John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer is hearing a rumor that the Reds are "actively seeking a catcher." He speculates that Ryan Freel could be trade bait.
Fay's note conveniently gels with some info from a Jeff Brantley radio appearance that a reader passed along. Brantley reportedly said the Reds have been scouting the Rangers' Gerald Laird. On a not necessarily related note, Brantley also mentioned that they may look to trade Matt Belisle.
MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan recently wrote that the Rangers don't intend to trade Laird despite some interest. On the other hand, Jon Daniels admitted in Sullivan's article that he wouldn't turn a deaf ear to anything. Laird is set to be the Rangers' starting catcher this year. Jarrod Saltalamacchia would take on a smaller role or try Triple A.
The Reds could also consider trying to acquire San Diego's Michael Barrett, who has played under Dusty Baker with the Cubs. Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez may also be available.
I'd be okay with moving Freel and his contract despite the fact that I think he's gonna rebound with a .360 OBP and his usual speed/defense/versatility/multiple DL trip contributions. I think the backlash towards him has been thoroughly excessive, but he's not an integral part of the team. Not sure that we could move him for what we want at catcher or not, but it's worth a shot.
Of the catching options mentioned, I'd be opposed to Laird, given that he's up the same alley as David Ross (strong defender, weak hitter), except I think Ross is a better player than Laird anyways. Barrett is an interesting option, and I think his bat would play well, but he has a poor defensive reputation and he's kind of a dick, and if we don't give up Freel in a deal to get him, he's making a solid chunk of change (I think around $5 mil this season). Ramon Hernandez is the most expensive option available, but he's not a bad defender and I think his bat will rebound from last year. He'd likely cost Freel and a solid prospect (I'd say anyone after the Stubbs/Frazier/Mesoraco tier would probably be the asking price), and he's due something like $17 million over the next two seasons, so he'd take a lot of money that we're probably not willing to spend.
The Belisle note is interesting as well. If the Reds can acquire a solid major league piece for Belisle, I'm all for it. I think Belisle is a dime-a-dozen type player if he's relegated to bullpen use and I'm not convinced he's gonna be anything more than a little below-average as a starter. That said, the Reds are gonna need pitching depth this season, so it might be wise to keep him around so we don't have to see Tom Shearn again. Personally, I'd take a run at Reggie Willits from the Angels, but I get the feeling Krivdawg is content with his current CF options and wouldn't want to acquire a potential leadoff-hitting CF actually capable of filling the role successfully.
Either way, I think we see another move before the season starts.