Rebuild may crystallize at Winter Meetings
Reds poised to begin offseason dealing next week
CINCINNATI -- The Reds have ambitions for reshaping their roster this offseason, but have yet to make any significant moves. Perhaps the direction of their rebuild will become a little clearer next week during the Winter Meetings, which run Monday through Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.
Transactions have historically been kept to a minimum since Walt Jocketty took over the Reds' baseball operations department in 2008. But that doesn't mean activity and talks inside the Reds' suite aren't taking place. This year, Jocketty is joined by new general manager Dick Williams in negotiating potential deals with teams and agents.
The club often surveys the market landscape, lays the groundwork and acts in the days and weeks following the Meetings.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 11 a.m. ET and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.
Offense: Cincinnati, which ranked toward the bottom of the National League last season in hitting and runs scored, could use more pop in the middle of the order and a table-setter at the top. Jocketty and Williams are looking for younger players under contractual control to keep costs down. Pending other moves, the team could again use a left fielder -- a spot that has been without stability for several years.
Veteran starting pitcher: With Homer Bailey not due back until May from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the Reds lack veterans to take up innings and anchor the staff. The second half of last season featured an all-rookie rotation that took its lumps. There is mutual interest in bringing back Bronson Arroyo to serve as both an innings-eater and mentor to the young guys, but Arroyo has to prove that he's healthy. He hasn't pitched since mid-2014 because of his own Tommy John surgery.
Bullpen: Take away Aroldis Chapman and J.J. Hoover, and the Reds had one of baseball's least dependable bullpens in 2015. Chapman is likely to be traded (see below), and the club especially lacked stability in the middle innings to bridge games from the starter to the eighth inning. While some of the spots could be taken by younger starters that don't make the rotation, a veteran or two would help with the depth.
Who they can trade if necessary
LHP Chapman: It's not a question of if, but when the Reds make a trade that moves Chapman. With the team not expected to contend, and the flame-throwing lefty due a large raise in arbitration and a year away from free agency, the time is now. Reports have the Reds asking for a lot in return for Chapman, but there are several potentially contending clubs in need of a closer.
RF Jay Bruce: Bruce, a power-hitting lefty who will be 29 in April, is no stranger by now to trade rumors. What makes him appealing to other teams is his contract. He's owed $12.5 million in 2016 and has a $13 million club option for 2017, with a $1 million buyout. Bruce does have eight teams listed on his limited no-trade clause, which includes the Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics, Rays, Marlins, Twins, Indians and D-backs.
3B Todd Frazier: In some ways, this would be a tougher decision for management. Frazier became a local megastar following his thrilling home-field win of the Home Run Derby at Great American Ball Park, and has become a clubhouse leader. While he hit 35 homers last season, he struggled in the second half -- which could hurt his value. On the other hand, he's owed only $7.5 million in 2016 and is eligible for arbitration for 2017. After that he's a free agent. Would the Reds keep him, knowing he likely won't be around when the rebuilding is done and the team is contending again?
Per the MLB.com organizational rankings, the Reds' top 10 prospects are outfielder Jesse Winker, right-handed starter Robert Stephenson, left-handed starter Amir Garrett, catcher Tyler Stephenson, right-handed pitchers Keury Mella and Nick Travieso, shortstops Alex Blandino and Blake Trahan, left-handed pitcher Cody Reed and right-handed pitcher Antonio Santillan.
Stephenson will compete for a big league rotation spot in the spring, while Winker has a chance to reach the Majors sometime in 2016. Reed, who was part of the haul in the Johnny Cueto trade with the Royals, could also become a factor next season.
Big contracts they might unload
Might is a very loosely defined term because if the Reds unloaded either Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips, it would be a stunner. Both have no-trade protection. Votto has eight guaranteed years and $199 million left on his contract, including the buyout of his $20 million club option for 2024. He's also shown no inkling of wanting to leave. Phillips, who has only two years but $27 million remaining, had a resurgent 2015 season. It would be interesting to see if clubs are willing to take a shot at acquiring him.
Including $20 million owed to Votto, the Reds currently have $79 million committed for the 2016 payroll. That does not include arbitration cases pending, like Chapman's. If the Reds move Chapman, Bruce and Frazier, the number could go down considerably as the club positions itself for more maneuverability for the future with young talent at a lower cost.