When the Reds gave Dusty Baker the axe in October, the tea leaves seemed to read that ownership was not happy with a one-and-done playoff appearance yet again, and they were going to make some serious changes to keep the Reds in contention before their current window slammed shut. Yet, it's now December 26th and here we are. Walt's offseason plan so far has been to sign some roster filler, acquire some pitching depth, and play dead. With two giant question marks in the outfield - and at the top of the lineup - we have watched as Dexter Fowler went to the last place Astros for spare parts, and Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets for a fairly reasonable deal. Shin-Soo Choo was never really in the Reds' budget, and his contract will probably end up being a major drag after all is said and done.
The Reds have a lot more questions in their lineup than answers right now. Can Ludwick rebound and put up a season close to what he accomplished in 2012? Is Billy Hamilton capable of being an everyday centerfielder right out of the gate in 2014? Who the hell is going to get on base in front of Votto? Waiting this long in the offseason, leaves Walt with very little options to answer these questions and improve the club for 2014. Most of the big wheeling and dealing has been done, and the free agent cupboard is looking rather bare. The only two "bats" left on the market are Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz, and both of those guys will cost the Reds a draft pick and more money than they are probably worth.
The pitching market, on the other hand, is still fluid. After a will-they-won't-they back and forth over the last few weeks, the Rakuten Golden Eagles have agreed to post pitcher Mashiro Tanaka. With the new rules regarding NPB postings, any and every team can negotiate with Tanaka, as long as they are willing to pony up $20 million to the Golden Eagles for their troubles. As fun as it would be for Bob to open up the purse strings for the 25 year old righty, early estimates have him signing for 6+ years at around $18-20 million AAV, and I don't think that there is enough money in the banana stand for that. Once Tanaka signs, teams that still have a hole in their rotation will start picking over the remaining free agent starters. Basically these guys: Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, and maybe A.J. Burnett.
Okay, finally getting to the point. The Reds need an outfielder that can at least fake it center until Billy is ready, and slide over to left in the event that Ducky can't cut it. Preferably someone who can get on base at a decent clip and bat at the top of the order. That player is not available on the free agent market, so Walt needs to try and make a deal.
There have been rumors that the Reds offered a one year deal to Saturn Nuts, but Walt shot that down, saying they spoke to his agent, but no offer was made. Bronson is shooting for a multi-year deal, and unless his market completely craters, he will probably get it. So, my suggestion is this: sign Paul Maholm to a one-year deal and trade a starter for a bat. Yes, I just made you read a thing that suggests the Reds sign Paul Maholm. I'm sorry, but hear me out. Maholm is basically a left-handed poor man's Bronson Arroyo. He can be an inning-eating 5th starter that can give you 180-190 innings of around a 4.00 ERA, nothing special but the rest of the rotation can pick up the slack. Last season, where he dealt with a couple of injuries, Maholm still managed to put up a 4.41 ERA in 153 innings. But more importantly, he can be had for cheap, and likely on a one-year deal. With Maholm in the rotation, the Reds could deal either Bailey, Leake, or even Cingrani depending on what kind of return they were able to get.
That's what I've got. It's not particularly sexy, but it's better than standing pat, and the Reds can't really afford to stand pat. Can they?