With the Winter Meetings starting next Monday, December 6th, and Redsfest coming up this weekend, now is a perfect time to present Cincinnati Reds management with a realistic blueprint for the home team in 2011. The key word in that sentence is realistic. There are no pipe dreams in this plan like free agents Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee or Derek Jeter- big market teams can afford to overpay for these guys. There are no ridiculous trades for Jose Reyes, Justin Upton, or Brain Wilson- their teams are asking too much and the Reds’ philosophy is to build from within and not trade from within. But at the same time, some trades and some signings should happen to push the Reds from a good team to an elite team.
1. A real ace pitcher - the 2010 post- season showed why a hammer on the staff is needed in the playoffs. The Reds have a bunch of #2, #3, and #4 starting pitchers who do not match up well in the playoffs. The only pitcher on the current roster that could be an ace is Aroldis Chapman, but he may not be ready yet to assume that role.
2. A starting leftfielder who can get on base - Jonny Gomes was exposed in the second half of the season to be nothing but a fourth or fifth outfielder. A new left fielder needs to get on base a ton (this eliminates Scott Podsednik whose career numbers are an unimpressive .279 batting average/ a middling .340 on- base percentage/ and a miserable .381 slugging percentage). Joey Votto came to the plate too many times last season with the bases empty. By comparison, Albert Pujols in 2010 came to bat 30 more times with runners on base than Votto did. In addition, the Reds leadoff hitters hit a combined .244 last year with a staggering .306 on- base percentage. The main two culprits that batted ahead Votto were Brandon Phillips, who had a .332 OBP and Orlando Cabrera, who had a pathetic .303 OBP. This has to improve.
3. A reliable closer - Reds fans are cringing at the possibility of another season of Francisco Cordero’s high wire act.
4. Bench help - Laynce Nix is not coming back and Miguel Cairo is a free agent. There is some help in the Minors, but there are one or two perfect fits for the Reds in the trade market.
Last year’s Opening Day budget was $76,151,500 and according to Reds administration, the budget should be slightly higher this year.
TRADES/FREE AGENT SIGNINGS
1. The first move is a non-move. According to our priorities, the Reds need an ace pitcher. The Reds will get one through a trade for Yonder Alonso… at the July Trade Deadline. There are five reasons for this: A.) The cost of an ace pitcher is awfully high at the beginning of the season compared to the midpoint of a season, particularly, for a end- of- the- year free agent. Along these same lines we find the laws of supply and demand… B.) There are almost no ace pitchers on the market presently so the ones that are on the market can get a king’s ransom in return. C.) The Reds are built for the long haul of the 162 game season and not the short- series playoffs. They do not need the ace until the end of the year. D.) Zach Greinke, the only notable ace on the market did not have a very impressive season last year (4.17 E.R.A. and 1.25 WHIP). Let him prove his worth a little more. Remember the Reds fascination with Erik Bedard of the Orioles after his breakthrough season a few years ago? Thank goodness the Mariners jumped on him before the Reds. E.) Adrolis Chapman may develop into an ace so a trade for Greinke may be premature. Give Chapman until the All- Star break to develop and then make an evaluation for a trade.
2. Trade Edinson Volquez and minor league center fielder Dave Sappelt (.342/ .395/ .507 over three stops in High- A, Double- A and Triple- A) to the Florida Marlins for leftfielder Logan Morrison. The Marlins are in the midst of an impressive makeover of the lineup, but need one more starting pitching to be a serious contender. They have an extra corner outfielder (Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton are the other two), they have no centerfielder, and they have some money to spend after recently dealing Dan Uggla. They take on Volquez’s $2 million and Sappelt’s league minimum salary while dealing away a $412,000 salary to the Reds. Why trade Volquez and not one of the other starting pitchers? Its simple- his control is as unpredictable as Lady Gaga’s wardrobe (his walks per nine innings rate over the last three years: 5.03, 5.80, 4.27; that is way too many extra base runners). Lastly, if the Marlins cannot be convinced to turn over Morrison, throw in Juan Francisco to possibly man third base for them.
3. Trade pitcher Sam LeCure and Jonny Gomes to the Washington Nationals for backup outfielder Mike Morse (.289/ .352/ .519 in 266 at bats). The Nationals are desperate for starting pitching and would look at Gomes as a possible one- year starter in left. The Reds get back a young, cheap, underrated Morse who somehow could not win a regular job in an outfield consisting of Roger Bernadina, Josh Willingham, and Nyjer Morgan.
4. Re- sign Arthur Rhodes to a one- year, $2.5 million deal. This would be a $500,000 raise from last year which makes up for the one- year pact instead of a multi- year deal. He is getting too long in the tooth to risk anything more than a year.
5. Sign a few free agent risks to minor league contracts (with invites to Spring Training) including Eric Chavez, Chad Tracy, and Jason Giambi. One may win the 3B/ 1B/ left handed PH job. This is a pretty weak group, which includes Francisco if he is still here. As a result, let’s not take any chances and let’s trade for the Royals’ switch hitting third baseman Wilson Betemit, who stands in the way of their real third baseman, Alex Gordon. The Royals will ask for highly regarded catching prospect Devin Mesoraco, but that is ridiculous. A fair trade includes LH starter Daryl Thompson (52K in 51 innings and a 0.96 WHIP in Double- A) and RH reliever Carlos Fisher (38K in 36.66 innings and a 0.85 WHIP in Triple-A). Both have lots of potential and fit in well with the Royals’ plan to win in 2012. If another arm is needed to sweeten the deal, throw in Daniel Ray Herrera.
25-MAN OPENING DAY ROSTER
Ramon Hernandez: $3.0 million
Ryan Hannigan: $445,000
Comments: Both 2010 catchers return to split the duties for one more year before Mesoraco takes Hernandez’s spot. He may take it this year because Hernandez turns 35 this season and that is the age for catchers when the clock strikes midnight.
Total cost: $3.445 million
Joey Votto: $8 million (arbitration estimate- his long term deal is at least a year away).
Brandon Phillips: $11 million
Scott Rolen: $6.5 million.
Paul Janish: $445,000
Zach Cozart: $400,000
Betemit: $2.5 million (arbitration estimate)
Comments: Janish and Cozart (.255/ .310/ .416 with 17 HRs in Triple- A) will vie for the starting shortstop job with either one being an improvement defensively and offensively over Orlando Cabrera (.263/.303/ and a miserable .354) who, on a side note, may not get another major league contract. The loser of the battle is the backup at middle infield or is sent down to Louisville if another pitcher is needed. Betemit (.297/ .378/ .511 in 276 at bats) should net 350 at bats at the four corner positions. His ability to switch hit on a team of mostly right handed hitters and play third base on a regular basis makes him a perfect fit for this team.
Total cost: $28.845 million
Jay Bruce: $2.85 million (arbitration estimate, but he should be signed to a long term deal right away. Make an investment like the Rockies just did with Troy Tulowitzki and sign him for ten years)
Drew Stubbs: $412,000
Logan Morrison $412,000
Chris Heisey: $412,000
Mike Morse: $412,000
Comments: Bruce will be the Reds’ best all- around player by this time next year. He is smart, well- spoken and could be the face of the franchise. Stubbs may never bat for a high average, but his speed, power and defense make him a Mike Cameron clone. Morrison and his .390 on- base percentage should lead off for the Reds. It does not matter that he did not steal one base last year (though he stole nine in both 2008 and 2009) - he will be constantly on base for Phillips, Votto, Rolen and Bruce, and therefore, the Reds may score more runs as a team than last year’s league leading total of 791. Not convinced? Well, as we all know, Pete Rose led off for the Big Red Machine. In 1975, he had a grand total of… zero stolen bases for the Reds. Look in up. You do not need to be a speedster to lead off. You just need to get on base. Rose had a .406 on- base percentage and scored 112 runs, something that Morrison could come close to.
Total Cost: $4.498 million
Starting Rotation (5)
Johnny Cueto: $3.25 (arbitration estimate)
Bronson Arroyo: $13 million
Travis Wood: $412,000
Homer Bailey: $445,000
Mike Leake: $412,000
Comments: Sure, you would like to see Chapman in this rotation and hopefully, that happens as early as Spring Training and the cold hand gets the long role in the bullpen. This group can carry the Reds over the long haul. The Cardinals do rival the Reds here (and only here), but they are thin after the top four guys and have no help if someone gets hurt.
Total Cost: $17.519 million
Chapman: $1.0 million
Cordero: $12.125 million with a $1 million buyout after the season that we will already add on here
Nick Masset: $1.545 million
Bill Bray: $.875 million (arbitration estimate)
Logan Ondrusek: $412,000
Arthur Rhodes: $2.5 million
Jordan Smith: $412,000
Comments: Not many changes here. Matt Maloney could make the team out of Spring Training instead of Cozart if he has a strong Spring and the Reds need a long relief man. Chapman should be the closer, but if he is in the rotation, Masset should battle Cordero for the ninth inning spotlight. Just because Cordero makes so much money, it does not mean he has to be the closer. In case of a bullpen malfunction, the rest of the cavalry besides Maloney includes newly signed Dontrelle Willis, Jared Burton, 2010 Futures Game selection Philippe Valiquette, and closer of the future Donnie Joseph (65 IP, 103 K, 25 BB, 2.08 E.R.A., and a .182 opponents’ average across three minor leagues in 2010). This a deep group, so losing LeCure, Fisher, Herrera and Thompson does not hurt.
Total Cost: $19.869 million
Team Total Cost: Yasmani Grandal ($.4 million) and Yonder Alonso ($.5 million) both have Major League contracts so with those two included, the 2011 Opening Day payroll would be a paltry $75.076 million. That’s right- less than last year’s budget. This means that someone (i.e. Votto, Bruce, Cueto, Morrison, Stubbs, or Betemit in that order) could be signed to a long range contract and we would still be around last year’s payroll!
This plan is not a fantasy - it could happen. Very little of the Reds farm system is impacted; Todd Frazier, Alonso, Mesoraco, and Chris Valaika are still just a phone call away from helping out. This plan will improve the Reds most importantly at the top of the lineup, but also it will strengthen their bench, get Gomes out of left field where he was an adventure, and will help at shortstop (anything will be an improvement over an incredibly overrated Cabrera). There are no sinkholes like Willy Taveras, Corey Patterson or Cabrera for Dusty Baker to play with and ruin the lineup. There is speed, power, on- base skill, and a fantastic defense led by Phillips, Bruce, Stubbs, and Janish. The most important piece of this puzzle is Morrison. With just him, this team becomes great. With Betemit, Morse and an ace in Chapman or in a trade at the Trade Deadline, it becomes elite.