Walt made a list. He checked it twice. Or at least he checked it once and read as far as "GET THE BEST STARTING PITCHER AND SET-UP MAN AVAILABLE."
Regardless of whether you thought they should have haggled some more in their two big deals, Priority One on the offseason checklist is done. So is whatever Priority Sean Marshall was. But there remains more to do to shore up the team for 2012. And some of the Reds' offseason moves have thinned out their depth at positions of need.
To whit, two possible future closers - or at least fringe members of the 2012 bullpen - were shipped out in the Latos deal in Boxberger and Volquez. So was Yonder Alonso, who figured to get some of the starts in LF. Then Dave Sappelt went to Chicago, further pruning the left field depth chart.
Possibilities for left field
According to the pre-Christmas opinion poll about Walt's next exciting move, a full 60% of you think he should go get a left fielder. I'd say that's fair, given the fact that the Reds probably don't have a full-time option they trust, nor even a lefty-mashing half of a platoon. Right now, Chris Heisey would be the Opening Day starter, Todd Frazier would probably be getting some reps there and Dennis Phipps or possibly Juan Francisco with *Yonder Alonso Action* would be your fifth outfielder.
What outfielders are potentially still available, worth considering and within the Reds' budget? Here's the list I came up with:
- Seth Smith (w/ Rockies): He's gotten some attention here as the Rockies seemed to be shopping him and were being linked to the Reds in trade talks earlier this offseason. Now that Walt has sent out 7 players in trades, along with Edinson Volquez (whom the Rockies were said to covet), would he shell out more for Smith? The price in prospects might be too steep at this point for a player who's only in his first year of arb and would provide sturdy corner OF defense to go with a career OPS+ of 110. He's a lefty bat, which wouldn't really matter as a full-timer. But while he mashed righties to the tune of .299/.365/.526 last season, his platoon splits were brutal.
- Andruw Jones (FA): May be either too expensive or asking too many years at 34, but he can still hit, swings a righty bat and his defense would play nicely in LF. After changing teams for times in four seasons, he'll probably re-up with the Yankees.
- Andre Ethier (w/ Dodgers): He's on the outermost fringes of this list as he's probably not even available. If he were available, he'd probably be too expensive in either prospects or salary (or both).
- Carlos Quentin (w/ White Sox): He's topping some "Best OF Trade Targets" lists and would likely be in the Reds' salary range in his third year of arbitration. But aside from requiringthe team to hemorrhage more prospects, Quentin also carries considerable some risk. He's great against lefties, but pedestrian against righties. His outfield defense is suspect. And he hasn't been the most durable, playing 130 games (barely) twice in the last four seasons since becoming a permanent MLB-er.
- B.J. Upton (w/ Rays): Upton is still just 27, plays great defense, steals bases and gets on base better than most players with comparable skills, while posting a .264/.372/.427 career line against lefties. But he hasn't shown the power you'd hope to get out of LF. And do the Reds want to trade with the Rays, albeit for a one-year rental, after the Latos and Marshall deals?
- Cody Ross (FA): This is the only name on the list with a confirmed measure of interest from the Reds. The best asset to recommend Ross is his appealing career line against lefties (though we've been here before): .282/.349/.563. Unlike Jonny Gomes, Ross is a capable defender who played 22 games in CF with the Giants last season. He made $6.3M last season and while his price might be a little bit steep - or an extra year - for a possible 4th OF/platoon player, he's affordable and wouldn't require a prospect dump.
- Kosuke Fukudome (FA): Someone will probably give Fukudome too much for a player with diminished defensive ability and pop. Fukudome is a lefty, but if he's cheap the Reds could pair him off in a platoon. They'd have a player who gets on base, could handle left field and would become the first Japanese player in franchise history.