Previewing the Free-Agent Names Cincinnati Reds Should Be Chasing This Offseason
Cincinnati is officially headed to its third postseason appearance in four years.
That much success shows that there aren't many holes to fill. In fact, there's only one starting spot—in the lineup or rotation—that will be up for grabs in the offseason. That would of course be center field.
Most of the roster will remain the same next season, but there are a few spots that could be open. The Reds will again look for a utility man as Cesar Izturis' contract expires after this season. A few spots may be open in the bullpen, so keep an eye out for a reliever.
The most important free agents the team needs to chase are players who are already on the roster. The Reds don't have the money to chase a high-profile free agent. They will have to spend wisely and look at options that could turn out to be bargains.
Let's take a look at who the Reds should be chasing in the offseason.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds
There's no doubt about this one. Shin-Soo Choo has been terrific on offense this season and has helped the Reds return to the postseason.
His on-base percentage has topped .420 now, which puts him behind only Joey Votto. He has been able to do just about everything at the plate. The 31-year-old has walked 109 times and set a franchise record by being hit by a pitch 25 times this year.
Choo led all leadoff hitters with 21 home runs, and his 50 RBI out of the leadoff spot rank among the best in baseball. The outfielder also leads the team with 19 stolen bases.
When looking at the numbers, Choo's splits are incredible. He is hitting .321/.461/.567 with 21 homers and 45 RBI. Against southpaws, the left-handed hitter isn't the same hitter. He is hitting .201/.336/.236 without a home run.
Most importantly, his walk-off single against the New York Mets on Monday sent the team to the postseason. It was an iconic moment as the team acquired him to make an impact late in the season.
After playing right field in Cleveland, Choo was forced into center in Cincinnati. He has a cannon for an arm, which helped him overcome minor mistakes he may have made. Choo played an adequate center, but there is still room for improvement, especially near the wall.
What will be the biggest hold-up in contract talks with Shin-Soo Choo?
Overall this trade has been a success. Now the Reds must decide how much they want to keep the outfielder. If they re-sign him, he would likely shift over to left field by 2015.
Cincinnati is in an interesting situation. It can spend the money and re-sign a player who finished second in the league in OBP, or it can pass and take a chance on Billy Hamilton. The speedster has done enough on the bases in September to get a legitimate shot at the center field job next season.
If Choo stays in Cincinnati, Hamilton would likely be in the minors for most of the season as Ryan Ludwick's contract makes him virtually untradeable.
Whether it's the money or the years, this could be a long process. Choo would be wise to stay in the hitter-friendly park, but the Reds can't afford to overspend with Hamilton waiting in the minors.
Bronson Arroyo, SP, Cincinnati Reds
This is less likely to happen than re-signing Choo, but the Reds should make it a plan to sign at least one of their veteran free agents. The rotation is stacked from the front to the end. Bronson Arroyo has been the core of the rotation since joining the team in 2006.
Although he doesn't have a great fastball, the 36-year-old has figured out a way to effectively use his breaking balls. The right-hander pitches to contact, and the team can expect him to win at least 12 games and have an ERA in the mid-3.00 range.
Should the Reds re-sign Bronson Arroyo?
As the Reds have learned this year, starting pitching depth is great to have. Arroyo has never missed a start in his career. He has thrown at least 199 innings—assuming he doesn't miss his next start—in nine consecutive seasons, with eight coming in Cincinnati.
Durability is often overlooked until it is gone. Reds fans would love a rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani. However, Cueto and Cingrani have both missed time this year with injuries. Arroyo has pitched through nagging injuries and illnesses.
Even though he doesn't have electrifying stuff like Cueto or Cingrani, manager Dusty Baker knows he can count on Arroyo to take the mound every fifth day.
While it would be nice to re-sign Arroyo, he's going to demand a big contract after yet another strong season. The veteran pitcher has made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove during his time in Cincinnati, and he will be tough to replace if he signs elsewhere.
Eric O'Flaherty, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Cincinnati signed Manny Parra and Zach Duke this year to add left-handed arms to the bullpen. After a rocky start to the season, Parra has been solid since June. The southpaw will hit free agency in the offseason and could draw some interest from other teams.
Duke hasn't worked out quite as well.
Eric O'Flaherty has been a terrific reliever for the Braves since 2009. Unfortunately for him and the team, the southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. It will force him to take a smaller contract, but there will be plenty of interest.
In his time with the Braves, O'Flaherty has a 1.99 ERA in 249.1 innings. He has 199 strikeouts to only 81 walks.
Adding O'Flaherty would give the Reds an incredibly dominant bullpen. The bullpen would be able to shut the door with O'Flaherty, J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman on any given night.
The Braves are likely to try to keep the southpaw, but the Reds are going to look to add to the bullpen. If Parra re-signs with the team, the Reds will likely try to add a right-handed arm. Logan Ondrusek and Curtis Partch haven't shown the ability to shut teams down, so bullpen help is a priority in the offseason.
*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com
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