So I've been playing Reds GM lately. Nobody here needs me to tell them what the Reds' needs are, nor does anybody need me to tell them that the Reds will have very little money to spend to meet those needs via free agency. The problem is, what trade chips do the Reds have? So I put together a little thought experiment. I'm not saying the Reds should do this, and I really don't think they will, but if was just something I put together that I wanted people's thoughts on. Anyway, here goes.
I know, I know, Chapman could be Randy Johnson. But if the Reds are going to leave him at closer, and I believe they are, then they're wasting his potential anyway. So he's never going to be Randy Johnson for the Reds. The Indians need pitching desperately. Also, I believe that a move like this, along with their hiring of Francona, will show their fan base that they're serious about winning both right away and for the long term.
It also solves pretty much all the Reds' problems in one fell swoop. Choo can lead off. You'd lose some speed and power replacing Stubbs with Brantley, but you'd gain a lot of consistency in OBP, and not lost all that much defensively. Also, under this plan, I'd keep Stubbs around as a LIDR, pinch runner and occasional pinch hitter, plus the occasional start against LHP (Stubbs's splits favor LHP, while Brantley's favor RHP, so they compliment each other well). Perez can close, obviously. He has a reputation for being kind of a dick. He called out Indians ownership a couple of times last year. But he was mostly calling them out for being unwilling to spend money to build a winning team, and I don't think he can make that complaint about the Reds. Often, in situations like this, a change of scenery can do wonders for a guy like that. And I'd love another pitcher to stash in AAA in case one of the rotation goes down, because they absolutely will. There's no way the Reds have another season like 2012 in that regard. I want better options than Redmond, or LeCure or Hoover or someone like that.
The Reds would be adding some salary by doing this, but not a ton. Certainly not as much as if they signed a guy like Choo on the free agent market. It also makes Heisey expendable (assuming an outfield of Bruce in RF, Choo in LF and Brantley in CF, with Stubbs and Paul on the bench). He could be packaged along with somebody like Arredondo or Bray for a backup infielder to replace Cairo.
But a lineup of
1. Choo RF
2. Brantley CF
3. Votto 1B
4. Phillips 2B
5. Bruce RF
6. Frazier 3B
7. Hanigan/Mesoraco C
8. Cozart SS
is pretty good, I think. Not a ton of power but they should get on base all day long.
Two or three issues here, though. First off, the Indains don't seem to have much in the way of MLB ready pitching in the high minors. Like the Reds, they have some decent pitching prospects, but they're all farther away. Still, more AAAA pitchers would be helpful for the Reds right now, even if they don't project to be rotation mainstays long term. Second, Perez and Choo are both free agents after 2013. The Indians supposedly have made offers to Choo but he hasn't been interested. It's unclear if he doesn't want to sign long term, or just doesn't want to sign with the Indians long term. But for this deal to be a good thing for the Reds, it would be imperative to sign Choo for a few more years before spring training starts, similar to what they did with Marshall last year. Perez I don't really care about so much, but the Reds are going to want to have a proven closer for 2013 at least.
And third, would the Indians do this? Their pitching was very, very, very bad last year. If they think Chapman can be an effective starter right away, I think they might do it. In some ways, it's less than what the Reds gave up for Latos last year. The Indians would be giving up more in proven MLB talent, but less in terms of potential upside for the future, mostly because of the fact that Choo in particular is probably gone after 2013 anyway. Maybe I'd consider throwing Heisey in too, if that would get it done, or at least a mid-level non-prospect or something. For this deal to work, though, the Reds would have to be absolutely certain that Chapman cannot or will not stick as a starter, ever, and the Indians would have to absolutely believe that Chapman will make a good starter. Basically, the Reds need to think Chapman is as expendable as any other bullpen arm, but get a return for him as if he were a front end starter.