The Cincinnati Reds have been fairly active so far this offseason, but there are still some moves that the team should try to make at the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings next week.
Cincinnati recently dealt catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade and received minor league pitcher David Holmberg from the Arizona Diamondbacks. That move was made possible by the team signing catcher Brayan Pena. Infielder Skip Schumaker signed with the club as well.
As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported, the Reds are unlikely to move second baseman Brandon Phillips.
For a team that has made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, Cincinnati has been involved in a lot of early moves and rumors.
The team is pretty much set at this point. Center field is about the only position that is uncertain. The rotation and bullpen are stacked. Depending on what the club does with Aroldis Chapman, there could be another move or two made on the staff. General manager Walt Jocketty told MLB Network on Wednesday that Chapman will likely close.
Let's check out some moves that the Reds should try to make at next week's meetings.
Keep up on what the Reds are doing this offseason by checking out Bleacher Report's tracker.
*All stats are via MLB.com
Center field is the only starting position up for grabs in Cincinnati, so the Reds should try to fill that hole with a premier free agent. However, the players that the team has been linked to would have to play out of position for a year in order to sign with the club.
There are two players who would fit this description: Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran.
Choo did fairly well on offense as the leadoff man in Cincinnati this past season. He finished second to Joey Votto in on-base percentage, as he and Votto were the only two National League players who walked at least 100 times in 2013, and he led the league in times hit by pitch.
He has plenty of suitors. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted that Choo is high on the Detroit Tigers' radar as they look for a left-handed bat. The Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees have also been linked to Choo. With Jacoby Ellsbury off the market, Choo may be the top outfielder on the market.
The Reds would have to be willing to outbid big-market teams in order to keep the 31-year-old. He did a good job leading off, but is he worth the nine-figure contract that he is likely going to get?
He certainly had some deficiencies, offensively and defensively. Take a look at his 2013 splits:
He still posted fairly good numbers overall, but it would be tough to justify throwing out more than $100 million for a player who struggles so mightily against southpaws (and on defense).
Choo's agent, Scott Boras, wants a deal that tops what Jayson Werth got a few years ago, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. He will be seeking at least five years.
If the Reds don't believe they could land Choo, they could turn their attention to Carlos Beltran. The club has shown interest in the veteran, according to the Puerto Rican newspaper Primera Hora.
The 36-year-old hit .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs, 30 doubles and 84 RBI this past season. In the postseason, he hit .268/.388/.464 with two home runs, three doubles and a triple with 15 RBI.
Beltran is known for his postseason heroics, which is intriguing to Cincinnati. However, at his age, he may not be able to play center field for a full year.
He is a former Cardinal, but he is not one of Jocketty's players.
Beltran is looking for a three-year deal. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Beltran has a three-year, $48 million offer on the table from an unknown team. Beltran would be a cheaper option in terms of money and years compared to Choo. However, C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted that Jocketty doesn't expect Beltran in Cincinnati next season.
Neither player would be ideal for center. However, signing a premier outfielder for the top of the lineup would help the offense next season and they could shift to left in 2015. Both players are expected to sign elsewhere, so the Reds have to decide just how much they like either player.
This has very little to do with how much Ryan Ludwick struggled in 2013 and is mostly about his contract. If he can hit the way he did in 2012, he will earn his money. However, the Reds would be better off trying to find a team to take on the majority of his contract.
According to BaseballProspectus.com, Ludwick will make $7.5 million in 2014 and has a $9 million mutual option, which includes a $4.5 million buyout. That means that $12 million is still guaranteed to him. Any salary relief that the team could get would help.
Ludwick missed the majority of the 2013 season after injuring his shoulder on Opening Day. When he came back, his swing wasn't the same as it was in 2012.
The 35-year-old hit .240/.293/.326 with two home runs and five doubles in 38 games this past season. For a guy who was supposed to hit right behind Joey Votto, those numbers are tough to swallow.
There's no arguing that the shoulder injury kept Ludwick from putting up strong numbers. That's a difficult injury for a hitter to work through.
It was tough to expect the outfielder to be back to form in August and be hot by September for the pennant race.
If the Reds could sign a premier outfielder and deal Ludwick, that would be the best-case scenario. They'd be able to put their signing in left field and let Billy Hamilton play in center. However, there probably isn't much interest for Ludwick on the market, especially this early in the winter.
Locking up Homer Bailey won't be easy for a couple of reasons, but Walt Jocketty and the Reds have to make a big push to sign the right-hander to an extension.
Talks for an extension haven't led to anything so far. Also, Bailey is due to make some big money. He is easily going to get $9 million in arbitration this winter, and if he hits the market after next season, he is going to get a huge contract. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Press tweeted that early estimates project Bailey at getting a five-year, $100 million contract next winter.
That projection may sound crazy right now, but if this winter is any indication, he's going to get that. Scott Kazmir, who hasn't had an earned run average below 4.00 since 2008, got a two-year, $22 million contract this winter.
Bailey's ERA and WHIP have dropped in each season since 2008. He posted a 3.49 ERA and a 1.124 WHIP this past season, both of which are personal bests. He has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the past two seasons, and he struck out 199 batters in 2013.
The 27-year-old has turned into an absolute stud on the mound. He has outdueled the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. The former first-round pick has allowed only one run on three hits in nine postseason innings, including a one-hit, 10-strikeout effort over seven innings in the 2012 NLDS.
Everything above is very impressive. Throw in two no-hitters and Bailey is an ace.
The right-hander has learned how to pitch in the majors. His fastball starts out at around 93 mph, and he ends the game throwing 97 mph with ease. He can mix in his filthy secondary pitches whenever he wants. He has a fantastic curveball, slider and changeup.
It won't be a cheap extension, but Bailey is worth the money.
Locking up Mat Latos isn't as pressing as getting Homer Bailey signed, but it would still be a great idea to try to sign him this winter.
The 25-year-old will make $7.25 million in 2014, and he will be eligible for arbitration for the final time after the season. Assuming he keeps pitching the way he has, he will get a hefty raise. It's clear that Latos has what it takes to lead this staff, so at least bringing up an extension would be wise.
Latos is 28-11 through his first two seasons, winning 14 games in each season, in Cincinnati. He very easily could have had more than 20 wins had it not been for blown saves this past season.
To put it in terms that Reds fans can understand, Latos went 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in five starts against the St. Louis Cardinals this past season.
When Johnny Cueto went down in the 2012 NLDS, it was Latos who stepped up. When Cueto went down in 2013, Latos led the staff throughout the season.
Latos has a 3.32 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP since joining the Reds. It has been remarkable what he has done in Great American Ball Park. The right-hander is 18-5 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.086 WHIP in 233 innings, over 35 starts, in the stadium. It has been incredible how well he has adjusted from playing in spacious Petco Park to the smaller Great American Ball Park.
His innings have increased each season since he debuted in 2009, and he has topped the 200-inning mark in both seasons with the Reds.
Although he is under team control for two more seasons, the Reds should approach Latos about an extension next week.