The Cincinnati Reds are possibly entering their busiest offseason in the last few years. With trade rumors surrounding their star second baseman (per MLBTraderumors.com), and with a new manager for the club, the Reds might see a lot of changes.
While the Reds plan to be very busy, the likelihood of any major high-profiled free agent signing is simply dismal. But forget all of that for the next couple of minutes.
Let’s play the big “What if?” game and find out who the Reds might pick up if money and contract years were not a factor.
Getting right to it, here are the top 5 dream free agent pickups for the Cincinnati Reds.
All statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Let’s go ahead and get the obvious choice out of the way. Shin-Soo Choo showed the Reds what it’s like to have a guy with a .423 OBP leading off (per Baseball-Reference.com). No secret here—it’s great.
Choo’s ability to reach base at such a high level definitely had a trickle down effect. It helped Brandon Phillips reach 100 RBI and made it easier for Jay Bruce to win his second Silver Slugger award in a row (per MLB.com).
The biggest worry about Choo was his defense, and the Reds were lucky enough to put great defenders around him. However, if Choo resigned, he might not be the regular starting center fielder.
Billy Hamilton impressed everyone in his short major league time and deserves another look this spring. Having Choo in left field would send an expensive Ryan Ludwick to the bench. On the other hand, no one is sure about his bat speed after a major arm surgery at the age of 35.
The reality check is that Choo will make a ton this offseason and the Reds shouldn’t bite at any enormous contracts. However, you can bet on it that the Reds 2014 leadoff situation will represent much more of the pre-Choo era since he will be nearly impossible to replace.
Curtis Granderson could be a leader the Reds are searching for in the clubhouse. While Ludwick was able to provide some fire for the players in 2012, the Reds might need someone they know will start every day in 2014.
Granderson had an injury-filled 2013, but should be completely ready for this spring. Granderson was a back-to-back 40-plus homerun guy in 2011-12 and had over 105 RBI in both years.
His high strikeouts and consistent trips to the DL are sort of a red flag for the 32-year-old veteran. However, batting Granderson second would set up Joey Votto extremely well in the lineup.
The only issue is what about Hamilton? Hamilton could play left field with Granderson in center, but that would be a lot to ask of a rookie. Ludwick would likely get the bulk of playing time forcing Phillips or Zack Cozart to leadoff.
Granderson made $15 million last year and MLBTradeRumors.com have him projected at $45 million over three years. You can pretty much kiss that small probability goodbye.
It’s somewhat crazy that a player making only $700 thousand last year is making this list, but Marlon Byrd would be an amazing addition to the Reds. Byrd hasn’t made under $1 million since 2006 and will likely bank a hefty contract after a .291/.336/.511 slash line in 2013.
Byrd makes the most sense for the Reds because he would be the best back up option for Hamilton in center. Remember, we’re forgetting money and contract years here.
With that said, Byrd would give the Reds a fantastic plan B if Hamilton can’t figure out major league hitting. Byrd would add depth to the outfield and a veteran presence. Byrd’s 24 home runs shows that he still has plenty of pop and could solidify the absence of Choo.
The problem is that Byrd is going to want more than a year-long contact, and he’s going to make good money in 2014. The Pittsburgh Pirates are predicted to retain Byrd for around two years and $15 million (per MLBTradeRumors.com).
It would be tough to pull him away from Pittsburgh, where he’s quickly become a fan favorite. Secondly, other teams are anxious to dish out more money and give Byrd a starting role, which might prevent him from even talking to the Reds.
The Aussie closer Grant Balfour is a free agent this year and will likely earn a nice salary after collecting sub-2.60 ERA’s in the last two seasons. Balfour also had a career-high 34 saves in 2013.
Balfour could be the necessary addition to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. While Balfour is not quite on the same level as Chapman, he would be an ideal backup who would keep the Reds’ bullpen dominant.
Balfour had a 10.3 K/9 rate in 2013 with 72 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched. However, at the age of 35, the righty will be looking for multiple years before he entertains the idea of retirement.
Carlos Beltran could be the middle of the order bat the Reds need. He would immediately help drive the Reds' offense to the next level.
Beltran had a .296/.339/.491 slash line with 24 home runs and 30 doubles. Although Beltran will turn 37 next year, he has shown a lot of naysayers that he can still hit for power.
Beltran was a crucial component to the St. Louis Cardinals' reaching the NLCS in 2012 and World Series in 2013. He made Albert Pujols' exit much easier for fans in St. Louis.
Beltran also had back-to-back seasons with more than 145 games played for the first time since 2007-08. There's no doubt he would make the Reds lineup a serious threat, but there’s hardly any chance the club will be able to afford him.
The AL will be far more luring by positioning him as the DH. However, if money and contract years were off limit, the Reds would have the most success signing Beltran to the 2014 Reds' roster.
Do you have someone you believe would be a better dream free agent pick? Comment below or follow me on Twitter.