Needs and Luxuries: Cincinnati Reds

Next up in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Reds.  I realize the timing of this series wasn’t ideal, doing a bunch and then tailing off.  It’s something I can improve next time around, but it still seems people would like to see the remaining teams reviewed.  Anyway, here’s how the Reds are set up:

C – Dave Ross
1B – Joey Votto/Scott Hatteberg
2B – Brandon Phillips
SS – Alex Gonzalez
3B – Edwin Encarnacion
LF – Adam Dunn
CF – Ryan Freel/Norris Hopper/Jay Bruce
RF – Ken Griffey Jr.

SP – Aaron Harang
SP – Bronson Arroyo
SP – Matt Belisle
SP – Homer Bailey
SP – Edinson Volquez/Johnny Cueto

Setup – David Weathers
Closer – Francisco Cordero

Needs:

The Reds had a middle of the pack offense in ’07, same as ’06.  Last year the Reds had below league-average offense at catcher and third base.  I think Encarnacion will be fine, so one need might be to upgrade over Ross behind the plate.  Would it make sense to acquire Michael Barrett for peanuts, to see if he can return to form?

The Reds have enough depth in center field to stand pat.  Even if Bruce needs a few more months in the minors, Freel can probably hold down the fort.

One could envision the ’08 Reds cracking 800 runs if everyone stays healthy in ’08, which would probably be top five in the league. 

Not shockingly, the Reds’ big need is on the run prevention side.  Let’s start with defense – they were third from the bottom in defensive efficiency in ’07.  Maybe a bit more of Gonzalez will help on that front, but the Reds are mostly locked in with their position players.  They are not in a position to give up offense for defense.

The Reds allowed 853 runs in ’07, 15th out of 16 NL teams.  Their bullpen was awful and the rotation was below average.  If the Reds push their runs allowed all the way down to 780, they’re still probably just an 83 win team.  Now, if they get the runs allowed down to 750, that’s 86 wins.  A dash of luck and they’re in the playoffs.  To allow 750 runs would be league average or maybe a touch better.

Cordero helps the Reds’ previously terrible pen, but this rotation isn’t good enough to get to 750 runs allowed.  The Mets were at the 750 level last year, the Dodgers the year before.  You generally need three solid 30-start guys, not two and a bunch of question marks.  The Reds have a huge incentive to get Erik Bedard – with him, they’re a playoff contender, without him they’re not.  They are a team on the fringe, and Jon Lieber or Brett Tomko won’t push them over the edge.  Add an ace, you can sniff 90 wins.

Dunn and Griffey might be gone after the ’08 season, and the Cordero signing was a win-now move.  Jonathan Mayo wouldn’t give up Bruce for Bedard, but that might be the only way the Reds make the playoffs this year.  It would be a huge gamble, and depends on whether the team is trying to win right now or in 2009-10.  Can’t have both.

Luxuries:

Bruce isn’t really a luxury, since the team traded Josh Hamilton and their corner outfielders may leave after ’08.  Trading near-MLB ready pitchers like Bailey and Cueto doesn’t help the win-now cause though.  Six years of Bruce is a ton to surrender, but Bedard is the ace they need.  A one-for-one offer should be seriously considered.

You could call guys like Hatteberg and Freel luxuries, but neither is going to net anything particularly useful.


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