Reds Covet James Shields/Gio Gonzalez Caliber Pitching


The Cincinnati Reds disappointing 2011 season was marred by what was once considered a strength of their team: starting pitching depth. While they may still have the depth, other than a potentially budding ace in Johnny Cueto and an effective young Mike Leake, they are essentially in possession of a handful of 4th or 5th starters. Depth is a great thing, but it’s even better when it’s at the top of the rotation instead of with the guys fighting to crack the bottom spots of the starting five.

So it’s no surprise that as the Winter Meetings opened, the Reds were linked with at least putting calls into teams with top of the rotation starters available to trade. But so far, only the calls have been made. While it’s nowhere near the time to panic about missing out on the potential key to returning the Reds to the top of the National League Central and/or the playoffs, there is a very worrisome sense of just what the market will bring.

Two of the biggest names available on the market are James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays and Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics. Another name being bandied about is Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves. While any of the three would be upgrades, listening to the posturing of GMs to the baseball writers, it seems that only Jurrjens is available for less than all of King Midas’s silver. Latest talk for Gonzalez alone comes from the Philadelphia Phillies talking about including Dominic Brown in a package deal.

If you’ve been following any of the baseball writers on Twitter or on their various websites, the prevailing wisdom is that both Shields and Gonzalez will command a large haul on the trade market. Now whether that prevailing wisdom is reflective of the firm stances held by each GM or it is merely another case of the horse trading market spiking the news to generate interest, well, that’s another story. But the general mood of the talks seem to be composed of equal parts complacency and braggadocio.

Neither the Athletics nor the Rays seem the least bit eager to ship their prized pitchers, as if they are indifferent to whether they are moved at all. They see their pitchers as an immensely premium product in a market where demand far outweighs supply, which is entirely the case. Their stance seems to be that of the classically renowned idea of not shopping their player, but listening for a “wow” offer. That’s probably the prudent move but for the Reds, it’s nothing but bad news.

The Reds seem to be taking a similar stance with their prospects while trying to still obtain the pitcher they covet so highly. Maybe the value for Yonder Alonso isn’t as high as the Reds and fans think it is. Certainly he has more potential as a slugger than what the Phillies are offering for a front line starter in Dominic Brown, but he also has limitations, according to scouts, in the field. Maybe the Reds are just unwilling to part with certain players and certain pieces because of their immense potential, as is the case with Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton. Whatever the bargaining chip the Reds potentially have, the possibility for getting a deal done has probably never seemed more ripe than this offseason.

And yet, we sit and we wait. Obviously knowing nothing of the work Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty and his staff are doing behind the scenes, fans are left wondering why there has been no movement to this point. And as the days accumulate like snowflakes, the Winter Meetings become closer and closer to being snowed in for the Reds.

One guy, from all accounts, that would definitely be obtainable by the Reds is the aforementioned Jair Jurrjens from the Atlanta Braves. Initial rumors tied the Reds to inquiring about him before Mark Sheldon spoke with a source who said that was not the case. With his fairly average xFIP of 4.23, you could see where his trade value is the lesser of all pitchers linked to the Reds. Obviously, with one of the best defenses in baseball behind him, his ERA shouldn’t suffer too much of a decline, but with the additional concerns over injury, he’s not nearly as coveted. And with the supposed stockpile of prospects the Reds have available for trade, it would be a bit of a disappointment if they had to “settle” whatsoever for a guy seen as somewhat of a risk. And if their best trading chip yields them only a Wade Davis or a Jeff Niemann, there would be little disagreement over the unified apoplexy that move would be met with.

Sort of the wonder of the Winter Meetings however, is that things change in an instant. From Albert Pujols signing with Miami to going back to St. Louis to the Reds being linked to one pitcher and then to another reliever, everything is always in flux. By the time you finished reading this article, the landscape of baseball may have already changed again. All we can do is hope that the change is a good one for the Reds.