Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily, though. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.
There's actually a lot to like here, both for fantasy and real-life purposes. The Reds promoted a small army of prospects to the majors last year, yet there are still reinforcements waiting in the minors. Yonder Alonso, Cincy's top prospect, could eventually bump Joey Votto into left-field, and Drew Stubbs should dislodge Willy Taveras from center. The Reds also have a shortstop (Chris Valaika) who isn't far off, and a pileup of third base prospects to sort through (Todd Frazier, Juan Francisco, Neftali Soto).
Don't completely dismiss this team in 2009 simply because you've grown accustomed to sub-.500 finishes. The Reds have some talent in the system, and they'll have Votto (ADP 80.7), Brandon Phillips (29.3) and Jay Bruce (103.0) in the middle of the lineup. They'll also have Edinson Volquez (107.0), Aaron Harang (160.2) and Johnny Cueto (203.6) atop the rotation, and Francisco Cordero (144.8) in the ninth. It's basically a team full of sneaky, nice-value fantasy picks.
Manager Dusty Baker hopes to go with an offense based more on speed, defense and pitching. “The other way wasn’t working,” said Baker, referring to eight straight losing seasons.
Fantasy owners obviously don't mind the emphasis on running. But if you're a Cincinnati fan, you'll have to live with another speedy, OBP-challenged leadoff hitter ...
Willy Taveras, signed for two years, $6.25 million
Most of the money here is due in 2010, so maybe the Reds will flip Taveras before they'll have to wildly overpay for his services. He hit just .251/.308/.296 in Colorado last year.
Nonetheless, Dusty is excited:
"(Taveras') role is he's our center fielder and our leadoff man," Baker said. "The fact that he's so young – he's going to get better. A lot of people talk about his on-base percentage. I like to think in terms of him getting into scoring position."
Taveras had exactly 18 extra-base hits in 2008. He led the National League in stolen bases last season at age 26, but he still somehow managed to finish with more steals (68) than runs-scored (64). He's really a one-dimensional player who's a significant liability in at least two fantasy categories (HR, RBI). Taveras' Mock Draft Central ADP is 155.0, so it's not as if you're reaching badly. You can get steals without carrying guys like this.
Ramon Hernandez, acquired via trade
The Orioles needed to clear the path for top prospect Matt Wieters, a catcher who should be taken well ahead of Hernandez in any mixed league draft. The Reds dealt the skeevy, unhinged, twice-arrested, oft-injured Ryan Freel to the O's for Hernandez, along with a pair of minor leaguers who lack immediate fantasy relevance. (Click here for details on Justin Turner and Brandon Waring, via Baseball America).
The trade filled a need for Cincinnati, and Hernandez brings modest power to a terrific hitting environment. In NL-only and two-catcher mixed formats, you're definitely interested. In public leagues, however, Hernandez should go undrafted. He'll enter the season as one of many free agent catchers to consider, should a need arise. He belongs to a tier of harmless veterans that includes AJ Pierzynski and Yadier Molina. We already know the ceiling for the 32-year-old Hernandez; he reached career highs in both home runs (23) and RBIs (91) for Baltimore in 2006.
Other Reds offseason notes: Jonny Gomes and Jacque Jones each signed minor league deals, presenting token pressure for Chris Dickerson in left field. According to Baker, "If we started right now, it would probably be a platoon situation with (Dickerson) and a right-handed bat – whether it's Gomes or Jerry (Hairston Jr)." You're looking hard at Dickerson in NL-only formats, but in standard mixed leagues he'll go undrafted. He demonstrated 25-30 steal speed in the minors, but his career batting average was just .260 ... Those of you in holds leagues should note the arrival of 39-year-old Arthur Rhodes (two years, $4 million) ... Micah Owings figures to open the season as the Reds fifth starter, and he really shouldn't bat lower than seventh whenever he's in the lineup. He's hit .319/.355/.552 over 116 Major League at-bats, and he put up a .354/.368/.492 line in the minors. You can't hit Alex Gonzalez ahead of a guy like that, right?
Foot photo via Getty Images, Hernandez photo via AP Images