The Cincinnati Reds are quietly putting their team together for the 2014 season. It seems almost inevitable that a crucial trade or acquisition is on the horizon.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, another piece to the roster puzzle could be in place with second baseman and outfield utility man Skip Schumaker.
Schumaker would add some depth to the Reds’ bench. He held a decent .263/.332/.332 slash line in 2013, which was his worst since 2006 (per Baseball-Reference.com). He might not be a sexy free agent pickup, but he’ll surely help the team.
The Reds are still surrounded by some drastic rumors for the offseason. Let’s go ahead and play fact or fiction with the Reds' latest rumors.
All statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Rumor: According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Reds are still in pursuit of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. The trade couldn’t be made without moving Phillips and possibly Homer Bailey.
Explanation: The Reds will surely see a decline in their offense if Choo slips away. He’s an expensive commodity for the Reds and would likely make over $100 million in his next contract.
The Reds know Choo fits perfectly in the lineup. They were second in the NL with a .298 average in the first inning and led the league with 99 RBI and 89 walks (per MLB.com).
According to Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com, the Texas Rangers are currently interested in Choo. However, Heyman says that a Rangers connected person implied that if the “rumored prices” were true, Choo would be too costly for the team.
If the Rangers are intimidated by the asking price, the Reds might be out of the race. Moving Phillips and Bailey to obtain Choo is a lot of risk on an aging outfielder. In addition, Choo is blocked by Jay Bruce to play his most suitable spot in right field.
Choo was tolerable in center for the Reds this season, but moving that much money could land the Reds in the same situation they’re currently in with Phillips’ contact.
Rumor: According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Ryan Hanigan is going to be traded and there are teams interested. Olney suspects the Reds believe they’ll receive a good prospect for the veteran catcher.
In a sort of shocking free agent move, Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com reports the Reds have signed catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year deal. This immediately put the target on Hanigan, as the Reds might lean toward the 25-year-old Devin Mesoraco for the starting catcher role.
The Reds haven’t made any sort of announcement, but there's the possibility of moving Mesoraco for a larger bounty since he's projected to be a middle-of-the-lineup type of guy.
However, Hanigan is a solid defensive catcher and has led the league in caught stealing percentage the last two years (48 and 45 percent respectively). Hanigan is coming off his worst offensive season, batting only .198, but was injury plagued the majority of the season.
The Reds will not hold on to three catchers and Hanigan is the odd one out. He’ll attract teams in need of his defense rather than his bat. The Reds should indeed receive a respectable prospect in return.
Rumor: Again, Rosenthal mentioned that the Reds might have to move Phillips and Homer Bailey to obtain Choo. Bailey is entering his third year of arbitration and will likely see a large pay increase.
Bailey will be a free agent after the 2014 season and might be too expensive for the Reds to keep. Bailey has shown no signs of wanting to sign long-term to the Reds and is likely to test free agency in 2015.
The Reds best interest might be to trade the Texas native now and get the best ransom. Bailey is coming off his second 30-plus start season where he had his career-best 3.49 ERA and 199 strikeouts.
Bailey could free necessary money to sign Choo or another high-end free agent, and would bring a plethora of prospects to the organization. Bailey is at his most valuable apex, which would at least let the Reds entertain the idea of moving him.
However, if Bailey were moved, the Reds would be forced to move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. While Chapman could be successful in the rotation, the Cuban has shown no signs or interest (nor has manager Bryan Price) of moving to a starter role.
The Reds would be gambling too much on Chapman and Tony Cingrani to fill the rotation. The Reds’ success is mainly due to their dominant starting pitching and the club may want to see how 2014 pans out before moving Bailey.
Rumor: According to Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports, he believes the Reds might be better inclined to trade Phillips so they can free up payroll for a new Jay Bruce contact extension. Passan goes on to mention that power hitters are becoming a rarity and the Reds should hold on to their right fielder.
The possibility of a Phillips trade is the number one concern through this offseason. Some fans feel like the Reds will lose their team identity if he’s traded. The Reds front office could be thinking of an early exit plan on Phillips’ contact since he’s still owed $50 million.
The Reds are going to have a tough time finding a home for the aging second baseman who is still set to earn a ton of money. The team not only has to worry about his contact, but his persona as well.
Phillips is a fantastic player for the game. He’s an eccentric personality in a league filled with boy scouts. However, the Reds might have had enough when he called his contract "a slap in the face" midway through the season (per Cincinnati Magazine).
The Reds’ front office probably see this as the best time to move Phillips. The New York Yankees are still waiting on Robinson Cano’s decision and Phillips could be their plan B (per CBSsports.com). This would be the best bet for the Reds since the Yankees could handle a large portion of Phillips’ contract.
But that’s the major issue. Who is going to take all of Phillips’ $50 million? In all honesty, probably no team can afford that this winter. The Reds might be pulling the trigger too early on one of the premier second basemen in the league.
However, many believe (including Passan) that Phillips is out of Cincinnati. Even though it leaves a huge gap at second base, the Reds still seem eager to make the move.