In the comments section recently, I got into a bit of a discussion about the Reds’ needs. Specifically, I sited an article by Ken Rosenthal stating that the Reds would target a middle-of-the-order bat, and/but might also consider a third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, or center fielder. I objected to most of this list, saying the Reds seemed OK at 3 of those 4 positions (and this particular sub-thread was discussing the need for a starting pitcher). Others disagreed with me, saying “a shortstop should be the priority position player, not left field.”
While I agree that LF isn’t a real problem, I don’t think SS is a problem either.
Next year, the Reds will be one of 2 teams: A team trying to make the playoffs in ’12, or a team trying to make the playoffs for ’13 and beyond. If they want to make the playoffs in ’12, two things are true:
- Offense isn’t a problem, as a team that finished the last two seasons #1 and #2 in scoring will return largely intact, with expected upgrades in offense in LF, SS, and 3B even if they don’t make a move. Spending money to add offense doesn’t make sense. Heck, they could probably run Janish out there and still score enough runs to win most games. Except that….
- Pitching is a problem. Only 2 pitchers will finish the season with >80 IP and ERA+> 90; further, who’s going to improve? Leake should pitch more innings and Arroyo should be less of a disaster (fun fact: Arroyo’s allowed as many HRs as walks), but no one on the staff screams “Big Step Forward!!!”; meanwhile, Cueto’s sure to come back to earth a bit If they want to make a dent next year, this is the area they must address.
If they don’t want to make a run at the playoffs next year, pitching is still the problem; there isn’t anyone in the minors anywhere close to stepping in to the major league rotation.
Unless they want to spend $120M+, a team can’t have a very good player at every position even if some of them are pre-arb or pre-FA. At that point, they have to look at where they’d be smartest to spend money and the Reds, at this juncture, need starting pitching much more than they need offense or defense. Adding just one average starter would do wonders, and adding a #2 type would likely put them in the playoffs even if they don’t do anything else.
Cozart could easily turn into a good everyday SS; scouts seem to think his defense will be good enough to at least keep him in the majors, and his hitting this year (between AAA and the majors) could be a sign of much more. At the very least, the Reds' season next year won't turn whether he's the starting SS.