The Reds are next up on our 2007 Team Outlooks.
Wayne Krivsky’s contract obligations as he remakes the Reds in the Twins’ image:
C – David Ross – $0.5MM
C – Javier Valentin – $1.25MM
C – Jason LaRue – $5.2MM
1B – Scott Hatteberg – $1.5MM
2B – Brandon Phillips – $0.33MM
3B – Edwin Encarnacion – $0.3325MM
IF – Juan Castro – $0.925MM
LF – Adam Dunn – $10.5MM
CF – Ken Griffey Jr. – $6MM (another $6.5MM is deferred)
RF – Ryan Freel – $1.7MM
OF – Chris Denorfia – $0.327MM
SP – Aaron Harang – $2.35MM
SP – Bronson Arroyo – $3.8MM
SP – Kyle Lohse – $4MM
SP – Eric Milton – $9MM
SP – Elizardo Ramirez – $0.33MM
SP – Homer Bailey – $0.33MM
RP – Rheal Cormier – $2.25MM
RP – Gary Majewski – $0.352MM
RP – Matt Belisle – $0.3435MM
RP – Todd Coffey – $0.339MM
RP – Bill Bray – $0.33MM
RP – Brian Shackelford – $0.33MM
RP – Jason Standridge – $0.33MM
SP – Paul Wilson – $0.85MM
IF – Rich Aurilia – $0.2MM
SP – Brandon Claussen – $0.37MM (shoulder surgery August 2006)
I have the Reds at about $54-56MM depending on arbitration raises. They entered 2006 with a $61MM payroll. So, not that much to play with unless bigger salaries like Dunn or LaRue are unloaded.
On the catching situation: LaRue just had an awful year, basically becoming Aaron Harang’s personal catcher and nothing more. He’s being paid like a #1, and would like to regain his job or be traded. If the Reds eat some salary maybe the Phillies would have interest. Ross posted some surprising career bests in 250 ABs; it probably can’t hold up over another 400. He’s only got three years of service time so the Reds should have his rights for a while.
With a heavy dose of right-handed pitching, Hatteberg bounced back with an .826 OPS. He’ll keep the seat warm for a good price until Joey Votto is ready. Votto is one of the game’s very best 1B prospects. Hatteberg seems to be Krivsky’s only acknowledgement of the importance of OBP.
Phillips certainly looks like a capable 2B and a great find by Krivsky. There’s been some talk of using him at shortstop; he played the position as recently as Triple A in 2005. He only got a brief trial there in ’06 with the Reds; my feeling is that he’ll remain at second and the team will import a shortstop.
Let’s just hope that Castro doesn’t spend too much time as the starting SS. Interestingly, the Reds asked about Miguel Tejada in July. For Tejada to fit in the payroll, I think Adam Dunn would have to be involved. I haven’t heard any specific names, but some other options at short include Julio Lugo, Jack Wilson, Alex Cintron, and Alex Gonzalez. It might’ve been nice to have Felipe Lopez around.
Encarnacion looks like a future star at 3B, and Rich Aurilia probably won’t be around to take any starts over there. Aurilia isn’t much of a starting SS, so he’ll probably price himself too high for the Reds to keep him as a backup.
The outfield is pretty well set, with Denorfia finding plenty of work when Griffey is hurt. Jerry Narron would prefer to move Freel around and play him four days a week, so Denorfia can find PT in right as well.
The front of the rotation looks solid, with Arroyo and Harang placing #1 and #3 in innings pitched in all of baseball. 40% of the time, those guys will take a load off a weak bullpen. Lohse wasn’t awful as a Red, showing decent command. You’d rather have him as your fourth starter, but that’s life. The Reds only have endure one more year of the Milton Mistake.
Ideally the Reds can work in superprospect Homer Bailey in place of the worst of Lohse, Milton, or Ramirez. Until that’s sorted out a bullpen intro to the bigs wouldn’t be a horrible idea. Last year’s 138 pro innings was a career high for the 20 year-old phenom. If he can keep the walks down, Bailey should be very tough to score upon even as a rookie.
The Reds hope midseason acquisitions Majewski and Bray are healthy and effective in ’07. If so, it has the potential to be a decent ’pen. The Reds are still lacking that one shutdown reliever to use in the ninth inning, however. There’s nothing on the closer market, so the Reds will have to hope someone can step up.
Cincinnati has a middle-of-the-pack offense right now. A full season without Austin Kearns or Felipe Lopez plus a possible trade of Dunn could weaken it even further. The pitching looks mediocre as well, especially factoring in some regression for Arroyo. The Reds are not a bad team, but they would probably need one more good starter, an impact hitter, and a bullpen ace to be favored in the division in 2007.
Instead of trying to compete in 2007, the Reds might be better off shooting for ’08. Votto, Bailey, and other prospects will have had time to develop. Encarnacion could be a star. Milton and LaRue will be off the books. The 2008 club could be a few wise expenditures away from contention.