When Brandon Phillips put the kibosh on a trade that would've sent him to the Washington Nationals back in December, the heavy lifting portion of the massive Cincinnati Reds dismantling effectively ended for the offseason. Buttressing the 2015 moves of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Marlon Byrd were the winter trades of Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, and with Phillips immovable and Jay Bruce's value too low to reap value, the shuffling of the roster appears to be settled for the near term, at least.
We can debate the merits of the players that have been brought in to replace those who have been shipped out, but with winning in 2016 a non-priority in this rebuild, it's fair to say that the April 4th Opening Day roster will come almost entirely from the pool of players currently set for camp in Goodyear next month. I said 'almost,' though, because there are still three moves that the team could make that could alter the dynamics of that process.
Here are those three moves, from most likely to least likely.
Reds sign Bronson Arroyo
Old habits die hard, and the connection the Reds have with their former ace and rotation cog appears much the same. The two have been linked with a reunion for some time, with WCPO's John Fay reporting back in November that the two sides met and Reds.com's Mark Sheldon again noting in early January that there's interest in bringing the veteran hurler back into the fold.
Since parting ways with the Reds after the 2013 season, Arroyo has had as many Tommy John surgeries as complete games thrown, and he'll turn 38 years old next month. However, he's long been regarded as a great influence in the dugout with younger pitchers, and with the Reds set to roll out the sophomore version of the all-rookie rotation that threw most every second half inning in 2015, adding a sage on a cheap deal wouldn't be a terrible idea. Advice aside, the team will also need someone to eat innings early in the season, since Anthony DeSclafani may well be the only starter on the roster that's capable of sniffing 200 innings in 2016. Arroyo, if healthy, could help with that while also keeping the service clocks from starting on the likes of Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, and Cody Reed, among others.
Add in that Homer Bailey's the only other established starter in the running for innings - and he won't be back and functional until mid-May, at best - and picking up another rubber arm makes too much sense. This deal seems like it'll happen, with the only caveat being whether it's a cheap, MLB guaranteed deal or a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite. (And even if it's not Arroyo, I'd be shocked if the Reds did not sign a player of his ilk prior to the season, one along the lines of Kyle Lohse or Justin Masterson.)
Reds sign Skip Schumaker
I'm not crying because I'm sad. Those are the tears of inevitability.
Look, it's been well established in both winning and losing seasons that the Reds front office places immense value on locker room leadership, doing things the right way, grittiness, veteranitude, scrapability, and perceived versatility regardless of what the numbers suggest. Skip Schumaker ticked all those boxes prior to the 2014 season, and for that he was rewarded with a 2-year contract that featured an option year for 2016 that the Reds recently decided to decline.
They didn't decline it because they were admitting they made a mistake. They declined it because they're on the lookout for the next Skip Schumaker.
I don't expect Skip to be back with the Reds, but in much the same way that they've been chasing Arroyo for the pitching portion of the young roster, I expect they'll be in the market for a veteran utility bench-bat that can provide leadership while not playing much at all. It could be Jonny Gomes! It could be Shane Victorino! It could be Jeff Francoeur (insert the inverse of exclamation mark). It could be Clint Barmes or Juan Uribe, but the point remains that it would be completely out of character for the Reds to head to Goodyear without a shining beacon of work-ethic being paid to participate.
Reds trade Amir Garrett & friends for Corey Dickerson
I'd place the odds of exactly Amir Garrett being sent to the Colorado Rockies for exactly Corey Dickerson at about the same level as the odds of Tucker Barnhart hitting 30 dingers in 2016, but the concept is one that the Reds could conceivably pull off. In the massive wheeling and dealing of their last thirteen months, the Reds have picked up a army of talented, well-regarded young pitching, and that complements the already talented pitching base they had in their system to begin with.
The Reds will very likely have three starting pitching prospects that crack Top 100 lists when those are released in the coming month, and none of them will be named DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb, Jon Moscot, or Brandon Finnegan. That group next to Reed, Garrett, and Stephenson paired with an outfield thin on talent (and nearing a trade of Bruce) means that the team could well try to target an established bat that has enough team control left to still be around when the Reds have a shot at being good again. Dickerson stood out for this since the Rockies have a logjam in their outfield and an insatiable thirst for pitchers who could have an ERA that starts with 3, but there are obviously other players in similar situations that could fit this bill.
The chips are there for a deal of this ilk to happen, one that would pave the way for a 2017 outfield of Jesse Winker, Billy Hamilton, and Dickerson-type, but I don't see the Reds pulling the trigger on it at this time. With the benefit of no expectations on their shoulders, they'll let Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, and Yorman Rodriguez ply their trade to see what they've got, all the while continuing to ignore that they've had far and away the most punchless, least valuable outfield in baseball for two full years running.