Chances of Each Important Cincinnati Reds Player Returning
Other players, like Chris Heisey, Alfredo Simon, Ryan Hanigan, Xavier Paul and Sam LeCure will be eligible for arbitration and while some of them are safe—e.g. LeCure—others aren't so lucky, and could find themselves on the chopping block—e.g. Paul and Heisey.
Obviously, the team's biggest decisions will come when they choose whether to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo. It's highly unlikely that they will retain both players given their contract desires and it's completely possible that neither player returns to the team next season.
The Reds will explore every avenue possible in order to get the best deal for their team, but barriers to bringing back every player on this list certainly exist. Prospects waiting to take over full-time starting jobs, salary desires and the number of years will all play a major role in who the Reds choose to keep, and who they choose to let walk.
For this reason, we'll take a look at the eight key players mentioned above, dissect their value to the team, and assess their chances of returning in 2014.
All stats and contract figures come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Bronson Arroyo has been a huge part of the Reds success over his eight-year tenure in Cincinnati. In said eight seasons, Arroyo has averaged 211 innings pitched with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP with per-nine averages of 5.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 9.1 H/9 and 1.3 HR/9.
After a 2011 season in which he battled back spasms and mononucleosis—he still made 32 starts that year—Arroyo went on to post back-to-back solid seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Arroyo finished the 2012 season with the second best full-season ERA and WAR figures of his big league career. In addition to having posted some of the best all-around metrics of any season in his career, Arroyo finished 2012 with a 59 percent quality start percentage—10 points higher than the big league average over his career.
In 2013, the final year of Arroyo's contract, the veteran right-hander improved upon his already solid resumé. Over 32 starts this year, Arroyo allowed a 3.79 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP while averaging 5.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 3.65 K/BB and 8.9 H/9.
Bronson also posted the second highest quality start percentage of his career—69 percent—and could have finished the year with 19 wins if not for some poor offensive support, and shoddy bullpen support.
Although he has a propensity for letting up the long ball, Arroyo established himself as one of the most reliable starters in baseball over his tenure with the Reds. Unfortunately for him, and possibly the Reds, that trend of reliability, coupled with his desire for a multi-year deal, makes him a prime candidate to become a roster casualty this offseason.
Beyond Arroyo's desire for the multi-year deal though is the fact that the Reds have very little room for him on the roster. Tony Cingrani forced his way into the conversation for a rotation spot next season as he filled in valiantly for the oft-injured Johnny Cueto in 2013.
In addition to the presence of an established talent like Cingrani, the Reds have top prospects Robert Stephenson, and Nick Travieso waiting for their crack at the starting rotation in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
This perfect storm of a situation is why Bronson Arroyo is highly unlikely to return to the team in 2014.
Chances of Returning: Less than 5 percent
Chris Heisey had a rather bad season in 2013. Over 87 appearances—224 at-bats—Heisey averaged a .237/.279/.415 slash line with nine home runs, 11 doubles, 23 RBI and 29 runs scored.
While he supplied some decent power in what was largely a bench role, Heisey's season was an all-around disappointment for one reason. When Ryan Ludwick went down with a shoulder injury that robbed him of nearly the entire 2013 season, Heisey failed to grab control of the every-day job in left field.
Fans will point the finger at Dusty Baker and attempt to cite his "unwillingness" to start the 28-year-old every day as the reason for Heisey's struggles. Unfortunately, this is flat-out untrue.
In the time that Ludwick was on the DL, Heisey started a team high 35 games in left field, while appearing in a total of 54. In that time, Heisey managed a .213/.262/.381 slash line with 15 extra-base hits—five home runs—with 13 RBI, 16 runs scored and a 38:7 K/BB.
In short, Heisey is a bench player and maybe, at best, a fourth outfielder on a contending team.
Therein lies the problem though for Heisey. Depending on where Billy Hamilton is in his progression, and what the Reds decide to do with Shin-Soo Choo, who we will discuss later in this article, Heisey's days in Cincinnati could be numbered.
At this point, Derrick Robinson is a more valuable player to the Reds than Heisey. Robinson comes in and offers plus speed as a pinch-runner, he can lay down a bunt and also plays solid defense as a late-innings replacement.
With the decline in Heisey's walk rate, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS+ between 2012 and 2013, he's made himself a possible non-tender/trade candidate this offseason.
Chances of Returning: 95 percent
Alfredo Simon has turned out to be one of the best under-the-radar signings of Walt Jocketty's tenure in Cincinnati. The 32-year-old has been outstanding for the Reds in his two seasons with the team, allowing a 2.78 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with per-nine averages of 7.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 8.1 H/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 99 appearances.
Despite being 32 years old, Simon is just entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. Simon earned $890k in 2013 and after two successive seasons of solid bullpen work, it's likely that his salary requirements will rise for the 2014 season.
With that said though, Simon isn't going to be a bank breaker for the Reds and is a shoe-in to return next season.
Chances of Returning: 100 percent
Let's get this out of the way early, Ryan Hanigan will be back with the team in 2014.
The 32-year-old looked his age in 2013 slashing just .198/.306/.261 with two home run, eight doubles, 14 RBI and 17 runs scored over 75 games played. In Hanigan's defense though, he did deal with some injury problems in 2013 and they likely played a role in his dismal offensive performance.
However, there are some legitimate concerns about him given his age and position. Luckily for Hanigan, the team only possess one other catcher who is big league ready, that being Devin Mesoraco.
Mesoraco, a 25-year-old and former top prospect in the team's organization, is an above-average defensive catcher with the ability to hit anywhere from 15-20 home runs in a full season. He offers the team youth and power at a premium position, but his bat is streaky and needs refinement.
With a new manager running the show in Cincinnati, it's likely that Mesoraco will take over the every-day job behind the plate with Hanigan relinquishing more and more playing time as the season progresses. Either way though, Hanigan will be back next season.
Chances of Returning: 100 percent
Manny Parra was brought in this offseason as a castoff from the Milwaukee Brewers. The 30-year-old was the owner of a 5.12 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over 172 appearances, including 74 games as a starter.
For obvious reasons, the Brewers decided to cut ties with Parra, leading to his signing with the Reds prior to the 2013 season.
Parra had a rough start to his season, allowing an 8.10 ERA and a 2.70 WHIP over his first six appearances and it looked as though his tenure in Cincinnati would be cut short. However, Parra went on a near-season-long tear, allowing a 2.52 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and per-nine averages of 11.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 5.7 H/9 and 0.7 HR/9.
Parra filled in admirably for Sean Marshall, who spent most of the 2013 season on the DL and showcased his ability to be a reliable left-handed specialist. Over nearly identical sample sizes between left-handed and right-handed batters, Parra posted these splits.
Parra was iffy against right-handed batters and allowed a significantly higher number of extra-base hits and walks to them. Conversely, Parra walked just four of the left-handed batters he faced while allowing just two extra-base hits and a .200/.262/.475 slash line against.
Parra was a key component to the success of the Reds' bullpen in 2013, a bullpen which ranked among the NL's top five in many categories including ERA, BAa, OBPa, OPSa, SV%, and WHIP, via ESPN.com.
Given the fact that he is free agent eligible, Parra will get to negotiate his own contract, and because of that he will likely see a significant increase over his $1 million salary from 2013. The fact that Parra is a specialist hurts his value as a free agent, but he should receive some attention from teams in need of a left-handed bullpen arm.
Given Marshall's injury concerns dating back to Spring Training 2012, combined with the need for another viable left-handed reliever outside of Marshall, Parra's value to the Reds is at an all-time high. Therefore, it's likely that he'll return for 2014.
Chances of Returning: 75 percent
Xavier Paul had his best professional season as a member of the Reds' outfield unit in 2013.
The 28-year-old filled several roles with the team including that of a fourth/fifth outfielder, pinch-hitter and even a starter for portions of the season. In those roles, Paul compiled 209 at-bats with a .244/.339/.402 slash line, seven home runs, 12 doubles, 32 RBI and 24 runs scored.
Paul may not have the power of Chris Heisey, but he offers a substantially better approach at the plate—as evidenced by his .339 OBP, compared to Heisey's .2xx mark—and it's enough to make up for the slight difference in power.
Paul also possesses a "clutch" factor. On three separate occasions this past season, Paul entered the game in the seventh inning or later and hit a home run. On two of the three occasions, Paul's home run broke a tie, and the Reds went on to win the game by just one run.
Like Heisey, Paul's role with the team in 2014 will depend largely on what the Reds decide to do with Shin-Soo Choo, and also with Billy Hamilton. Should Choo return, and or if Hamilton is deemed ready for a starting spot in the big league outfield, Paul will be relegated to a back-up outfielder/pinch-hitting role.
In the unlikely event that both of these events occur, Paul could be left off of the roster entirely in favor of Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey. Odds are though, one of the scenarios outlined above will not take place and Paull will be back with the team.
Chances of Returning: 90 percent
Sam LeCure was one of the most consistent arms in the Reds' bullpen. The 29-year-old righty appeared in the third most games of any Reds' reliever—63 appearances—and worked to a 2.66 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP and per-nine ratios of 9.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 7.4 H/9 and 0.6 HR/9.
LeCure finished a career-high 15 games in 2013 with some impressive results. The veteran righty allowed just 11 percent of his inherited runners to score—another career best for him—and he did so in high-leverage situations.
Average leverage index (aLI) measures the amount of pressure a pitcher faces in a given game or season with 1.00 being average, anything above that mark represents a high-pressure situation, while anything below 1.00 represents a low-pressure situation. LeCure's aLI in 2013—1.352—was the third highest on the team behind only Aroldis Chapman, and Jonathan Broxton.
Essentially, LeCure had an outstanding season while consistently facing more high-pressure situations than all but two of the team's pitchers.
The performance of the Reds' bullpen has been one of the biggest areas of success for the team over the last few seasons. In order for that trend to continue, the Reds will bring LeCure back in 2014, and it should do so with little difficulty given his status as an arbitration-eligible player.
Chances of Returning: 100 percent
The eighth and final member of this list is center fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo was brought in prior to last season in a three-team deal involving the Diamondbacks, Indians and Reds. The 30-year-old was expected to move to a new position—center field—and occupy the leadoff spot in the team's lineup
The 30-year-old did both with varying levels of success. In the outfield, it was clear that Choo was out of his element. In just his seventh game, Choo's lack of fly-ball reading skills as a center fielder reared its' ugly head in the form of two errors against the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, as the season progressed, so did Choo's ability to read, and react to fly balls in center field. Nobody expected Choo to be the best center fielder in the league, but he was certainly a serviceable one.
Offensively, Choo had few equals at his position. Among MLB center fielders, Choo ranked in the top-five in batting average, doubles, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, pitches per-plate appearance, total bases, extra-base hits, runs created and walks per-strikeout, via ESPN.com.
Choo dominated offensively and was able to set the table for the likes of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. His ability to step in and fill a huge void in the team's lineup was a humongous factor in the team's success throughout the 2013 season.
The problem for the Reds is going to lie in their ability to offer a deal in line with what Choo and his agent Scott Boras feel is fair. According to CBSsports.com's Jon Heyman, Boras feels that his client is worth significantly more than $100 million on the open market.
Choo brings an incredible amount of value to the table as a leadoff hitter with plus-power and on-base skills, so it's likely that he'll be able to command anywhere in the neighborhood of $80-100 million this offseason.
If this is in fact the case, and there is a team willing to offer Choo a $100 million-plus contract, then the Reds have little hope of re-signing him. The Reds already have sizable commitments to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, and they'll have to deal with the prospects of re-signing Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman and several other key players in the upcoming years.
If Choo struggles to find a taker on his massive contract—e.g. Michael Bourn in 2012—then the Reds may be able to land Choo. The most likely scenario though, is that the Reds offer Choo a one-year tender in the hopes that he may flop out of the market, and if he doesn't, they'll get a compensatory pick in the upcoming draft.
Chances of Returning: 30 percent