The Cincinnati Reds are riding their latest wave to their most comfortable divisional lead of the season. They enter Saturday night’s matchup with Mets nine games over .500 and 36-27 overall, currently four games up on both the Pirates and the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Despite their recent success and current place in the standings, the team still needs to look to make improvements.
Look no further than last year’s division winners, the St. Louis Cardinals, to see what a difference some mid-season changes can make. They made a series of moves that not only helped them claim the division, but ultimately the World Series Championship.
The Cardinals traded disappointing young center fielder Colby Rasmus in a huge multi-player trade that helped them with rent-a-players in SP Edwin Jackson, RP Octavio Dotel, and OF Corey Patterson. The team also added Rafael Furcal and lefty specialist RP Arthur Rhodes in other deals. All of the new acquisitions provided a great spark.
If the Reds want to win a weak NL Central that’s one thing, but if they want to avoid the embarrassment of the 2010 Playoffs and actually make a legitimate run GM Walt Jocketty better start picking up the phone.
The pitching for the most part has been solid, especially the bullpen, which has been outstanding. However, there are plenty of questions in the lineup and the bench may be the worst the team has had in recent years. It may not hurt to add depth at the right price at either spot. If Mat Latos can get a bit more consistent and they continue to get what they have around of Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Bronson Arroyo the Reds will have more than enough on the mound. The focus needs to be on offense.
One of the big problems spots has been production at the top of the order. The team could use more depth on the corners in the infield, especially at third base. However, the recent surge of Todd Frazier has yet to make that a priority. The main problem is finding a right-handed, power-producing steady batter in left field.
Here are a few players that are likely to be available as the trading deadline approaches that could help:
OF Carlos Quentin (SD) – He’s been on fire since his return. Through his first 46 at bats he’s posting a .413/.526/.848 batting line with a 1.374 OPS. He would be exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of legitimate right-handed, power-hitting cleanup hitter. The problem is the interest is likely to be high and after depleting the farm system by dealing three top prospects in the Latos deal with the Padres earlier the year, the Reds don’t have the depth to compete for his services.
OF Shane Victorino (PHI) – Victorino has had a rough year hitting atop a depleted Phillies’ batting order. A recent slump has seen his average dip to .245. However, he has a career .276 BA and .343 OBP. He still possesses nice range, strong arm and good glove in centerfield as well. His greatest asset may be his post-season experience and discipline at the plate, striking out just once every 8.5 plate appearances over the course of nine seasons.
OF Carlos Lee (HOU) – Currently working his way back from a hamstring injury, Lee also provides a nice presence in the middle of the order. His defense is susceptible, which makes him better suited to go to the AL where he can DH. Another concern with Lee is his decline in power. After averaging 25.8 HR per year and eclipsing the RBI mark in six straight seasons from 2005 to 2010, the soon-to-be 36-year old left the yard only 18 times in 585 at bats a year ago has just four homers so far in 2012.
OF Alfonso Soriano (CHC) – Unlike the other names on the list, Soriano still has a big contract and years left to deal with. However, if the Cubs were to eat enough of the contract without asking for top 5 prospects he’d be worth considering. He still has some power and is an upgrade in left field over the current solution. There are too many what ifs and too much risk involved here for my liking.
3B/1B Kevin Youkilis (BOS) – The hometown product would be a hit with the fans and help solidify the batting order a bit, likely moving Brandon Phillips up from the cleanup spot. Youkilis has been injury riddled over the past two seasons, similar to current veteran Scott Rolen. He’s a bit younger, but the price is likely too high for a guy that is going to be tough to get into the lineup regularly.
MY MOVE: I deal Drew Stubbs and a low-level prospect for Victorino right now if Philadelphia would take it. I’d like to Quentin, but the price is going to be too high. Lee and Soriano are players I avoid. Youkilis is appealing, but the need is greater in the outfield. With Victorino the Reds get a player that will get on base in front of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce and it will afford them to drop rookie shortstop Zach Cozart down a spot in the order. It would mean that the Chris Heisey/Ryan Ludwick platoon would have to remain the solution for 2012 with Heisey capable of taking over in center after Victorino walks at year’s end.
Fantasy Baseball, MLB