4 Changes the Cincinnati Reds Should Make Before Spring Training

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

4 Changes the Cincinnati Reds Should Make Before Spring Training

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    A limited budget has the Cincinnati Reds trying to get creative to fill out their roster, but there are still a few things that the club needs to do before spring training begins.

    The team has addressed its bench and bullpen so far this offseason. There aren't any glaring holes on the roster, so the good news is that the team is nearly set.

    Center field continues to be a position of intrigue, and that position is addressed later in this slideshow.

    General manager Walt Jocketty didn't make any moves at the 2013 MLB winter meetings. However, he has a history of pulling off big moves later in the offseason. Mat Latos was acquired on Dec. 17, 2011, and Shin-Soo Choo was acquired on Dec. 12, 2012.

    Don't expect a move of that magnitude to be made this winter. The remaining moves figure to be minor.

    Let's check out what changes the Reds need to make before the spring.


    *All stats are via MLB.com

Name Billy Hamilton the Starting Center Fielder

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    At this point, Cincinnati fans expect Billy Hamilton to be named the team's center fielder. It doesn't look like the organization is going to sign any premier free agent, so it should make it official and name Hamilton the starting center fielder.

    The Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reported last week that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said the team will move on from Shin-Soo Choo. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Choo is looking for a deal around $142 million over seven years. If that's the case, count the Reds out.

    There aren't many options on the market that would dramatically improve this team, so Hamilton should be given the starting job.

    As MLB.com's Mark Sheldon wrote, everyone involved is planning on the youngster to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Rather than wait around and look for other options, Jocketty and/or manager Bryan Price should publicly announce their decision soon.

    Is Hamilton ready to take over? That remains to be seen.

    The switch-hitter hit only .256/.308/.343 with six home runs, 18 doubles and four triples in his first year at Triple-A. He got off to a slow start and hit only .205 in April. He slowly brought his average up, so he showed improvement as the year went on.

    Hamilton showed some promising signs at the plate in September. He recorded seven hits in 19 at-bats, plus two walks, with the Reds.

    His speed is what makes him dangerous. He had 395 stolen bases in five seasons in the minors, and he started his Reds career with 13 stolen bases before getting caught.

    We all saw the kind of energy that he brought to the club and the city in the final month.

    It's time to see what Hamilton can do over a full season. The Reds could bat him leadoff with Brandon Phillips behind him to get the offense going early. If Hamilton struggles, he could be moved down to No. 8 or even take the Tony LaRussa approach and bat him ninth.

    A limited budget restricts what the Reds can do this winter. They have a strong option in Hamilton already in the organization, and making him the starter has to be done soon. 

Re-Sign Bronson Arroyo

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    This is a tough decision for the club to make. Bronson Arroyo has been a big part of this franchise since 2006, but the team has options for its rotation. Arroyo is likely to get somewhere around $12 million, which puts the Reds in a tough spot financially.

    ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the Reds have told Arroyo that they will offer the free agent a one-year deal.

    A multi-year deal may not make the most sense for the club, but a one-year deal would be a good move. Depending on what the club can work out with Homer Bailey and Mat Latos, Arroyo may not be needed past next season.

    Arroyo went 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.153 WHIP this past season. He led the league in home runs allowed for the second time in three years with 32. 

    With Arroyo, the Reds know what they are getting.

    He has thrown at least 200 innings in seven of his eight seasons in Cincinnati, and 199 in the other, thanks to his ability to pitch every five days. He is as durable as it gets and has never missed a start. He will allow 25 to 30 home runs, but he doesn't give out many free passes, which limits the damage. In four of the past five seasons, his earned run average has ranged from 3.74 to 3.88.

    The 36-year-old is 105-94 with a 4.05 ERA since joining the Reds. The right-hander made an All-Star team and won a Gold Glove. He is the longest-tenured member of the club and provides great leadership.

    Look, the Reds could go with a rotation of Johnny Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani. That would be a fantastic rotation if the pitchers can stay healthy. However, Cueto and Cingrani are both question marks in terms of health.

    In 2013, Cueto (11) and Cingrani (18) combined to make 29 starts. Cueto has been dealing with injuries to his side since the 2012 NLDS and made multiple trips to the disabled list this year. Cingrani dealt with a back injury starting in late August and was limited to two outings in September.

    Arroyo would give the team someone that the Reds know will pitch every five days. The club lacks starting pitching depth, and having Arroyo around gives the team a pitcher who will eat innings.

Let Tony Cingrani Start the 2014 Season in the Minors

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    Sending Tony Cingrani back down to Triple-A probably wouldn't be popular in Reds country, but it would be a good move if the club brought back Bronson Arroyo. Obviously if Arroyo doesn't come back, Cingrani will be in the Reds' rotation.

    Let's just say that Arroyo comes back because the free agent has started to lose suitors. The biggest reason a one-year deal would make sense for the Reds is that it would allow Cingrani to spend a little more time in the minors to develop his secondary pitches.

    The southpaw looked pretty good in his first season in the majors. He went 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.099 WHIP. He struck out 120 batters in 104.2 innings. Those numbers are great, especially for someone who was starting in the majors for the first time. He was able to put those numbers up relying mainly on his fastball.

    Cingrani held left-handers to a .186 average and right-handers to a .200 average, so he is fairly unhittable. He allowed only one hit in 85 at-bats that reached an 0-2 count. That's insane.

    The 24-year-old wouldn't be going back to Triple-A for any other reason than to work on his secondary pitches. He dominated in Louisville in six starts this past season. He went 3-0 with a 1.15 ERA for the Bats in 2013.

    According to FanGraphs, Cingrani used his fastball 81.5 percent of the time this past season. That's a dangerous game for a starting pitcher to play, as hitters could eventually start to sit on the heater, especially in clutch situations.

    Cingrani also needs to work on going deeper into games. He threw more than six innings in only five of his 18 starts with the Reds. He averaged only 5.1 innings per start. Striking out batters will cause a pitcher to exit early, which is what the left-hander relies on. That puts a lot of pressure on the relievers, whereas Arroyo saves the bullpen. 

    Although he could probably continue to put up strong numbers with his fastball, Cingrani could use more time in the minors to develop confidence in his fastball and learn how to pitch deeper into games. So if the Reds re-sign Arroyo, Cingrani should go down to the minors to develop some more rather than keeping him in the majors as a reliever.

Re-Sign Cesar Izturis

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    To round out the roster, the Reds should look to players who were on the 2013 roster.

    The bench will consist of Skip Schumaker, Jack Hannahan, Chris Heisey, Brayan Pena and another player.

    Outfielder Derrick Robinson was designated for assignment, as The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay reported, and Xavier Paul wasn't tendered a contract. Heisey is currently the only true outfielder on the bench, although Schumaker has played outfield as well as second base.

    According to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, general manager Walt Jocketty wants to add a switch-hitting infielder who can play shortstop, which is the one spot where the Reds are thin. The Reds have backups for first, second and third, but they don't have any depth. If the team was desperate enough, Billy Hamilton could occasionally play shortstop to spell Zack Cozart.

    The Reds have the switch-hitting Henry Rodriguez in the minors, and he has played second, short and third. However, he played only second and third in 2013.

    Sheldon lists Ramon Santiago and Alexi Casilla as possible options. However, Izturis would fit the description as well.

    He only hit .209/.259/.271 in 63 games for the Reds this past season, but he had several big games while filling in. He hit .257 against right-handers, so it would make sense to use him more in those situations. The 33-year-old would be a cheap option for the team and give the team familiarity.

    Santiago slashed .224/.298/.288 in 2013, and Casilla slashed .214/.268/.295.

    None of the options are great offensive threats, so sticking with Izturis isn't a bad option if the club truly wants a switch-hitting infielder.