Ryan Ludwick is the newest member of the Reds and I have some seriously mixed feelings about it.
On the one hand, the Reds needed outfield depth. On the other hand, this negatively affects the construction of the bench.
As I read the tea leaves, the following players are locks to make the team: Hanigan, Cairo, Francisco, Ludwick, and Janish (until they sign another SS). That’s the whole bench, and it’s not as good as one with Frazier in place of Ludwick. Frazier and Ludwick both figure to be about a league-average hitter, but Frazier has the better chance of being above average and plays more positions. Still, you need five guys who can play outfield, even if one of them is in triple-A. Injuries happen. Ludwick is not the problem.
The problem is that the Reds insist on carrying three infielders. Cairo and Francisco have almost exactly the same uses. Cairo is lock because he has a major league contract and is all veteran-y. Francisco will be there because he’s the only lefty off the bench (and, I believe, is out of options). Janish is there because Dusty wants a true shortstop as a backup.
I generally try not to live in a fantasy-land where the Reds are concerned. I know Frazier is going to end up in the minors. The Reds have never believed in him, after all. But if I were the Reds, I would do one of three things:
1. Send Janish down and let Frazier backup short. He’s played there before and can spell for a game or two.
2. Give Cairo his walking papers and Frazier his job.
3. Decide the team is fine with a six-man bullpen and carry a six-man bench.
I know none of these things is likely to happen, but I can’t help feeling the Reds are a better team when Frazier is the first back-up option for left, right, third, and first. He’s a good player with a lot of uses. I wish the Reds would give him a chance.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.