We're all aware that Walt Jocketty is looking for ways to improve the Cincinnati Reds offense while shopping with a near maxed-out credit card. Aside from sorting out the pending pitching exodus, finding improvements over the LF disaster and hapless bench are the two biggest priorities on Walt's plate this offseason, and following the pricey departures of Ryan Ludwick and Jack Hannahan, there's a tiny amount of money with which he can do so. Names like Nori Aoki and Mike Morse have been mentioned as possible additions, but they've popped up in conversation as much for their talents as for their projected relative inexpensive demands, sought after in large part because they're the only real available fits that don't appear to be asking for much more than the Reds can afford.
Fortunately for the Reds, they may soon have some company on the bargain-bin Free Agent market.
Tim Dierkes posted his own projected non-tender list over at MLB Trade Rumors this morning, and while it's littered with current and former Reds draftees, it does contain a few names that could potentially help the club cheaply in 2015. To refresh your memories, non-tendered players are players who are still under control from their existing teams (either pre-arb or arb-eligible) who become free agents when their clubs choose to not offer them a contract for the upcoming season. For instance, both Chris Heisey and Logan Ondrusek are included on Dierkes' list, meaning he thinks the Reds might choose to save the roughly $4.5 million those two are slated to make in 2015 by non-tendering them, which would also open up a pair of spots on the 40-man roster. Usually, these lists are flush with players who provided value and depth while making league minimum salaries (or close to it), but as they age and get more expensive become paid more than the value they provide.
Formerly non-tendered players are found on every major league roster, albeit usually on the margins. Current Red Dylan Axelrod was one, as was the recently let go Jack Hannahan, for example. Every now and then, though, a franchise will burp away a player with future stardom still in their future, as was the case when the Minnesota Twins opted not to give David Ortiz a contract in 2002.
To the interesting hitters on Dierkes' list.
Gordon Beckham - Los Angeles Angels (2B/3B)
Beckham has long been on top prospect lists and in the future plans of the Chicago White Sox, who took him with the 8th overall pick in the 2008 draft out of the University of Georgia. However, the talented and versatile infielder - who came up as a SS - hasn't ever really materialized into the kind of hitter they'd hoped for. Chicago finally cut bait with him when they shipped him to Los Angeles prior to the end of the waiver trade period last August, and Beckham responded by hitting .268/.328/.429 in 61 productive PAs for the AL West champs.
Now, that line's not at all indicative of what he's done over the bulk of his career, as his .245/.307/.375 line will show, but the 28 year old has hit 16 dingers in a season before and grades out as a solid defender at multiple IF spots. With Hannahan gone and Ramon Santiago a free agent, too, there could be many worse options for a bench bat than Beckham, and the Reds obviously have a need there next to Kris Negron.
Everth Cabrera - San Diego Padres (SS)
If we're talking solely about potential, the Reds should do everything in their power to get Cabrera should he be non-tendered. However, if it were solely about potential, there's no way that Cabrera would ever be let go by the Padres.
The talented SS and 2013 All Star has led the league in steals before (44 in 2012), consistently provided plus defense at a premium position, and hit .283/.355/.381 in 2013, but also was suspended due to his connections to the Biogenesis mess, hampered by hamstrings, and busted for weed possession and resisting arrest earlier this year. He, like most every 2014 Padre, was a mess offensively in 2014, hitting just .232/.272/.300, and the near 28 year old switch hitter is now firmly at a crossroads in his once promising career.
He's a lottery ticket, one that the Reds haven't usually put much stock into, but picking him up to add IF depth (and put some pressure on Zack Cozart) could provide great returns. Or, it could merely add gasoline to a dumpsterfire.
Alejandro De Aza - Baltimore Orioles (OF)
Oh, defensive metrics, how I adore your inability to agree on anything.
If you trust Baseball Reference's dWAR, picking up De Aza to spend a lot of time roaming the GABP outfield sounds like an awful decision regardless of how he hits. However, if you trust UZR and UZR/150, you see a guy who has reached base at a .330 career clip and plays above average defense in LF, two things the Reds absolutely want to add to the 2015 roster.
So, which is it?
De Aza will be 31 a week into the 2015 season, but with Adam Jones entrenched and the club trying to retain both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, there could be a pricey logjam in Baltimore that could result in De Aza getting the boot. I'm more inclined to think they'll tender him and then try to trade him, but I could be underestimating how tight they are with their cash flow. If he does reach free agency, however, he compares quite favorably to Aoki in career numbers while being younger and more recently potent with dingers.