Hope only counts with horseshoes and soccer goalies, but it's also what keeps the fans huddled around baseball's water coolers and hot stoves this time of year. We all hope that Walt Jocketty and his front office menagerie can pull off something to turn the tides of the Cincinnati Reds back towards the division title days and off the path to being expensive, injured, and underperforming.
For the Reds, we know that they've got to shed salary before next season to make any substantial addition to the team a possibility, we know they've got a pile of arms nearing free agency that cannot all be signed to extensions, and - if Jocketty is to be believed - we know that the Reds are on the lookout for a bat that can help improve the offense. He admitted as much yesterday to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. What Jocketty hasn't said (yet has been mentioned through multiple other "sources") is that Jay Bruce may be available, too, but that the team would have to be blown away to trade him.
Man, the 2014 season was awful. But if there was one team for whom last season was even more abysmal, it was the Texas Rangers and their cavalcade of injuries, and if you read the tea leaves bagged and dunked so far this offseason, there's a chance that they and the Reds could match up to fix each other's numerous issues.
If healthy, the Rangers stand to have a potent core of position players, but they've got a distinct need for a bat in the OF after Alex Rios elected to become a free agent. Their starting rotation, however, has question marks thanks to a litany of injuries to the likes of Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Colby Lewis. If you zero in on the kind of potential moves the Rangers have been mentioned in so far this winter, you'll find them linked to several starters from the New York Mets, one - if not two - of the power hitting corner OFs still on the Atlanta Braves, and a talented starting pitcher with heavy ties to the Lone Star state. They've got well regarded arms in their upper-minors that are potentially on the table, but it's no secret that their best trading chips are found in the their vast wealth of infield depth. Elvis Andrus is still young (with his $120 million contract not likely to be moved), and 2014 saw both Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas graduate to the big leagues after having both been Top 100 prospects. The biggest puzzle piece, though, is Jurickson Profar, as the former top overall prospect in the game now should be healthy for the start of Spring Training after missing the entirety of his 21 year old season due to nagging shoulder issues.
And if I'm hoping a player who isn't currently a Red becomes a Red, I'm hoping it's Jurickson Profar. So let's spitball.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has mentioned that the Rangers and GM Jon Daniels have adding a bit north of $15 million to the 2015 payroll as their range for this offseason, with a power hitting OF under team control and starting pitching as their priorities. Sprinkle in their - or their local media and fanbase's - desire for a bit of Texas roots, and that sounds like a tasty combination of Jay Bruce and Mike Leake (coincidentally a player who some Rangers writers have had at least a glancing eye on for awhile). Leake slots in the middle of the Texas rotation with a wealth of experience pitching in a bandbox similar to the one in Arlington, while Bruce slots behind Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre as the native Texas dinger-smasher who is still of prime age and under very reasonable team control for three more seasons.
The Reds? They get Profar at league minimum for a year and team control of him through 2019, a second solid prospect (the caliber of, say, Alex Gonzalez), and enough payroll flexibility to still add talent to the 2015 ledger. Profar is a defensive whiz at each of SS, 2B, and 3B (with major league and minor league experience at each, to boot), but what's also intriguing is the limited experience he got in the OF because the Rangers trusted his ability there and wanted to keep him in the lineup everyday. From a purely 2015 perspective, starting him in LF for 80 games could be his primary role, but he'd also fit in the lineup nicely at 2B for 20 or so games to spell Brandon Phillips, and he could play 3B at times (to allow Todd Frazier to slide over to 1B and get Joey Votto time off when needed). His low-K approach and career .367 minor league OBP would fit well at the top of the order, and that would allow Billy Hamilton to slide down to the 7th spot. To top things off, there'd also be enough freed-up coin around to bring in Michael Morse, Nori Aoki, or a different dinger-donking OF bat via trade, if Jocketty so desired.
From the long-term perspective, however, Profar's ability to push Zack Cozart at SS would be the most important nugget, since the Zacuum's salary begins to climb up the arbitration ladder beginning in 2015. If Cozart fails to bring his OPS out of the .500's again in 2015, having a legitimate SS on the roster as an upgrade would be paramount. By then, Jesse Winker would also be around to take over LF full time, too.
It all rides on Profar's shoulder, of course, as well as how well Bruce's knee has recovered from its dismal 2014 display, and those are caveats needing knowledge to which we're simply not privy. It also would be a swap of players who at one point ranked as the overall best in the game by Baseball America, which is some quantifiable symmetry despite the likelihood of any of this happening being as near to nil as the Reds' team OBP last season.
There's no way I see Profar being traded at this point in time, since it would potentially be the sell-low of all sell-lows. December is for sptiballin', though, and this one's juicy enough to stick to the wall in Ms. Kline's room at least until graduation.