Alexei Ramirez, pictured above.
The team has been linked to several potential additions, including White Sox reliever Jesse Crain (per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune), Phillies third baseman Michael Young (per Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com) and even Glen Perkins of the Minnesota Twins (per Jim Bowden of ESPN.com, subscription required).
We'll start by examining these three players, and I'll explain why not one of them fits the mold of a player the Reds have to deal for in the coming week.
Crain is easily the best reliever on the open market, but concerns about his health continue to swirl as he makes his return from a shoulder strain, according to MLB.com. Gonzales reports that the Reds will have scouts in Chicago take a look at the 32-year-old righty, but is Crain really the best fit for the Redlegs?
Crain, if healthy, would slot well into the Reds bullpen. However, the idea of adding a reliever with injury concerns and an expiring contract doesn't seem to fit well into the Reds' plans.
Speaking of players with expiring contracts, what about Young?
According to Rosenthal, the Reds have already kicked the tires on Young in Philadelphia.
A seven-time All-Star, Young is enjoying a solid season with the Phillies. In 94 games, he owns a .280/.343/.409 slash line with seven home runs, 18 doubles, three triples, 31 RBI, 38 runs scored and a 54/33 K/BB ratio.
All of that is all well and good, but two major questions still remain. The first, and arguably the most important, is whether the Phillies are going to be sellers at the deadline.
The Phillies are only seven games in back of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and could be buyers looking to make one last run at the playoffs with their current group of players.
Beyond that though, the team's current third baseman, Todd Frazier, has a gaudy .417/.481/.625 slash line since the All-Star break, making the idea of benching him a stretch.
Don't hold your breath on Young coming to Cincinnati.
All of this brings us to the deal that the Reds must make if they wish to stay in the mix for the division and/or the wild-card race.
The Cincinnati Reds shortstop situation has its flaws.
Zack Cozart is a fantastic defensive shortstop and earned that reputation as an NL Gold Glove Award finalist in 2012. He also possesses above-average pop in his bat at the shortstop position and ranks eighth among MLB shortstops with eight home runs, per ESPN.com.
Cozart's inability to take a walk, as his 3.7 percent walk rate indicates, has led to a subpar .270 OBP. While he has scored the fourth-most runs of any shortstop in baseball, we'll chalk that up to being a product of a solid offense and hitting in front of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.
Cozart has slotted as the Reds' No. 2 hitter for most of the 2013 season. Without a viable option, outside of the recently hot Chris Heisey, Cozart's struggles have been a black mark at the top of the order. He provides, at best, inconsistent production to be a near-automatic out between Shin-Soo Choo and Votto.
The White Sox are way out of the playoff race at 16 games in back in the AL Central. Because of the massive gap between them and the Detroit Tigers, the White Sox are in the midst of an all-out fire sale.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the only exceptions to said fire sale are ace Chris Sale and long-time White Sox first baseman and former Red Paul Konerko.
All of that brings us to White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The team may not be able to peddle Crain to the Reds, but a trade for Ramirez is certainly in the cards.
Ramirez would bring a lot of the same tools as Cozart. Over his six-year career, the 31-year-old shortstop has averaged a .276/.315/.402 triple-slash with 162-game averages of 15 home runs, 28 doubles, 72 RBI, 76 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.
For argument's sake, let's assume that the Reds acquire Ramirez at the deadline on July 31. That would provide for about 54 possible games with the Reds.
The chart below compares the projected stats of both Ramirez and Cozart over a 54-game stretch, using 162-game averages.
The biggest disparities come in the RBI, stolen base, average and OBP categories. Ramirez holds a sizable lead in all four of those categories, and coming down the stretch, that increase in production over Cozart could be all the Reds need to solidify their lineup.
The major benefit of adding Ramirez is the ability to bat him second. This would eliminate the only glaring hole in the Reds' lineup, as both Frazier and Devin Mesoraco have been heating up since the All-Star break.
Should the Reds make a deal for Alexei Ramirez?
By solidifying the No. 2 hole, opposing pitchers would have less opportunities to intentionally walk Votto and that could pay huge dividends as the season approaches its final stretch. Beyond this season though, Ramirez would be under team control through 2014 and 2015, where he'll earn $9.5 million and $10 million, respectively, per season.
Given the opportunity, the Reds should move on Ramirez with a possible package involving starter Daniel Corcino, outfielder Jesse Winker and second baseman Ryan Wright.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted and are current through play on July 25, 2013.
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