Cincinnati Reds: 4 Players Trying to Save Their Jobs for 2015
While the attitude inside of the clubhouse is probably still focused on 2014, the fact remains that this depleted Reds team probably won't be able to compete for the last wild-card spot (they need to jump four teams now), so the focus will shift to 2015.
Next year, the Reds will look similar to this year, hopefully with far less significant injuries. While we can assume certain guys won't be returning next year, there are a few players who will need to use the rest of the season to solidify their spots on the roster—either with the Reds or with another team.
The following is a short list of four Reds trying to save their jobs for the 2015 season. The order of the list will range from guys most likely to keep their same role with the Reds to guys who will just be trying to make a major league roster next year.
1. Zack Cozart
Zack Cozart has established himself as arguably the best defensive shortstop in baseball. There's no denying that. With a dWAR of 2.7, Cozart is overwhelmingly the best defensive shortstop in the game, per ESPN.com.
The next closest shortstop has a dWAR of 2.2.
But while his glove is nothing short of amazing, his slashing line is far from that description. Cozart is slashing .224/.274/.298 as of August 18. Whether it's batting average, OBP or slugging, the fact remains that Cozart is a black hole in this Reds line.
Per ESPN.com, Cozart's runs created per game is just 2.56, which is good for No. 152 in baseball.
The decision boils down to this: Is Cozart's glove and dWAR good enough to overlook the massive void he accounts for in the lineup? When you consider the Reds are one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, when you consider that there isn't much money on hand to upgrade externally, should the Reds consider any internal option they have that could improve the offense?
Kristopher Negron is an option that comes to mind. And while he won't be able to replicate the glove of Cozart, he does have over 400 games played at shortstop in the minor league level.
It's a tough decision to make, but at some point, the Reds will need to determine what they're in need of more: a great glove that could be replaced by a good glove, or a bad bat that could be replaced by a decent one? There isn't an easy answer.
2. Alfredo Simon
Alfredo Simon had an amazing first half of the season. But it seems like the All-Star "Big Pasta" never left Minnesota. While he was always a favorite candidate for serious second-half regression (Simon had never thrown more than 115.2 innings in a season), the reality of his regression is almost too authentic.
Simon ended the first half of the season at 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA. He had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.68. Hitters were batting just .219 against Pasta. But that was another time.
Since the All-Star break, Simon is 0-5 with an ERA of 5.46. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 1.31, a considerable drop. Hitters are now batting .317 against him.
Simon is still under control through 2015, but with Tony Cingrani still in the picture as he continues his rehabilitation in Triple-A, there is no doubt that this spot in the rotation is up for grabs. If the second half of the season doesn't improve for Simon, look for Cingrani to be the favorite to strip Pasta of the No. 5 spot in the rotation for 2015.
3. J.J. Hoover
J.J. Hoover has broken a lot of hearts this year. Prior to doing the unthinkable on August 17 and serving up a game-winning, walk-off home run to Drew Stubbs, he was already 1-8 (now 1-9 on August 18). Manager Bryan Price and the Reds must know something else about Hoover, because despite being at the center of a lot of crippling losses, he's still running out from behind the gate in tight situations.
Hoover does have two very good years to his credit. Last year, he finished 5-5 with a 2.86 ERA.
Though the differences in record and ERA are vast, they don't tell the whole story of just how awful this season has been for Hoover. In 2013, Hoover pitched 66 innings in 69 games. He surrendered 21 earned runs.
This year, as of August 18, Hoover has pitched just 53.1 innings in only 44 games. He's surrendered 31 runs in that span.
With the emergence of Jumbo Diaz, there is no question that Hoover's spot is up for grabs.
4. Ryan Ludwick
Ryan Ludwick almost assuredly won't be a Red next year. While Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has always liked Ludwick, there's just very little chance the Reds will choose to pay $9 million instead of the $4.5 million buyout to keep the aging left fielder.
As of August 18, Ludwick is slashing .260/.322/.408, which isn't terrible. But that's not worth $9 million, especially for a team that will probably be doing everything in its power to free up the funds necessary to sign either Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos or Mike Leake.
Therefore, Ludwick won't be fighting for his Reds job, but more than likely a job somewhere else. Ludwick has been a shell of his former self since the shoulder surgery last year.
In 2012, Ludwick finished with 26 home runs. He's hit 10 since. Ludwick was signed to be a cleanup power bat in the lineup. He may not ever be able to return to this role, so he'll need to demonstrate an ability to hit and get on base to get the attention of other teams.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.