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Assessing the Reds LF options

How a series of moves may have pigeon-holed the Reds into signing one particular player.

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Not long after last week's trades of Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins and Alfredo Simon to the Detroit Tigers, a noted local pundit, friend of the blog, ethics purist, friend of scouts, and expert sabermetrician acknowledged that for all the Reds' efforts, they'd brought back four minor leaguers and still had no left fielder.

Well, he was half right.

While the additions of Anthony DeSclafani, Eugenio Suarez, Jonathon Crawford, and Chad Wallach did wonders to add needed depth to the Reds system (two of whom are, ahem, already major leaguers), left field in Great American Ball Park is still currently projected to best be occupied by caution tape and a cardboard cutout.  What's worse, though, is that many of the players once thought of as realistic additions have been plucked by other teams, leaving an ever-shrinking pool of players to choose from to augment to club's 2015 chances.

Last night, the Kansas City Royals signed Alex Rios to a 1 year, $11 million contract, and the Miami Marlins announced today that potential target Michael Morse had agreed to a 2 year contract to join their latest revitalization.  Melky Cabrera has signed, Matt Kemp has been traded, Jonny Gomes has been ruled out, and Josh Willingham has retired, so the already thin group of players that fit both the Reds budget and needs now appears cocaine chic.  Complicating things even further, as C. Trent Rosecrans noted today, is that the Reds have already used up much of their pitching depth in trades, which means that plucking an outfielder from the glut in Boston or Los Angeles (or even trying to pry Justin Upton away from Atlanta) has now become much more difficult to fathom.

That leaves just two legitimate options for the Reds that may fit the budget and won't signal abandoning all 2015 hope, both of whom come with red flags and grains of salt:  Nori Aoki and Colby Rasmus.

Signing Aoki would be interesting on multiple levels, one being that he'd be the first Japanese player to ever play for the Reds, another being that the notoriously tight-lipped Walt Jocketty would actually be signing a player he talked about with the media.  Aoki provides the kind of high contact, low K ability Jocketty has publicly sought, but he turns 33 in a month and has seen his power evaporate almost entirely since hitting 10 dingers in his first pro season in 2012.  Much of that can be attributed to the move from homer-happy Milwaukee to dinger-suppressing Kansas City, but the premium demanded by Aoki's .353 career OBP may be nearly entirely mitigated by him sporting the 5th worst ISO in all of baseball in 2014 (just edging out Zack Cozart's mighty bat).  The Reds are in dire need of players who can get on base, but Aoki's age and decline make trusting him a tough sell, especially if rumors of him seeking a 3rd year on his contract prove true.

Which leaves Rasmus, the former Cardinal who - like Jocketty himself - was unceremoniously booted from St. Louis due to his clashes with certain leaders in their organization.  With Walt, we know his clash came with Bill DeWitt largely due to the hiring of stat-afficionado Jeff Luhnow as replacement for much of Walt's old-school staff, but Rasmus was traded in large part due to his clashes with Jocketty friend and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.

Wonderful.  Here's the soap opera synopsis the Reds may be facing:

  • talented OF Rasmus still on the market and likely looking for a short-term contract to re-establish value
  • Reds, team on tight budget, desperately seeking talented OF on short-term contract
  • Jocketty, GM of Reds, fired from old job as then-GM of talented OF Rasmus's former team, the Cardinals
  • GM Jocketty fired from old GM job because of installation of stat-guy, Luhnow, who clashed with his methods
  • talented OF Rasmus originally the first 1st round draft pick of then newly installed stat-guy Luhnow, who clashed with GM Jocketty, who is currently seeking talented OF like Rasmus
  • talented OF Rasmus previously traded from old team, Cardinals, due to clashes with now Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa
  • GM Jocketty and now Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa have been close friends and colleagues for decades with multiple franchises
Gulp.  So Rasmus, a guy still in his prime with 4.5 WAR talent and 25 dinger capability, may well fall into the lap of the Reds, who will then get to make a decision on whether to sign him in the face of the scenario spelled out above.  This, of course, is the same franchise who made Skip Schumaker their biggest acquisition of last offseason largely due to his veteran presence and clubhouse mantra, and we all know damn well that Skip and Colby were on the same Cardinals teams when Colby was traded "for not listening" to the coaches by whom Skip was beloved.

Do you see Walt Jocketty punting the mindset and philosophy that got him to this point in his career?

Ha.  That likely means one thing, and one thing only:  Nori Aoki, Cincinnati Reds LF.