Today we tackle the outfield. Probably the only decision that has already been made is that Bruce will start in the outfield somewhere. I think he's in the Bigs to stay after an extended look last season. His average tailed off after a hot start, but everyone seems to agree that he has the tools. Even if he doesn't, the Reds can't afford not to find out by playing the fan favorite pretty much everyday next year. Right now, he's slated for RF but that could change depending on other transactions.
Probably the other thing we know for sure is that the Reds won't start the year with Hopper and Freel manning the other two spots. If so, all of this blogging will have been in vain. I could see one or the other starting in center next year, perhaps as a place holder for Drew Stubbs, the Reds' only legit OF prospect that's even close to the Bigs. Stubbs, the Reds' first pick in '06, could probably start right now in center. He's very good defensively and has all of the baseball instincts that go with being a top prospect. He has terrific speed and bats righty, which is exactly what we need in center. Except, he strikes out too much. He could very easily be the next Mike Cameron (minus the ubiquitous coffee can of pot - amphetamines my ear) but may be a year away. I guess Freel (he makes more than Hopper, so probably gets the nod -- what kind of job makes you more likely to get the nod because you cost more?) could be a legit placeholder and leadoff hitter until he either gets hurt or Stubbs comes up after whatever date that is where the player's arbitration clock doesn't start, see Evan Longoria.
That leaves another spot, and I think the Reds will make a move here. I wanted the Reds to trade for Coco Crisp but (fortunately for the Blue Sox -- see reason to blog, infra) the Royals got him. I'm on record as saying the Reds should sign Juan Rivera as a free agent. If they do that, they're done in the outfield. Rivera is poised for a break-out and that could happen in a Reds uniform. Plus, if we sign Rivera, we don't have to trade anybody, especially Bailey.
Jermaine Dye has been the subject of a lot of trade rumors, and his value has been debated on this very blog. I think Bailey and another player for him is worth it. We've got the money and he will produce. His age is an issue (thanks, Whit -- boy has there ever been a bigger misnomer?) but the Reds don't need him past 2010.
Maglio Orndonez is another possible trade target. Similar to Dye, he brings solid production from a righty outfielder, but would cost a little more. His availability might depend on the Tigers' plans for '09. Right now, the Tigers do not look like contenders. I don't know what it would take to get Mags, but probably more than Bailey and Chris Dickerson, or Bailey and Josh Roenicke or Maloney, the guys rumored to be involved in the Dye trade. (Dickerson is "rumored to be involved in the Dye trade" only because I just said it on my blog.)
Here is a crazy idea. Trade for Andruw Jones. What do the Reds need? A starting center fielder and some right-handed pop. A couple three years ago you couldn't do any better than Jones in that category. His '07 was terrible from and average standpoint (.227?) but he still had power. Unbelievably, that was a contract year for Jones. Expected to get a huge deal before '08, he ended up on a 2-year deal with the Dodgers. A great move for all (is what all the pundits, and me) said at the time. He'll bounce back and give the Dodgers what they need, the Dodgers didn't go too far out on a limb, and Jones would hit the market in '10 as a free agent again. At least that was the conventional wisdom. He then went out and had one of the worst seasons ever. The Legends, who also took a chance on him, suffered greatly. Which makes it all the more surprising that I would recommend a trade for him. Sure, he makes a ton, but the Dodgers would give him away, and pay a ton of his salary. The trade would be a risk, but Jones would be in another contract year (although that didn't help last time). Don't forget, he spent most of '08 with injuries that ultimately led to knee surgery and the end (mercifully) of his season. Finally, he's only the second biggest centerfield headache for the Dodgers. They have Juan Pierre on a longer-term deal. (We could trade for Juan Pierre, but we've seen that movie. It was called C-Pat.)
Another daring move would be to make a run at Delmon Young. The Twins weren't too happy with him (who would be, he hit like one home run the first five months of the season) and he comes with some baggage. But I think he would come cheap, and the Twins love to hoard pitching. Maybe Bailey for Young is a cheaper and more long-term trade option than Dye. (Whit? Or are you still mad at me?) (Note to self: when you get one comment, don't make fun of the commentator.) It would take more than that, so I would throw in Chris Dickerson. (See, now he's rumored to be going to the Twins for Delmon Young.) Dicerkson's minor league stats don't support his terrific major league stats from a short stint last year in the Bigs. I think his trade value will never by higher than it is right now, and I would shop him. Plus, we don't need him. We have Bruce and Stubbs to do what he can do, only better and just as cheaply.
The Angels would love to trade Gary Matthews, Jr., (little sarge) but his great '06 turned into a huge, albatross of a contract, and the Reds can't afford to pay a guy like that. Speaking of the Angels, Garrett Anderson is available, but he's too old and bats left-handed.
Another option would be to trade for David DeJesus. Now that the Royals have Crisp, they have an extra outfielder. DeJesus is the best of the remaining three, but he also bats left-handed. I don't think we want to make another run at Jose Guillen (unless we could trade him again for another Harang) nor could we afford him. Teahen is over rated (and bats left-handed).
Regarding the other outfielders that may be available, there are always the Jay Payton types available, but I would rather take a chance on a guy we already have than sign another one of those guys.
Jolbert Cabrera seemed like a decent player last year and might make the squad as it is now. But if he's on the 25-man when the Reds head north in the spring that's trouble. Not that he's that bad, but that would mean the Reds made no significant moves in the outfield. And they need to make at least one.
Wilkin Castillo (aka Supersub) probably does make the team as the 25th guy, which is great, because the Reds could carry only 4 outfielders and an extra reliever.