So I’ve decided to start hot stove season early this year. This is what I think the Reds should/will do for 2013. I’m taking into consideration not just what I’d like them to do, but what they’re likely to do as well. For example, Michael Bourn is a free agent this year. He would look awesome in center field at Great American Ballpark but it’s not going to happen.
First things first: bring back Dusty on a one to two year deal. Much virtual ink has been spilled on whether or not this is a good idea, but I think it is, and again, I think it’s what’s going to happen, not necessarily what I think will happen. The most important thing is to do it quickly. Like within the next two weeks. That sort of continuity is important.
Pitching wise, I'd start by offering deals to Madson and Broxton. I think they'd both take them. Madson is basically going to have to take what he can get because he's not going to get a big money offer as a closer from anybody. I'd offer him two years or so. You start him off in the role that Broxton filled this year. You offer Broxton a one year deal and let him start the year as the closer. He's had a rough couple of years, but he pitched very well for the Reds in the second half and did a nice job closing when Chapman was out. I think he'd take an opportunity to re-establish himself as a legit closer on a contending team. But also, if he falters, and Madson progresses well, you can always flip them and make Madson the closer in mid-season.
Next, you finally pull the trigger and make Chapman a starter. And you stick with it, no matter what happens to the bullpen.
So that gives the Reds a starting rotation of Cueto, Latos, Chapman, Bailey and Arroyo. Leake will be in AAA. A couple of areas of concern, though. It's highly unlikely that Arroyo puts up the numbers he put up this year. He'll be another year older. Will he be back to 2011 levels? I hope not. Also, I wonder how Chapman will do as a starter. Will he have an innings limit? Will we find ourselves in a Strasburg situation with him come September? Bailey is another important factor. If he's the Bailey of his last two starts in the regular season plus his start in NLDS Game 3, and if Latos and Cueto continue the way they've been going, then this will be an amazing rotation. Also, it's important to remember that there's basically no chance that the rotation goes through the year without any missed starts like they did this year. Leake in AAA is the backup plan there, which isn't great, but that's a better backup plan then they started 2012 with.
Moving on to the bullpen, as I mentioned, Broxton for closer, Madson in the Broxton role, and Marshall in the Marshall role. Hoover and LeCure are locks for the bullpen also, in my opinion. That leaves two spots for Bray, Masset, Simon, Arredondo and Ondrusek. This is a tough call. Personally, I'd kick Ondrusek and Arredondo to the curb. Bray, if healthy, has the inside track as a lefty for one of those two spots. So Simon or Masset for that last spot. Honestly, not sure if it makes a huge difference. We'll say Simon, with Masset in AAA (I have no idea if he has options or not). Either way, bullpen is an area of surplus for the Reds, so if there's going to be a trade done, this would be an area to look at.
Now to position players. Infield is pretty straightforward. Hanigan and Mesoraco at catcher again. Navarro did a nice job, but he's not going to take a minor league deal again, nor should he, so he'll probably catch on somewhere else. Best of luck to him. I know Mesoraco didn't impress many people this year, but when the Reds traded away Grandal, they went all in on him, so he's the guy. Across the infield, it's Votto, BP, Cozart and I guess Frazier. I fully expect major regression from Frazier in 2013. Valdez will be a utility guy again. They're probably going to want another infield utility type to replace Cairo. I have no idea who would be available, but we're talking about the 24th or 25th guy on the roster so it doesn't matter a ton. I would imagine they would go after a free agent rather than someone like Valakia or Gregorious, which is probably for the best, and certainly shouldn't cost too much. I see Ryan Theriot is a free agent. I don't want him, but he's just the type of player the Reds are likely to go after.
Outfield is a little tougher. Bruce is Bruce. He'll be fine. Ludwick has a mutual option for 2013. I'm certain the Reds pick up their end, and Ludwick will probably pick up his end as well. But I think I'd offer him a 2 or 3 year deal (nothing longer). He did well here and seemed to enjoy it. I could see him filling the veteran clubhouse leadership role that Rolen has filled for a few years. Plus he's probably better than anything available via trade or free agency. I'd also like to see the Reds bring back Xavier Paul. He'll make a nice 4th outfielder, plus a lefty bat off the bench.
Which brings us to center field. This is far and away the Reds biggest area to upgrade. I've always liked Stubbs a lot, but it's time to come to terms with the fact that he's not a major league starting centerfielder. And the real issue is neither is Chris Heisey. You can't keep both of them anymore because they're too similar. Given the choice between the two, I keep Stubbs and get rid of Heisey. Yes, Heisey is the better hitter, but Stubbs is faster and a better defender and hits left handed pitching reasonably well. So keep Stubbs as a late inning defensive replacement, occasional pinch hitter and occasional pinch runner. And find a new starting center fielder.
This is where it gets tricky because it's really too soon to know who's going to be available. mlbtraderumors.com has a list of CF free agents. There's the guys that will be too expensive (Bourn, Curtis Granderson [who has an option with the Yankees], BJ Upton). There's the oft-injured reclamation projects (Grady Sizemore, Rick Ankiel). Then there's the guys the Reds are likely to choose from. Angel Pagan. Cody Ross. Shane Victorino. Scott Hairston. Nothing too inspiring. There's the possibility of making a trade but the Reds still don't have much in the way of trade chips. Supposedly they were interested in Denard Span at the deadline. That would help with leadoff, but again, not too inspiring. I wonder if some combination of Heisey, Ondrusek or Masset or Arredondo or somebody like that, plus s lower level prospect or two would get that done. Or the Reds could get creative. Sign somebody to play 3rd base (Youkilis?), move Frazier to left field, Ludwick to right, and have Bruce learn center?
All in all, though, center field is really the only hole on this team. It's easy to overlook after the NLDS debacle, but the 2012 Reds were a 97 win team that will get almost every significant contributor back. It will be interesting to see how the division shakes out next year. You would think the Cardinals' age would start to catch up with them, or at the very least, that deal they have with Satan would expire. Seriously, what the hell, universe? I honestly have no idea what the Brewers are doing. They don't seem to have a plan or a direction. The Pirates still have those two pitching prospects that they're high on, but I believe they're both another year away. Beyond that, Pirates gonna Pirate. Cubs gonna Cub. We won't have the Astros to kick around anymore, but neither does the rest of the division so that's a wash. Barring a blockbuster move by another team, I think it'll be the Reds and the Cardinals in this division again, with the Brewers possibly challenging. Same as it ever was.
The one possible pitfall I could see is the Reds making moves for the sake of making moves. If you remember back to 2010, the Reds had a great season, with a disappointing early exit from the playoffs. That offseason, they more or less stood pat. 2011 was a disaster, and that offseason, the Reds made a bunch of moves. Now, in 2012, the Reds had a great season with a disappointing early exit from the playoffs, and I think there will be pressure from some quarters to shake things up. That would be a mistake. The good news is I think Walt's smart enough to see that.
Anyway, here's my opening day 2013 25 man roster:
[Extra utility infield guy]
I welcome everyone's thoughts. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am.