Out in Left Field

 The Reds defensive lineup is pretty well set this year and the Reds offensive is effective across the diamond.  Of course questions still exist.

  • Can Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips be signed to long term contracts?
  • Will Zack Cozart‘s performance live up to the brief taste of his ability in 2011?
  • Can Devin Mesoraco hit major league pitching effectively?
  • Will Scott Rolen  recover from his shoulder woes and again lead the Reds on the field and possibly more importantly in the dugout?
  • Can Jay Bruce consistently be the hitter he was in May of 2011?
  • Can Drew Stubbs put more balls in play and use his speed effectively?
  • Will we get an left fielder or is Chris Heisey all we’ve got?

First let’s take a look at the lineup projected to take the field if the season began tomorrow.  (I sure wish it did.)

Player/2 yr avg P G AB BA OPS R RBI K BB SB 2B 3B HR Def % Age
Ryan Hanigan C 80 234 .281 .766 26 36 26 34 0 8 0 6 .991 30
Joey Votto 1B 156 684 .316 .984 104 108 127 100 12 38 3 33 .996 28
Brandon Phillips 2B 152 680 .287 .786 97 71 84 45 15 36 4 18 .993 30
Paul Janish SS 98 618 .231 .597 25 24 20 38 2 12 1 3 .977 29
Scott Rolen 3B 99 362 .270 .793 48 60 59 30 3 27 3 13 .976 37
Jay Bruce RF 152 618 .268 .829 82 84 147 64 6 25 4 29 .980 25
Drew Stubbs CF 154 632 .249 .726 92 61 186 59 35 21 5 19 .990 27
Chris Heisey LF 109 240 .254 .780 38 36 68 18 4 10 1 13 .980 27
? LF 150 650 .270 .850 75 90 75 50 5 20 1 10 .990 <30

The numbers listed in this table and those that follow are the 2 year averages for each player to that a seasonal anomaly doesn’t unfairly skew the numbers.  You will note I added in numbers that represent my own opinion of what the Reds need in an effective starting Left Fielder.  Chris Heisey is one of the few players unaffected by the two year average.  He has posted a .254 batting average in both of his seasons with the Reds.  He may be a decent selection as the starting left fielder but I would expect him to continue to post pedestrian numbers.  Further, while he is an alternative Dusty Baker will have each day, if he is a starter then the Reds have limited bench options.  Todd Frazier, Juan Francisco and Dennis Phipps are options and Phipps may be the most intriguing of those.

Splitting time between Carolina and Louisville in 2011, the 26 year old product of the Dominican Republic found his bat.  He hit for power and average (combined average of .346 and an OPS of .984 with 83 runs and 64 RBI), demonstrated improved defense (no errors in 40 games at AAA), and flashed speed on the base-paths hitting 7 triples and stealing 14 bases.  He may be a viable option as the season moves along but do we want another rookie starter when Cozart and Mesoraco are already stepping up.  Here are the stats for their brief visits to the majors last season:

Player/Rookie P G AB BA OPS R RBI K BB SB 2B 3B HR Def % Age
Devin Mesoraco C 18 50 .180 .586 5 6 10 3 0 3 0 2 .973 23
Zack Cozart SS 11 37 .324 .811 6 3 6 0 0 0 0 2 1.000 25

It is impossible to look at these tiny samples and make any snap judgements about either of these players.  Cozart’s injury will factor in to his return and Mesoraco should improve but we can’t predict how either situation will play out.  Phipps would add another variable to this mix.

So what can Walt Jockety and Dusty Baker do?  First they must decide the team direction regarding a closer.  If Francisco Cordero is going to be signed to a new contract that must occur before any look at the free agent outfield market can be examined so you know what kind of budget the team has to work with.  If he is not signed and Sean Marshall falls into the closer role more money is available in the short term though that decision may have other adverse affects on future budgets.

If the Reds do dip into the free agent market, what will they find?  Let’s take a look at a few options while keeping that wish list stat line in the back of our mind.

FA/2 yr avg P G AB BA OPS R RBI K BB SB 2B 3B HR Def % Age
Bill Hall Multi 91 264 .234 .703 34 62 84 22 6 13 2 10 .988 32
Raul Ibanez LF 150 657 .260 .752 70 84 107 50 3 34 3 18 .993 40
Conor Jackson LF 87 280 .241 .656 28 30 40 32 4 15 0 4 1.000 30
Austin Kearns RF 88 276 .246 .703 37 28 82 32 2 13 1 6 .984 32
Ryan Ludwick OF 138 490 .244 .708 60 72 122 50 1 25 1 15 .995 33
Corey Patterson OF 112 338 .253 .673 46 34 76 18 17 18 2 7 .976 32
Juan Pierre OF 159 645 .277 .657 88 48 44 44 48 18 4 2 .987 34
Cody Ross OF 137 515 .256 .733 43 58 108 43 7 26 2 14 .992 31
Luke Scott OF 98 328 .264 .839 47 47 76 42 2 20 0 18 .990 34

There are other free agent outfielders that I eliminated from consideration for a variety of reasons.  Johnny Damon seems not to be a possibility as he is represented by agent Scott Boras and the Reds have no major league players on the roster represented by the Boras agency. They did sign hometown boy Andrew Brackman to a minor league contract after the New York Yankees finally gave up on him; he is represented by Boras.

Looking over the names on this list does not fill me with confidence.  One Reds nemesis, three former Reds, and all 30 years old and counting.  Bill Hall does not have numbers worthy of consideration but I put him on it because every time I watch him play he seems amazing to me.  So I decided to look at his numbers to find out if I am imagining things.  I am not.  Hall has hit 124 home runs in his career.  15% (18) of them were against Reds pitching.  In addition he has had more hits, doubles, triples, walks and total bases versus the Reds than against any other single team.  At least I wasn’t imagining things.  Signing him would at least mean we don’t have to face him anymore but it would not solve our problem.

I added Austin Kearns out of nostalgia but he is not up to the task.  Juan Pierre seems to be the best option on the list but at 34 you could question how much more abuse his knees can take running the bases; he would get into scoring position to allow for RBI opportunities for others.  A nice stat in Pierre’s corner is a 1:1 ratio of walks:strikeouts, not something the Reds have a lot of experience with.  Raul Ibanez also posted decent numbers, his age is a detriment but he had the most doubles of the group.

So I will again revert to an idea I suggested a while back after Michael Cuddyer was signed by the Colorado Rockies.  What possibility would their be of trading for Seth Smith who seems out of a starting job now.  Look at his numbers and decide for yourself:

Trade? P G AB BA OPS Runs RBI K BB SB 2B 3B HR Def % Age
Seth Smith OF 140 466 .267 .810 61 56 80 40 6 26 7 16 .986 29

 Smith looks on paper to be closer to what the Reds need to any of these free agents.  I, for one, would suggest he is worthy of a close look.

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Tags: Austin Kearns Bill Hall Brandon Phillips Chris Heisey Cody Ross Conor Jackson Corey Patterson Devin Mesoraco Drew Stubbs Jay Bruce Joey Votto Juan Francisco Juan Pierre Luke Scott Paul Janish Raul Ibanez Ryan Hanigan Ryan Ludwick Scott Rolen Seth Smith Todd Frazier Zack Cozart

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