Now that the Reds have re-signed manager Dusty Baker to a two year extension, their most pressing question is centerfield. Young Billy Hamilton, who established several records for stolen bases in the minor leagues last season, is playing center for the first time in the Arizona Fall league. He obviously will not be quite ready to take over in center when big league spring training begins.
Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty addressed the center field question in Friday's issue. His answer is for Cincinnati to sign free agent, and former Reds favorite, Josh Hamilton. The All-Star seems unlikely to re-sign with Texas, given the criticism he received from Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan in the Rangers' front office.
"Milwaukee is looking into it (signing Josh Hamilton)," Daugherty said. "If Milwaukee can look into it, the Reds should at least put their bifocals on."
Daugherty is right in that the Reds could certainly benefit from Josh Hamilton's departure from Texas, but not because he could become Cincinnati's center fielder. The Reds, who won 99 games this season, do not need to bring an expensive free agent who is 32 years old and injury-prone.
Instead, Hamilton's free agency allows the Reds the chance to trade underperforming Drew Stubbs, who could be a good fit for the Rangers. Stubbs has regressed in Cincinnati, but playing in Texas could help rejuvenate his career. He is from Texas, which should provide a more comfortable home field for the talented athlete.
He obviously cannot replace Hamilton's production, but Stubbs has averaged 20 home runs and nearly 60 runs batted in during his career. He would be a power upgrade over either of Texas' current backups, Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry. The 24 year old Martin obviously needs more seasoning, as he hit just .174 with no home runs in 24 games last season.
Like Martin, Gentry lacks the power the Rangers need to replace Hamilton. Gentry, though, would be a perfect fit for the Reds in center field, where his high average, on base percentage, and stolen bases would provide Cincinnati with a more diverse offense.
Gentry hit .304 with a .367 OBP and 13 steals last season, impressive stats in areas lacking in the current Reds lineup. The 28 year-old makes $484,000, so he would not be nearly as much of a financial burden as Hamilton. Nor is he eligible for arbitration until 2014, at which time Billy Hamilton should be ready to take over in center.
Texas would be unlikely to trade Gentry straight up for Stubbs, whose average has declined while his strikeouts have gone up the last three seasons. The Reds could sweeten the deal by including catcher Devan Mesocraco.
The Rangers, who will likely lose Mike Napoli to free agency, are in need of catching help. Last season's backup Yorvit Torrealba is a free agent, and Geovanny Soto with a $4 million conract is eligible for free agency in 2013. Meanwhile, Mesoraco has become Cincinnati's third catcher behind Ryan Hanigan and Dioner Navarro, and therefore expendable.
Stubbs and Mesoraco will not fill the offensive void left by Hamilton, but some fans in Texas believe that the club needs to add pitching help rather than a hitter.
"While replacing guys like Hamilton and Mike Napoli will not be easy," stated sports.yahoo.com, "pitching is needed to win in October."
Doug Poe once delivered newspapers to Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez, three Hall of Famers who have made him a lifelong Reds fan.
Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/18/12