The Reds currently only have four opening day outfield options on the current 40-man roster: Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey, and Todd Frazier. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported earlier this week that
The Reds pursuit of an outfielder wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t begin in earnest until the situation with closer Francisco Cordero is resolved…Jocketty acknowledged interest in free agents Cody Ross, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But nothing is close,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. The agent for Kosuke Fukudome has called as well.
One could question whether there is room for a 5th outfielder given the current roster situation. The Reds typically, though not always, carry 12 pitchers. With 8 position players, that leaves 5 bench spots: backup catcher, Cairo, Frazier, Janish, and Francisco. The Reds would need to either carry 6 relievers instead of 7 or send Frazier
or Francisco to AAA.
Regardless of the bench situation, if the Reds are looking to add an outfielder through free agency, those first 3 options don’t sound entirely appealing on the surface. Looking at the past 3 year stats for select free agent outfielders:
Rick Ankiel hasn’t had a good season in any of the past 3 years. I’m not even convinced a minor league contract/invite is the right call here.
Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick are the most alike when looking at cumulative statistics on a park adjusted basis (OPS+), but Ross’s performance has been more stable. Ludwick’s numbers have decreased each of the past three seasons, including a below average OPS (OPS+ of 90) last year. Starting with a 4.5 WAR in 2008, Ludwick dropped to 2.0, 0.9, and 0.1 over the past 3 years. Cody Ross on the other hand has posted a 1.1, 1.0, and 1.6 WAR in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively. Ross can play centerfield in a pinch, but he is primarily a corner outfielder. Ludwick would not be a backup option for centerfield.
Kosuke Fukudome was mentioned in the article as reaching out to the Reds. He is certainly the most attractive OBP option of any of the players mentioned. Though he’s coming off a down year himself (.712 OPS, 97 OPS+), though I don’t know if it was a bad enough year to drop his asking price enough for Cincinnati. He’s made $14 million in each of the past two years. Fukudome’s offensive WAR matches what Ross’s and LudwickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s total WAR has been the past 3 years and Fukudome is a better defender.
There are a couple of addition free agents available with interesting numbers:
–Johnny Damon would be the best offensive addition of the group, but he has been primarily a DH the past two seasons. Last year he only made 11 of 144 starts in the field.
–J.D. Drew had a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness, then cut his season in half. If healthy, he would be the best option of anyone on this list.
If I were Walt Jocketty, I’d at least put a phone call into Scott Boras and inquire about both Drew and Ryan Madson.