Offseason Outlook: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are next in our Offseason Outlook series.  Their probable commitments for 2009:

C – Ryan Hanigan – $400K
C – Wilkin Castillo – $400K
1B – Joey Votto – $400K
2B – Brandon Phillips – $4.75MM
SS – Alex Gonzalez – $5.375MM
3B – Edwin Encarnacion – $450K+
IF – Andy Phillips – $440K
IF – Jeff Keppinger – $403K
LF – Chris Dickerson – $400K
CF – Ryan Freel – $4MM
RF – Jay Bruce – $400K
OF – Norris Hopper – $403K
OF –

SP – Aaron Harang – $11MM
SP – Bronson Arroyo – $9.5MM
SP – Edinson Volquez – $400K
SP – Johnny Cueto – $400K
SP – Micah Owings – $402K

RP – Francisco Cordero – $12MM
RP – Jared Burton – $400K
RP – Mike Lincoln – $550K+
RP – Bill Bray – $400K
RP – Gary Majewski – $400K+
RP – Ramon Ramirez – $400K
RP – Nick Masset – $400K

Non-tender candidates: Matt Belisle – $1.25MM+

Other commitments: Yonder Alonso – $400K

Rotation candidates: Daryl Thompson – $400K, Homer Bailey – $400K, Ramon Ramirez – $400K

The Reds have roughly $54.5MM committed before arbitration raises to Encarnacion, Lincoln, and Majewski.  After that, they’ll still be under $60MM (with a fifth of the payroll going to the closer).  The Reds entered this season with a $74.1MM payroll, so they might have money to spend.

The Reds had a below-average offense this year, and the losses of Adam Dunn and perhaps Jerry Hairston Jr. may make things worse.  On the other hand, the Reds won’t give 1,200 plate appearances to Keppinger, Corey Patterson, and Paul Bako again.

Top two positions of concern: shortstop and center field.  After missing all of this season due to a knee compression fracture, can Gonzalez return to his ’07 form?  For lack of a better option, I have Freel penciled in at center.  However, he’s injury-prone and already on thin ice.  Maybe Drew Stubbs deserves a look.  Or the Reds could sign a free agent, maybe someone like Jim Edmonds (who can be useful if he doesn’t face southpaws).  Mark Kotsay could also work. A simpler solution, as many commenters below have noted, would be Dickerson in center and a free agent left fielder signed.

Encarnacion’s defense at third base is not pretty.  I would love to see Walt Jocketty make an aggressive offer for Adrian Beltre.  I’ll let you speculate on scenarios.

The Reds’ rotation has a chance to be excellent next year without outside additions.  Arroyo, Harang, and Cueto all posted ERAs above 4.60 in ’08.  However, Arroyo and Harang finished strong and Cueto was solid for a rookie.  Throw in Volquez and a healthy Owings and the Reds could be tough one through five.  Thompson and Bailey provide more depth than most teams can boast.

Bailey could be trade bait, perhaps offered to Texas for a catcher.  But the Reds intend to give Hanigan a shot, and I like that plan.  As for the excess cash, where to spend it?  I don’t see needs beyond a backup catcher and veteran center fielder.  I suppose some dough can be spent to re-sign or replace Jeremy Affeldt as the go-to lefty.  And maybe Hairston will re-up at a reasonable rate.  But if I’m Walt Jocketty, I’m only tinkering in my first winter as Reds GM (aside from the Beltre idea).  This team has sleeper potential.

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