many batters as it should have.  Ondrusek, pitching from on high with his 6’8″ frame should have a wonderful angle to work from but I don’t think he is there yet.  Boxberger looks to get a chance in the big leagues and we all witnessed the success Craig Kimbrel had for Atlanta, but I doubt Brad is ready for that challenge yet.  LeCure and Wood were both effective in relief but I would expect them to both be long men from the pen.  Arredondo is decent, but hardly closer material.  This is still a problem.

So who is expendable…I would think any reliever, Bailey, Wood even Alonso if the right offer is made.  It all depends on what the deal or deals are for.  The only players I think should be untouchable are Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Bruce, Stubbs, Cueto, Leake, Chapman and minor leaguer Billy Hamilton.  If the price is right, everyone else should be marketable.

Finally what is still available is truly becoming intriguing.  First lets return to Left Field.  It looks like Josh Willingham has narrowed his choices to teams not named Cincinnati so forget him.  Baltimore did non tender Luke Scott who has a career LF fielding percentage of .992 but he just didn’t fit the Orioles anymore.  He is a better fielder than Alonso, but probably not quite the hitter that Yonder will be.  Plus I find it difficult to believe he can be signed for less than $4 million so unless the Reds would trade Yonder this does not really seem practical but if they do trade for an Ace.  Scott might fit in perfectly.

Starters available include recently non-tendered lefty Joe Saunders.  Saunders eats innings but is inconsistent.  His ERA in wins is 1.90 and in loses it is 5.83.  You expect wins to be better but this is a brutal split.  He threw 29 HR in 2011 and walked 66 while striking out 108.  He is a number three starter, not an Ace though.

Paul Maholm is cut from the same cloth with the additional advantage that he delivers more ground balls than flyballs.  The cost for that skill is probably a million dollars more than Saunders will fetch but who knows.  The longer they are out there the more the market switches in favor of the team.  I also checked the ERA in wins and losses for Maholm and he manages a 1.07 in wins and a 5.42 in losses.  I decided I need more info about this statistic so I checked the numbers for Johnny Cueto, the Reds apparent ace and he produced an ERA of 0.42 in wins and 3.34 in losses.  2011 Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw produced a 0.79 ERA in wins and a 6.99 in his 5 losses.  This is an interesting statistic that I may explore more at a later date.  It seems to demonstrate consistency more than anything else.

The last opportunity that is still out their for the Reds may be the most likely and the most beneficial.  The Reds need a bonifide closer.  While most fans of Cincinnati seem to remember with crystal clarity each of Francisco Cordero‘s failures, they tend to forget his successes.  He will be a tough player to replace.  The only other free agent closer available is Ryan Madson but he seems to be gravitating toward the Boston Red Sox.  The Reds can enter the season with Bray, Masset or Ondrusek as their closer but I would expect they will lose 5-10 extra games with any of these gentlemen.  Brad Boxberger might be the fix but don’t forget we are already counting on as many as 3 rookie starters and Aroldis Chapman, who will be a rookie starter if not a rookie in MLB.

I mentioned a few days ago the Reds seem to be back in the divisional drivers seat with the departures in Milwaukee and St. Louis but we have holes that must be repaired if Cincinnati is to make a legitimate run.  Time will tell, but it is starting to run short.

Follow me on Twitter as time marches on toward the new year and a new season of baseball @JohnHeitz

 

Tags: Aroldis Chapman Bill Bray Billy Hamilton Brad Boxberger Brandon Phillips Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds Drew Stubbs Francisco Cordero Homer Bailey Jay Bruce Joe Saunders Joey Votto Johnny Cueto Jose Arredondo Logan Ondrusek Luke Scott Mike Leake Nick Masset Paul Maholm Ryan Madson Sam LeCure Scott Rolen Travis Wood Yonder Alonso Zack Cozart

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