COMMENTARY: The Cincinnati Reds demonstrated that the team is still not complete enough to beat winning teams: 4-8 during the team's 12-game stretch against teams with winning records that included the ridiculously unconscious Pittsburgh Pirates and the AL West leaders -- the Oakland A's and Texas Rangers. Losing ace Johnny Cueto didn't help the Reds' recent cause, but Cueto or not, the Reds' problems go beyond the starting rotation or even the disabled bullpen. The Reds' biggest problem is the lack of a right-handed hitting left fielder who can hit for power.
The Reds finally have the versatile outfielder back from a lingering hamstring injury that kept Hesiey out for two months. Heisey is a capable outfielder at all three spots, a solid right-handed pinch-hitter and an adequate late-inning defensive replacement, but Heisey has never proven he is good enough to be the primary left fielder for the Reds and most likely never will. Heisey hasn't even convinced Reds' manager Dusty Baker that he is immediately worthy of starting in left field over the current platoon of Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson.
Reds Left Field Platoon
The Heisey-Paul-Robinson left field/DH trio batted a collective .212 during the recent 4-8 tailspin against winning teams. That included a 4-for-5 in one game for Robinson, who was just 1-for-16 for the rest of the stretch after that four-hit game. In 66 at-bats, the trio whiffed 18 times while knocking in a total of just two runs and stealing all of one base. If the Reds' left field shortcoming wasn't a trade-deadline priority in the middle of June, it most certainly is now at the beginning of July.
The Reds experienced a two-hole disaster during the 4-8 fold against winning teams. The two-hole hitter combination of primarily Zack Cozart and Shin-Soo Choo -- but also Robinson and Paul -- hit a collective .127 (6-for-47) during the 12 games while striking out 14 times and earning just three walks. Cozart has had some success overall batting second for the Reds this year (.274 in 230 ABs with just 34 Ks), but the Reds' shortstop is better suited to the bottom third of the order. The Reds need improvement at the two-hole if the expectation is to win this year, and a suitable trade to address both the two-hole hitter and the lack of real impact at the plate from the left fielder is about the only recourse the Reds have to recover the ground the team lost during its recent swoon and a bad June overall (12-15).
At the tail end of the Reds' 4-8 slide, Reds' beat reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer, John Fay, gave a one-word Twitter answer of "No" about whether or not Morse is a realistic trade target for the Reds. Reds' Country had better hope that Fay is dead wrong because if the Reds don't address the issues at the plate, the pitching side of the equation won't matter much. The Reds scored just 32 runs during the 4-8 stretch, but 11 of those runs were scored in two games. Otherwise the anemic Reds offense scored a mere 21 runs in 10 games that included three shutouts against them. Waiting for the return of injured cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick to maybe return by mid-August simply won't do.
As such, Morse makes more sense for the Reds than any other option, if the Reds can't pry power load Ginacarlo Stanton away from the Miami Marlins or afford to acquire Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox. There will be a market for renting Morse for just two-plus months before he's a free agent, but the buy-low status of Morse right now -- while he is still recovering from a strained quad that has hampered him for a month now -- will not be any lower than it is right now. A mashing Morse would fit perfectly in the cleanup spot for the Reds, which would allow current cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips to bump up to the two-hole.
If the Reds are going to make a move to keep pace with the rest of the NL Central, the time is now and the best fit is Morse if he'll be healthy enough to play sooner rather than later.
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 2012 Reds season here.
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