COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Reds are at a crossroads in development into a World Series contender.
Changes are coming, and some of those are big ones that appear mandated from the top down, like the firing of Dusty Baker, the probability of trading fan-favorite, All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips and the small-market payroll considerations that immediately took the Reds out of the Shin-Soo Choo free-agent sweepstakes and any consideration for eight-year starter Bronson Arroyo.
So what can a GM do if payroll has to be cut and three key spots have to be addressed through offseason moves?
Roll the dice with natural talent and let the chips fall where they may.
The Reds have two game-changing players who have abilities like no others in the major leagues, and they are speed-demon Billy Hamilton and flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman. Maximizing the natural talent of these two is the biggest no-brainer of the offseason.
Hamilton should play almost every day, either in center field as Choo's replacement or second base as Phillips' replacement. He will bat leadoff, and his on-base percentage can be sub-.325 just so long as he reaches second base four out of every five times he reaches first base.
Chapman's sheer natural ability is wasted as closer. It's finally time to find out what Chapman can do as a starter as the replacement for Arroyo. Chapman has two wicked pitches in his four-seamer and slider, and they are pitches so good that Chapman need only partially develop a third pitch to complement his overpowering presence on the mound.
Trading Brandon Phillips
If the Reds' ownership decrees that Phillips must be traded, then he must be traded. If not, Phillips should remain a Red for the remainder of his contract because he is well worth his money at bat and in the field and his supposed decline in production is exaggerated.
But since speculation is so ramped up that Phillips will be traded, what can be had for him other than a $11-million reduction in 2014 payroll for his salary?
The Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles should top the trade list for Phillips. The Reds could use another right-handed power arm out of the pen like Bruce Rondon, as well as a right-handed power-hitting talent like left fielder Nick Castellanos. If the Tigers can't oblige then the Reds should target Orioles up-and-comers in middle infielder Jonathan Schoop and corner outfielder Henry Urrutia.The trading of Phillips would almost guarantee that Hamilton would revert to second base, unless another trade could be hatched to keep Hamilton in center.
Trading Homer Bailey
Trading starting pitcher Homer Bailey would clear roughly $9.5 million in 2014 payroll and open up a second spot in the starting rotation for Tony Cingrani. But if the Reds trade Phillips and are able to use his contract to extend Bailey for at least three years, Bailey should remain with the Reds.
If that extension doesn't happen and Bailey is not traded, 2014 will be his last season for the Reds and the Reds will land just a compensation pick for Bailey in 2015 after he declines the one-year qualifying offer at the end of the upcoming season.
The trade value for Bailey has never been higher. As great as it would be for Reds Country to have a dominant Bailey for one more year, his value now is greater than it would be before the trade deadline.
The Texas Rangers are expected to make a run at Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price but would probably be more amenable to a trade for Bailey based on sign-ability and cost for a multi-year contract.
Ideally, a three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers could land the Reds center fielder Leonys Martin and middle infielder Jurickson Profar for Bailey and one or both of Rondon and Castellanos, who the Reds would yield in return for Phillips.
With Profar and Martin in the mix, Hamilton could split time in center and second and the Reds would have one infielder in Profar who could play both middle-infield positions, as well as see time at third base. Martin could platoon in left field with Ryan Ludwick, who would be hard to trade because of the $13 million left on his contract for one year, including his 2015 buyout.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Brandon Phillips
- Cincinnati Reds
- Billy Hamilton
- Aroldis Chapman