The last twenty-five years of Cincinnati Reds baseball has provided ample amount of what-ifs.
What if Austin Kearns hadn't destroyed his shoulder trying to run through Ray King? What if Felipe Lopez ever came close to replicating his All Star campaign of 2005? What if neither had been part of The Trade that brought in 73 year old Royce Clayton and roughly 2/3 of Gary Majewski's shoulder?
What if Aroldis Chapman had been given the chance to start? What if the Reds had ever actually tried playing Brandon Phillips at SS? What if Johnny Cueto didn't seize up some 10 pitches into his start against San Francisco in the 2012 NLDS, or if Pablo Sandoval hadn't crumpled Joey Votto's knee two months prior?
What if Ken Griffey, Jr. had...
Sigh. You know all of this.
What would have happened had Chris Heisey ever had a full-time shot as an outfielder with the Reds will, for some, be filed in the same cabinet. First the platoon (and defensive) struggles of Jonny Gomes seemed to open a window for the Reds' 2009 Minor League Player of the Year, as did the future struggles of both Drew Stubbs in center and the then newly signed Ryan Ludwick in left, but there just always seemed to be something holding Heisey back. Untimely injuries, including a persistently balky hamstring, tied his shoelaces together each and every time the door seemed to open for him, as did a burgeoning reputation as a player who could pinch-hit with the best that ever had. That begat a pigeon-holed future as a primary bench player, and that beautiful Heisey begonia many hoped would blossom instead got planted in the shady corner of GABP.
Chris Heisey was an easy player to watch in red. An all-out guy who willingly played three positions (and even took infield grounders during one spring training when the roster crunch dictated that was worth trying), you knew you could trust him to make solid play after solid play regardless of where he was cast, and his compact swing packed the kind of punch that was good for 50 dingers in the 5 seasons he spent with the big league club. He carved out a niche as the picture perfect 4th OF - which was largely the reason he had such a pocket of support to be a starter - and generally provided exactly what the team could have hoped for from that position for the entirety of his stint in Cincinnati: plus defense at multiple positions, no true platoon issue, and a career line as a pinch hitter of .283/.335/.587 as the prime source of pop off the bench.
For five seasons, he was the perfect 4th OF fit for the Reds both because of what he brought to the table and because he was cheap. Real cheap. He made a bit over $3.9 million total from the Reds from 2010-2014, but with money tight and roster holes all around, Heisey became more expendable than many of us would have liked. But for the Reds, being able to shed some $2.3 million in 2015 salary for a 30 year old part-time player whose single-season OPS had declined from .797 in 2011 to .715 in 2012, .694 in 2013, and just .643 last year was probably a sane decision. Just because the other options on the current 25 man roster project to be more terrible than Heisey doesn't mean that a) he should have been the full-time starter in LF or that b) the Reds shouldn't have moved him in a reasonable deal to open resources for problem areas.
So Chris Heisey is now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, well, good for him. While he has struggled to replicate 18 dingers and .797 OPS he put up in 2011, he has managed to maintain the positive portions of his skillset well enough to continue his career into the more lucrative arbitration years, and I'm happy about that. For a 17th round draft pick to have had the career he's had already is something to be proud of, and that he'll have a chance to do it on a big stage with the biggest, baddest, most cash-rich franchise in the game with a front office who understands his value should give his most ardent Reds supporters some semblance of closure and/or satisfaction. (He'll also join fellow 2006 Cincinnati draftee nee castoff Justin Turner in LA, all while Skip Schumaker attempts to fill both of their roles on the Reds for just about the same amount of coin in 2015, in case you felt like hitting yourself in the face one more time).
To close the book, Heisey hit .247/.299/.422 in 1452 PA for Cincinnati in parts of 5 seasons, totaling 328 hits, 50 dingers, 147 RBI, 25 SB, and an OPS+ of 94, accruing 4.4 bWAR and 6.4 fWAR in the process. Righty Matt Magill comes to the Queen City in exchange, and if he can find the plate with any regularity with a few of the pitches in his talented arsenal, we'll all have Heisey's years in red to thank for it.
Enjoy rush hour on the 101, Chris.