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Inbox: Sizing up the backup for Hamilton

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers questions from Reds fans

What do you think the odds are that the Reds take a chance on Grady Sizemore as insurance for Billy Hamilton? I know he has been plagued by the injury bug, but he's still relatively young at 31.
-- Luke G., Hannibal, Mo.

The chances seem probable to me that the Reds could land Sizemore on either a Minor League contract or a very incentive-laden big league contract with a low base salary. Sizemore hasn't played since 2011, so it would be a low-risk, and possibly a big-reward type of acquisition. He has considerable experience at both leading off and playing center field. At Great American Ball Park, his repaired knees wouldn't have to run to cover as much ground. I still think Hamilton would have the edge as the primary guy, but this potential move -- if Sizemore could stay healthy -- would lift any potential pressure off of Hamilton to succeed right away for a team that expects to contend.

Do you think it's a possibility the Reds could get Matt Kemp if everything falls into place -- like if the Dodgers don't get Tanaka? For Homer Bailey? Brandon Phillips?
-- Cameron B., Cincinnati

Kemp is owed $21.5 million a year for the next six years (that's $129 million total). He has a history of hamstring issues that limited him to 106 games in 2012 and 73 games last season. I just don't see it unless Los Angeles takes a ton of the money owed. As for Bailey. ...

What do you think is more likely, signing Bailey long term or trading him this year to get some value moving forward?
-- Nick P., Mason, Ohio

I don't know whether or not the Reds will avoid arbitration with Bailey on a multiyear or one-year contract. But I would be stunned if they traded him before the season starts. He has value on this team that is still trying to win now and should he leave as a free agent after getting a qualifying offer, he at least brings back a compensation Draft pick. If Cincinnati is 15 games from a playoff spot on July 31? That could be a different story entirely.

Why can't Walt Jocketty trade Bailey for Brett Gardner? The Yankees are six deep in outfielders and need pitching. I can't believe the Yanks would turn this down.
-- Ron F., Cincinnati

If the reports during and after the Winter Meetings were true, the Yankees weren't interested in moving Gardner. And while it's still early, Gardner is currently slated as the Yankees' starting left fielder.

Is there any chance that the Reds will look to upgrade the middle of the lineup with a power bat like Nelson Cruz, or even a trade for Giancarlo Stanton?
-- Eric V., Abilene, Texas

Cruz has two things going against him. First, he served a 50-game suspension just last year for performance-enhancing drugs. Second, and perhaps an equally big discouragement, is that the Reds would have to forfeit a first-round Draft pick to sign Cruz since the Rangers made the free agent a qualifying offer. That would likely scare off several teams. Also, the Reds are already paying a lot of money for a left fielder in Ryan Ludwick, who will make $7.5 million in 2014.

In Stanton, the Marlins have a huge bargain who will make a relatively reasonable $6.5 million this season and has two years of arbitration left. Coming off of its fire sale last winter, Miami has seemed resistant to dealing Stanton -- its most marketable player. If the Marlins do make a trade, it will take a major haul of players to get him.

The Reds have never deemed Jay Bruce ready for the cleanup spot. What issues are involved in keeping him in the five-hole?
-- Ron C., Simi Valley, Calif.

Bruce has started in the fourth spot of the lineup 118 times in his career, so I don't think a lack of readiness is an issue. But former manager Dusty Baker wasn't keen on batting two lefty hitters (Joey Votto and Bruce) back to back partly because he didn't want one situational lefty out of the opponent's bullpen to face both batters. He hoped to force the other manager to burn through his bullpen faster by separating his lefty hitters. Right now, I don't know what new manager Bryan Price's plans are. He's kept his lineup projections quiet thus far.

What potential does David Holmberg bring? Is he just filling out the Minor League roster or is he a serious potential starter down the road?
-- Dan M., Noblesvile, Ind.

Cincinnati is high on Holmberg, whom the Reds acquired from Arizona in the December three-team trade that sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays, but currently view the lefty as depth. He could begin the season at Triple-A Louisville but could be one of the first options should someone in the big league rotation not be available for whatever reason.

I am a lifelong Reds fan formerly from Ohio, now living in Vegas. I am planning a vacation this year to see the Reds at Spring Training. What is the accessibility of players like in Arizona?
-- Eric T., Las Vegas, Nev.

To me, the fan access to seeing Spring Training seems pretty good. But here's the trick for fans before the games: the best place to see the players up close is not at Goodyear Ballpark, but at the Reds complex down the street. Before home and away games, the team performs drills and batting practice at their complex. They usually arrive at the stadium shortly before first pitch, which leaves not much time for mingling with fans. Workouts generally start in the morning (anywhere between 8:30-9:30 a.m. local time usually) so it means showing up early and probably making a day of it at the ball fields in Goodyear.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.

Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton, David Holmberg, Grady Sizemore