COMMENTARY | With the expected price to land Shin-Soo Choo headed toward the $100-million mark, the Cincinnati Reds and Reds Country are most likely going to have to accept that Choo was a great one-year rental and that was it.
Fortunately, the Reds have a once-in-a-generation player waiting in the wings to take over center field in speed demon Billy Hamilton, but the team has to be better positioned in center to realize its full potential for the 2014 season, especially if injury or lack of offensive production befalls Hamilton.
The Upside with Martin
The 25-year-old Martin has his best big-league baseball ahead of him after a solid rookie season for the left-handed hitting Cuban speedster. Martin's on-base percentage as a leadoff or two-hole hitter is not where it should be yet (.313 in 504 plate appearances), but his 36 stolen bases make him a threat on the bases.
Martin's versatility as an outfielder who is best suited for center makes him a valuable resource in the event any injuries occur to corner outfielders Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce. Martin would not have to start ahead of the Reds' CF of the future in Hamilton, but his presence on the team would allow the Reds to possibly start Hamilton in Triple-A to begin the season, or at least platoon with Hamilton so the latter can fortify his learning curve.
Best of all for the Reds is Martin's contract. He has two years left on his original five-year, $15.5-million deal, which leaves salaries of $2.75 million in 2013 and $3.75 million in 2015. While the Rangers may not be in a hurry to trade Martin, they do have Alex Rios long term and an emerging CF in their own right in Engel Beltre. If the deal is right for the Rangers, Martin may be on the move.
The longer the offseason goes without an extension for either Reds starter Homer Bailey or closer Aroldis Chapman, the more likely it is that 2014 will be the last season for both with the Reds, unless either is traded first.
The Reds' front office and ownership will receive offers for both, just like the Cleveland Indians received offers for Choo before the 2013 season. Whether or not the Reds pull the trigger on a deal for either will depend on the evaluated depth of both the rotation and backend of the bullpen, both of which are strong enough to withstand the loss of either Bailey or Chapman if the yield of a trade is high enough.
Bailey stands to make more than $9 million in his final year with the Reds. Chapman should earn close to that because he'll be entering his first year of arbitration eligibility with a $3 million salary converted to bonus for reaching arbitration eligibility. Chapman has a player option for 2015 ($5 million) that won't be a factor for the Reds in retaining him because he'll command much more than that on the open market.
The Reds could decide to go for a banner in 2014 with both Bailey and Chapman on the staff, or they could trade one or the other. Ether way, the Rangers would make perfect trade partners, and any trade between the Rangers and Reds for Bailey or Chapman should include Martin and 20-year-old infielder Jurickson Profar, who was the #1-rated prospect in baseball at the outset of the 2013 season.
Other Ways to Acquire Martin
If the Reds decide to only target Martin, the price to acquire him would be significantly less than either Bailey or Chapman, but such a trade would still exact a steep price.
The Rangers would have to decide if rookie Engel Beltre is ready to take over CF in place of Martin or if Rios can still play the position. The Rangers could also be in the market for the free agent Choo.
Regardless of how the Rangers fill center, acquisition of pitching will remain a top priority. The Rangers would certainly tender the idea of swapping Martin for Reds starter Mike Leake -- fresh off his career year -- or a couple of Reds 40-man roster starting pitcher prospects in Carlos Contreras and Daniel Corcino.
Why Not Chris Heisey and Derrick Robinson?
The Reds have given outfielder Chris Heisey ample opportunities to claim a starting job, and he has not been able to do so. Relying on Heisey to be either a starting or platoon center fielder could put the Reds in a bind. So too would Derrick Robinson, whose minor-league speed doesn't appear to translate to the big-league level. Overall, both Heisey and Robinson were underwhelming in 2013 and shouldn't be relied upon as the last stand in center should Hamilton falter.
Martin would a significant upgrade for the Reds with tremendous upside who should be a target for the Reds this offseason. He may not be a talent comparable to a "Cuban Missile," but he's a Cuban bullet in his own right.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2013 Reds' season here.
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- Cincinnati Reds
- Homer Bailey
- Billy Hamilton