Teh Fay has run a couple of posts lately suggesting that the Reds might be done shopping after they re-sign Cordero. He says that Paul Janish might be the backup SS, and Chris Heisey the starting LFer.
Personally, I don't think Walt's going to do that, but if he did, would it be that bad?
Last year, scoring runs wasn't the Reds' problem. They were second in the NL in runs scored (behind the Cardinals). Was it just because they play in Great American Small Park? Nope. They were third in the NL (behind the Cards and Mets) in runs scored in away games. The Reds had plenty of offense, Paul Janish and all. They also had plenty of defense. They were first in the NL in defensive efficiency, Jonny Gomes and all.
(I checked in on Fangraphs to see who was responsible for that defensive showing. Not surprisingly, BP was atop the leaderboards in UZR. He has a good glove and he played almost every game, so that's entirely expected. Scott Rolen and Joey Votto were tied for second. Rolen's showing is pretty impressive for a part time player, and Votto really has improved on defense. Next on the list is Janish. Again, not a surprise. A part time player, but a good glove. Following him was Cozart, which is pretty amazing. Cozart played all of 11 games, but was worth a 4.1 UZR. That seems unreal. He played 11 games, but was worth more defensively than Gomes, Renteria, Bruce, Stubbs, etc. But then, so were Sappelt and Lewis. I don't understand how players who played so little can have such high UZRs, since it's a counting stat and all.)
Unfortunately, the pitching. That was where the Reds really needed improvement. They were down in the basement with the likes of the Astros and Cubs when it comes to team ERA. So, Walt has addressed the major problem with this team in acquiring Mat Latos and Sean Marshall.
Is that enough? I was going to say "yes," but on second thought, I'm not sure.
Here are what I consider the notable changes in the roster thus far (assuming Coco is re-signed):
The pitching has definitely improved, but what about position players?
Juan Francisco will mainly take at-bats from Miguel Cairo. Though hopefully Rolen's surgery means he'll play a lot more than he did last year. There might be a dropoff at 3B otherwise. Miguel Cairo actually played very well at 3B last year. I'm not saying he'd be able to repeat it this year, but it might be hard for END to match Miggy's 2011 production, on offense and defense.
If Walt doesn't get a veteran backup SS, Cozart is basically replacing Renteria (at least from a roster construction point of view - Janish will still be available, and presumably won't be worse than he was last year). Cozart, in his meager 11 games, was more productive on defense than Renteria, and almost as productive on offense. If you believe Fangraphs' UZR and WAR, anyway. Not sure I do, but it seems like a good bet we'll see an improvement at SS, or at least won't see a drop off.
Devin Mesoraco is replacing Ramon Hernandez, and we might see a drop there. CMM was one of the Reds' most productive players last year, even as a part-timer. I'm optimistic that Mez will have a better career than Hernandez, but it wouldn't shock me if he struggled his first year or two, on offense and defense.
Which brings us to the last hole in the lineup: left field.
At first blush, I was okay with Fay's idea of using Heisey in left field. But thinking about it a little more, I've changed my mind.
My guess is that Heisey is slated to be the backup outfielder - and he might be best suited to that role. He put up good numbers last year, but I don't think they're real. He hit more homers per PA than Votto or Bruce; does anyone seriously think he can keep it up?
Then there's the strikeouts that Fay mentions. Heisey, at least so far, has struggled to make contact when swinging at balls in the strike zone. That’s the knock on Stubbs, isn’t it? He has a better eye for the strike zone than anyone else on the team, Votto included. He knows a strike when he sees one. His problem is he can’t make contact even when he knows it’s a strike.
But Heisey’s 79.4% contact rate when swinging at pitches in the strike zone is worse than Stubbs’ 82.8 %. If you think Stubbs is the problem, Heisey isn’t the answer.
I dunno, maybe the strikeouts are as much a fluke of small sample size as the home runs. But I think there is a serious danger that once the book gets around on Heisey, he'll struggle to hit like a left fielder should.
In any case, the Reds have to get another outfielder. With Dave Sappelt traded, there are only four outfielders on the 40-man roster, and one of them is Denis Phipps. No way will the Reds use the very unproven Phipps as the fourth OFer and make the Heisey the starting LFer. Not if the plan is to win now. If Heisey crashes and burns, what's the backup plan? Danny Dorn? I doubt it.
I think Walt is going have to get another outfielder. If Heisey becomes the LFer, he'll probably want someone who can play CF as the fourth OFer. More likely, Heisey will be the fourth OFer, and Walt will sign a free agent left fielder.