It's finally come to this, Cincinnati Reds fans. With virtually no hope remaining in what has been one of the more miserable, disappointing Reds seasons to date, we shift our focus to 2015. In Redsland, 2015 is all we have. Beyond that, very little is guaranteed.
Anyone with even a fractional interest in this team understands where improvements need to be made.
For years, dating back to 2010, left field has been a constant area of debate. We remember the days of the Jonny Gomes and Chris Heisey platoon. Ryan Ludwick was supposed to put an end to that, but in typical Reds fashion, a crippling injury in 2013 has reduced Ludwick to a shell of his former self.
He was signed by Walt Jocketty to essentially be the power bat in the middle of the order. But Ludwick has just 10 home runs in the near 479 plate appearances since he injured his shoulder on Opening Day of 2013. The power outage seems to be real. But it was probably expected considering he is 36 years old anyway.
And it's not just the power. Everything from batting average, OBP and slugging have all been down since the beginning of 2013. With that in mind, it's probably realistic that the Reds will spend $4.5 million just to send Ludwick off.
And with his departure comes the topic of replacements.
The popular idea may be to just hit the market and sign a big bat. But with so many vital players approaching arbitration, that's unlikely. Because of what these players are making now, it is not far-fetched to assume that Mike Leake and Mat Latos get salaries close to or above $10 million.
Alfredo Simon's salary will likely jump from just $1.5 million to maybe somewhere around $5 million, but that is strictly a guess and is in no way validated. Could be more, could be less.
Then there are, of course, the salaries of Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto.
Unless there is a decision to increase payroll, it is highly unlikely the Reds will have the cash necessary to procure the services of a bona fide cleanup hitter from the market. Therefore, they may have to consider internal options.
But is that a bad thing? With a healthy Votto, a healthy Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier, aren't any of them qualified to bat cleanup?
In my opinion, there are enough able bats on a healthy Reds roster to hit for power. But OBP is a major problem. Per ESPN.com, the Reds are No. 28 in OBP, nearly dead last. That, more than nearly anything else, needs to be addressed. The following are three guys who may be able to help do that from left field.
Jason Bourgeois is the starting center fielder for the Triple-A Louisville Bats. This 32-year-old right-handed option is no stranger to the big leagues. He's had stints with the Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers.
With a very limited time in the majors, his slash line after just 515 plate appearances in six years is .259/.305/.326. Surely that doesn't blow anyone away, but that's a very limited sample size.
In 15 minor league seasons, Bourgeois is slashing .282/.342/.386. This year, he's slashing .283/.336/.372. He has 143 hits in 126 games played. This isn't a power hitter, and he won't drive in many runs, but he gets on base at a healthy pace and can steal a base.
Felix Perez has played mostly right field in Louisville this season in a year in which he was named to the Independent League All-Star game. On the season, Perez is slashing .282/.328/.456. This 29-year-old has spent five seasons in the Reds farm system. His slash line for those five years is .281/.330/.405.
Unlike Bourgeois, Perez does have some power. He's got 11 home runs in 425 at-bats and 68 RBI to add to that. He also has 150 games of left field experience in five minor league seasons, with a fielding percentage of .990.
That's right. According to Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay, the Reds plan on possibly moving Mesoraco around a bit next spring. Per Fay, Mesoraco is willing, saying:
If that's something I was asked to do, I'd absolutely do it. There's a few positions that I could play, probably first base, maybe left field, that would take more work. But I don't see any harm in doing it. Spring training as long as it is, there's plenty of time for it. I'd be more than willing.
This is a likely option to consider, because with Brayan Pena inked through next season, he'll be able to play catcher while Mesoraco's bat stays in the lineup. It has been a challenge to keep him in the lineup for Bryan Price this year, so if Mesoraco becomes more versatile, it will help things out a lot.
Remember, while none of these options will blow you away, keep payroll in mind. It won't be the No. 4 hitter who takes the Reds to the next level. It will be the team's dominant pitching staff and, hopefully, its restructured, healthy bullpen.
The Reds need money to secure the very core of their team moving forward, so left field should be addressed as cost-efficiently as possible.
*Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.
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