1] Major league caliber power arms for the bullpen; must miss bats
2] Major league-ready catching prospect
3] Starting pitcher
4] Prototypical lead-off hitter
· Kyle Lohse - '08: Unrestricted Free Agent
Summary: While inconsistency personified, Lohse has pitched extremely well at Great American Ballpark - which we know is no easy feat. Unfortunately, he's an unrestricted free agent after the season, and Scott Boras is his agent. There's little doubt he will be grossly overpaid starting next season with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal mentioning Lohse as the pitcher most likely to get a Gil Meche type deal this off-season. In other words, a mediocre pitcher with good stuff hits the lottery because there's nothing appetizing out there. Lohse may get in the neighborhood of 3-4 years at $8-10M per, putting him squarely out of the Reds future plans.
Bottom Line: As one of the top 5 starting pitchers on the market, Kyle Lohse has to be traded. Don't expect a "name" prospect in return, but do expect at least an intriguing AA arm.
Ideal Destination: Seattle finds themselves in the AL West race with Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez as their #4 and #5 starters. Lohse would be a significant upgrade on both pitchers. Seattle has quite a few impressive prospects, but Lohse would certainly not bring the cream of the crop. An interesting return could be Julio Mateo, an effective reliever banished to AAA after an April arrest. An even more interesting return would be to try to combine Lohse and Weathers for AAA power-hitting catcher Jeff Clement. Not bloody likely.
· Jeff Conine - '08: Unrestricted Free Agent / Probable Retirement
Summary: With his best days in the rear-view mirror, and free agency looming as well as retirement, Conine's only real value for the remainder of the season is with a contender looking for a right-handed pinch-hitter and veteran leadership. A Conine trade should allow the Reds to promote sweet swinging Joey Votto from AAA and give him a look as a significant part of the team's future.
Bottom Line: As a free agent facing retirement on the heels of a distinguished career, Conine deserves a chance to go out with a contender. Don't expect anything more than a fringe prospect in return.
Ideal Destination: Mets, Padres, Brewers, Cubs. He could take over Julio Franco's old role with the Mets; or provide the Padres with a decent stick to bolster their bench; or give the Brewers a veteran leader on their talented young club; or provide the Cubs with a veteran bench player who has playoff experience.
· Mike Stanton - '08: $3M/ '09: $2.5M Club Option
Summary: It was fairly obvious that Stanton was running on fumes two years ago when the Yankees just flat-out released him in the middle of a pennant race. After a thoroughly unimpressive first half last season, the Giants traded for him at the deadline and were forced to use him to close out games in September after running through the rest of their bullpen. On the strength of that one good month at age 39, Wayne Krivsky signed Stanton to a two year deal with an option for a third. Not one of Krivsky's finer moments. With a 5.40 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP (walks + hits / inning pitched), Stanton has been a complete waste of millions of dollars. The Reds find themselves in a position where they can't trade Stanton for anything of value. In fact, the only way they can rid themselves of his services is to cut him and swallow next year's $3M salary, or try to tempt a contender into trading for him by paying a chunk of his salary.
Bottom Line: Coming up on age 40, there's simply nothing left in the tank here. Take whatever you can get for him, even if you have to pay a good portion of his salary next season. Bill Bray is ready to take over Stanton's role, and the Reds need to see if young lefties Mike Gosling and Phil Dumatrait have anything to offer for the future.
Ideal Destination: The Braves don't have a lefty in their bullpen. Perhaps they could use the old "veteran moxie" and "playoff experience." Expect a gatorade flavor to be named later in return.
EXPLORE EVERY AVENUE:
· Scott Hatteberg - '08: $1.85M Club Option
Summary: Hatteberg offers the Reds lineup something they have desperately needed: a professional hitter who controls the strike zone and makes consistent contact. With 39 walks against 25 strikeouts, Hatteberg controls the plate as well as any hitter in baseball. As Billy Beane knows, that's an extremely valuable skill for a contending ball club. The Reds' conundrum is that Joey Votto is knocking on the door to 1B, yet Hatteberg has a bargain option at $1.85M next season. Votto will need regular at bats, yet Hatteberg's production merits playing time. Unfortunately, both are left-handed hitters which rules out the traditional platoon arrangement.
Bottom Line: Keeping Hatteberg around next season would help serve one important function that the Reds have sorely missed since the '99 season: a strong bench. For years, the Reds have the weakest bench in baseball--which should not come as a surprise to you or them as they have had Juan Castro, one of the 20 weakest hitters in the 150 year history of baseball, as a mainstay. Throw in a waste of a roster spot like Chad Moeller, and it's a truly woeful late inning situation. On the other hand, sell high! Hatteberger is not likely to hit this well next season, and Votto is ready. We'll worry about the bench in the offseason.
Ideal Destination: One of the most laughable positions in baseball is the Yankees 1B situation. With almost $200M in payroll, including $20M in Jason Giambi, the Yankees have been running journeymen noodle-batters Miguel Cairo and Andy Phillips out to 1B on a regular basis. Phillips has hit over his head for a few weeks, but he's not the answer. Hatteberg would give the Yankees another professional hitter in the lineup and a steady, veteran presence at 1B. You're not getting rising phenom Joba Chamberlain in return, but AA pitcher Alan Horne would be a fantastic return. Not likely, but aim high.
· David Weathers - '08: $2.75M + Performance Bonus
Summary: As the sole dependable entity in the Reds bullpen, Weathers has been much more valuable than his expected role as "veteran mentor." By pitching around tough lefties, handling crunch time situations with an iron stomach, and staying away from the big inning, he has exceeded expectations this year. Weathers is a valuable late inning weapon as evidenced by his place at the top of all major league closers in saves over one inning in length. With a salary around $3M next season, he would be a bargain in a market where closers are hard to come by. All of which places the Reds in yet another conundrum: is he worth more to them than he is to a contender?
Bottom Line: Sell high! Weathers is unlikely to recreate his magic again next season, and he's sitting on the most trade value he has ever accrued in his 17-year career. Sure, that leaves us without a dependable arm in the bullpen, much less a closer. But the bullpen can be addressed with trade returns, off-season acquisitions, and the 2nd half performances of Eddie Guardado, Bill Bray, Brad Salmon, et al. If the rest of your roster is not ready to contend, you can't afford the luxury of sitting on a non-dominant 38-year-old closer when his return could help the next good Reds team.
Ideal Destination: I mentioned the package deal with Lohse to the Mariners for catching prospect Jeff Clement, but he could also be packaged to the Yankees with Hatteberg. The Mets have been rumored to be after Nationals closer Chad Cordero, but Weathers could be a more reasonable acquisition for them. The Dodgers, Yankees, and Tigers have also been looking for bullpen help. Expect a very good prospect in return. The Reds will not trade Weathers unless somebody makes it worth their while.
· Ryan Freel - '08: $3M / '09: $4M
Summary: A unique player in that his ideal role is lead-off utility man. If he's not getting on base at the top of the lineup, his bat is utterly worthless. Unfortunately, that has been the case more often than not in 2007. On top of that, his playing style leaves him more vulnerable to injuries as we saw with his 10th concussion last month. With another crowded outfield situation, Freel likely heads back to the utility role for the future. That role can be filled for much less dough with the poor man's Freddie Shanchez -- Jeff Keppinger, in addition to manager's pet Norris Hopper.
Bottom Line: Sell low? That's the problem. At this time last year, Freel could have brought home a good return. Is there a contender out there desperate for a lead-off utility man? The Braves have their own Freel in Willie Harris, or they would be the obvious choice. Cleveland would be another, but they traded for Kenny Lofton just now. This is not the ideal market for a Ryan Freel trade.
Ideal Destination: With Lofton going to Cleveland and Harris playing well in Atlanta, there are no ideal destinations for Free. Milwaukee has a dilemma with nucleus part and presumed lead-off hitter, Rickie Weeks, struggling through a wrist injury. But they've been able to plug Corey Hart into the lead-off spot and go with veterans Graffanino and Counsell at 2B.
MUST RECEIVE PREMIUM IMPACT TALENT:
· Ken Griffey Jr. - '08: $12.5M / '09: $16.5M
Summary: In the past few years, Griffey has been too injury-prone and contract heavy to deal. With the move to RF and an offensive boon since May, Griffey has gained significant trade value for the first time in years. Even better, his contract is reasonable from here on out as next year is the final year of the contract he signed with the Reds back in 2000. On the flip side, he's still seen by the front office and many fans as a Cincinnati landmark and a gate attraction. Expectations with many involved in the franchise have placed a pressure on Junior to finish his career with the Reds.
Bottom Line: Sell high! If you can. Junior is the most interesting trading chip the Reds have, but we all know he's a threat for a season-ending injury at any time. Nonetheless, as a legit all-star and a huge attraction, his power numbers are as good as anybody's since the beginning of May. Surely some team is interested in that package to put them over the top. Would the Reds deal him? Probably not. They're going to have to be knocked over with an offer to pull the trigger.
Ideal Destination: Unless the Tigers are willing to part with premium CF prospect Cameron Maybin, a Griffey deal is unlikely to happen. He's recently mentioned a desire to return to Seattle, but the Reds would ask for at least CF prospect Adam Jones and possibly more.
· Adam Dunn - '08" $13M Club Option (voided if traded)
Summary: One of the main problems with this Reds team is that the pieces don't fit well together and the style of offense is hit-and-miss. This goes hand-in-hand with another legit problem with the Reds' ability to contend the last few years; the lineup's best players come up just short of being the kind of superstar hitters you really want to build your offense around. This has been a persistent problem since Adam Dunn arrived on the scene, and he's been taking unfair blows from fans and media types ever since. In an era with a paucity of great nicknames, Dunn should have one to rival The Mechanical Man (Charlie Gehringer), The Wild Horse of the Osage (Pepper Martin), Sultan of Swat (Babe Ruth) Old Aches and Pains (Luke Appling), The Splendid Splinter (Ted Williams). Adam Dunn: The Cincinnati Fall-Guy.
Bottom Line: Any deal for an impact return is likely to be scuttled by Dunn's capability to void his '08 option if traded. Contrary to popular belief, the Reds are likely to pick up Dunn's option at $13M next year if he's not traded. If you're paying Junior $12.5, why not go to $13 for Dunn as a better bet to stay healthy and produce his usual 40+ HRs, 100 Runs and 100 RBI? We act like that production is easy to come by. It's not. If you trade players like Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., you are giving away a lot more than just talent and top-notch production. You are giving up the chance to compete for the rest of '07 and all of 2008. That's worth a lot.
Ideal Destination: The Angels and Dodgers have been mentioned as possible partners, with the Angels being connected more to Paul Konerko and Mark Texeira. If the Reds could pry starting pitcher Chad Billingsly and outfielder Matt Kemp away from the Dodgers, they would have to consider it. Again, not likely.
Update from Brad: Wess sent me the link to his rotoworld.com fantasy football guide and asked me to write up something nice--a reason to check out his expert opinion. The funny thing is--to the best of my knowledge--this was his first attempt at shameless promotion, something I thought was beneath him. Here's exactly what he had to say...
see if you can introduce my rotoworld rankings on the twinkilling site. Something like: "I know a lot of you play fantasy football. With drafts just around the corner, you may be tempted to do the 1990's thing and buy a magazine or two. Please keep in mind that twinkilling's own, Chris Wesseling, has contributed to Rotoworld.com's draft guide this year. Instead of forking out $10 for a magazine, try the much more impressively up-to-date, in-depth, and original work at Rotoworld for $14.95. (Then link to Rotoworld's Draft Guide). If you can word it better, please do so.
For some reason that just makes me laugh