Power Ranking the Cincinnati Reds' Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency
The Cincinnati Reds had a successful regular season. Despite a multitude of injuries to key players like Johnny Cueto, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Ludwick, the team was able to win at least 90 games for the second straight season.
The postseason, however, brought about a quick exit for a second straight season. The team struggled against the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game, managing just two runs on six hits, compared to the six runs scored on 14 hits by Pittsburgh.
Because of this, a multitude of changes will take place in Cincinnati this season. Manager Dusty Baker has already been fired, and the vacancy that move created still remains. Beyond this need though, the Reds will need a decision on Billy Hamilton, and several players to fill key roles with the team.
In this article, we'll take a look at the Reds' five biggest needs and rank them in order of importance.
Let's get into it!
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
5. Utility/Backup Infielders
The Reds' lack of infield depth was a serious concern in the 2013 season. Cesar Izturis and Jack Hannahan filled backup roles with the Reds, but neither of them were able to make any real impact on the team.
Izturis and Hannahan weren't just bad last season; they were downright terrible. The two combined for a .213/.290/.280 slash line with just one home run, 15 extra-base hits, 25 RBI and 18 runs scored.
Although it didn't necessarily hurt the Reds, the team's infield depth could be an issue moving forward. The club was fortunate that both Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart were able to remain healthy for much of the 2013 season—each played 151 games—as relying upon either of their backups would have been disastrous.
To avoid a situation in which the Reds have to rely on the likes of Izturis and Hannahan, or make a panic-driven trade, they'll need to bolster their infield depth.
4. Bullpen Help
To be fair, the Reds' bullpen was solid through the 2013 season. The unit was anchored by its All-Star closer, Aroldis Chapman, and received some solid contributions from Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra and Alfredo Simon.
The team's bullpen compares well to those around the league, as exhibited in the table below (per-ESPN.com).
While the rankings for the bullpen from 2013 bode well for the Reds, there are several concerns as far as its composition go.
The team spent most of the season without two of its best relievers, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton. Beyond that, Manny Parra's free agency status could be a problem for the Reds, as he's set to earn substantially more than the $1 million he earned in 2013.
While the Reds will certainly pursue Parra, the possibility remains that he will leave. If he does in fact leave, the team will need to add another lefty—perhaps Boone Logan or Eric O'Flaherty.
Even with Broxton and Marshall both presumed to return in 2014, the team could still use another reliever. The team had to rely on Logan Ondrusek and Curtis Partch multiple times during 2013, but neither of the two proved overly capable.
Because of the struggles of Ondrusek and Partch, adding another right-handed arm to the bullpen would be beneficial. Of the players available, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain and Joe Smith have the best combination of track record and upside.
3. A Center Fielder/Leadoff Hitter
The 30-year-old posted an impressive .285/.423/.462 slash line with 21 home runs, 34 doubles, 54 RBI, 107 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. As impressive as his overall numbers were, Choo managed a gaudy offensive season, all while adapting to a new position—center field.
Choo wasn't the best center fielder, but he made do and filled a glaring weakness for the Reds from the 2012 season.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Choo's outstanding season may have priced him right out of Cincinnati. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Choo's agent Scott Boras believes that Choo is worth more than the $90-100 million price tag assigned to him by an unnamed GM.
Although it's unlikely that Choo will be able to command a $100 million-plus price tag, anything resembling it will result in Choo leaving Cincinnati. If that is in fact the case, then the Reds will need to look to bring in another player to man both center field and the leadoff spot in the order.
2. A Decision on Billy Hamilton
Billy Hamilton proved to be an immeasurable asset for the Reds as the 2013 season wound down. The 23-year-old managed 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts, an incredible 92.9 percent success rate.
In addition to his base stealing prowess, Hamilton's progression in center field was on full display as well. Hamilton has shown an increased ability to read fly balls and relies less on tracking the ball and more on his ability to run to a spot where he believes the ball will be.
However, Hamilton's call-up is a bit puzzling in terms of the stats he produced at the plate. In 19 at-bats, Hamilton compiled a .368/.429/.474 slash line with two doubles, one RBI, nine runs scored and a 4-to-2 K/BB ratio.
While it would appear that Hamilton is ready to take over full-time duties atop the Reds' lineup, that may not be the case.
Hamilton produced a .368 batting average in his 19 at-bats, but he wasn't able to make consistent contact at any point in his time with the team. Hamilton was consistently late on fastballs over the inner-half of the plate, and it appeared as though he got lucky on multiple occasions—evidenced by his insane .429 BABIP.
There is something to be said for the way Hamilton performed in such a high-pressure situation, and that will certainly play in his favor. However, he could be destined for some extra time in Triple-A given his disappointing showing there last season.
In any event, the team will need to have some sort of idea as to whether or not Hamilton can be ready to start the season as the Reds' everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter. If he's not, then it needs to be determined early so the Reds can search for someone to fill that role.
1. A Manager
The biggest need on the Reds' docket right now is to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Dusty Baker. The team lacks a manager, and hiring one prior to the start of free agency will be crucial.
Managers are in on every personnel decision including new coach hirings and free-agent signings. Both of these present areas of concern for the Reds.
If the team chooses to promote Bryan Price, then they'll need to hire a new pitching coach. Price will be the one to make this decision, and it could certainly play a role in the decisions on players like Bronson Arroyo, Aroldis Chapman and Tony Cingrani.
If the team looks to go in another direction, then they could lose Price to another team—the Mariners have expressed interest in him already. If Price leaves to take another job, the Reds will need a new manager in place quickly in order to hire a new pitching coach to replace him.
As we saw with the Indians this past season—and with the Reds over the past few seasons—a good working relationship between the pitching staff and a pitching coach can go a long way in the overall success of the team.
Outside of the changes at pitching coach, there's also the possibility that other coaches could leave as well. If Dusty Baker gets a managerial job with another team, the likelihood of some of his coaches following him grows exponentially.
Beyond the implications on the coaching staff, the manager will need to be involved in decisions made during the free-agency period.
Before any major decisions can be made on either front mentioned above, a manager will need to be hired. That makes this the biggest need for the Reds.
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