Thursday, November 20, 2008

FA FA FA: Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds (74-88)

Significant FAs: Jerry Hairston Jr (SS), Ken Griffey Jr (OF)*, Adam Dunn (OF)*
*lost in trades, are FAs this offseason

Significant Gaps: SP, CF, SS, C

The Reds, or Dusty Baker's Imagination Station as they like to be called, are perennial darkhorse candidates to win the Central. Every year experts will take a wild shot and pick them to make the playoffs and then act shocked when "their young arms don't produce" and they end up warring with the Pirates at the bottom of the division (the Reds, not the experts).

I'm not going to jump on Dusty and blame him. This is about looking ahead, not back. So instead I will focus on the problems facing the Reds. Their biggest problem is that they enter this season with Dusty Baker as Coach.

Many people look at the Reds and see a talented pitching staff, focusing primarily on Edinson Volquez. While Volquez gets a lot of strikeouts (9.49/9IP in 2008) he also gives up a lot of walks (4.27/9IP in 2008). Unless he can get more control and limit the walks he is going to find himself in jams often, although the Reds do have many quality pitchers in their bullpen (Lincoln, Bray, Burton, Cordero). Arroyo and Harang have proven to be average or slightly better (1.34 and 1.31 WHIP; 108 and 105 ERA+ for their respective careers) that should anchor the rotation. The remaining starters are expected to be young, relatively untested arms in Johnny Cueto (22, 174 ML IP) and Ramon Ramirez (26, 27 ML IP). The team will need a quality arm to rely on if one of the younger players fails to perform. Their targets in FA should be a quality veteran, perhaps Jamie Moyer or Tom Glavine (assuming they both don't retire), or they could maybe gamble on Bartolo Colon or Mike Hampton.

The Reds have relied on their farm system to produce pitchers like Volquez and also bats like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Their system is strong with prospect position players however most are not yet ready for a call up to the majors (Soto, Frazier). As a result, the Reds are entering this season with a roster that had a 93 OPS+ with Griffey and Dunn. They are going to need some big production from Votto, Bruce, Phillips, and Encarnacion to make up for those losses.

In the outfield the Reds return zero regular starters from their 2008 season (Dunn, Patterson, Griffey) and currently have Freel, Hopper, and Bruce. Ryan Freel is a quality center fielder (.946 RZR in 151 innings in 2008) however his production at the plate (.272/.357/.376, 91 OPS+ career) needs to be improved upon in this relatively weak lineup. Freel, it should be noted, is a quality utility player so replacing him in center allows him to be used to fill in for injuries and for platooning purposes. The Reds may want to go after Mark Kotsay who has a bit more power than Freel (.281/.337/.414, 99 OPS+ career). ESPN has Norris Hopper projected to start in LF (.316/.367/.371 career), although why he would start over Chris Dickerson (.204/.413/.608; small sample 31 games in 2008, his first season, but in AAA he went .287/.382/.479) is for ESPN and Dusty Baker to figure out.

At SS, the Reds have two primary options: Jeff Keppinger or Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez (the other one, Dave) should get the nod (.248/.295/.399 career) over Keppinger (.287/..338/.390 career) if only to justify the final year of his 3yr/$14million contract. Both options are obviously lacking in offensive production although there aren't a lot of free agent SSs that will provide better numbers, and I am unconvinced that the Reds can outbid other teams for Furcal, Renteria, or Cabrera.

At C, the Reds are losing two players that didn't provide much offense (Bako, Valentin) and must now rely on a third player who doesn't provide much offense (.274/.367/.368). Catchers typically aren't offensively minded (and the ones that are become coveted, i.e. Mauer) and as such there aren't many available names that will provide much more offense that aren't named Rodriguez.

So where do the Reds focus this offseason? They need to add another quality bat to their outfield to replace Dunn and Griffey and add a solid veteran presence to their pitching staff. Even if they do these things this is a team with a lot of ifs and maybes in their lineup. But shaping these ifs and maybes into answers is why they brought Dusty in.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait for your "The biggest problem facing the Pittsburgh Pirates is that they're the Pittsburgh Pirates" post.