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Cincinnati Reds Rumors: Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Trade Chatter

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Cincinnati Reds Rumors: Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Trade Chatter

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The 2014 MLB trade deadline is just about a week away, so a lot of rumors will be swirling around. It's tough to figure out what is true and what is just smoke. It's still early, but the Cincinnati Reds have already been linked to a few players. 

    Cincinnati doesn't have the payroll flexibility to make a major move unless it trades away a key player. At this point, the Reds are still in contention, so don't expect them to get rid of any important pieces.

    Not only do the Reds not have much money to work with, but they also don't have many prospects high in the farm system who would be attractive to other teams.

    This team started to play extremely well when it got healthy in June. The only problem is that it couldn't stay healthy. First baseman Joey Votto (quad) and second baseman Brandon Phillips (thumb) are on the disabled list and aren't expected back until some point in August.

    Now, the Reds need to focus on finding not necessarily the best player available, but one who is versatile. Trading for a player who can only play first base or second base doesn't make sense. The team needs more of a utility player than anything.

    Check out who the Reds have been linked to early on and see if it's a legitimate rumor or not.

    *All stats are via MLB.com. 

UT Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    If the Tampa Bay Rays decide to sell at the trade deadline, Ben Zobrist is a player many teams will be interested in. Count Cincinnati as one of the teams that would be interested, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin.

    Topkin wrote that the San Francisco Giants have shown the most interest in the utility man, and the Reds and the Seattle Mariners have also shown interest.

    Zobrist is hitting .267 with seven home runs, 19 doubles and three triples this season. Those numbers don't jump out at you, but they certainly aren't anything to sneeze at. 

    Consistency at the plate is something that Cincinnati has struggled to find this season. It's tough to find a player more consistent at the plate than Zobrist the past few seasons. The switch-hitter has hit anywhere from .269 to .275 in each of the past three seasons. He is once again around that mark.

    Zobrist has a good knowledge of the strike zone. In 86 games this season, he has 51 strikeouts with 47 walks.

    With Cincinnati's current injuries, Zobrist would be a welcome addition. He can play anywhere in the infield and outfield, so as the Reds start to get healthy, they could move him around. The 33-year-old has also proven to be durable. He has played in at least 150 games in every season since 2009.

    Financially, it wouldn't be a huge issue. He is making only $7 million this season and has a $7.5 million team option for 2015. Assuming the Reds decline Ryan Ludwick's $9 million mutual option for next season and pay the $4.5 million buyout, they would have some cash to work with. For a player who plays nearly every day and can play anywhere, $7.5 million is a very reasonable salary.

    Picking up a player like Zobrist may cost a team at least a pair of good prospects. The Reds wouldn't have to give up a top prospect like Robert Stephenson or Jesse Winker, so they could be able to put together a package that the Rays like. Tampa Bay has always been a fan of young pitchers, and Cincinnati has plenty of them in its system.

    Between his solid bat and ability to play anywhere on defense, Zobrist makes a lot of sense for the Reds.

    Verdict: Fact

LHP Antonio Bastardo, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Pitching has been the Reds' strength for the past few years, but this season, the team has been hurt by the lack of a shutdown left-hander reliever (not counting closer Aroldis Chapman). 

    Veteran Sean Marshall has missed most of the past two seasons with a shoulder injury. Last month, he underwent season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder.

    Marshall's absence has left Cincinnati with only Manny Parra as the only southpaw, other than Chapman, in the bullpen. After a solid 2013 season, Parra has struggled this season. He has finally gotten his ERA below 4.00 for the season. A big reason as to why he has struggled is his inability to get left-handed batters out. Left-handers are hitting .246 off Parra, which is substantially higher than the .167 average he held them to last year. 

    Given those two issues, it should come as no surprise that the Reds are looking for left-handed relievers on the trade market.

    CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reported that Cincinnati is interested in Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Antonio Bastardo.

    The veteran has not pitched for another team besides the Phillies. He has posted a 3.58 ERA in 251 games with the team over six seasons. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, he has posted an earned run average below 3.40 in three of the four seasons.

    This season, the 28-year-old is 4-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 43 games. His splits are even more impressive than his overall numbers. In 2014, he is holding right-handed hitters to a .168 average and left-handed batters to a .140 average.

    Bastardo is making only $2 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for the third time this offseason. 

    The Reds need a left-handed reliever who can get left-handed batters out consistently, and that is exactly what Bastardo does. He is relatively cheap and is under club control through the 2015 season, which is a positive because the club doesn't know how Marshall will pitch if/when he returns.

    Verdict: Fact

Of Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Left field has been an issue for the Reds the past two seasons, so they could look to address it at the deadline.

    One player the team is interested in is Philadelphia Phillies veteran Marlon Byrd, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.

    Byrd is hitting .268 with 19 home runs, 20 doubles and 55 RBI this season. Cincinnati has Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, but other than those two, the club doesn't have much power from the right side. That's one reason why the Reds should be interested in Byrd.

    However, his numbers go down when runners get on base. He is hitting .283 with 14 home runs and 12 doubles with the bases empty. When runners are on base, he is hitting only .244 with five home runs and eight doubles. The Reds are looking for someone who can drive in runners with a timely hit.

    The 36-year-old has put up very solid numbers, both in terms of average and power, the past two seasons. Last year, he hit .291 with 24 home runs between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Of course, you don't need to tell the Reds what kind of an impact Byrd can make down the stretch. After a midseason trade to the Pirates, Byrd hit .318 with three home runs and nine doubles in 30 games. He also hit a key home run in the National League Wild Card Game against the Reds. 

    Byrd signed a two-year, $16 million deal, which includes an $8 million vesting/club option for the 2016 season, in the offseason. The deal includes a very limited no-trade clause, and Salisbury reported that Kansas City, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Toronto are the teams that Byrd can block a trade to.

    On the surface, this might look like a good match. Cincinnati is banged up and needs right-handed power. Byrd has shown the past two years that he has some pop in his bat. However, he hasn't been very good with runners on base and isn't cheap.

    The Reds already have one aging left fielder in Ryan Ludwick. The team will likely pay the $4.5 million buyout on his $9 million option next season. It's tough to see a scenario in which the team would take that extra money and give it to another aging outfielder.

    Verdict: Fiction

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