With Votto on the shelf for, according to Bryan Price, however long it takes for him to get healthy, the Reds are short at least one impact bat. (It could be argued, with both his and Bruce's struggles all year, two bats, but I digress.) So, what did Jocketty and the Red brass decide to do with Votto's roster spot?
So the Reds need offense. Badly.
Fortunately, it's about that time in the season where many teams begin to understand just how far back they are and are packing it in for next season. With that in mind, let's take a look at those sellers and see if we can cook up a couple deals that make sense for both squads.
Less interesting targets: James Loney
Comment: Rays are looking to load back up on pitchers and upside while shedding salary. Neither Joyce nor Zobrist are long-term fixes, but both would be ideal for this year and next. Zobrist could play a utility spot or, even better, move permanently to SS and putting Zack Cozart on the bench as the utility guy/ defensive replacement. Joyce would move to 1B and platoon with Ludwick in LF as Votto gets healthy. Zobrist is only owed $7 million for next season and it's a team option with a $500,000 buy-out. Joyce would be in his third year of arb eligibility and would cost no more than $5 million. Both would profile as impact bats.
Losing Lorenzen hurts, but the Reds have a ton of starters in the pipeline. He's replaceable. Contreras profiles as a plus bullpen arm, while Rodriguez is a huge gamble. Tons of talent to intrigue, but enough issues for there to be some rather loud questions. Tampa likes upside, so all three make sense in that regard. Too, don't overlook the salary savings involved.
Less interesting targets: Mike Carp, Will Middlebrooks, Jonny Gomes
Best Deal: 1B/ OF Jonny Gomes for AAA 1B Neftali Soto
Comment: Soto really struggled in his first taste of the majors, and I doubt the Reds view him as anything more than minor league depth at this point. Still, he has a spot on the 40-man and this allows Gomes to move seamlessly into the roster. Whether he helps much or not at this point is the question. This deal doesn't exactly move the needle, though Gomes could catch fire and hit a billion homers in July.
Interesting targets: Josh Willingham, Kendrys Morales
Best Deal: Jon Moscot and Beau Amaral for Josh Willingham
Comment: Willingham has quietly been among the better bats in baseball for a decade. He's 35 and a free agent at the end of this season. For a rental, the Twins get a pretty decent starting pitching prospect and a wildcard OF suspect who's hit really, really well for half a season. Willingham would profile first as a 1B (he, like Ludwick, profiles as a brutal defender in the OF), then in LF. (Ludwick would spot start at 1B, RF, and LF and provide PH pop.) Bonus, Willingham is a veteran who plays the game the right way, Jocketty's favorite type of acquisition historically.
Interesting targets: Adam Dunn
Comment: I'm fairly certain Marty would melt down completely. That's reason enough to make the deal. Secondary reasons include Dunn's patience at the plate, a much-needed commodity in this particular Red lineup. Too, he could play 1B now, spot start/ platoon with Ludwick in LF if Votto gets healthy, or provide a monster PH/ interleague DH. Not only that, Dunn is a free agent at the end of the season, meaning the Reds could actually save money next year on this deal.
The White Sox are rebuilding and need young players just about everywhere but 1B. The combination of salary ballast (Marshall), intrigue (Ondrusek), and utility (Barnhart) makes this an easy deal to stomach for the Sox. (The money helps Cincinnati move forward, as does Chicago taking on Marshall's bloated contract.)
Intriguing targets: Jesus Aguilar
Best Deal: Jesus Aguilar for Jon Moscot
Comment: This just in: Nick Swisher's contract sucks. Seriously. Might be the worst contract in baseball. That in itself probably keeps the Indians from bringing up Jesus Aguilar, a 1B/ LF hitting well in AAA. He's probably not much more than Neftali Soto at this point, but his minor league track record is interesting enough to give him a shot. When/ If Votto gets healthy, Aguilar can move to LF or AAA. He can't be much worse than Pena, Soto, and Lutz have been.
Interesting targets: Dexter Fowler
Best Deal: Ben Lively and Juan Duran for Dexter Fowler
Comment: He'll be expensive next year as a 3rd year arb eligible. He'd also be worth it. Imagine he and Hamilton at the top of the batting order. Imagine Fowler playing a plus-plus LF with patience and a bit of pop. He'd be a fine addition and an impact player, if not an impact bat. Of course, Ludwick would have to move to 1B until Votto would be healthy were this move to be made. That in itself would save the Reds a win and a half defensively over the course of the second half of the season.
Losing Lively hurts, but the Astros have a penchant for minor league dominators. They also don't mind strike outs all that much, so Duran looks a bit more palatable. Intriguing enough to pull the trigger and save a few million.
Interesting targets: Alex Rios
Best Deal: Jon Moscot, Kyle Waldrop, and Carlos Contreras for Alex Rios
Comment: Rios is in the last year of his previously monstrous contract and is now quite reasonable, especially for what he offers. He'd be a fine RFer while Bruce plays 1B and would cost nothing beyond this year. Three prospects is a ton to give up for a half-season rental, but Rios will be in high demand, IMO. Might be best to look for something else instead.
Interesting targets: None
Marlon Byrd was interesting until his contract.
Comment: Blockbuster works only because both Murphy and Duda are relatively cheap. Murphy would move to a super utility role with Duda at 1B. If Votto gets healthy, Murphy plays mostly LF this season. Could move to 2B if Phillips were included in a deal next off-season. Both Duda and Murphy would be impact bats this year. Were Votto to get healthy, Duda could platoon with Ludwick in LF and provide PH pop off the bench.
Deal is unlikely because Mets need some guys and won't want to part with pretty much the only two above average players on their team. Still, it'd help them in the long run, IMO, as Lively is on the fast track and would work well as the third starter in their rotation of the future, while the others could provide useful prospect depth for a team with very little in the pipeline. All four could make the New York Top Ten at the end of the season.
Less interesting targets: Justin Ruggiano, Chris Coughlan
Best Deal: Chris Coughlin for Logan Ondrusek
Comment: The Cubs have a ton of talent on-deck and Coughlin is a spare part at best. But he's wearing out the Reds right now and loves the GABP (SSS, I realize, but, sheesh!) Ondrusek may not be a sexy name; then again, neither is Coughlin. It'd be an easy move onto the 25-man roster as well. Coughlin would play LF, while Ludwick would move to 1B until Votto is healthy. Coughlin and Ludwick would then semi-platoon until Jesse Winker is ready (or Jocketty could find another bat to fill LF).
Interesting targets: Justin Morneau, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki
Comment: Can you say blockbuster? Holy crap, does this one fill the bill!
Colorado receives three starters, one of which already proven and in his prime. And it's not like the other two starters are chopped liver. Both Stephenson and Lorenzen could be brought up immediately to pair with Tyler Matzek, Bailey, and prospect Jonathan Gray to provide a rotation with amazing stuff. Ondrusek would be a useful spare part reliever with closing potential, while Ludwick and Cozart balance out salary and roster concerns.
The Reds would grab the best SS in the game and the very definition of an impact bat. He'd hit third in the lineup, taking over Votto's spot behind Frazier and Hamilton and ahead of Bruce, Mesoraco, and the newly-installed Dickerson in LF. A platoon of Heisey and Schumaker would take over in RF with Bruce playing 1B until Votto gets healthy. Another deal may be needed to address 1B.
And all it would cost is half the farm!
Interesting targets: Gerardo Parra
Best Deal: Ben Lively for Gerardo Parra
Comment: Parra's struggled all year. He's been, in his career, a solid two-way player with an outstanding glove. This year, notsomuch. Still, he'd be an intriguing chip for this year (and next) as a corner OF. This would allow either Bruce or Ludwick to move to 1B while Votto recuperates.
Best Deal: Jon Moscot, Nick Travieso, and Neftali Soto for Chris Denorfia and Yonder Alonso
Comment: A Queen City homecoming! Denorfia is the quintessential fourth OF and would really be a nice counterbalance to Ludwick in LF while also providing Hamilton a day off or three over the course of the season. Too, Alonso might start hitting again in a better home park. He couldn't do any worse than he's done in San Diego, right? He'd be a solid fill-in for Votto while he rehabs that quad. Neither bat is impactful, but both would be upgrades over what's currently being trotted out.