[This post was written by Warren Leeman, better known in these parts and the frozen tundra as Shchi Cossack. He’s decloaked for a moment at our request to elaborate on a comment he wrote a few days ago. — spm]
The Old Cossack never throws in the towel on a season until the Reds are mathematically eliminated, but a more constructive approach to the remaining 2014 season will serve the Reds better than simply maintaining the status quo.
The Reds offense is going nowhere this season. Joey Votto is on the 60-day DL. Brandon Phillips has continued his offensive age regression and is completing rehab on a 15-day DL. Does anyone remember Phillips’ post-injury performance last season? Ryan Ludwick has little to no power left in his swing following his severe shoulder injury and his age regression. Jay Bruce suffered a leg injury early in the season and has had little offensive production at all. Billy Hamilton had never proved his capability to hit AAA pitching. Hamilton’s season-long performance, his June surge notwithstanding, has fully demonstrated his lack of major league readiness at the plate.
The starting pitching and defense have carried the 2014 team to whatever success they have attained and that isn’t going to change. But now even the starting pitching is showing huge cracks.
Alfredo Simon has nothing left in the tank. He has reached his limit of effectiveness and stamina after a spectacular first half. Homer Bailey is on the 15 day DL and will be out at least until the end of August. Tony Cingrani in on the minor league DL and will not pitch again this season. That leaves two BIG holes in the starting rotation. The three remaining starters cannot carry this team. The only effective, reliable relievers are Chapman, Diaz and Broxton. The lack of starting pitching consistency and reliability is going to decimate the marginal bullpen and we can expect more of what we saw at Coors Field.
The Reds know what they have in most of their current active roster.
Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Brayan Pena, Ramon Santiago and Jack Hannahan are utility role players at best. Zack Cozart and Phillips are defensive stalwarts with limited offensive capability. Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco and Bruce are proven starters at the major league level with their long-term effectiveness still a bit murky.
That leaves left field, utility infield, utility outfield, middle relief and starting pitching depth as wide open questions going into 2015. Short stop, second base and center field are concerns.
Instead of regularly using those players that the Reds already know about, the final few weeks of the 2014 season should be used to answer staffing needs and prepare for a serious playoff run in 2015.
Alfredo Simon may be an effective starting option for 2015, but he has nothing left for 2014 and should be removed from the starting rotation, for his own physical survival. I’d place him on the 15-day DL with arm fatigue.
If anyone claims Ludwick, Schumaker, Hannahan, Sam LeCure or Manny Parra, Walt Jocketty should try to work out a trade for some return, but if not, then let the waiver claim go through along with the remaining contract responsibility.
If someone claims Heisey, Santiago, Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton, Logan Ondrusek or J.J. Hoover, Jocketty should work out an equitable trade or withdraw the waiver.
If Pena is capable of catching, option Barnhart back to AAA; if Pena is not capable of catching, place him on the 15-day DL.
DFA Hannahan and Schumaker off the 40-man roster if they are not claimed off waivers. Quit signing replacement (or below replacement) level utility players and middle relievers to multi-year, guaranteed contracts!
The Reds need to find out what is available in house now so they know what roster holes (if any) must be filled externally during the off season.
Neftali Soto and Donald Lutz should be added to the 25-man roster and play virtually every day. With regular consistent playing time, Lutz has produced at both AA and AAA, despite being jerked around for 3 weeks and again for 4 weeks with very limited and irregular playing time. He needs to prove if he can play at the major league level for a possible starting role in LF for 2015.
Soto has produced at AAA after 7 weeks of minimal and irregular playing time to start the season. Soto needs to prove he if he can play at the major league level for a possible off-season trade opportunity.
Felix Perez and Rey Navarro have produced at AAA. Perez and Navarro should be added to the 40-man and 25-man roster and given significant, regular playing time. Perez needs to prove if he can play at the major league level for a possible platoon option in LF or possible utility OF role for 2015. Navarro needs to prove if he can play at the major league level for a possible utility IF role for 2015.
Kristopher Negron needs to prove if he can continue to play consistently at the major league level for a possible super-sub utility IF/OF role for 2015.
For the pitching staff, continue with Jumbo Diaz and Carlos Contreras to see if they can become major options from the bullpen in 2015. Curtis Partch should pitch regularly for a possible middle relief role for 2015. Add David Holmberg to the 25-man roster and have him pitch regularly in the starting rotation.
Once the younger, cheaper players prove or disprove their major league readiness with extended, regular playing time, the Reds will be ready for some serious and informed off-season decisions.