Mark Sheldon of MLB.com published a long post today with comments from Reds general manager Walt Jocketty about his plans for offseason roster moves. Here are the highlights:
1. The Reds don’t have the payroll to add a high-priced free agent.Ã‚Â
Comment: This doesn’t mean the Reds are cheap or that the payroll will be stagnant. With long-term contracts maturing and several players reaching arbitration eligibility, the Reds will increase payroll just to retain their current players. They could afford a cheap add-on. But if they want an impact bat, they’ll have to trade a pitcher to make short-term payroll space.
2. The Reds will look for high on-base percentage skills.
“We have to do something different offensively,” Jocketty said. “We need to get more guys on base to put us in a better position to score runs. Our runners on base were down quite a bit this year.”
Comment: A great start, but fraught with peril. In the past, Jocketty has targeted Willy Taveras, Ben Revere and Shin-Soo Choo for that player. One of those is not like the others. Walk-rates are a vital component of OBP, because they don’t fluctuate as much as batting average. A .300 hitter with a 5 percent walk rate is a big gamble. Also, power is important, especially if the Reds are going to use Billy Hamilton at the top of the order. Power means run creation. Shorter: OBP first, yes, but also BB% and ISO.
3. The Reds want to keep the starting rotation together, but aren’t sure if they’ll be able to.
“But I’m not sure we’ll be able to. We may have to move maybe one of them,” Jocketty said. “We haven’t determined that yet. We’re still trying to see if we can retain all of them and go forward and build off of what we have.”
Comment: That means the Reds will explore options for finding a LF without biting the bullet and trading a starter. Let’s hope that fails because that’s unlikely to produce an impact bat. The faster and surer the front office gets to the conclusion that the team needs to trade a starter for an impact bat, the better. Pitching is no longer as scarce as hitting. Capitalize on organizational depth to fill the more urgent need of hitting. Sounds like Jocketty might be getting there.
The rest of Sheldon’s post is pretty non-controversial.Ã‚Â The Reds main needs are in left field and the bullpen. The Reds have to decide about their four starters who will become free agents at the end of the 2015 season.Ã‚Â The Reds can find that left fielder either by trading for a young, cost-controlled outfielder (Christian Yelich!); or a veteran that could hold down the LF spot for a year or two until Jesse Winker is ready. Sheldon suggests Michael Cuddyer or Nori Aoki.
Trading Latos, Cueto or Leake is a one-year rental for the receiving club. A return of a one-year rental outfielder might be just what the Reds need, if Winker could play in 2016.
One final point: Don’t rule out Jocketty pulling off something big or surprising. His major deals with the Reds (Rolen, Latos, Marshall, Choo) were all bolts from the blue. Jocketty has a good track record of keeping his dealings quiet. That’s frustrating for fans like us who follow along, but it’s a good business practice.