With the addition of Todd Redmond to the 40-man roster and the signing of Jonathan Broxton, the writing is on the wall that if the Reds are going to try and acquire an impact player, it will be via a trade rather than free agency. Since the Broxapotamus signing means that Chapman is moving to the rotation, then the Reds have six MLB starters to fill five spots, and just enough depth in AAA to make you think that they could deal either Leake or Bailey to address either center or left field.
Now, with that in mind, there have been reports this offseason that the Royals are looking to add a front-end starter, and they are willing to give up one of their young position players to get the deal done. The rumor is, that the only two players that are off the table are catcher Salvador Perez and short stop Alcides Escobar. The Reds don't need a catcher or a short stop, so that doesn't really affect them. This leaves five young position players that the Royals are willing to deal: Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers. We can immediately strike off Butler (plays DH, butcher in the field) and Hosmer (plays 1B, not Joey Votto). So, we are left then with Gordon, Myers and Moustakas as possible fits for the Reds in 2013 and beyond.
Alex Gordon - LF
In a vacuum, this seems to me to be the best fit for the Reds current needs. Walt would be able to kill two birds with one stone by dealing for Gordon, as he's able to lead off and play left field. He can get on base at a healthy clip - around .370 OBP the last two seasons, batting mostly lead off for the Royals. He's got some pop, slapping 51 doubles and 14 honkers last year. Defensive metrics love his glove in LF and the Gold Glove voters agree, as he's taken home the hardware the past two seasons. He's a damn fine ballplayer any way you slice it, and he'd look good in Red.
But, here's the rub. Last spring, Gordon signed a 4-year $37.5 million extension, making him the most expensive name on this list by a lot. He's owed $9 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014, $12.5 million in 2015, with a team option for another $12.5 million in 2016. I'm not sure that the Reds have that kind of dough to spend, unless there is more money in the banana stand that Bob and Walt are letting on. It might take some creative accounting, say a Jay Bruce extension that lowers his AAV over the next few years, to make a deal like this work financially.
Wil Myers - OF
It came as a pretty big surprise to most when news broke that the Royals would entertain offers for their #1 prospect Wil Myers. Myers is basically a right-handed Jay Bruce: he has tons of raw power, a big strong arm, runs well for a guy his size and strikes out more than you would like him to. He was drafted as a catcher, but was moved quickly to the outfield. He's played both center and right, with a failed experiment at third mixed in, but scouts agree that he's destined for a corner OF spot. Myers will turn 22 in a couple of weeks and has nothing left to prove in the minors. He absolutely destroyed AA last year, hitting .343/.414/.731 with 13 dingers in 35 games before getting called up to the PCL where he slashed .304/.378/.554 in 99 games with 24 homers.
I don't think that this one fits quite as well for this year, since he's best suited for RF, and he could fail to contribute in 2013 as much as the Reds would need him to. Prospects are never sure things, but Myers certainly looks the part. If all goes well, he's a guy you could pencil in between Votto and Bruce for a reasonable cost over the next six years, but asking a rookie that has never stepped into a MLB batters box to contribute as your cleanup hitter is asking a lot.
Mike Moustakas - 3B
The last guy on our list is Mike Moustakas. Moustakas just turned 24 in September, and after finishing his first full year in the big leagues, he seems to be primed for a breakout in 2013. I think he will end up being a Super Two, which will make him expensive sooner, but he's still under team control for five more years. The Mighty Moose can pick it at third with the best of 'em, but this year he showed that he can hit for power, doinking 20 ding dongs. He struck out 3 times as much as he walked in 2012, and struggled to get on base (.296 OBP), but his minor league on-base numbers are much better than that.
The Reds could make this work, putting Moustakas at 3B and shifting Frazier to LF, though they seem hesitant to play Frazier there for some reason. Another reason this may be tough to pull of is that Moose bats left handed, and tasking Dusty to fill out a lineup card with three lefty mashers might make his head asplode. It should be mentioned though, like Votto and Bruce, Moustakas' platoon splits are not very severe.
This whole exercise supposes a trade package centered around Homer Bailey. He has a much better pedigree than Leake does, and is coming off of the best season of his professional career, making him a nice sell high candidate. Obviously Homer isn't enough of an established pitcher to net one of these guys by himself, but I think that the Reds have enough pieces to add to make one of these deals work.
Rumors have been circulating that the Royals have been kicking the tires on James Shields and Jon Lester. Homer is younger than both Lester and Shields, will cost about half as much money, and is controlled for two years (Lester has a $13 million team option for 2014). I could see the Royals wanting Shields, but Lester's numbers have been trending the wrong way in FIP and WAR over the last three years.
So, then what kind of package could Walt offer to make one of these deals work? If I were Walt, I would seriously consider selling high on Tony Cingrani. Cingrani's trade value may never be better than it is right now. No one knows if he can stick as a starter, but he hasn't had the chance to prove that he won't as of yet. Yes, it would be a huge gamble to deal both Bailey and Tony C. If Chapman shits the bed, or if a starter goes down for an extended period of time with an injury, then we are looking at Todd Redmond or Daniel Corcino getting a significant amount of starts for a playoff caliber team. It's a risk, but I think it's a risk worth taking.