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Hot Stove League Rankings: Short Stop

For your consideration, a companion piece to riverfront76's BAFTA, Cable Ace and Darwin Award-nominated Compare & Contrast series. Here we look forward to 2011 at the handful of positions in which the Reds have potential openings to fill during the off-season and may tap a fresh face as Opening Day starter, whether by free agency, trade or promotion from within.

I'll be returning to this list throughout the offseason to add /drop players and provide a range of salary and trade bounty estimates as we know more about the Reds' payroll and the league-wide market. That information will effectively eliminate some names from the list.

Ranking explained: This list only ranks players on their projected value in 2011 and that projected value is based on my own guesswork, biases, and deep-seated resentments. This ranking will probably fluctuate when the off-season projections start dropping. Some of these guys may have residual value tied up in being under team control for additional years, but the only thing I've considered at this stage is how much each possible acquisition might improve the Reds chances to return to the playoffs in the next year, while not somehow starting to hurt its chances starting in '12. Zach Cozart has shown promise at the position, but is not currently expected to be much of a factor for the big league team next season. Juan Uribe may be asking for more money and years than the Reds can afford, but he's still likely to be an upgrade over Janish or Cabrera. A better sense of Uribe's asking price and the Reds cash-on-hand could bump him down a few spots.

Criteria: Gotta be a free agent or have modicum of buzz - in a halfway reputable news source - as a candidate to switch teams this off-season via trade, declined option or possible non-tender. Jose Reyes, for example, is not currently on this list because there is nothing yet to suggest his option won't be picked up. Derek Jeter also is not on this list anywhere.

Current Standings:

After the jump.

Rank Name June 2011 Age Contract Details 2010 slash line 2010 WAR 2010 Value ($) Average value, last 3 yrs ($)
1 Stephen Drew 28
Arb-eligible .272/.332/.448 (633 PA)
$20.5M $13.3M
2 Hiroyuki Nakajima
EDIT: MLBTR reports Nakajima will not be posted .309/.398/.493 (560 AB)
3 Jason Bartlett
Arb-eligible .254/.324/.350 (532 PA)
4 Juan Uribe 31
FA .248/.310/.440 (575 PA)
5 Sean Rodriguez 26
Pre-arb .251/.308/.397 (378 PA)
6 JJ Hardy 28
.268/.320/.394 (375 PA)
7 Paul Janish
Pre-arb .260/.338/.385 (228 PA)
8 Marco Scutaro 35
$5M in '11, $6M club option/$3M player option ($1.5M buyout) in '12
.275/.333/.388 (695 PA)
9 Miguel Tejada 37 FA .269/.312/.381 (681 PA) 1.3
10 Orlando Cabrera 36
$4M mutual option ($1M buyout of player exercises and club declines, $0.5M buyout if player declines) .263/.303/.354 (537 PA)
$5.4M $8.23M
10(T)* Everth Cabrera 24

* Because they have the same last name.

Also receiving votes: Cristian Guzman, Brandon Wood, Ryan Theriot, Edgar Renteria. This fraternity of shortstops could yield an affordable platoon player, back-up or Cinderella.

Analysis: To my mind, this all boils down to Value Above Janish (popularly known as VAJ). If the Reds can afford someone who's a noticeable upgrade on Janish, and better yet, young, with upside - they should do it. But that's a small universe: if the Reds don't land someone in the Top Six here, it's probably not worth the effort. Playing Cabrera over Janish, even at $2MM, is a downgrade, while chasing someone like Scutaro is a lateral move at best, given age and salary.

If the Reds are going to take on more salary at SS, it should pay for a reasonable improvement over Paul Janish, while not hampering the overall improvement of the team in the near future. Uribe could easily be a win or two more productive than Janish, but if his salary precludes a bigger potential improvement in LF and/or ties up money needed to pay the first year of a contract extension, it's probably not worth it.