Looking at the Cincinnati Reds Left Field Trade Options

With the number of quality free agent outfielders dwindling, the Cincinnati Reds may look to find their solution in left field via a trade. Now that Justin Upton–a player that many Reds fans were dying to acquire–is off the market, here are some other players the Reds could look at:

Ben Zobrist

After losing manager Joe Maddon, GM Andrew Friedman, and trading away Wil Myers, it appears that the Rays could be ready to rebuild after their disappointing 2014 season. Zobrist is entering the last year of his contract and is owed $7.5 million this season, meaning the Rays could be willing to move him as well. After the trades of Chris Heisey, Mat Latos, and Alfredo Simon cleared up around $14 million, the Reds could presumably take on that contract.

Zobrist is a versatile player, batting from both sides of the plate and having played every position on the field except for catcher and pitcher in his seven-year career. Zobrist’s versatility alone makes him valuable, but he’s a solid hitter as well. A two-time All-Star, Zobrist has a career .264/.354/.429 slash and offers good power as well, averaging 16 home runs a year during his career (17 per 162 games). Since his first full season in 2009,  Zobrist ranks second in all of baseball in fWAR, behind only Miguel Cabrera. He would help the Reds’ offense tremendously with his ability to get on base, as he’s never had less than 72 walks in a full season. The Reds’ leader in walks last season? Todd Frazier with 52 in 157 games. In second? Joey Votto with 47 in 62 games. Clearly, the Reds need more guys who can get on base consistently and Zobrist would bring them that.

Zobrist would be a perfect fit for the Reds, but they’d likely have to give up quite a bit to get him. I’m not sure the Rays are actively shopping him, but after some of the moves they’ve made this offseason coupled with the fact that he’s in the last year of his contract, he could be traded for the right price and be a stopgap in left until Jesse Winker is ready to take the reigns.

Seth Smith

With the numerous trades the Padres have made this offseason to bolster their offense, they suddenly have a surplus of outfielders. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Padres may be looking to move him and you’d have to think the Reds are interested. Smith has two years and $13 million left on his contract, with an option for 2017, so the Reds could potentially afford him.

Smith was one of the few good hitters the Padres had last season, batting .266/.367/.440 with 12 HRs, 48 RBIs, and a career-best 3.9 WAR and 135 OPS+. Smith’s power numbers would likely go up hitting in Great American Ball Park after hitting in PETCO Park last season. Smith also showed an increased ability to get on base last season, setting a career-high in walks (69) and on-base percentage (.367). As I outlined with Zobrist, the Reds need a boost in getting on base, and Smith could help them out there. Smith is a bit of a streaky hitter, however, something the Reds’ offense knows about all too well. After a great first half in 2014, he dropped off in the second half, hitting only .243/.340/.346 with just two home runs. Defensively, he plays both corner outfield positions, playing left field more than right, making it a much more natural position for Smith than Zobrist or  Allen Craig.

Although Smith isn’t quite at Zobrist’s level offensively due to his inconsistency, he could also be a good fit for the Reds, offering solid power and a good OBP. On top of that, they would probably have to give up less for him than they would for Zobrist, so he may be the ideal target for Walt Jocketty. Even if Winker becomes the full-time left fielder in 2016, Smith would provide a great bat off the bench and could fill in for either Winker or Jay Bruce when they need a day off.

Allen Craig

Craig has been a player that some fans have clamored for after Jon Morosi of Fox Sports made it known that the Red Sox were talking with another team about dealing him. The first thing that should be noted about Craig is that he still has three years and $26.5 million left on his contract, with a $13 million option for the 2018 season. For a small-market team that already has several large contracts on the books, the Reds would be have to get creative in order to afford Craig. Additionally, Craig is coming off of a foot injury that limited him to 126 games in 2014 and may have contributed to a steep decline in his numbers. Playing for the Cardinals and Red Sox, Craig batted .215/.279/.315 with 8 HRs, 46 RBIs, and -1.1 WAR.

There’s reason to believe he can bounce back, however. Last year was his only bad year since breaking into the majors in 2010 and he struggled through a foot injury all season, which is now healed, according to Morosi’s report. After being a bench player in his first two seasons, Craig batted .311/.364/.488 with 35 HRs, 189 RBIs, and a 4.9 WAR in the 2012/2013 seasons combined, starting at first base and right field (he has experience in left field as well, appearing in 75 games there in his career). Craig has also had a reputation for being a clutch hitter with runners on base, hitting an absurd .454 with runners in scoring position in 2013 and .349 with RISP for his career. Even if you don’t buy into the notion of a player being “clutch,” you have to admit those numbers are impressive.

This would be the ideal time to trade for Craig, as his value is at an all-time low and he’d certainly be a welcomed addition if he could return to his old form, but I’m not sure he’s worth the risk at that price. I really doubt the Reds can or would be willing to take on his contract, especially given their payroll issues and with Craig coming off of a poor, injury-filled season.