Given that the Reds have minuscule money/targets for free agents, I'll be breaking down trade targets division by division until Walt Jocketty and the Reds track down a few impact players, while most certainly using my usual bias and fact-less hunches to identify my personal preferences. Keep in mind I'm assuming the Reds and their front office are in the mood to win "now."
After breaking down the NL West, it was pretty clear that the RR masses are agreed on the needs of the 2012 Reds. Mat Latos, with 42% of the votes, was the clear pick as the best trade target that fit the criteria. Chad Billingsley (33%) came in second.
Tonight we'll check out the AL West, home to solid pitching, solid pitcher's parks, and a mixture of no-name and aging overpaid position players.
Let's break it down!
Los Angeles, California, USA Angels of Anaheim, California, USA
The Angels of The Angels had another typically solid season in 2011, featuring possibly the best top of the rotation combo in the majors in Jered Weaver and shouldda-been Red Dan Haren. Between Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells, their corner OF and DH positions are accounted for, AARP qualified, and absurdly well compensated, while their infield consists of their usual mix of versatile, young role players. Erick Aybar would be a quality addition as a veteran SS/2B, but he'll be due some $5 million as he enters his third year of arbitration - a lot to pay for a utility spot filled by Miguel Cairo for 1/5 the price. Where the Angels could use a significant upgrade, however, is behind the plate, where the Angels combined for a .555 OPS on the season (don't worry, 'creds, I'm not proposing Mesoraco!). Howie Kendrick (who will be due about $5 million in his final arbitration year) is a capable RH bat who has spent time at LF/2B/1B in his career, and is a guy who would help balance the Reds lineup while providing lineup flexibility. Since the Angels are also light at 3B, there's a chance that a deal including Ryan Hanigan and Juan Francisco could net the Reds Kendrick. Kendrick would be a solid LF candidate in 2012, and having him around would certainly give Walt some of that "leverage" back in the BP extension talks.
From an offensive perspective, the 2011 Seattle Mariners were, well, offensive. Actually, the 2010 AND 2011 Seattle Mariners were both terrible offensively, finishing last in the AL in runs scored in both years. Given their solid pitching, rangy defense, and the field in which they play, preventing runs has not been a problem; that said, they need scoring runs at most every position. I'm going to ignore the Felix Hernandez angle here, as I don't think he'd be on the table for anyone other than Joey Votto, and I'll leave it at that. Beyond him, there really aren't a lot of pieces they possess that I think the Reds would be interested in primarily for 2012...save for one, and that's their most prized young player, Dustin Ackley. While Ackley has played exclusively at 2B since being drafted, he was an outfielder in college at UNC and presumably could cover LF just fine. He was the #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft and has been a consensus top 20 minor leaguer prior to his call up this past season, so he would certainly require a haul; however, the Mariners don't appear to be prepared to contend anytime soon, so perhaps they'd be inclined to shore up some of their other positions to prepare for a run in 2-3 years. Yasmani Grandal would likely be included, as the M's will need an upgrade at Catcher in the near future, but how much else would they require for Ackley? Drew Stubbs to cover their spacious OF post-Ichiro? Travis Wood for the back of their rotation? All three? For Ackley, I'd be tempted...remember, he would be the kind of piece that would save the Reds $25 million or so on the back end of a bad BP extension.
Quick...name 5 players who have played on the A's for more than 1 season. How'd you do? Tough, huh? That Billy Beane's a wheelin', dealin', roster turnoverin' cat, isn't he? For that reason alone, I'd suggest that there's not a player in their organization that isn't off limits, but the fact that they need help in plenty of spots sure makes that a pretty obvious assertion, too. They need offense, plain and simple, and it's their outfield that could use the most help, as Josh Willingham (their only regular to OPS over .800 in 2011), David DeJesus, and Coco Crisp are all free agents. With their small market status and stadium/attendence issues, the A's will likely have to rectify those issues through trades, and they're one of the few teams that have a relative abundance of young, successful starting pitching. While Gio Gonzalez would theoretically be a huge get given his pre-arb status and back to back 200 IP seasons, his BB/9 and subsequent WHIP concern me a bit for what he would require in return. Brandon McCarthy has been injured and has bounced back and forth from the rotation to the pen during his stints with the White Sox, A's, and Rangers, and could likely be had for a reasonable bargain as he enters his 3rd arb year, but I'm not sure I'm sold on him either. Andrew Bailey has had flashes of brilliance, and though he has been a bit banged up, he'd be a huge get as the Reds future closer, entering his first arb year. Would a Stubbs swap get it done? Would Alonso be overpaying? If they could be duped into a swap for Heisey/END, would one of you run a lap around GABP in jch's pink speedo?
Damn. Damn those Rangers. They're good, they're successful. They've got great hitters signed. They've got solid pitching signed. They've got money to spend. Finally, after decades of being a sleeping giant in the MLB world, the Rangers have blossomed into MLB's next big market player. To make matters worse for the rest of us, they've also proved to be savvy, as evidenced by their trades for Josh Hamilton (ouch), and of Mark Texeira and Alfonso Soriano. If they let C.J. Wilson go in Free Agency, I wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole, because Nolan Ryan apparently is as good a GM as he was a pitcher. They're pretty much set at every position, but if they want to move Josh Hamilton to LF full time, there's a chance they could be in the market for an upgrade at CF. Convincing them that trading for native Texan Drew Stubbs instead of signing a free agent like Coco Crisp or Grady Sizemore wouldn't be terribly hard, but convincing them to move an established or MLB ready player in return for him may be a bit more difficult. However, a Chris Heisey for David Murphy swap would give the Reds a LH OF to put in LF, and would allow them to shop Yonder Alonso for a SP; of course, the Rangers would have to consider Heisey an upgrade over Julio Borbon for that to happen, and there's no guarantee they would let that fly. That said, I'm not sure I can find a better potential swap for these two teams with 2012 as the primary dictator of a trade. Sorry kids!