While waiting for the Reds to make their first offseason moves, we’ll continue to debate how the Reds should shape the 2010 team by looking at the possibilities in the infield. So far, we’ve opined on the outfield, and more recently the starting rotation.

Catcher: Hanigan should be the starting catcher. The Reds have to make a decision on Ramon Hernandez’s $8.5 million option by Nov 15. John Fay reported Thursday that the Reds will not pick up the expensive option, but that the two sides are talking now to bring him back at a lower rate.

I would look externally for a match with Hanigan and look for someone with better defense than Hernandez. I like Kelly Shoppach as an option, either via trade or signing him if the Indians non-tender him, as rumored. Gregg Zaun, Hernandez’s short-term replacement in Baltimore, is also an option.

Corky Miller is on the 40-man roster, arbitration eligible, and likely to be cut. Craig Tatum will likely be optioned to AAA. Wilkin Castillo has caught in the past, but at this I believe he isn’t expected to be more than a 3rd/emergency catcher.

Starting infield: I could easily see the Reds make very little movement with respect to the starting infield situation this offseason, which means Votto, Phillips, Janish, Rolen around the diamond. I am officially off the Phillips to shortstop bandwagon, as I think he is now past the age that he could physically handle the switch. The Reds should have moved him there in 2006 or 2007 (or 2008 or 2009.) Phillips will be the player most named in trade rumors because of his salary the next two seasons ($18M/2yrs.)

Outside of moving Phillips for an equally gifted shortstop (which I doubt is likely), I think this is the most likely and most plausible infield for 2010. Zack Cozart and Chris Valaika are just a short drive away, and one of them will likely take over the SS role during the 2010 season.

Bench: There are all sorts of possibilities for the bench, whether internally choosing two from current 40-man roster candidates Rosales, Sutton, Richar, Castillo, Barker, or Francisco or adding some non-roster spring training invitees at the end of March. I like Sutton the best of this group with Rosales as the likely 2nd bench infielder. Adding a starting SS on the roster ahead of Janish pushes Rosales off the 25-man roster. Richar, Castillo, and Barker are all candidates to be removed from the 40-man roster.

Minors: There will be a minor league all-star cast around the Louisville infield diamond with Alonso, Valaika, Cozart, Frazier, and Francisco – one of whom will be in LF. Cozart and Frazier don’t have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, Francisco and Alonso already are, but they will have to make a move for Valaika.

With the defensive reports on Francisco, I’d have him start the year in LF and play Frazier at 3B. It is also not entirely out of the question that Frazier or Cozart makes the jump to the majors out of spring training – Cozart at SS and Frazier in LF.

While looking at the various players in the Reds organization and the potential help outside of the organization, I found the following information helpful:

  • The Big Board in the righthand sidebar is updated & current 40-man roster players are highlighted.
  • Doug has long list of players who could be exposed to Rule V draft if not protected.
  • Mlbtraderumors.com list of free agents and non-tender candidates.
  • On the free agent list, “Type A” means signing team loses a draft pick. If they pick 1-16 it is a 2nd rounder, if they pick 17-32, it is a first rounder. The Reds should have a top 16 pick, so would lose a 2nd rounder for signing a Type A free agent. Signing a Type B free agent does not cost the signing team a draft pick.