Mark Sheldon's latest dispatch has a few morsels for these otherwise lean times in Reds Newsland. Jocketty is still after Rhodes and Cairo, though I've noticed Orlando Cabrera's name conspicuously absent from Jocko's recent status updates. Oddly enough, Hisanori Takahashi is still an option on the table, though he appears to be a fallback for Rhodes. Some other club, hopefully, is likely to give him the three years he's seeking.
Probably the most significant bit of info-tainment was this:
"We've been talking to clubs and looking for a potential leadoff hitter, and maybe someone to improve our bench," Jocketty said by phone on Tuesday night. "There's not a great deal to do, but we're talking a lot.
This is a puzzling pronouncement, though not because leadoff hitter isn't a need for the team, per se. Production from the top two spots in the order has been almost uniformly abysmal for the last three seasons. But setting "leadoff hitter" as a top off-season priority isn't properly diagnosing the problem. With Ramon inked, the only positions without steadfast claims on them are LF and SS. Finding an ace would be nice too, but it's Greinke or bust. And with the Reds' pitching depth, chasing down a SP wouldn't seem to be the top priority.
Rather than reverse engineer a "leadoff hitter," from a perceived skillset that doesn't encompass the needs that the Reds are looking to fill, why not just try to find the player who is the "most better," offensively and defensively, than the in-house option in LF or SS? Arrange the lineup later. It’d be nice to have someone who got on base well to slot in every day in front of Votto, but I’m afraid Walt and Dusty are putting too much emphasis on a player’s history of having his name written first on a lineup card too heavily over just finding the best talent in the area of greatest need. And that misdirected energy may cause the Reds to "opt out" in favor of getting "Pattersoned" down. See? Topical.
When I first read that pull-quote from Jocketty, my thoughts fell immediately on Scott Podsednik, whom MLBTR has predicted (though not based on any stated interest from either side) will go to the Reds. I think there are several strikes against this theory, one of which seems to be the Jocketty's inclination toward making a trade this offseason. Though Podsednik is definitely their type and in the Reds' price range, the Reds would probably have to be willing to make him an outright starter - and potentially add a second year. I see another mitigating factor behind Jocketty's interest in a leadoff hitter - by making it, rhetorically, about the lineup, it skirts the issue of having to say "I want to replace Paul Janish and/or Jonny Gomes."
Like a judge in a My Cousin Vinny-style courtroom drama, there's more than enough reason to give Walt the benefit of the doubt and "see where he's going with this one." After all, both Justin Upton and Curtis Granderson fit the traditional lead-off rubric. But if the Reds are limiting their search to the constraints that made signing Taveras to a two-year contract seem like a good idea, there's cause for concern.