Cincinnati Reds Off-Season Focus for the 2013 Season
(photo, courtesy of CBSSports)
The Off-Season or “Hot Stove” season as some refer to it is a big focus for all teams, which is planned months in advance on what priorities are to be handled first. Much of the focus is drawn towards starting pitching, leadoff hitters, power hitters, middle infielders, catchers and closers. These premium positions come at a high price, which for big market teams such as the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees, and Red Sox and so on is not much for concern. For teams like the Royals, Reds, Oakland, Houston and many others, money is a very important factor when it comes to landing Free Agents on their ball clubs. Today we are going to cover the Cincinnati Reds and how the small market affects a few big moves that need to be made.
Although you can never have enough pitching, Walt Jocketty and the Reds have one of the most complete pitching staff in all of Major League Baseball. The Reds are coming off of a fantastic season for the rotation which consists of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake. All five starters pitched in 161 out of the 162 game season – that lone start came from Todd Redmond only because of a double-header due to a rain delay during the regular season. This was achieved by only seven other rotations where all five guys notched 30 or more starts each in a season.
Johnny Cueto led the Reds to a playoff birth in the 2012 campaign, and was in contention for the Cy Young Award with 19 wins recorded. Mat Latos had a great year in his first season with Cincinnati, along with signs that Homer Bailey is heading into his peak with that stellar no-hitter he threw against the Pittsburg Pirates in September. Bronson remained Bronson and Leake’s performance dropped tremendously from previous seasons. Altogether the Reds rotation finished second in the National League in the Earned Runs Department and first in complete games in the entire Majors. With that being said, pitching is not a big issue this off-season for Walt Jocketty, but like stated before, adding arms doesn’t hurt one bit.
The first and main concern for the Reds is acquiring a leadoff center fielder. This acquisition isn’t going to come from the signing of a free agent due to the market value that B.J. Upton was giving worth $75 million; the Reds plain and simple cannot afford it. So what options does that leave them with? Number one, wait on Billy Hamilton which was at AA Pensacola as a Short Stop and is being converted to the Centerfield position, from which sources say he lacks the arm to play that position. Option number two would be trading Drew Stubbs along with pitching prospect Daniel Corcino and maybe adding DiDi Gregorious for Colorado Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. Still some may say why not sign Angel Pagan, or Shane Victorino? Again the Reds have payroll constraints in the two huge contract deals to Joey Votto ($225M) and Brandon Phillips ($72.5M), plus Bronson Arroyo, Cueto and Bruce collectively making in the range of (18.6M).
Lets compare numbers between Fowler and Stubbs and you’ll see why this would be the ideal trade for the Reds. Fowler’s line is as followed; .300 Batting Average, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 136 Hits, .389 On Base %, 128 Strike Outs, 18 Doubles, 11 Triples and 72 Runs scored. By the way Fowler was ranked 4th in center fielders and Stubbs was ranked 20th. Drew Stubbs numbers are as followed; .213 Batting Average, 14 HR, 40 RBI, 105 Hits, .277 On Base %, 166 Strike Outs, 13 Doubles, 2 Triples and 75 Runs scored. You can clearly see who the better player is, the numbers don’t lie!
On Base Pct.
The two topics left of conversation are the vacancy in left field, the drama behind the signing of reliever, Jonathan Broxton and what that means for Aroldis Chapman. With Ryan Ludwick turning down his option of $5M for the 2013 season – which was expected – leaves the two questions; 1. Can he be resigned at a lower price and 2. If he signs with another team who will replace him? Question one will be answered later on in the off-season unless he signs with another team, but we do have a cheap solution for question number two and that is Chris Heisey in left field. Although Ludwick’s performance and leadership will be hard to replace, Heisey is the best solution for the vacancy fill. Ludwick was signed for a bargain last winter one year $2.5M. He played in 125 games, driving in 26 HR, 80 RBI, with a .275 Batting Average after coming off a rough patch in San Deigo in 2011. Ludwick as well as other Reds players was instrumental in keeping the team in the Post Season chase when Votto missed eight weeks due to knee surgery. Again payroll constraints in the small market hurt the Reds chances of Ludwick coming back, he will ask for three years and nothing less than double digits.
Now, probably the most hyped-up conflict the Reds are facing this winter going into spring training is where Aroldis Chapman going to pitch. Is it going to be the closers role that he owned last season or his moving to the rotation which will leave Leake possibly out of a job? Although Broxton had a great season with the Reds, coming over from the Kansas City Royals filling that closers role that Chapman dominated will be extremely tough. Now, Broxton is a previous closer with KC and the Dodgers, but he was mainly used as a set-up man in Cincinnati. He did close on occasion when Chapman went down with shoulder fatigue for about two weeks. Just to give you an idea of what Broxton would have to accumulate to give the Reds the production that Chapman gave them, Jonathan would have to convert 38/43 Saves, have an ERA of 1.51, only give up 35 hits to 122 K’s and have a 5-5 record. Those are the numbers Chapman put up in just 71.2 innings and remember he had shoulder fatigue, which in my mind throws up a red flag on moving him to the rotation.
Some other moves this off season that are on the back burner are the arbitration eligible players; Homer Bailey, Alfredo Simon, Mat Latos, Chris Heisey, Mike Leake, Logan Ondrusek and Drew Stubbs, which all have been rumored to be retained. As for this off-season these are the main focuses for the Cincinnati Reds and Walt Jocketty.
This is a guest post by Dalton Cox. Dalton resides in Dayton, Ohio with his fiancé, April Neaves, and played baseball for the Camden RedLegs (2010-2011), Miami Valley Thunder (2012). He played baseball in high school for the Lynchburg Clay Mustangs 18x SHL Champion, and has earned two All League player Awards, led the team in Most Runs Scored (2x), Most Stolen Bases, Highest OPS (2x) and 2010 First team all district Southeastern All Star all 4 years at the Varsity Level. In 2010, his team swept opponents in the Southern Hills League earning an SHL Championship and Team Gold Glove.