As we move closer and closer to spring training, the Cincinnati Reds' roster continues to look as though the team is content with a second-straight third-place finish in the NL Central this season.
The team's bench is still weak—the current depth chart has Jack Hannahan, Skip Schumaker, Henry Rodriguez, Neftali Soto and Chris Heisey as backups. Additionally, there are concerns surrounding the lack of depth in the team's starting rotation.
Over the next five slides, we'll look at some players who provide the team with realistic options given their financial situation—players who are likely to earn less than $6 million per year (with one exception). On top of that, we'll rank those five players starting with the worst option, and finishing with the best.
Let's take a look at our first player.
He's washed up, he's fragile, he's been out of the game for two years. All of these are descriptions used to describe Grady Sizemore whenever his name comes up in free agency discussions.
Even with all the negativity and uncertainty surrounding Sizemore, he's worth a shot. In all likelihood, the 31-year-old center fielder isn't going to return to being the player he was between the 2005-09 seasons.
In that time, Sizemore played in 745 games—149 games per year. To put that into perspective, 745 games is 83.5 percent of Sizemore's career total, and they all came over a five-season time period.
In those 745 games, Sizemore was as dynamic a player as baseball has seen in the past 10 years, posting a .276/.368/.488 slash line, a 126 OPS+ and season averages of 25 home runs, 37 doubles, 78 RBI, 107 runs scored and 26 stolen bases.
Realistically, he probably won't even be 90 percent of the player he was in those five years. However, if Sizemore is even 70-80 percent of the player he used to be, then he can be a very solid contributor on a fringe postseason contender.
In any event, despite the lack of funds available to the Reds front office, talks about Sizemore haven't ceased. As recently as Jan. 3, Mike Axisa reported that Walt Jocketty and the Reds had been in contact with Sizemore, and that he "appears to be" ready to make another go of things this spring.
With a severe lack of affordable and effective bench players available on the open market, Sizemore could be an intriguing option for a team looking to catch lightning in a bottle.
Elliot Johnson manages to edge Grady Sizemore by a spot simply because we have no idea what a team would get out of Sizemore. Meanwhile, with Johnson, we know almost exactly what kind of player he'll be over a full season.
Johnson is never going to be a great hitter, or even a good hitter for that matter. Over 311 career games, Johnson owns a .218/.278/.319 triple slash, with season averages of three home runs, six doubles, 17 RBI, 20 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.
Unless Johnson is able to prove that the last 32 games of his 2013 season weren't a fluke—.261/.317/.359 with the Braves—then the most he can be is an ultra-reliable defensive player.
Over his four seasons as a pro, the 29-year-old has played every position on the field—excluding catcher and pitcher. Despite being a terrible offensive option, Johnson has managed to post a positive Baseball-Reference WAR in each of the past three seasons—1.0, 0.7 and 1.1, respectively.
Offensive struggles aside, Johnson is capable of being a competent bench player and the Reds could be well-served by his contributions.
At two separate points in his career, it looked as though Tyler Colvin was poised to break out and become a solid everyday outfielder—he has the ability to play all three outfield positions. Unfortunately after each of Colvin's "breakout" seasons, the 28-year-old immediately followed up with a season in which he was nearly unplayable.
Consider the young outfielder's four most recent seasons.
Colvin flopped out of Colorado and, because of that, is likely to receive either a minor league deal or a deal with a max salary of roughly $1.5 million.
If the Reds are able to catch Colvin on a good year, then they could have the option to either push Ryan Ludwick to the bench sometime around June or July. Even better, if Colvin has a successful year, then the Reds could run a platoon in left field with Colvin starting against right-handed pitchers and Ludwick against lefties.
Best of all—at least from the Reds standpoint anyway—if Colvin were to fall flat in spring training, the team could always cut him with little-to-no financial penalty.
The Reds lacked the funds necessary to make a big-time signing this offseason, but that doesn't mean they should continue to sit idly by as the rest of the division improves—especially with the Cardinals running away from the field.
Whether the organization is happy with the rotation they've assembled is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that a team can't rely on five pitchers to make all 162 starts in a season. The Reds did come close to that mark in 2012, when their five-man rotation started an unreal 162 games, but that has much more to do with luck than anything else.
With the way the roster is set up, if any of the Reds starters went down, a mad scramble would ensue as the team attempted to fill the void. For this reason, the team should be proactive and sign veteran lefty Paul Maholm.
Maholm spent the last year-and-a-half with the Atlanta Braves, making 37 starts with a 4.14 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and per-nine averages of 6.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 9.4 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9. Though he may not be the sexiest option, beggars can't be choosers when looking to add pitching depth this late in the offseason.
The Reds have a great rotation, there's no doubt about that. Unfortunately it's a rotation in which you aren't certain as to the level of production they'll receive from youngsters like Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani. On top of that, Johnny Cueto missed significant time last season with a lat injury, bringing his durability for the 2014 season into question.
Adding a starter prior to the start of spring training is an absolute necessity.
The Reds have very little money to finish rounding out their roster. However, as mentioned in the previous slide, the Reds could really use some additional depth in the starting rotation.
If they're serious about solidifying the rotation, then they should be looking to re-add longtime Red Bronson Arroyo.
Arroyo would require a multiyear deal, compared to the one-year deal Maholm is likely to get. Additionally, the average annual salary of Arroyo's deal would trump Maholm's.
Even so, the Reds need another starter, and the team could benefit greatly from adding a player who is familiar with the team, a solid presence in the clubhouse and community, and, most importantly, a better pitcher than Maholm.
Signing Arroyo would likely result in either the demotion of Cingrani to a starting role at Triple-A or his relegation to a role in the bullpen. Neither of these options would really be that bad, especially when you consider the problems Cingrani's lack of viable secondary pitches could cause as the league continues to adjust to the 24-year-old.
Even if the Reds decided to let Cingrani start the season as the team's fifth starter, should he falter, Arroyo could be right there to pick up his spot in the rotation.
In short, the Reds could really use Arroyo again this season.
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