COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Reds may be positioned to sign a big free agent or make a blockbuster trade or two, but whether or not the team does make a big offseason move remains to be seen.
Here are the top five offseason rumors currently making the hot stove season even more interesting for the Reds and their fans:
Re-Sign Shin-Soo Choo
The Reds could still pursue the free agent sweepstakes for Shin-Soo Choo, but the asking price to retain Choo is expected to approach the $126 million deal that Choo agent Scott Boras secured for Jayson Werth in 2010. If there is any intent by the Reds to open the bank vault for Choo, there will have to be corresponding moves for the small-market Reds to shed payroll, namely trading second baseman Brandon Phillips and either starting pitcher Homer Bailey or closer Aroldis Chapman.
Choo would be the Reds' left fielder of the future if he is signed. Current left fielder Ryan Ludwick would be gone after 2014 and Billy Hamilton would take over center field in 2015. Having an on-base machine like Choo in the lineup may be worth the price, however steep it proves to be.
Trade Brandon Phillips
Even if the Reds don't go for broke in chasing Choo, the expectation remains that Phillips will be traded because of his tarnished stature within the Reds' organization.
The magazine article in which Phillips basically called Reds owner Robert Castellini a liar and also called the $72.5 million contract extension he signed a slap in his face could force Phillips out if ownership decides he is no longer welcome.
Phillips also could have lost a lot of respect with new Reds manager Bryan Price. The last distraction a first-time manager like Price would want to have to handle is the kind of expletive-ridden vitriol Phillips unleashed late in the 2013 season against a Reds beat reporter during a video interview with former Reds manager Dusty Baker.
The Reds would stand to gain quality players in return for Phillips should the decree to trade him be given.
Switch Closer Aroldis Chapman to Starting Rotation
The decision to switch closer Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation or keep him as the team's closer is expected to be made by January 1. That is, of course, if the Reds don't decide to trade Chapman first before his final year of team control is expended.
As a closer, Chapman has been dominant and seems to prefer closing over starting, but, as a pitcher, it is clear that Chapman's potential is largely unrealized by any organization that chooses to use Chapman as a closer instead of a starter.
Chapman has entered the past two spring trainings as a starter only to convert back to the bullpen. Price -- as former Reds pitching coach -- clearly saw the upside of having Chapman in the rotation and may be the one who actually decides whether or not the move is finally made.
Trade Homer Bailey
The Reds have waited for so long for can't-miss-prospect Homer Bailey to finally realize his full potential. Now that Bailey finally has matured mentally and physically to the point where he is right on the verge of becoming a truly dominant starting pitcher, he's most likely on his way elsewhere.
The Reds could decide to keep Bailey for the final season he remains under team control in 2014 and either try to re-sign him for the equivalent of an exorbitant free agent contract or settle for a compensation draft pick after Bailey rejects the free agency qualifying offer the Reds extend to him in 2015.
Keeping Bailey for one more year would certainly bolster the rotation, but the temptation to deal Bailey a year early both to shed payroll and acquire talent (especially if it means re-signing Choo) could compel the Reds to trade him before the start of the 2014 season.
Trade Ryan Hanigan
The signing of catcher Brayan Pena spawned speculation that platoon backstop Ryan Hanigan was on the trade market. Hanigan has to be tendered by the Reds for a final year of salary arbitration eligibility, which will guarantee Hanigan a one-year contract worth at least $2.5 million. But it will also make it harder for the Reds to trade him and receive any value on return for him because of his price tag.
The Reds could either non-tender Hanigan and let him ply free-agent waters or tender him and wait until former Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo signs with a team. Any team signing Arroyo would also be interested in Hanigan to be his personal catcher.
Hanigan still remains valuable independently of Arroyo because of his defensive prowess and his contact hitter ability. How valuable Hanigan is on the trade market should be known by the tender deadline of December 2.
While these five offseason rumors unfold one way or another, the Reds have stayed busy putting other pieces together to provide the options needed to turn some of these rumors into reality. Like the Pena deal, the two-year contract given utility player Skip Schumaker gives the Reds a second baseman who can also play center field, hence making Phillips just a little bit more expendable and perhaps softening the blow if Choo can't be re-signed.
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 Reds here.
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- Homer Bailey
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