With Joey's knee surgery, Reds confront a new Votto Window

Where have you gone, Joe d'Vott-e-o?

Hopefully, the recriminations about the Reds' medical staff have died down a little. Joey Votto played hurt. And maybe all involved took what they thought was soreness or inflammation too lightly. Maybe, in hindsight, he shouldn't have played in the All Star Game. But teams don't MRI everything. Even when they do, it doesn't necessarily tell you anything definitive until it's too late and there's already a discernible tear. The speculation is mostly pointless and, speaking for myself at least, ill-informed.

I don't expect to be able to reconstruct any of these details any more than I can reconstruct Votto's meniscus. At least until I finally become really, really good friends with Votto and we're hanging out in his loft downtown (in this fantasy world, he lives in Cincinnati and there are cool lofts in Cincinnati), drinking and he's like, "Hey, man, do you want to peruse my medical records?"

The Reds now have to set about replacing as much of Joey Votto's production as possible over a 3-4 week period. Of course, those estimates are often low-balled. Berkman, who admittedly is older and had a more acute injury, was out for close to eight weeks with his meniscus surgery. But, hey, the original estimate was 8-10 weeks. So sometimes those things aren't just a random number generator.

The Reds cannot replace Joey Votto 1-for-1. With their current roster and minor league depth, they can't fully replace him in the aggregate. Aside from hoping he comes back as soon as possible. Their best hope, for the immediate future, is for Todd Frazier and Scott Rolen to hit their hearts out. Here's how they can make up for his absence, in two parts:

Call up someone who's kinda good, then optimize the lineup

BK speculated in Farmer's Only today on who would get the call-up. There aren't any thrilling options, but for me it's either Henry Rodriguez or Dioner Navarro. Navarro, as a catcher who's only played 1B a couple times in AA, is far from an obvious choice. Henry Rodriguez makes more sense from a positional standpoint. But, as BK points out, he only has 10 games above AA.

One thing I think the Reds need to accept is that Miguel Cairo isn't a suitable part-time corner infield starter. He's hitting .145/.169/.217 in 71 PAs during his age 38 season. I think that will get better, but not nearly better enough to begin to help fill the Votto gap.

Here's how the two call-ups play out in my mind - which, admittedly, is not the mind they use to make this decision.

H-Rod

Henry Rodriguez has roughly the defensive skillset of Cairo (2B-3B), but hopefully offers more hope of offensive production. He's still just 22 and recently arrived to AAA, but if he's hit at every level. If he can keep up his contact in the majors, he'd be a helpful piece. Frazier mans first and H-Rod spells Rolen at 3B.

Navarro

The Reds call up Dioner, who switch-hits and is currently slashing .339/.408/.468 in Louisville. He's been terrible in the majors in recent years, but he's only 28 and gives the Reds flexibility at catcher. Frazier can start at 3B when Rolen rests, at 1B when Rolen is in the lineup and the Reds could opt to have two of their catchers in the lineup (one at 1B), depending on match-up, when Frazier isn't occupying 1st.

Ramon Hernandez made 26 starts in '09 at 1B when Votto was out, after having scant experience at the position. One of these three catchers could probably fake it there for a month of scattered starts.

Be more aggressive on the trade market

By all accounts, the Walt is already out there mixing it up. Missing Votto for at least three weeks doesn't really change the needs they're trying to address but it does make it more urgent for them to land one of the best available bats. They can no longer settle for Juan Pierre of Mike Fontenot as their marquee acquisition.

If they can't get one of the top tier bats - Upton, DeJesus, Quentin, Victorino, Span - they shouldn't rule out going after a pitcher. The Reds' staff has been good, but it could always be really good. Preventing runs is just as good as making them, if not better.

* Bonus idea: do something wacky

Signing Manny or Vlad to play 1B and dumping them after Votto comes back comes to mind. Although this thinking could lead the Reds to Melvin Mora.

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