Reviewing the Cincinnati Reds Left Field Scenario

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After months of speculation and debate, the Cincinnati Reds left field situation has been resolved. All parties that were believed to have been candidates have now found other homes, while the Reds have seemingly gotten their man. But, how did we get to this point?

Acquiring a left fielder was atop the necessity list for Reds’ general manger Walt Jocketty heading into the offseason. Ryan Ludwick (who’s still a free agent) was paid his $4.5 million to get out of dodge, leaving a void, as Ludwick was the primary option for the past four seasons.

On the final day of 2014, the Reds got their man. Shelling out another $4 million, they snagged Marlon Byrd from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for their 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, Ben Lively. After having made two separate deals to send away 40 percent of their starting rotation, the team did a complete 180, going for it in 2015, rather than waiting out the future.

There were multiple other candidates on the market that fans were intrigued by. Where have they gone?

The two candidates that immediately seemed out of the Reds’ price range were Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera. Cruz inked the biggest deal of any candidate, raking in a 4-year/$57 million deal from the Seattle Mariners who suddenly have an influx of cash. It’s not as if Cabrera did not get paid, either. Signing on with the Chicago White Sox on a 3-year/$42 million deal, both men showed that clubs are clearly not perturbed by modern day PED suspensions.

More reasonable expectations were Michael Morse and Nori Aoki, who both had significant whispers about coming to Cincinnati. Eventually, it seems like the Miami Marlins significantly overpaid for Morse, who got a 2-year/$16 million deal much earlier in the process. Coming off winning the World Series with the San Francisco Giants, Morse cashed in on his club playing all the way through October.

Up until two days ago, Aoki was still on there on the market. Many believed he would be receiving a deal that exceeded Morse’s—especially if he waited longer and prospective teams would get desperate. Instead, Aoki seems to be the one who panicked, jumping aboard the reigning World Champions’ bandwagon, getting himself a deal that secures him $4 million in 2015, and a $5.5 million club option for 2016 with at least another $700,000 coming his way in a buyout.

Lower-level options like Chris Denorfia and Delmon Young have also signed on. The Reds may be seeing a bit of Denorfia, as he joined the Chicago Cubs for one-year, at $2.6 million. Young, who would have been a definite project as a defender, re-upped in Baltimore at $2.25 million as a part-time player.

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In the wake of Aoki signing an extremely club-friendly deal with the Giants, many Reds fans have thrown their arms up, as they preferred the light-hitting leadoff man to the slugging Byrd. Fans incorrectly assumed that since Aoki signed for such a low dollar figure with San Francisco, he would do the same with Cincinnati. Just because he took a pay cut from the Giants in no way means he would have done the same to join the Reds and it’s tough to imagine the club never kicked the tires on him anyway.

Regardless, the Reds are going forward with Marlon Byrd for 2015. While the club will never publicly come out and admit it, they’ll be keeping an eye on his plate appearances number, making sure it doesn’t rise above 550 for the year. If it does, they have made a crucial mistake of allowing a 39-year-old left fielder to account for another $8 million on the payroll come 2016.

These are all bridges to cross another day. Just weeks after finding their man for 2015, many are wondering who will man the position come 2016. For now, it’s Marlon Byrd, and in the Byrdman we trust.