Which Offseason Reds Addition Will Have the Biggest Impact in 2013?

Tyler Duma@@TylerDuma_BRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 23: Shin-Soo Choo #17 of the Cleveland Indians hits a two-run home run during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field on July 23, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds made a couple of moves this offseason to bolster their lineup, rotation, bullpen and bench.

Cincinnati brought back two key parts of their NL Central Championship winning club by resigning both Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Ludwick.

The Reds also made a major move in trading for center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (and Jason Donald), while adding role players Jack Hannahan, Cesar Izturis and Emmanuel Burriss via free agency.

Of the moves the Reds made this offseason, the most impactful is the acquisition of Choo.

The Reds brought Choo to Cincinnati in a three team deal with the Indians and Diamondbacks, in exchange for Didi Gregorius (to the Diamondbacks) and Drew Stubbs (to the Indians).

In the words of Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, the Reds acquired a hard worker who "is always one of the first to arrive for workouts, whether it is spring training or just a game" (per ESPN.com).

Beyond Choo's hard work and professional attitude, the Reds added a superbly talented player who will affect the lineup with more than just his production.

Here's how Choo solves the Reds' biggest problems


Leadoff Dilemma

The Reds biggest problem offensively last season was the lack of production from their leadoff batters.

Cincinnati gave Brandon Phillips, Drew Stubbs, Zack Cozart and several other players a chance at batting leadoff, but in a combined 703 at bats, they only managed a .208/.254/.327 slash line with 16 home runs, 38 RBI and 83 runs scored (per ESPN.com)

Most telling of their failures in the leadoff spot was their strikeout rate.

Reds' leadoff batters struck out in 21 percent of their at bats and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of four. Neither of these metrics are acceptable from a leadoff batter.

Choo has batted leadoff in 101 of his 699 games played. In those 101 games he's managed a .307/.386/.486 slash line with 12 homers, 33 doubles, 42 RBI, 70 runs scored and 13 steals (per Baseball-reference.com).

At that pace, in a 162 game season, Choo would produce 19 home runs, 67 RBI, 112 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.

The most important facet of Choo's game, as far as the Reds are concerned, is his ability to get on base. Choo can certainly do that as evidenced by his .381 on base percentage. Choo will set the table for the rest of the lineup.

Expecting Choo to score 112 runs may be a bit optimistic but somewhere in the vicinity of 90-100 runs is very realistic.

Providing Choo's production keeps in line with his career averages, the Reds will have solved their issues at the top of the lineup.


Lineup Flexibility

In bringing Choo to Cincinnati, the Reds increased the number of lineup permutations Dusty Baker can play around with.

Until Opening Day, there are only five certainties in the Reds lineup. Choo will lead off, Joey Votto will bat third, Jay bruce will bat fifth, Ryan Hanigan/Devin Mesoraco will bat eighth and Baker will alternate left and right handed batters as often as possible.

After that there looks to be two main ways the Reds could go. Each of these lineups, though similar in terms of personnel, are vastly different in terms of managerial strategy.

The first looking like this. 

  1. Choo (CF, L)
  2. Phillips (2B, R)
  3. Votto (1B, L)
  4. Ludwick (LF, R)
  5. Bruce (RF, L)
  6. Todd Frazier (3B, R)
  7. Cozart (SS, R)
  8. Hanigan (C, R)
  9. Pitcher's spot

With Choo and Phillips batting first and second, the Reds can stack their top three run producers at the top of the order. Choo, Phillips and Votto combined for 288 runs scored in 2012. That total is good for second in the NL Central behind the Brewers, its Top Three combined for 310 runs created.

It also allows Frazier and Cozart to bat further down in the lineup where they will likely see better pitches to hit.

The second looks like this.

  1. Choo (CF, L)
  2. Cozart (SS, R)
  3. Votto (1B, L)
  4. Phillips (2B, R)
  5. Bruce (RF, L)
  6. Ludwick (LF, R)
  7. Frazier (3B, R)
  8. Hanigan (C, R)
  9. Pitcher's spot

The second lineup, gives Votto a little bit more protection with Phillips batting behind him. 

Phillips is a more consistent offensive threat than Ludwick and if you can't get a 40-plus home run guy to hit fourth, a consistent hitter is the next best option. Opposing pitchers looking to walk Votto would face the threat of Phillips and Bruce and that's reason enough to pitch to Votto.

Though Cozart's career .290 OBP leaves a lot to be desired, he showed last season that he can provide some solid production from the two hole.

In 27 games batting second, Cozart slashed .324/.378/.490 with 162-game averages of 12 home runs, 30 RBI and 102 runs scored.

Though 30 RBI is low for a player batting second, it can be explained away by the aforementioned struggles by leadoff batters.

The addition of Choo is certainly the most important move the Reds have made this offseason.

By adding Choo, the Reds seem to have solved their problems with the leadoff spot and have built a lineup that can get on base and get Votto pitches to hit, with runners on.