The Cincinnati Reds are right in the thick of one of the tightest division races in all of baseball.
Even though the team is bogged down in what is arguably the toughest playoff race in the league, it's not too early to start turning our attention toward the 2013-14 offseason.
The Reds will have six players entering free agency following the 2013 season—excluding players who are only arbitration eligible. Though some, like Nick Masset, Manny Parra and Cesar Izturis have yet to have any significant positive effect on the team, others like Xavier Paul, Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo have had profound impacts on the team's first 74 games.
It goes without saying that not all of these Reds will be brought back. Some could be let go due to financial reasons while others are performing so poorly that they may not make it through this season, let alone the impending offseason.
With that said, here are predictions for the fates of the six Reds' free agents for the 2013-14 offseason.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through June 20, 2013.
Nick Masset hasn't thrown a pitch since Sept. 27, 2011. He required shoulder surgery in September of 2012 and although it was believed that he'd be ready for the start of the 2013 season, that became a pipe dream and Masset is still sitting on the 60-day DL (per Hardballtalk.com).
Masset was a great reliever with the Reds. In 241 appearances with the team, the 31-year-old compiled 240.1 innings pitched with a 3.07 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and ratios of 8.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 2.45 K/BB and 7.9 H/9.
Masset could be a good signing should he stay healthy. Therein lies the problem though. Masset now has an established track record for injury, making him worth substantially less than his $3.1 million salary for this season.
Prediction: Masset signs a minor league contract with the Reds
Where to begin with Manny Parra? This wasn't really a good move to begin with, and Parra's track record speaks volumes to that, as I tackled in a previous article.
Parra has never been a great pitcher. His best season featured a 10-8 record with a 4.39 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and ratios of 8.0 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.96 K/BB and 9.8 H/9.
With that said though, no one saw Parra being this bad. In 17 appearances, the 30-year-old owns a 6.00 ERA, 2.07 WHIP and ratios of 11.4 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.17 K/BB with an astonishing 15.0 H/9.
Parra's role on the team was always going to be that of an innings-eater. Granted he's left-handed, but how much faith can you put in a lefty who allows a .465/.500/.837 triple slash in 43 at-bats against right-handed batters?
Parr is a shoe-in for being released at the end of the season. In fact, should the Reds decide to keep Tony Cingrani in the bullpen beyond Sean Marshall's return to the team, Parra may not even make it through the month of July.
He is guaranteed just $1 million this season so the Reds would benefit more from eating that money and cutting their losses with Parra.
Prediction: Cut mid-season 2013
César Izturis is in his 13th big league season and his first with the Cincinnati Reds. Izturis is serving as a utility middle infielder, but hasn't seen much action.
In his 30 games, Izturis has 67 at-bats with a .164/.243/.194 triple slash, two doubles, three RBI, two runs scored and a 6:7 K/BB ratio.
Izturis was never going to be much of an offensive threat, but all three components of his slash line are substantially below his career marks of .253/.293/.321.
Offensive problems aside, Izturis is a very capable fielder and has yet to make an error in the 2013 season. If he chips in an occasional hit, we'll consider that a bonus.
Izturis is going to be 34 by the start of the 2014 season and that will severely hurt his chances of re-signing with the team. On top of that, Henry Rodriguez—currently playing with Triple-A Louisville—is on pace to become the team's permanent middle-infield replacement following the 2013 season.
Prediction: Izturis becomes a free agent and signs a non-guaranteed deal with another team.
Outside of the next two free agents on this list, Xavier Paul is by far the most intriguing.
Paul had played in parts of three seasons prior to joining the Reds in 2012, but his time spent with the Reds has easily been the most successful.
Before joining the Reds, Paul played with the Dodgers and Pirates, appearing in 183 games with 378 at-bats, a .246/.288/.341 triple slash, three home runs, 15 doubles, 32 RBI, 49 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
In his time with the Reds, Paul has played in 109 games with a 283/.367/.443 slash line, seven homers, 12 doubles, 31 RBI and 26 runs scored.
Nearly half of Paul's games with the Reds have come in his 55 games this season. Paul has split time with Derrick Robinson as Ryan Ludwick's replacement in left field and has put forth a stellar effort.
In his 54 games, Paul owns a .255/.350/.416 slash line with five HR, 24 RBI, and 18 runs scored.
Paul's success with the Reds has hardly gone unnoticed. He should easily earn a chance to slot in as the team's fourth outfielder in 2014.
Prediction: Paul signs a two-year/$1.8 million deal with the Reds
Shin-Soo Choo quickly won over the hearts of Reds fans after posting a .337/.477/.554 triple slash with four home runs, eight doubles, 11 RBI and 20 runs scored through March and April.
After a year of dismal leadoff batting for the Reds, the production that Choo has put forth comes as a major relief.
However, Choo has cooled off considerably since his first month, but his numbers are still great and include a .280/.426/.466 slash line, 10 homers, 18 doubles, 23 RBI, 50 runs scored and seven stolen bases.
Choo's contract runs out at the end of 2013, but his production at the top of the order has led to calls from fans for an extension.
The money could be there for Choo along with an extension, but multiple factors are at play here. Choo's going to want plenty of years, and aside from some recent hiccups, his agent Scott Boras generally gets what he wants.
Beyond that though, re-signing Choo would create a problem in the outfield. By the start of next year, the team's top prospect, Billy Hamilton, should be ready to join the team full-time. If that turns out to be the case then that leaves the Reds with four players—Choo, Hamilton, Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce—to occupy three positions.
The money required to sign Choo would likely render the re-signing of Bronson Arroyo completely unlikely.
Prediction: Tests the market and signs with another team
Bronson Arroyo is winding the clock back all the way to 2006—his lone All-Star Game selection—with his impressive 2013 campaign.
Among Reds' pitchers who qualify for the ERA title, Arroyo ranks second behind Mike Leake—yes, that Mike Leake—with a 3.13 ERA. Arroyo pairs that low ERA with a 1.17 WHIP (his lowest since 2010) and ratios of 5.0 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 3.11 K/BB and 8.9 H/9.
With his contract expiring and the fact that he's on the wrong side of 35 years old, it seemed to reason that Arroyo would not be back with the team in 2014.
The Reds possess a few young, talented pitchers who could be ready to take center stage come March and Arroyo appeared to be the likely man out. However, through his first 14 starts, that no longer seems to be the case.
Barring a complete flop in the second half of the season, Arroyo has composed a strong case for a contract extension.
He's a well-liked player and his experience can serve the Reds and their younger players well, but right now, with Tony Cingrani and Robert Stephenson exciting fans and management, this one's a toss-up.
With that said though, my gut says Arroyo will be back in Cincinnati if he keeps up his pace.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Reds, 1 year/$5 million