Cincinnati Reds: What Is the Answer After the 2012 Collapse?

Andrew Dunn@atdu222Correspondent IINovember 16, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 11: Aroldis Chapman #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the National League Division Series at the Great American Ball Park on October 11, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Giants defeated the Reds 6-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Up two games to none against the San Francisco Giants, the Cincinnati Reds were heading home for a three-game opportunity to move on to the National League Championship Series. 

Naturally, we all know what followed—the collapse by the Reds is, unfortunately, something that we can't forget.

Now, the Queen City is left asking the question, what's next? 

For me, the only saving grace from dropping the NLDS in such an embarrassing fashion was that there was no way the team would bring Dusty Baker back for another season.

I was wrong. 

Only days after the debacle, Baker was extended for two more seasons.

More questions remain, though.  Ryan Ludwick, one of the Reds' better decisions over the last few years, decided to decline his option for a second year and appears to be out of Cincinnati.  That eliminated one of the power bats in the lineup and, again, leaves a gaping hole in left field.

Additionally, the center field spot has to be one of concern.  There is no way this team is going to win anything with Drew Stubbs in the lineup—batting .213 and starting in the Majors is unacceptable, not to mention illogical. 

Speculation is flying that Cincinnati is going to get some free agents, namely Angel Pagan, Nick Swisher, or even Michael Bourn.  None of these guys are going to be franchise players, but they would be a massive improvement over Stubbs.

They would add more production from the offensive side of things, and two of the three would be better defensively. 

While I think one of these guys, or another free agent, needs to be brought in, let's not forget about Chris Heisey—he struggled late in the season, but he's never been given a legitimate opportunity to start and produce for an extended period.

Offensively, those are the only woes they really face.  Adding a power bat and a speedy lead-off hitter would round out a fairly impressive lineup. 

Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are going to continue to be the best on the team, Ryan Hanigan is a respectable, even top 15 catcher, and Todd Frazier was almost Rookie of the Year. 

The offense has a large gaping hole, but at least it could be fixed pretty easily.

In terms of pitching, nothing really significant has happened. 

Bill Bray and Ryan Madson have opted for free agency and Jonathan Broxton's contract has ended.  Right now, popular belief is that Broxton will be brought back.  Bringing him back raises an important question, though—would he be the closer?

Aroldis Chapman's performance as a closer this year was incredible. He recorded 38 saves with a 1.51 ERA, while striking out 122 batters. 

It's important to also note that he only walked 23 batters in 71.2 innings pitched, a huge step for a man who used to struggle with command. 

Now, it seems that people are calling for Chapman to enter the starting rotation, which he'd planned on doing when he signed with the Reds.

It's a risky move.

Cincinnati is calling for a fifth starter following Mike Leake's rough season and Chapman is a popular option here. 

Could you imagine if Chapman could maintain his dominance as a starter over a full season? 

It really is an incredible thought, but you also need to consider that you would lose one of the game's more dominant closers.

In the end, there are three real issues to be addressed—left field, center field/lead off hitter and the fifth starter. 

It's going to be a long winter in Cincinnati.


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