Denver's roads are covered with snow and the temperatures plunged to -14 degrees last night, which is completely and utterly ridiculous. That, of course, means that the hot stove is fired up, and it's been burning through fuel like Charlie Scrabbles at an IHOP. The Cincinnati Reds have a wealth of one asset, a dire need for another, and a bevy of contract situations that make some very prominent players easily linked to other teams, which means they've been churned through the rumor mills a ton of late.
Let's breeze through what's been said about our boys, shall we?
- The Miami Marlins might be interested in pitchers that might be available, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald definitely says, and one of those might be Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto. The Marlins surprised many in the game with their resilience and youthful talent in 2014, and with the bulk of their team returning set to be bolstered by Jose Fernandez's return, there's optimism in South Florida about a legitimate run in 2015. Jeff Loria is still the dark lord of the two-time World Series winning franchise, and adding an ace like Cueto on a contract that he's not tied to long-term does seem like a very Loria thing to do. He has twice presided over franchise on target for sustained success, and both times he's opted for thriftiness in the aftermath over being tied to huge contract extensions to keep things together. Christian Yelich for Cueto would tug at every last heart string I have, by the way. For what it's worth, Reds GM Walt Jocketty recently told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Enquirer that Cueto would be "tough" to let go of, and that the other near-FA pitchers are more likely trade bait.
- Rosecrans kept in good touch with Jocketty while both were in the Phoenix area for the GM meetings and Arizona Fall League games last week, and that led to a lengthier list of potential LF additions than we previously had heard. While Nori Aoki and Michael Morse are still on Walt's shortlist, so too is Torii Hunter, who will turn 40 years old in July and last started a game in LF in 1999. If 2014 was any indication, however, Hunter can still provide some offense, as he hit a juicy .286/.319/.446 with 17 dingers for the Detroit Tigers while playing home games in the rather cavernous Comerica Park. Hunter doesn't walk much, but he also is strikes out at a rate much lower than the rest of his potential Reds teammates, and that's a trait that Jocketty is absolutely chasing this winter. Rosecrans also mentions the likes of Jason Heyward, Andre Ethier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Dexter Fowler as potential trade targets that have been linked to the Reds in some regard.
- Here's a not-necessarily-Reds-related rumor that serves more as a thought exercise than anything else: USA Today's Bob Nightengale recently opined that Cole Hamels not only is likely to get traded from the Philadelphia Phillies, but probably wants out. Now, walk with me here for a minute. The Reds are rumored to be shopping each of Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Alfredo Simon, and Cueto because they won't be able to meet their long-term contract demands and dollars - which makes sense - and Hamels has been linked to the Reds' NL Central rival Chicago Cubs more than any other team. So, shouldn't the Reds have interest in trading for Hamels? If the Reds want an ace signed long-term, has in Latos and Cueto two players who will demand more long-term than the 6 year, $105 million contract doled out to Homer Bailey, and has an ace owed just $96 million on the move potentially to your direct rival, shouldn't they have an interest? 1) Trade Latos 2) trade Leake 3) trade for Hamels 4) profit, or something. There should be a fake GM simulation somewhere soon so we could hash this all out there, since this obviously isn't going to happen in real life. Instead, just hope the Reds can sign Cueto for 6 years and $144 million and can figure out how to beat Hamels and the Cubs 14 times or so over the next 4 years (Reds have hit .170/.245/.277 in 323 PA against him in his career, and he's 9-0 with a 1.51 ERA and 0.91 WHIP against the Reds in those 12 games).
- The Atlanta Braves are in a bit of a pickle in that their 2014 offense was Redsian (and not due to injured players set to return), the elbows on their pitching staff have singlehandedly kept Dr. James Andrews in business of late, their farm system is devoid of near-majors talent, and they've got a pair of uber-talented corner OFs in their last years under contract in Justin Upton and Jason Heyward. To David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that almost screams "rebuild" for the club, and while he doesn't mention the Reds by name, there does appear to be a pretty awesomepotatopancakes fit. O'Brien mentions that Upton is a major trade piece, that the club needs an innings-eating starter for 2015 to keep the team from having to stress a young arm in an otherwise lost year, and talented upper-minors pitching for a future run, and that should be music to a Reds fan's ears. Cincinnati has a bottomless pit in LF (with a one-year player an ideal bridge to Jesse Winker), an innings-eater starter for 2015 in Mike Leake (who will likely get a Qualifying Offer after the season to net another pick if not signed, like Upton), and a pile of upper-minors starters that could help Atlanta down the road. Would a trade of Upton and $4 million (to cover the contract difference) for Leake, Lorenzen, Corcino be palatable? Hmm.
- Finally, Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that the Reds have not yet ruled out a "fire sale" prior to the 2015 season, which, well, I don't know. There's as much double-talk in this as there are inaccuracies (Homer would've been a free agent after 2014, for one, and it was a flexor mass issue that sidelined him last season, not a shoulder one), and if you can remove yourself from being a fan of the Reds it basically says that the Reds could trade a lot of players if they want to, they don't know if they want to, but they might want to soon. That's a byproduct of having developed a core of good, desirable players but having not won as much as they probably should. It's an interesting idea, the "fire sale," and our own Cy Schourek will have more on that in the near future, so stay tuned.