Shin-Soo Choo, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips (BP) and Bronson Arroyo are currently the focal points of all Reds offseason fodder. Two of the four are currently on the payroll (BP, Bailey) and the other two are testing free-agent waters.
But regardless of what each individual decides to do, or regardless of what the Reds decide to do with them, each move will directly affect the other's ability to stay in Cincinnati.
The outfield free-agency market is quickly drying up. Choo is by far the biggest prize still available, but after reportedly turning down $140 million from the Yankees, it's all but certain Choo will not be coming back to Cincinnati, unless Walt Jocketty has recently acquired a machine that prints money.
If indeed he does manage to bring back Choo, that's likely the end of Arroyo, Bailey and BP's time in Cincinnati, because these guys would have to be paid elsewhere in order for the Reds to afford one of baseball's best leadoff hitters.
Signing Choo would probably mean talks with Arroyo in Cincinnati cease, and the Reds turn their attention to moving Bailey and BP. The remainder of the article will proceed as if Choo signs elsewhere.
A decision needs to be made concerning two pitchers in an elite rotation. While Cueto, Latos, Cingrani and Leake will be ready to go, the potential loss of Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey means there will be a hole in baseball's No. 3 starting ERA. The crafty veteran Arroyo has reportedly narrowed his search down to four teams, one being the Twins, one being the Reds, and the other two currently unknown. So there are a couple of things the Reds could do here to ensure the rotation doesn't suffer.
Regardless of what they do, they will have to choose one or the other, as they more than likely cannot afford both.
If they decide to keep Homer Bailey, it would mean they will probably extend him, but Jocketty is reportedly having trouble doing that as it is. MLBTradeRumors projects anywhere from a $4 million to $5 million increase at the table for Bailey, which would mean his salary would double. Considering the Reds want to lock him up long-term, expect that tag to be even higher. So if Bailey stays, Bronson is obviously moving, and the rotation would be Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Leake and Cingrani for the foreseeable future.
Should they sign Bronson, which ESPN'S Buster Olney reports could happen with a one-year deal, it would probably be for around $12 million, allowing an extra year for Reds' top prospect Robert Stephenson to ready himself for a shot at starting in the major league rotation. The deal would then allow the Reds to try and move Bailey, possibly for a shot at getting a big-time right-handed bat in their offense.
SB Nation's Scott Davis says the Yankees and Reds are discussing a possible trade that would include Bailey and previous OF target Brett Gardner. Should the Reds pursue this route, they would likely gain their new center fielder. He hit .273 with an OBP of .344 in 145 games with the Yankees last season.
Gardner made just under $3 million last year and is arbitration eligible.
Just as a personal opinion, I think Brandon Phillips is included in any deal to the Yankees. A pitcher of Homer Bailey's caliber awards the Reds much-needed leverage, and I think if Bailey does wind up on a plane to New York, he'll more than likely have his second baseman with him. Just a guess, but the Reds would be foolish to not push for BP to be taken in this deal.
But, as in most cases, both teams have said their guy is staying put. Reds say they aren't moving Bailey, the Yankees say they think Gardner will be in their Opening Day starting lineup. So there's that.
After the rotation is cemented, the question becomes: How do the Reds replace Choo when they need to spend money on pitching again?
If asked today, on the 19th of December, to set the over-under number of wins for the current Cincinnati Reds team, what would you set it at? Consider the obvious when selecting your number: Shin-Soo Choo is likely gone, and with him goes his .400-plus OBP and second highest batting average on the team.
The only competent replacement at this juncture would be Billy Hamilton, who scouts say can be disarmed with by a major league fastball.
There's nothing else that makes me believe he's an everyday big leaguer. You can knock the bat out of his hands with good velocity and he doesn't have the discerning eye to work counts and lay off spin.
While it's not gospel, it's not necessarily a ringing endorsement that the guy being asked to set the table for the entire offense can be overwhelmed by major league velocity. The Reds struggled to score runs as it was with two of baseball's top-four OBP guys batting at the top, what's going to happen with just one?
Chris Coghlan is an interesting name still out there. The 2009 RoY was not tendered a contract by the Marlins, who may be trying to sign him for even less. He made just $503,500 in 2013. The Marlins have reportedly said they'd ask him to sign a minor league contract, so if a big league opportunity presented itself, he would probably take it.
While yes, he hasn't posted an OPS above .718 since his debut season in 2009, he is decent (at least average) at getting on base. His 2013 .318 OBP was league average, and considering how cheap the Reds could get Coghlan, it may be worth adding another option in case the word on Hamilton turns out to be true. A Hamilton/Coghlan platoon may even be the safest approach here.
This isn't the guy who solves all the problems. But he can be acquired for very cheap, and the potential is there. This might be one of the change of scenery gems, but even if he isn't, the price tag is affordable enough to sample.