So, I’ve been reading multiple bits of speculation about what the Reds should/will do this offseason, and I thought it was time to weigh in with what I think the offseason plan should be.

But I don’t want to just go flailing and suggest, for instance, that the Reds should trade Drew Stubbs, Homer Bailey, and Edinson Volquez to the Mariners for Felix Hernandez. That kind of trade is crazy talk, even if the projected WARs  might balance out. No, instead, I want to take a crack at the offseason using what we know about expected payroll and player performance with the assumption that the Reds goal is to Win Now.

Before I begin, I want to note that I’m only concerned about the everyday players and the starting rotation. I just don’t buy into focusing on the bullpen until everything else is taken care of.

Let’s start by ruling out places where there’s no need to focus. The lineup is pretty much set. We might be worried about Rolen and Cozart and Left Field, but those positions are more or less spoken for. Pretending otherwise is pointless. Johnny Cueto is going to be in the rotation.

Cueto looks like a solid #2 starter to me, but don’t count on his ERA staying south of 3.00 next year. Beyond Cueto, the Reds will have Chapman for as many innings as he can manage. Then there’s the hodgepodge of Wood, Leake, Bailey, Arroyo, and Volquez.  Those five pitchers are all capable of being average to above average, but potential and performance are two different things, and some of them need to be packaged for a top line starter. Namely, James Shields.

The Rays are supposedly listening on Shields during the offseason, but it’s going to take a lot to land him. He’s been an excellent pitcher since the moment he was called up AND he’s cost-controlled at $7M, $9M, and $12M for the next three years. Plus, he’s played his entire career in the AL East, so his numbers would only get better in the NL Central.

So what’s it going to take? The Rays are going to be looking for low cost major league talent and high-potential minor league talent.

Grandal is the obvious starting point. He’s a high-end talent and blocked, at least theoretically, by Mesoraco.  You can also probably add Alonso to that as he offers a quality bat at first and bargain basement salary. Is that a sweet enough pot?

Probably not, if we’re being honest. The Rays, I’m guessing, are going to want some arms. Most of the Reds’ talent at SP is in the majors now, but I can see them sending two of our aforementioned hodgepodge. Leake has been too good to be included with Grandal and Alonso, but what about Wood and their pick of Bailey or Volquez? (I’d rather they take Volquez and wouldn’t mind sending Boxberger with him if it came to it). Steep certainly, but look at what the Reds would end up with to start the year:

C – Mesoraco/Hanigan
1B – Votto
2B – Phillips
3B – Rolen/Francisco
SS – Cozart
LF – Heisey/Sappelt
CF – Stubbs
RF – Bruce

SP1 – Shields
SP2 – Cueto
SP3 – Leake
SP4a – Chapman (he’s going to run out of innings)
SP4b/5a – Arroyo (he has to rebound some, right?)
SP5b – Bailey/Volquez/AAA guy or minor signing

Is that a perfect lineup and rotation? No, but aside from the bottom of the rotation, it doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses and could easily perform well enough to take the Central. Then you have a playoff rotation of Shields, Cueto, Leake, and (hopefully) Chapman that is going to stack up well against most other playoff teams.

I’m not in any way denying that this is a steep price to pay for Shields, but if the Reds want to win now, they are going to have to give up some prospects. The money isn’t there for free agents, and the talent at SP isn’t there in the organization.

33 Responses

  1. Sultan of Swaff

    Like the Reds with Votto, there are compelling reasons the Rays should hold onto Shields for an all-in push to win the whole thing. Because of his reasonable contract, Shields value should be the same next offseason. For that reason, it will take a lot to pry him away. They need help at C and 1B, so it would make sense to start with Alonso and Grandal. But I don’t like how that weakens our everyday lineup both near and long term. Rather, I start the conversation with Chapman and Grandal. In doing so, you preserve the Reds long term interest on offense (Votto leaving) and upgrade the pitching both short and long term in the process. If the Rays ask for more, then we look at Wood.
    All that said, I think you would have a bit more leverage in negotiations with a rebuilding team like the Padres (Latos) or a team shedding payroll like the White Sox (Danks). I wouldn’t get so hung up on Shields that we miss other opportunities.

  2. justcorbly

    An astute post.

    The Reds should make the offer and see what happens.

    Fans over think trades. It’s all a gamble. I’m in favor of going for anything I think improves the team. This team’s biggest weakness remains starting pitching. It’s better than it used to be. But, last year demonstrated that there still a long way to go.

  3. nllspc

    I really like Shields but I just wish he had 2 yrs in a row like this year before we pay out the nose. 2011 was excellent but what happened in 2010 and 2009? Those years weren’t horrible but I wouldn’t trade the players you suggest for those two years. He’s not really a GB pitcher so are we getting the 23.1 K% Shields which would be really good or the 20.8, 18.0 K% (which is nothing to yawn at)? This year’s 1.04 WHIP or 2010/2009’s 1.46/1.32 WHIP? 2011 3.42 FIP or 2010/2009’s 4.24/4.02 FIP? One really good year just has me a little skiddish about going all out for this guy.

  4. OhioJim

    @Sultan of Swaff: Agree it is too much of a risk for the Reds to let Alonso and Grandal both go. One of them needs to be the consistent left handed offense if/ when Votto is gone to complement (hopefully) Francisco’s power.

  5. Jason Linden

    @Sultan of Swaff: I don’t think you can hold Alonso forever. He’ll be 25 next year. The only way you can justify keeping him through the end Votto’s contract is if he plays everyday in left, otherwise, he starts to lose all his trade value. My post was very much in the Win Right Now vein, though. If the Reds could make the playoffs each of the next two years and perhaps win a WS, keeping Votto might get easier, as there’d be a bit more money around. As for Latos and Danks, I focused on Shields largely because the Rays are willing to listen, but I’m skeptical of anyone who puts up good numbers at Petco and Danks looks to have a lower ceiling than Cueto, which isn’t really what the Reds need.

    @nllspc: Compared to the league, he was actually quite good in 2009. He was terribly unlucky in 2011 (.341 BABIP, 68% strand rate, 13.8% HR/FB). That whole year looks like a total aberration. He was also probably a bit lucky this year, but again, the point is, who can the Reds get that gives them the best chance to win now. Shields is it as far as I’ve seen. He has the talent, he fits with payroll, and his team is willing to trade him. It’s absolutely a big price and a big risk, but with their budget, the Reds are going to have to take some risks.

  6. gberry

    I agree that we need to move someone for a top tier SP. I still think the best way to do it would be to move Votto rather than Alonso. I would happily move Votto and Chapman for Shields. It’s much more cost effective and Votto’s stock will never be higher than it is right now. By the time the Reds finally get done screwing around with Chapman, his contract will be just about up.

    I’ve read quite a bit about Grandal being an ‘athlete’ and also that he’s faster than Alonso. Since he’s blocked behind the plate by Mesoroco, what about putting him in LF and seeing what happens? He could still be an emergency catcher if necessary. Alonso could then move to 1B, and we’d have both of their bats in the lineup.

  7. Jason Linden

    @gberry: Votto is worth more than Shields by himself. That trade makes the rotation better, but the team worse. I can’t see the Reds making the playoffs without Votto over the next couple of years. He’s one of the two or three best players in the game.

  8. SFredsfan

    Going on a Lark here but the Reds and Giants are truly matched up very well. Personally I would look at Matt Cain as he doesn’t quite have the numbers and is a touch older, but he is a horse for sure. Alonzo, Bailey, and an outfield bat would get it done. Giants already broke the seal on trading starting pitching- they’ve been burned before so now is the time to strike.

  9. hermanbates

    First and foremost, first basemen will be around forever. Alonso’s good and Votto’s obviously a monster. Here’s what the Reds need to look at. Find a team desperate for prospects who are looking to add some serious offense and are willing to shed some older, proven yet pricey players. I’m thinking the Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Padres and potentially the Giants. Lets look at it team by team.

    Athletics-they need help everywhere but the rotation and second base. We could offer grandal and alonso and land trevor cahill, a year removed from being a top sp. Along with that, it should take the same or less for Gio Gonzalez, seeing as he’s less controlled and older. I’d prefer Cahill, a proven number one.

    Mariners-I like Pinieda, but theres a catch to that. They have smoak at first, but the DH is a good idea for yonder. And Grandal would be a good piece as well. Volquez would have to be added as well, but definitely worth it. Pinieda could be real good for us, especially long term. Votto for Hernandez straight up is splendid for me as well.

    Mets-Different take here, but i’m looking at David Wright. Grandal would be the centerpiece, while we’d be able to prey on some other aspects. The Mets are desiring offensive ability and with Ike at firstbase, yonders out of the question. But you have to believe that rotation help would be desired as would some power. Juan francisco would have to be intriguing. He’s a huge homerun threat and the Mets would presumably be able to buy high on Francisco.

    Padres-I don’t know Mat Latos’ contract situation, but many number two pitchers look like studs in San Diego. Either volquez and wood or chapman with yonder and/or grandal would have to look pretty enticing to the Pads. just something interesting to think about.

    Giants-I want Tim Lincecum. I’d sell my soul for him and be okay with that. However, it seems highly unlikely. And with brandon belt and buster posey, we dont match up to spectacularly. Votto and Volquez for lincecum? throw in heisey for good measure. Whatever. I’d love Big Time Timmy Jim.

    These are all more than long shots, but each should be looked at by Walt and many should be pursued. Why not?

  10. Myles

    Arroyo (he has to rebound some, right?)

    No he does not have to rebound. I expect him to stink next year. He may not be record-setting stink, but he’s going to stink.

    I’d rather trade both Bailey and Volquez than Wood.

  11. MikeC

    I would not trade Votto under any circumstance that doesn’t bring the Reds an obviously huge improvement in another area of the team. Something like a #1 and #2 pitcher with the Reds throwing in Grandal and one of Volquez/Bailey/Wood. He is a rare talent with the bat who is possibly the best hitter in the game just entering the prime of his career. That’s saying a lot and worth a lot.

  12. Jason1972

    Trading Votto is pretty much a bad idea in almost any circumstance. He’s an elite player, a top 5 batter in the game, and single-handedly improves the team’s chances of making the playoffs more than almost anyone he could be traded for. 2 more years of Votto and then losing him to FA is more valuable than 3 years of a lesser talent.

  13. Steve Price

    Something else that should be noted is that Yonder Alonso is only five days younger than Jay Bruce. Bruce has been in the big leagues four full seasons; Alonso has had two cups of coffee.

    Before trading one of the absolute best hitters in the game in Votto to make room for Alonso….well, it’s just a bad idea all the way around.

    Alonso, 2010, 29 plate appearances: .483 OPS
    Alonso, 2011, first 67 plate appearances: 1.161 OPS
    Alonso, 2011, last 31 plate appearances: .476 OPS
    Alonso, career OPS: .833
    Alonso, career OPS vs LHP (24 plate appearances): .476
    Alonso, minor league career OPS: .837
    Alonso, minor league career high OPS: .860

    Votto, minor league OPS: .867
    Votto, minor league career high OPS: .956 (two full seasons over .900)

    Prospect status:

    Jay Bruce: went from 76-14-1
    Joey Votto: went from 43-44
    Yonder Alonso: 35-45-73

    Votto’s prospect status show that future projections can be off, but Alonso has been declining each professoinal year.

    Yes, Alonso’s fast start in 2011 looked great…but, he ended 2011 almost identical to how he played in his short cup of coffee in 2010 (which equates how he’s hit against lefties thus far).

    Small samples? Yes….so, his career OPS is .833, which is probably where he will lie. Is that bad? No…Bruce’s career OPS is .805 and was .814 last year at age 24. However, Bruce’s .805 has come against four years of major league pitching, not minor league pitching like Alonso. Bruce’s minor league OPS was .917 from ages 18-22, compared to Alonso’s .860 through age 24.

    Votto’s major league career OPS? .955

    Yonder is not in the same ballpark as Votto.

    As for Mesoraco and Grandal….I’d keep both. If Grandal can hit like they think, he can play somewhere else. Mesoraco still has fielding improvement to do behind the plate and he was overmatched at the big level at the plate in his cup of coffee. He may not be ready…though I would take the chance.

    You want a pitcher? Trade Brandon Phillips…..that’s the contract we can’t afford any further down the line. He’s an outstanding second baseman. He deserves another big contract…but, the Reds can’t afford to pay for what will be a declining second baseman.

    If I’m Walt Jocketty…I’m trading Phillips, Yonder, and Volquez somewhere for a starting pitcher….

  14. Steve Price

    In case my suggestion, got lost in the numbers in my previous post:

    if I’m Walt Jocketty….

    I package Brandon Phillips, Alonso Yonder, and Edinson Volquez for a starting pitcher…

    And that pitcher does NOT have to be very young. I’d rather not get an overpaid older guy, but someone established, not on the cusp of a breaking out. We need someone to show our younger guys how to break out…

  15. theotherjfk

    I think Alonso’s bat is too valuable to give up on yet. Not only that but the way Homer Bailey pitched inbetween those two DL stints was absolutely brilliant. I say stay the course. Platoon Sappelt/Heisey/Alonso at LF and Frazier/Francisco at 3B (I don’t have much faith in Rolen’s health).

    Cueto, if he can stay healthy, will be an ace. I think he showed that last year. Leake is a straight boss and became a reliable innings eater, a poor man’s Mussina to say the least. Arroyo’s spot is semi guaranteed, and assuming he regresses to the mean, he should perform better next season. Volquez, Wood, and Bailey can round out those last two spots.

    My biggest concern is the bullpen, with the exception of Bill Bray and Sam LeCure there is no one there I trust to consistently get outs. Arredondo, Masset and Ondrusek had signs last year, but who else is there? Carlos Fisher.

  16. dn4192

    This idea that Votto is to valuable to trade to me is laughable. He is going to be gone possibly in another season or so, if some team is willing to offer up some decent talent that we can have around for some considerable time I move Votto tomorrow, put Alonso at first and move on.

  17. al

    i agree that phillips is probably the best player to trade for us. he’s making a lot of money, he’s flashy and gets awards, and he’s been an average hitter for most of his career. that said, i don’t think it’ll happen.

    here’s my question, why do we NEED a top 10 SP? of course i want one, but i don’t think i’d be willing to make the deal proposed in this post, which is a 5 for 1 deal for a pither over 30 who put up a 2 win season in 2010.

    to me, our problem last season wasn’t that we didn’t have an ace (we did) it was that we had some truely horible pitchers throwing a lot of innings. i thinkthat if the reds could get a solid #3 starter to replace arroyo’s innings, and chapman is decent and replaces volquez’s innings, we’ll be in good shape. bailey/wood are totally serviceable 5th starters.

    i think we should be able to get that type of pitcher (think a marcum type) for a lot less than 5 players. grandal and heisey? grandal and volquez? something like that.

    our offense is way better with three lefties in it.



    the real question is what to do with arroyo and volquez. i have no faith that jocketty will do something smart.

  18. rightsaidred

    @Steve Price: I like it. You are trading Phillips at his peak return value (PRV). It’s reasonable that you could be trading Alonso at his PRV as well. I do think upgrading the arm (Wood) changes the caliber of pitcher you can target.

    The problem is Phillip’s relatively large contract makes it harder to match the package with the mid to small market teams that thrive on developing pitching. Who is the proposed partner for this dance Steve?

  19. Bill Lack

    I hope Chapman ends up in the rotation, but when the Reds didn’t pick up Cordero’s option, I could swear I read that someone (Walt?) said that the closer role was still an option for Chapman.

  20. dn4192

    @Bill Lack:

    I think that is the best option for him at this point. He can impact this team for the next few years where converting to a reliable quality starter is going to take at least 1 maybe 2 seasons to get that done and we don’t know if he then will be a ML starter. Why couldn’t we be looking at the next Rivera here with Chapman.

  21. preach

    If the Reds are only going to look at Heisey as a platoon/4th OF type of guy, then we need to trade him since he just won that ‘Breakout Player’ or whatever it was called award. His trade value may never be higher. Package him with either Alonso or Grandal along with Volquez and get us a number one rotation guy. We still need help at third and possibly short. I hope Francisco is making the most of his offseason.

    • preach

      If the Reds are only going to look at Heisey as a platoon/4th OF type of guy, then we need to trade him since he just won that ‘Breakout Player’ or whatever it was called award. His trade value may never be higher. Package him with either Alonso or Grandal along with Volquez and get us a number one rotation guy. We still need help at third and possibly short. I hope Francisco is making the most of his offseason.

      Of course, we might have to eat some money on a contract to make this work.

  22. Steve Price


    As for trading Phillips, Alonso, and (I still say) Volquez (not Wood):

    I don’t know who the partner is, but these are the guys (Stubbs, Heisey could be in this category, too) who have probably reached their max trade value. Stubbs probably dropped a bit this past season.

    Phillips, not Votto, has the contract that can’t be kept. Alonso will get SOME better, but he’s likely to carry a team for any period of time. However, a team that needs a lefty hitter (possibly a team with an aging first baseman) will find him quite attractive. Phillips has probably 2-3 more really productive years, but teams like the Reds can NOT take on that kind of contract for a post-30 second baseman who doesn’t put up MVP hitting numbers to go with the glove (Joe Morgan anyone?)

    Somebody out there will come up with a match. I, too, don’t think we need an ace pitcher, but we don’t a young one either. Approximately 27-year-old guy and include a right handed pinch hitter-0f-1b in the deal? Actually, we need a third baseman: Rolen will decline more and Francisco won’t hit or field consistently enough to be impactful. Frazier is a utility player; useful, but utility.

  23. Steve Price

    Oh…Votto for Bautista is a bad deal….any way you analyzed….Prime player, for surprising post-prime player. That’s trading guarantee (Votto) during prime for risk–a player who developed past prime (Bautista) and should start to decline.

  24. Jason Linden

    As a way of response to lots of comments here: I think many of us (I include myself in this) are having a hard time realizing how close the Reds are. The result is a lot of calls to trade players who are really good right now (Phillips, Votto, etc.) for players who will “be around for a while.” But you don’t win championships like that. Eventually, the Reds are going to have to do what the Brewers did last year and go all in otherwise, they’ll always be looking to next year.

    They are close now. Now. I can’t care about prospects or future value any more. I want a winner. I want to watch them play in the series. Last year was rough, I know. But I really don’t think they’re that far away. We can argue about who they should add, but I don’t see a reason to argue that they should trade their best players because they are at “peak value.” I’d much rather watch those guys play and see if they can bring a title to the city.

    • Steve Price

      but I don’t see a reason to argue that they should trade their best players because they are at “peak value.”

      Gotta disagree wholeheartedly here….teams don’t usually win by “tweaking”…may be at the trade deadline when an injury has taken someone out, or a team needs a pinch hitter or a lefty reliever because a plan fell short…but not in the offseason.

      Check out the trade series I wrote for Redleg Nation…long term differences are made when the teams trade from their strengths and make bold moves. There’s a book called “Making the Big Red Machine” where Bob Howsam espouses trading value for value. He didn’t try to fleece anyone–he made logical trades that helped each team.

      When we acquired Joe Morgan…we traded Lee May who was the best performer (if not the best player) on the 1971 Reds team. We traded popular popular Gold Glove second baseman Tommy Helms…fans were even angry that we traded utility man Jimmy Stewart…all for a .260 hitting second baseman in Joe Morgan and others. Howsam even told his advisors that he just gave the Astros the pennant in 1972.

      He was almost right as the Astros led the Western Division through May of 1972 before the Reds kicked it into gear and pulled it out.

      History dictates that players typically degenerate at age 30. Peak seasons are typically 25-29 (Hall of Famers last longer). I don’t think anyone (at least I hope not) confuses Brandon Phillips with a Hall of Famer. His is the salary that will last past prime the next time through…we get no value for him at all next year. If we want to have some sort of continuity, he’s the prime candidate to be gone now.

      It was no surprise for me to see the Reds take a step back this past year. That’s actually typical per Bill James analysis. If a team, especially a young team, steps up one year, it’s usually down the next, and then the good GM identifies the need and makes the correction to take them the next big step forward (a la Howsam after 1971). We were exposed at 3b, SS, and LF this past year. Arroyo should have been the SP to bring the young guys along, but his age was exposed, too.

      Economics make a difference. Jocketty needs to find market “inefficiences” (it used to be OBP–Moneyball–now it’s defense). I’m of the opinion, this is Jocketty’s weakness. Jocketty didn’t adapt in St. Louis and was shown the door. He didn’t identify (nor did Dusty Baker) just how bad Jonny Gomes truly was or that Janish wouldn’t hit, or that Rolen was done. It wsa truly a bad GM year in Cincinnati.

      Many on this website could have predicted every single failure listed above. Jocketty needs to find a defensive player at 2b like Phillips, who’s young but unappreciated. Middle infielders aren’t usually that difficult to find; I would have loved to have seen us get Scutaro years ago (not now).

      But, even the ill-fated Frank Robinson trade, happened when he was 30…

  25. hermanbates

    My final take on this is simple. The Reds have the pieces in place. If they want to make a run at an ace or some more number threes we can do either. The problem is we have to get rid of yonder. have to. He cannot play regularly and Votto is this team. We have players and prospects. Our pitching is solid, but we dont have a true ace. A guy who is going to win us twenty games. a guy who strikes out a ton, all the while maintaining a low era and low whip. The Brewers have two of those guys in Grienke and Gallardo. The Cards have two of those guys in Carpenter and Wainwright. We have Cueto who was strong, Leake whose still young, wood and Bailey. all guys with high ceilings yet guys whom we still have to monitor their innings. You package yonder with chapman and you get an Ace. You go out and sign one of these closers that’s available, but with a solid rotation and the lineup we’ll have, we wont need an all-world closer. Just a guy to get the job done. You go to Seattle, LA, Oakland(i will stand by tevor cahill for the rest of my life), San Francisco. Go after CJ wilson if you have no choice. But get a front end guy, a guy who has been around enough to show these young pitchers how to handle success. We can’t rely on bronson every fifth day anymore. Get a Kershaw, Lincecum, King Felix, or Cahill. Get that number one guy. By the time chapman’s arm is built up his contract will be up, and we wont be able to pay it. But that’s irrelevant. The guys been exciting to watch, dominant for sure, but he isnt a career redleg and quite frankly im sick of wondering if Baileys gonna blow this whole game with one bad pitch. Or if Travis wood is having some mental breakdown. Or if Eddy’s still an immature child. and i dont want to have to rely on cueto for all our good outings. Get a number one. Now. Trade the farm for him and use him. we need him.

  26. dn4192

    I just don’t see Bob approving of a trade that involves Brandon, he is to much a fan favorite and I think that will cause the Reds to keep him and ink him to a 4-5 year deal at some point.

    • Bill Lack


      I just don’t see Bob approving of a trade that involves Brandon, he is to much a fan favorite and I think that will cause the Reds to keep him and ink him to a 4-5 year deal at some point.

      I sadly agree…I don’t think the front office/owner will have the guts to do what’s best for the franchise. They’ll overpay for a contract that is too lengthy and be reliving Rolen/Arroyo all over again before it’s over (maybe not QUITE that bad, but you get my gist).

  27. dn4192

    I guess it all comes down to what you view as best for the franchise. The Reds wouldn’t be the first to sign a player due to how the fans would react and community involvement.

    • Bill Lack


      I guess it all comes down to what you view as best for the franchise.The Reds wouldn’t be the first to sign a player due to how the fans would react and community involvement.

      Anything that doesn’t help you improve your W-L record does not benefit the franchise, IMO. But you’re right, wouldn’t be the first team and won’t be the last, but that doesn’t justify it.

  28. Jason Linden

    @Steve Price: You know, I pretty much agree with you. What I was mostly talking about are all the calls to trade our handful of really good/great players for other players who, frankly, aren’t as good. Much as I know the Reds need pitching, for instance, I also know pitchers are REALLY inconsistent and it’s not like the handful of guys who would actually bring equal value are available. If the Reds can get better by trading Phillips or even Votto, great. I just haven’t seen anyone propose something I think would actually do that.