The Reds need an outfielder. Maybe two.

Left field has been an issue since Ryan Ludwick injured his shoulder on Opening Day 2013. But it’s not just LF that presents a concern. Billy Hamilton hasn’t proven he can hit major league pitching. And the Reds are trying to trade Jay Bruce.

There are a few internal options, though Walt Jocketty seemed to rule out Jesse Winker this week. (“Winker’s close, but I don’t think he’s ready yet.”) Matt Korte discussed a few options. Adam Duvall was acquired as the second player in the Mike Leake deal. Yorman Rodriguez can’t be sent to the minors without risking a waiver claim. Eugenio Suarez, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier have been mentioned as position switch candidates. Meh.

The issue with acquiring new outfielders isn’t money. The club will have payroll room, plenty of it. Even before they trade Aroldis Chapman, they have as much as $20 million to spend on new players, if CEO Bob Castellini funds a normal increase in payroll. They’ll save about $12 million more trading Chapman. The Reds are shopping Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, both of whom make 8-figure salaries.

The focus should be squarely on 2017 and beyond, but nothing says they can’t sign a player right now that will help then.

The super-expensive options would be Jason Heyward or Justin Upton. Wick Terrell makes the case for signing Heyward. Those players would require commitments in the range of $160-180 million and 7-8 years.

A less costly option, in terms of years and payroll is Dexter Fowler.

Fowler is a free agent. He played 152 games in center field for the Chicago Cubs last year. All but a handful of plate appearances were from the #1 spot in Joe Maddon’s batting order. The Reds acquiring Dexter Fowler is hardly a new idea (2012, 2014, 2014).

Fowler’s OBP was .346, easily the second highest among Reds starters last year. His isolated power was .161 (17 HR, 29 doubles and 8 triples), roughly the same as Eugenio Suarez.

He really fits. Fowler could hit leadoff for the Reds. Expect a .351 OBP next year, according to the average of two projections (Steamer and Baseball-Reference). Fowler’s career walk-rate is over 12 percent. That’s solid insurance against a dip in batting average. He could play any of the OF positions. Despite his speed, Fowler has never been great defensively. But he battled the defensive metrics to a standstill last year, playing half his games in the Cozy Confines. Fowler’s glove would play in Great American Small Park, whether in left, center or right.

It will take an offer of approximately 4 years and $13 million AAV to sign Fowler. That’s an average of various estimates. The $52 million total cost is less than a third of the commitment to sign Upton or Heyward. The contract would cover Fowler’s age 30-33 seasons.

Signing Dexter Fowler isn’t urgent for the Reds. Comparable players are on the market – Austin Jackson and Denard Span are available and their multi-year contracts should cost less than Fowler’s, although for less production. Another mid-range option, Colby Rasmus, just agreed to accept the qualifying offer from the Astros ($15.8 million) for 2016.

Of course, the Reds can patch and fill with misfits and overmatched players through 2016 and sign a free agent in 2017. If you favor the Reds losing as much as they can in 2016 to improve their draft pick, that’s the course you should prefer.

But Dexter Fowler is a competent outfielder who has sterling on-base skills and double-digit pop. He can be signed at an affordable price with a commitment only through his age 33 season. That works.

Keep in mind that while the Reds may be in the process of unloading players, they can also sign some.

About The Author

Steve grew up in Cincinnati a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. Contemporary Reds thrills: witnessing Jay Bruce's 2010 homer and Homer Bailey's 2013 no-hitter in person. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 280 characters about the Reds is Redleg Nation, although you can follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Related Posts

127 Responses

  1. DHud


    Rasmus accepted a qualifying offer from the Astros.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Fixed, thanks. One team behind.

  2. DHud

    But yes, I would love to see Dexter Fowler in a Reds uniform.

    • Redsfan48

      The reports were he was going to be a Red in 2013, but a day later, before that deal got finished, the Reds got Choo.

    • datdudeTS

      I said that last year… Instead of signing Byrd, which didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it was going to… But again it’s the same as Byrd, we could have had him a year earlier, and helped our team instead of letting him help the Cubs…

  3. tct

    Fowler has been available in a trade each of the last two years. And neither the Astros or the Cubs paid a steep price to get him. Should have gotten him then, but now I think they have missed their chance. Paying full market price for a guy who will probably be in decline by the time you are ready to contend again doesn’t seem like a great idea. But I like Fowler, and if they could get a decent deal, wouldn’t hate it.

    Also, I don’t agree that Billy Hamilton has proven that he can’t hit major league pitching. He was brought to the big leagues before his bat was ready, he only gets 1/3 of his PA from his natural, dominant side of the plate, he just turned 25 and still has fewer than 1000 AB. Lots of people had given up on Dee Gordon’s bat, too. It’s way too early to give up on him. End the switch hitting experiment and give him a full season batting righty.

    • tct

      Oops, my bad Steve. You wrote “Billy Hamilton hasn’t proven he can hit major league pitching.” I read it as “Billy….has proven he can’t. Eyes playing tricks on me, I guess.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    I would love to see Fowler in front of Votto. I’m all for this idea as an OF fix.

    • RedsFaninPitt

      The Reds need to unload the Votto behemoth contract now. He is coming off a great year after regaining his health. It’s time to give up on 2016 and 2017, IMO, and focus on 2018 and beyond. If we don’t, we will be greatly regretting it beginning in 2-3 years. By then, Votto’s decline will be coming into full view for everyone to see, and it will be too late to unload the contract that saddles the Reds until he is 40. This is a contract that never should have been offered by the Reds and Castellini was likely the perpetrator. As a result, I also don’t think signing Fowler makes sense given his age and the likely decline he will be experiencing over the next 3 seasons. It’s time to go totally young and only retain the vets you have to – Mez and Bailey – for now. You can sign vets in free agency starting in 2018. For the next 2 seasons, it should be all about finding young prospect talent and letting them play to see what you have so you know what you need to fill holes in 2018 to get back to the playoffs. It’s time to stockpile all the best young talent you can get your hands on and forget about the stars of yesterday in Reds uniforms.

      Why take the risk on any big free agency – even $40-50 mil. – before you know you can compete? It also could potentially block a better young player that the Reds trade for over the next year. GO YOUNG with the best talent you can acquire, and GO CHEAP to secure the most financial flexibility you can for the next 2 years. Won’t always be pretty, but it should get increasingly exciting as the talent builds and blossoms.

      • Chris Miller

        I would have to disagree with your premise of giving up on the 2017 season. There is absolutely no reason to give up on the 2017 season. To the contrary, that is the season this team should take off. The bulk of their rotation will have two full years under them. The new tv deal will bring in millions of dollars, and they should still have two of, possibly three of the top players at their position in, Votto, Frazier, and Mesoraco. In fact, their issues are primarily with the outfield, which should be ready to roll by 2017, and their bullpen which is the least costly to fix. There is some solid core on this team, and there is no reason to be rebuilding and costing the team millions in revenue by taking three years to rebuild.

      • RedsFaninPitt

        The biggest and best wave of Reds roatation pitchers -Stephenson, Reed Garrett and Travis will not be hitting the majors until late 2016 to mid 2017. You have to expect them to get at least a year of MLB experience under their belt before they begin to make a significant difference. With the exception of maybe Iglesias, the Reds MLB ready pitchers – Desclefani, Lamb, Lorenzen, Finnegan and even Bailey are a cast of mid- rotation or bullpen pitchers. The status and timing of the development of their pitching is why being competitive in 2017 is not likely. Even WJ is using 2018 as one of the first 2 years that he expects them to be competitive again and I think he knows 2018 is more realistic due to the timing of their expected pitching development.

      • Redsfan48

        Votto’s decline will, in my opinion, be later and slower than most people because he doesn’t heavily rely on power and has the patience to draw walks. Even at age 35 or older, I can see him hitting .280/.400/.450 at least. Sure, power will likely decline, but the other numbers will be good enough to make him worth it still.

      • RedsFaninPitt

        Big risk you’re taking paying him $25 mil. per year from 2018-2023 (age 34-39 seasons) in order to see him rake (assuming he stays healthy) on a team not likely to compete in 2016 and 2017. Assuming he is a healthy 20 homer, .280 hitter with an OBP of .400 at age 35 (big assumption), how many teams are going to want to take the risk of paying him $25 mil. per year from age 36-39 if the Reds began to believe that in order to compete in the next few years they needed a cheaper player at a different position/pitcher? If the Reds competitive window is shifting forward 2-3 years, then by the time we get 2-3 years down the road Votto is increasingly going to be viewed as a drag financially and perhaps production wise as well. He will never be viewed with as much value as he does now since he is still in his early 30’s, healthy and producing significantly.

        Obviously, the Reds would have eat $20-40 mil. of his contract or take on a bad contract over the next couple of seasons in order to get significant return back from a trade. But, by the time 2018 rolls around, they have a much greater degree of financial flexibility and the young prospects they are trading and drafting for now and developing should be ready to produce in the major leagues. This is a much better and safer strategy in my opinion.

      • jack

        Rasmus just got almost 16 million. Votto’s 25 million in 2020 will be far below what these teams will be paying their top talent. I see the top players on teams getting about 35 Mil a year by then.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Yes. By the time Votto gets paid $25 million, it will only take 3 WAR seasons to earn that, based on market rates for WAR.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Joey Votto will play his age 32 season in 2016. Including 2 seasons when he was saddled with severe leg injuries, his last 6 seasons have averaged 7 WAR and based on his 2015 performance, there is no indication that Joey Votto is even comtemplating slowing down or regressing soon. Joey Votto platueas at $25MM/season beginning in the 2018 season and (knock on the old wooden noggin) avoiding another serious injury, Votto should still be putting up 6+ WAR seasons in 2018.

        Votto is simply an extraordinarily unique hitter. If he is provided a productive lineup around him, he could put up almost unprecented numbers over the next few seasons. The Reds are fortunate to have such a player to anchor their roster for the the next 8 seasons, even at $25MM per.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Had his best season at age 31 last year. It’s crazy to want the Reds to be good any time in the next five years and want to trade Votto.

      • jdx19

        Agreed. I think at age 38-40 he can still be a .270/.370/.400 sort of player. That is probably league average (2.0 WAR) while playing below-average D at 1B.

        He’s very unlikely to drop off a cliff. Even 2014 on one leg he hit .250/.390/.400.

      • DEN

        There is zero chance Bob would ever agree to trade votto

      • RedsFaninPitt

        Seriously doubt the Reds will get any top 25 prospects without trading Votto.

      • Shchi Cossack

        The option for a high (<#50) draft pick via a trade would depend entirely on the prospect. A young (<= class A) prospect is ceertainly significantly less valuable than a prospect playing class A+ or higher. I can see a very young prospect playing in the low minors with a rank 25 or higher as a possiblity for Chapman or Frazier in a trade, if the Reds were interested in aquiring future potential as opposed to nearly major league ready potential. I'm not sure that the Reds are interested (although I hope they are realistically considering) such a scenario. I think they may be more focused on major league ready talent.

      • RedsFaninPitt

        Assuming a 10-15% per year decline in production from 5.5 WAR per year that Votto’s has averaged since 2010, by Votto’s age 36 season he will be producing only 3 WAR and will still be owed $107 mil. guaranteed for 4 more seasons. The Reds will find they are stuck with a large contract on a declining player who can only play 1B a position that you typically want to produce more than just a couple WAR. The age 36-39 part of the contract is what is crazy. This is on top of the risk of injury that exists and we have already seen with Votto. These long high priced contracts never end well especially for small market teams. SELL NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

      • jdx19

        Hey, REDSFANPITT… another thing to consider is the revenue and goodwill to the fanbase that a Hall of Fame run would generate. Votto is currently sitting at 41.6 fWAR, and 60 WAR is usually the level that people begin to get discussed as HOFers.

        Coming off a 7 win season, another 18.4 WAR seems pretty attainable assuming Votto stays healthy. 5.5, 4.5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2 in his age 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 seasons gets him to 65 WAR, and those numbers seem conservative and they assume he doesn’t have another ‘career year’ for the rest of his career.

        I know you think a $25MM will be a lot of money in 2020 (it won’t), but if you can’t see the way economics are changing in baseball, maybe you want to see another Red in the HOF while you’re still alive? I know I do. Votto’s the only shot in the next 25 years. If you trade him, you no longer have that shot!

  5. Jack Bradley

    i like the dexter fowler move, austin jackson interesting too. I’d love to see them get andrew benintendi as a part of the potential package from boston for chapman, high draft pick a few years ago, went to madeira in cincy. Plug him in the future outfield in a few years.

  6. CP

    It’s a relatively solid group of free agent candidates. Fowler is okay.

    I actually really like Heyward. I liked him when I wrote that the Reds should consider targeting him on 8/31:

    You don’t see 26 year olds hit free agency much, so I believe the comps (and Heyward’s relatively rare skillset) are somewhat undervalued. $200 million contract are always risky, but they sure are less risky when you have a guy who may not have even hit his peak yet, and already has 27 + WAR. The only younger player with more WAR is Mike Trout.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The Cardinals may well pay it.

      • lwblogger2

        I think Heyward ends up back with the Cards.

      • CP

        I think they will. He just seems like the type of player that they would like.

        On the other hand, I could totally see Reds media/fans hating Heyward.

      • CP

        Also, the Cards payroll outlook is ridiculous. I know they will eventually have to pay their young guys, but unless they start tossing some extensions around, Holliday comes off the books in 2017 at the latest, Molina & Wainwright iafter 2018 at the latest, then one more full year of Carpenter. They can easily start taking on some long term contracts without forcing tough decisions. Payroll & roster flexibility…sigh.

      • lwblogger2

        I could see that too. He’s very laid back and quiet.

  7. WVRedlegs

    Fangraphs shows that thw Cubs have given Fowler a Qualifying Offer. He has until 5:00pm today to accept or turn down. If he turns it down, that means whatever team signs him will have to give up their first round pick in the 2017 MLB draft. If the Reds are staring at a top-5 pick next year, signing Fowler then seems very counter-productive.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The Reds pick is protected because it is so high. They would lose a second round pick. The Reds also have a competitive balance pick before the second round. One of the arguments for signing a free agent now (made in the Wick Terrell post I cited) is because the Reds wouldn’t lose a first round pick this year.

      • WVRedlegs

        That is right. Sacrificing a high second round pick might be worth it then.

      • WVRedlegs

        I got the year of the draft wrong too. Next year. I couldn’t click on the Terrell article. I’ll have to check it out later. The free agent OF market is thin once you get past Heyward, Upton, Cespedes, Fowler and Gordon.
        I like the idea of adding guys that can get on base ahead of Votto.
        Another positive about Fowler, though, is he could be a very good influence on Billy Hamilton’s hitting too.

      • Michael E

        They won’t lose one next year either…not like they’ll be better than the 10 worst teams with a pitching staff full of rookies and 2nd year guys. We got talent, but not Mets level talent, so patience will be needed to get to above average.

    • CP

      The top 10 picks are protected, but it would cost them their next pick.

    • lwblogger2

      The top 10 picks are protected picks, if I understand correctly.

    • ohiojimw

      Reds top pick is protected In believe (first ten pecks are). They’d have to give up their highest unprotected pick. I’m not sure if that would be their competitive balance pick or fall back to the normal 2nd round pick

    • whodeythinkgonnabeatthemredlegs

      So does a team who has their QO rejected and sees the FA sign with a team who owns a top 10 pick get a lower draft pick in return?

      • CP

        Borrowed from MLBTR:

        Forfeited picks don’t go to other MLB teams (as they used to under the old Type A/B system). Instead, they disappear and the first round is condensed. In turn, teams that lose a player who declined a qualifying offer are awarded a compensatory pick at the end of the first round, before the competitive balance choices. Such compensation picks are awarded in the inverse order of record

      • whodeythinkgonnabeatthemredlegs

        makes sense, thanks!

      • Shchi Cossack

        No. The corresponding picks are not traded. The signing team loses their top, unprotected pick and the comped team simply gets a comp pick, but the two picks are unrelated.

  8. sultanofswaff

    I love the idea of Fowler manning CF for a couple years and then transitioning to a 4th OF. It makes the Chapman trade scenario that much more interesting. Yeah there’s a lot of ifs, but this batting lineup would be as good as any team in the division and keep them hovering around the .500 mark until prospect reinforcements arrive midseason.

    RF we acquire in Chapman trade
    LF placeholder until Winker arrives mid season

    • lwblogger2

      Or even:

      Fowler LF
      Votto 1B
      Mesoraco C
      Frazier 3B
      Suarez SS
      TBD RF
      Phillips 2B
      Hamilton CF

      I’m assuming that Phillips won’t be traded and Cozart may not be the same guy after a horrible knee injury. I’m pulling for Cozart and would love him coming off the bench or even starting at SS if Suarez’ defense continues to be brutal. I’m hoping he comes back strong.

  9. Chuck Schick

    Working from the premise that the Cubs are smart and have tremendous financial resources, why don’t they want Fowler? He played well….isn’t absurdly expensive and they’re playing to win titles. Why are they willing to let him go?

    • Steve Mancuso

      The Cubs are smart and have tremendous resources. They did make Fowler a qualifying offer – so they value him at least at $15.8 million for 2016. Possible reasons they don’t want him long-term:

      1. Albert Almora
      2. Need pitching worse
      3. 1-2 year contract makes more sense for them

    • datdudeTS

      They have tons of other options…cheaper options. With Maddon calling the shots, how many different line ups and players out of ‘natural position’ did he have? Even in the playoffs?

    • lwblogger2

      Not a forgone conclusion that he won’t resign with them either. I would consider it doubtful for the reasons Steve stated, but he’s a nice player and shouldn’t be a ridiculous contract.

  10. Shchi Cossack

    If have been wanting the Reds to grab Fowler since before the Rox traded him to the Stros for next to nothing. I was very disappointed to see Fowler start raking after the all star break (.312/.440/.565 from 7/17-8/31). That took him from a solid non-QO to a solid QO. If the Reds can sign Fowler for 4yrs/$50MM, even if they have to forfeit their 2nd round pick, its provides a solid fill for that perenial black hole in the OF.

    No reason to stop there though. Sign Hyeon-soo Kim also and lock up two OF options for the next 4-5 years. There will still be room for Winker when he is ready and that would really change to hitting landscape at GABP from a ‘stike a a ton and swing for the fences’ approach to a ‘quit giving up outs’ approach.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm…even if the Reds trade Frazier, Bruce and Phillips this off season, the 2017 lineup would shape up pretty nice.


    With the internal options coming up through the minor league pipeline and the aquisitions from trading Chapman, Frazier and Bruce, filling two IF positions with good defense and good hitting skils should be doable. Dang, the Reds might actually lead the league in OBP and RUNS. I’m afraid the Ohio River might jump its channel and make a hard left turn into Kentucky!

    • lwblogger2

      They’d be taking a gamble on Kim but honestly, the guy doesn’t seem to project any worse than a 4th OF and his skillset suggests he could well be a solid leadoff hitter in the Majors.

    • Shchi Cossack

      And yes, I am omitting Hamilton intentionally. Speed ages poorly and Hamilton has yet to prove he can get on base at the major league level (or AAA level for that matter). I hope the Reds can trade Hamilton or package Hamilton in a big trade to a team that over-values his speed as an asset.

      • tct

        All the research I have seen suggests that speedy players age much better than most types of players. I think the idea that speed ages poorly is largely a myth. Speed and defense do peak early, but speedy players in general have much slower declines.

      • jdx19

        Yeah, I agree with this view. Also, look at BP last year. Slow old BP stole over 20 bases. Billy in his mid-30s, due to superior genetics, should still be good for 40+ steals, assuming he ever learns to keep the ball on the ground and/or work a walk.

        At this point, I think Billy is a major unknown. In the short-term, we know exactly what we get… GG-caliber CF defense, best baserunning in the league, and can’t hit a lick.

        In the long-run, we have no idea. As his speed declines with age, so will his defense, and if he doesn’t compensate with the bat, he could become a replacement level player by 30.

  11. WVRedlegs

    Have the Dodgers soured on OF Joc Pederson since his horrible slump and eventual benching in a pennant race?? Maybe the Dodgers don’t consider him as untouchable as they did this time last year. Hernandez has seemed to have beaten him out for the OF position. A Chapman destination maybe? With the Dodgers, Chapman would represent the “Now” and Pederson “The Future”. In Cincinnati Chapman represents the past and Pederson could be the “Now”. Pederson could also make up for the power that doesn’t seem to be in the Reds system at the higher levels.

    • lwblogger2

      I think his manager soured on him. I don’t think the front-office did.

      • WVRedlegs

        I was a little afraid of that. I guess we’ll have to keep tabs on this site this weekend for any late breaking Chapman news. We need an impact player back in return.

      • jdx19

        Yep, this exactly. Being benched while mired in a .370 OBP “slump” is pretty silly.

    • Shchi Cossack

      After the middle of May, Pederson slashed .198/.326/.368 with 28% SO rate. He maintained good plate discipline, but missed way too many pitches. That performance after the league started getting a good book on him would give me serious pause. His power also disappeared in the 2nd half of the season.

      • WVRedlegs

        It gives me a little pause. But I think he’ll make the necessary adjustments. He looked good with Frazier in that HR derby. I salivate at the thought of Votto/Frazier/Pederson/Mesoraco with a guy or two ahead of them to get on base. Winker and Suarez to follow.

      • i71_Exile

        Buy low? With teams valuing—and maybe over-valuing—OBP, now could be the time to strike. I’d chase Pederson if he were actually available.

      • jdx19

        Agree with I71_EXILE. Pederson is exactly the kind of guy I’d want for the Reds. He’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders and he’s not afraid to take a walk. He has a high floor due to his walking skills, and perhaps with age he can cut down on the Ks.

  12. Darren

    Why should the reds go after Fowler when they are re-building. They should bank the cash until the prospects are close, and then open the wallet.

    • Michael E

      ^^^ THIS! Besides, Fowler isn’t anything special at the plate. He’s better than Hamilton, but for the money it would cost, it wouldn’t be worth it.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Fowler was a 3.2 fWAR player last year, mostly from offense. Easily worth $13 million. Cubs willing to pay him nearly $16 million. He’s *massively* better than Billy Hamilton at the plate.

      • jdx19

        Fun fact: The difference in Billy Hamilton and Dexter Fowler’s wRC+ (52 to 110) is the same difference between Bryce Harper and David Peralta (139 to 197).

        Upgrading Billy’s bat to Dexter’s would be like upgrading David Peralta’s bat to Bryce Harper’s.

        I think your use of “massively” is quite accurate!

  13. sezwhom

    Makes too much sense so probably won’t happen or if I’m Fowler, do I really want to sign with the Reds after playing for the Cubs last season?

    • Shchi Cossack

      If the Reds show Fowler they are serious about righting the ship quickly and making him a prime asset in the quick turnaround, sure. Why not?

      You think Fowler wouldn’t relish hitting behind Hamilton (even from the #9 hole) with the fastballs he would see and hitting in front of Votto? That’s a hitter’s Valhalla and Fowler wouldn’t (or more appropriately shouldn’t) be asked to steal bases with Votto hitting behind him, which would save wear and tear on his body for his next and final contract.

  14. Shchi Cossack

    Three QO’s accepted this off season. I think all three were good moves for the players involved and may give teams more hesitation in extending offers going forward.

  15. reaganspad

    I have been for Fowler every time it has been suggested. He fills a few big needs for the Reds

  16. Jeremy Conley

    Fowler is basically a league average player. He’s put up 13.9 WAR in 7 seasons, with a high of 2.8 and a low of 1.2. So there’s a good bet that over the next 5 years, he’s going to put up about 10 WAR.

    For an 88 win team he could make sense as the missing piece of the puzzle, but I don’t think the Reds should be paying free agent money for a guy that has a long track record of being league average. They should be trying to get average production (at least) from their internal options, and spend the big money to secure guys that are solidly above average.

    • Steve Mancuso

      This isn’t big money. There isn’t an internal option anywhere close to league average, let alone capable of backing up or playing CF. The Reds could be an 88-win team in 2017 and beyond. Fowler might have more value playing corner OF from a defensive standpoint.

      • Jeremy Conley

        No internal option right now, but that could change in any of a number of trades. I don’t know what Fowler will get eventually, but if this is premised on him turning down $15M for one year, I’m guessing he’s looking for at least $15M a year for a multiple years. You said that you expect the Reds to have $20M + whatever they free up in trades, so it looks like signing Fowler could reasonably be expected to eat up about half of that budget.

        I don’t dislike Fowler as a player, I just don’t think that he’s the right fit for this Reds team. Maybe signing a player like him in the 2017 offseason will make sense.

      • reaganspad

        the Reds are so bad at signing Free Agents. If Fowler wants to sign, do it. quick. Like tomorrow. We need to be the first to show we want him and do it before the “market gets defined or shakes out” or whatever the giberish is we get every year. Figure out who makes the team better and go get that player quickly

        The let’s save $50 million dollars and go by the free agents we want does not work in Cincy.

        We have CoCo Codero to show for our free agent efforts and we over-payed to get him at 4 & $44.0 million

        I would also be aggressive with the international players and the bid process

    • Michael E

      Jeremy, I am one of the few that agree with you. Fowler is nothing special. He had a solid year, but his career says… acceptably average. Steve says not big money, but for the Reds anything in 8 digits is huge money with Votto and Bailey’s contracts stringing out for years to come. Now, if they unload Chapman and Bruce and maybe Phillips and don’t take back much salary, then okay.

      All that said Fowler is not a bargain by any stretch, in fact he’ll probably be an overpay.

      • Jeremy Conley

        I guess I’d just much rather see the Reds pay the actual “Big” money for a guy like Hayward than pay free agent dollars to a player that you can expect to be average. I think paying the free agent price for average players is generally a bad move, but one that you can justify if you are in win-now mode. But the Reds aren’t so I don’t see it.

        Bailey is also mostly a league average type player, so if they sign Folwer, that means they have $35M tied up in two league average players. That means that they are going to have to get a lot of above average play from prospects if they are going to be a good team.

        In my opinion, it’s a lot easier for me to believe that the Reds can get league average out of prospects than above average or all-star play. So sign a guy like Hayward and then fill in with younger guys.

      • DEN

        What leads you to believe Bob is cash strapped?

  17. redsfan06

    This would not help the outfield, but the Reds could look at resigning Mike Leake to be an innings eater for the rotation while they figure out the young arms. He can’t get a QO since he was traded in season, so there is no concern with having to give up a draft pick. I saw an article saying he would probably command a 3 year/$40 million contract.

    • lwblogger2

      I think he’s going to get more years for sure and maybe a higher AAV. If the Reds could get him for 3/$40-million, they probably should.

  18. Brad

    Do you think Jay Bruce is basically done? Do you think the Reds will get good return for him or just dump salary. Fowler would be about the same salary but for two more years while Bruce is younger. What do you think it would take to extend Bruce two more years given his last two seasons (not that the Reds would want to, but if (and a big if) he could return to form he is young enough to help the Reds 2-4 years down the road).

    • Jeremy Conley

      Bruce is probably the most difficult question for the Reds. My guess is that they will keep him with the hope that he rebounds unless there’s a GM out there that really likes Bruce and makes a hard push for him.

      If the Reds can get a a decent prospect for Bruce, I think they would do it because it would let them say that they weren’t just dumping salary but building for the future. I doubt they will be able to do that, but you never know, each team is run by individuals, and they all have preferences (See Jocketty and his ex-Cardinals fetish).

      • Shchi Cossack

        If the Rox or Snakes could get Bruce to play half his games in their home stadiums, Bruce would be a perenial all star. Those nasty pitches he continually chases just aren’t so nasty in the high or dry air.

  19. ohiojimw

    Kimbrell to Boston from SD. Reds lose out on a top Chapman destination….

    • Steve Mancuso

      Lose top destination, but super-high price set for closers. Kimbrell has 2-3 years left on contract, so not perfectly analogous, but Reds have to like seeing the package the Padres got. Still, shame the Reds couldn’t get a deal with Boston and their loaded farm system.

      Note: the Padres got three position players in the deal, out of four.

      • lwblogger2

        Probably a similar package to what the Reds wanted and the BoSox probably said something like “Get real! We can get Kimbrell and 2 extra years of control for that kinda package!”

    • Jeremy Conley

      They got the #23 and #76 prospects in the minors in return, along with two lesser pieces. The higher ranked prospect is an outfielder.

      Now, Kimbrel has 2 extra years of control compared to Chapman, so the Reds won’t get that kind of package back if/when they trade him. But they could potentially get one guy like the outfielder Manuel Margot for Chapman, and that could be the alternative to signing a guy like Fowler.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Time for Dusty to step up and lobby hard for Chapman, before he misses out on the opportunity. Maybe WJ could squeeze Rizzo for Lopez, Robles and Abreu for one season of Chapman with enough prodding by Dusty.

  20. BigRedMachine

    I’m only in favor of finding outfielders for next year if they are going to help in 2017 and beyond. 2016 is a write-off. Not a penny should be spent trying to eek out a few wins. Reds fans are going to have to come to grips with a 60 win season. I can only hope they understand what rebuilding means and continue to support the team because of the past and the future and not punish because of the present.

    • Michael E

      Exactly. One year deal is pointless (trade ability exception below) expense that could be saved for future payroll increase, or maybe an infusion in the minor league coaching/developement outlay?

      Fowler, if signed cheaply (still expensive no doubt), could be okay if they get him for 3 or 4 years. A 1 year deal makes little sense, EXCEPT if they don’t offer a NTC and can trade Fowler at the deadline, assuming he is playing okay (no slam dunk) for another good prospect.

      So only a 1 year deal IF we have the flexibility to trade, if that is maintained, then sign two or three 1 year deals on players that could bring back another 3 prospects to add to our top 10.

    • jessecuster44

      Exactly what does rebuilding mean? The Marlins have been rebuilding for ages. The Mariners are constantly rebuilding. For every rebuild success story, there’s a fail.

      Dislike rebuilding. Dislike several 60-70 win seasons with players I barely know in the hopes that they become good. No thanks.

      • Jeremy Conley

        The Marlins just can’t tell whether they’re coming or going. They go all in and trade for a bunch of guys, then trade them all and more. Not a good model or a good comparison.

        All the rebuilding means is building a team around young players. The Reds had a good thing for a few years, mostly because of a great rotation. Of their best rotation (Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Leake, Arroyo) only Bailey is on the team and he was hurt all of last year. So the Reds have to “rebuild” a good rotation.

        Fortunately they have a lot of promising young pitchers, so I’m expecting the rebuild won’t take forever. That said, developing top prospects into all-star caliber starting pitchers takes time. Look at the careers of Bailey and Cueto for examples of how it can take some time.

        So, if you are realistic, you would say that 2016 is probably a development year, 2017 may be a transition year, and by 2018 you would hope to have a really good rotation again. So, once that is established, you look at the position players you have and ask, who is going to still be with the team and productive in 2017 and beyond? Anyone not on that list should be traded for a young guy that might be good and productive for the Reds when their rotation is good again.

        That’s what rebuilding means.

      • jessecuster44

        That’s what rebuilding means… to you. Not sure that’s what it means to mgmt.

      • lwblogger2

        I’m pretty much where you are Jessecuster44. I’ve seen the Reds rebuild before and it wasn’t pretty. I was hoping it really would be more of a retool and that they’d work on building a culture of winning as well. I like Jeremy’s timeline and it seems reasonable. I just have little confidence that it will work that way.

      • Jeremy Conley

        The thing is, the only alternative to rebuilding (which seems to have gotten a very bad name) is to go out and through trades and free agents, get enough good players to compete this year.

        In this article, Steve says he expects the Reds to have $20M to spend, and we have some decent prospects now to trade.

        Here’s what I think we would need to compete in the NL Central: 3 Starting Pitchers, 3 Relievers, most of the bench, and a Left Fielder.

        I don’t see anyway that the Reds can turn $20M and some decent prospects into that many players. So the only alternative to rebuilding isn’t really a viable option. They have to build the rotation from within, and try to get offensive pieces in place for when the rotation is good again.

      • lwblogger2

        I’m not sure they can compete this year. I agree that it would be nearly impossible to get the players they need to do so. That said, they could get a couple of guys on MLB rosters or who are very nearly ready to contribute at the MLB level. They could also sign a free-agent or two who will still be on that roster in 2017/2018… 2016 probably isn’t reasonable but by 2017, if they play this thing right and don’t move players they reasonably control in 2017 (like Frazier), then maybe 2017 they can at least hang in there as far as competing.

        You mentioned Heyward before. I like him a lot but he’s going to cost a lot and “Joe Fan” is going to hate him. He’s laid back and that attitude combined with a large contract will make him unattractive to a lot of Cincy fans. I’d rather see them target a guy like Fowler and then maybe another guy. Try to get 2-3 guys who can contribute instead of one big-money guy. Of course that’s just how I’d generally go about building a team, especially when I’ve already doled out my big-money contracts (one for a position player and one for a pitcher).

      • jessecuster44

        yes. I’m not disagreeing with the points that Jeremy makes, I just don’t think that what will happen will even be in that area code of thinking.

        Better to retool, because this mgmt has no experience rebuilding.

    • lwblogger2

      60 wins? Do you know how horrible that is? That isn’t a rebuild, it’s a throwaway. It would be one of the worst teams in franchise history and the worst since the early 80s. Maybe some fans would stand for it but many wouldn’t. This is especially true if the rebuilding effort doesn’t go as planned and there are 3-4 losing years in a row.

  21. jessecuster44


    Hear a lot of dissent: “Don’t sign Fowler when we’re going to suck in 2016 and 2017.”

    People, it is almost like you are rooting for the Reds to suck now so that they MIGHT be good in 2018. Ugh. Not every rebuild ends with success. Remember that the Cubs were awful in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Do you really want to wait 5 years to be good again? No thanks.

    If you improve the offense, people get healthy, and the young pitching comes around, the Reds can compete ( i.e. be WC relevant in September) in 2016, while still improving for the future. Signing Fowler would be a solid 1st step.

    • Jeremy Conley

      You’re just missing the point of the rebuild. Do you think that the young pitching is going to have come around to the point that the Reds will have a playoff caliber rotation and bullpen next year? If so, what evidence do you have to support that belief.

      It seems clear to just about everyone that the Reds pitching will need some time to develop. Guys have to learn how to pitch to big league hitters and how to deal with the grind of a long season. Some will have to adapt to new roles. It is a virtual certainty that the Reds will not be competitive in 2016, largely because of that process.

      But the group of Bailey, Iglesias, Desclafani, Lamb, Finnegan, Lorenzen, Cingrani, Stephenson, Reed, Garrett, Travieso, Mella, Romano, and Mahle has a lot of talent. The Reds have named their minor league pitching coordinator their new pitching coach, I assume with the intent of developing a lot of these young guys. So it’s not unreasonable to think that in 2017 and 2018 the Reds could have a pretty strong pitching staff.

      So no, nobody wants the Reds to lose next year, people are being realistic about who the Reds starting pitchers are going to be. If you assume that they can be competitive in 2017, then you could still have Votto, Frazier, Mes, Phillips, Bruce, Hamilton, Cozart, and Suarez. Basically the whole team. If you think it will be 2018, then a lot of those guys become expendable, because they won’t be with the team in 2018 anyway.

      • jessecuster44

        While your points are valid, I’m really not interested in waiting around two or more years for the Reds to try and win(especially since this “rebuild” should have started in 2H of 2014). I’d suspect that most casual fans aren’t interested either.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Well, they aren’t going to go out and sign 4 new starting pitchers, so there really isn’t another option.

      • jessecuster44

        Always other options. And quite frankly with Disco, Iglesias and 1/2 a season from Bailey, you won’t need to sign 4 SPs.

        This iteration of Reds management is so terrible that any rebuild set to “tanking” will go wrong. Trade Chappy for offense and go from there.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Again, I just think you’re misreading the problem on this team. When the Reds were good they had great starting pitching. Last year they were terrible, largely because they had a rotation of all rookies. Sure, the offense could be better, but trading Chapman for offense that could play this year maybe makes the Reds better by a few wins.

        I like the guys you mention, but that’s 2.5 starters. At minimum a good team needs 6. Until the Reds have 6 guys that together are above average (some can be below average but others at the top have to be much better than average to balance them out), they aren’t going to be a playoff caliber team. Your solution isn’t a solution.

      • jessecuster44

        The Reds were terrible in the second half of last season because they couldn’t hit at all. The rookies had some bad games, but the offense was awful.

        I’d argue that the 2nd WC makes far more teams “playoff caliber.” Get 1 or two more bats, get healthy and sign 1 vet starter, and I think the Reds could be relevant in September.

        Not everything that is torn down gets rebuilt well.

      • jdx19

        Also, Jesse, consider the competition. The Cards, Buccos, and Cubbies had the 3 best records in MLB last year. Even winning 92ish games in this division wouldn’t guarantee a wild card spot, let alone a division title.

        There is literally no way the Reds compete next year, even if they had a full year of Bailey, Disco became better than a 3-4 starter, and Raisel turned into a pseudo-ace.

      • jessecuster44

        So last years records define how those teams will do next season? Exhibit A: 2010 Reds and 2011 Reds. Exhibit B: 2013 Reds and 2014 Reds.

        I really do not think the Pirates will have sustained success, and the Cubs are an injury or two away from an 80 win team.

        It makes me sick to wave the white flag 5 months before the season starts. Sick.

      • ohiojimw

        Important to note that while the 3 best records in MLB this year were in the NL Central, the Cubs went 27-11 vs the Reds and Brewers; the Cards 25-13. Just improvement by the Reds and Brewers versus those two would do a lot to bring the Cubs and Cards back to the 90-92 win level. It would figure that if the Reds (or Brewers) reached 90-92 wins and the other, played close to the league median # of wins, that the Cubs and Cards would at best be in the 90-92 range also.

        Incredibly the Pirates got there by swimming upstream versus the entire division. So go figure on that one.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Jesse: You said “Not everything that is torn down gets rebuilt well.”

        What is it that you think is getting torn down from here? The team has already been torn down, we traded 4 starting pitchers in less than a year. That was the tear down.

        The only option now is to build it back up, and we have the prospects to do it. It will take sometime, and not all of them will pan out.

        Thus, the questions that remain are about when the Reds will be good again. If it’s 2017 you can keep Frazier and Bruce until then. If it’s 2018, there’s not much point in keeping them, so you might as well add to the prospect stockpile. It’s almost certainly not going to be 2016 with 2.5 starting pitchers penciled in the rotation, so anyone under contract only for 2016 needs to be traded or extended.

      • jessecuster44

        There’s an assumption that Bruce, BP, Votto, Frazier, Chapman ALL will be gone, if the Reds have their way.

        … Who will replace these players, esp Frazier, Votto and Bruce?

        Maybe the bigger problem is not that things are getting torn down and rebuilt, but rather who is doing it.

        I don’t think there is a plan. I don’t think the woeful lack of offense is being addressed. I think whatever comes in return for who gets traded will be pitching.

        I’m not interested in waiting 3 years to see a rebuild project that is so bad that it needs to be torn down again.

        Again, you add two offensive pieces, let the young pitchers develop, and the Reds could be competitive in 2016.

        That to me, is better than punting the next two seasons and “going for it” in 2018. Remember what happened the last time the Reds “went for it”? A one game playoff in Pittsburgh.

  22. ohiojimw

    In looking at the return the Padres got on Kimbrell, I noticed that none of the 4 players have reached AAA yet. One of them, the infielder Asuaje, spent all of 2015 in AA. The outfielder Margot, started the year at A+ and moved to AA just a bit before midseason. The other 2 have yet to play even as high as AA.

    If a subset of this group were the guys in play for Chapman, I think it is probably a reasonable guess that none of them were seen (by the Reds) as close enough to MLB ready for the Reds purposes.

    It will be interesting to revisit this Kimbrell deal once Chapman has been moved to see not just how then total returns compare but also how close to MLB ready the players in both deals are comparatively.

    Also, we might just get a look at the ultimate real world comparative value of half a year of a top of the rotation starter (Cueto) versus a year of a top of the heap closer (Chapman).

    • Jeremy Conley

      I would be happy to get a top outfield prospect that was in AA for Chapman. Let him do AA and AAA next year, get a September call up, and be ready to join Winker in the Reds OF in 2017. Seems more or less ideal actually.

      • ohiojimw

        From Sheldon on

        “For a return on any (Chapman) deal, Cincinnati is seeking young Major League-ready players who are in the zero-to-three-year range of service time for maximum club control. ….”

        My guess is that based on where they see their pitching being, the Reds would like to keep the L’s down to the mid 80s in 2016, i.e. within shouting distance of .500, and be a .500 team that could compete for a WC spot deeply through Sept in 2017.

      • jdx19

        Yuck. You get so much smaller of a return if you want major league-ready talent. Like Jeremy said above, shooting for guys who have succeeded in AA seems ideal. Slightly higher risk, and higher reward!

  23. Playtowin

    Hopefully the Reds will not spend $ on average players like Fowler who has played for 3 teams in 3 years. Several big money teams with better chances to win will offer Fowler a better deal. Out bidding these teams would be a dumb use of scarce funds.

  24. CI3J

    Dexter Fowler has declined the $15M QO from the Cubs, so he’s out there.

    I’m onboard with bringing Fowler in. When healthy, he has put up an average of 3.7 oWAR since 2012. His defense is a bit of a concern, but if he’s playing a corner outfield position, BHam can help make up some of his defensive deficiencies.

    Fowler is no All Star and never will be, but you can’t expect All Star prouction at every position. If every position on your team is manned by a player who is providing average to above average production, you will be an average to above averge team. But if you have a few All Star caliber players on your team (Votto, Frazier(?), Mez(?)) and supplement them with average to above average players, you can expect good things to happen.

    Fowler will be 30 this year. He gets on base, which is a skillset that ages well. If the Reds can sign him for 5 years with the idea that he’ll eventually transition to a 4th OF role, I say that’s money well spent and one less thing for the Reds to worry about.

    • seanuc

      Agree, particularly since OF is the most logical place to add offense based on the Reds needs and the available FAs. Can’t save all of our money this year, spend it all next year, and automatically compete in 2017. Fowler, Span, even Aoki would all be smart additions.

  25. UglyStrike

    Padres are shopping Kemp and Ross. If I remember correctly the Dodgers are paying a lot of Kemp’s salary. I believe this would actually be a good pickup for the Reds if a good bit of Kemp’s salary is already covered.

    Lock down a OF spot and give a inning eater for a SP.

    • Shchi Cossack

      When the Dodgers traded Kemp prior to last season, they kicked in $32MM, but $18MM was applied to Kemp’s 2015 salary (the Padres only paid Kemp $3.25MM last season). With the remaining minimal salary relief from the Dodgers, Kemp is still owed $18.25MM for each of the next 4 seasons. The Padres would need to pick up more of Kemp’s salary over the next 4 seasons in order to facilitate a trade, especially after his production dropoff last season. Although I was a strong proponent for possibly aquiring Kemp over the past 2 seasons, with 2016 not considered a competitive season for the Reds, a 31 year old Kemp is probably not a good option any longer.

      • WVRedlegs

        I am in agreement with you on Kemp. For the Reds, Kemp isn’t an answer for LF anymore.
        Chapman not going to the RedSox may be a blessing in disguise, if the Astros are in on Chapman. Any return from Houston must include the Astros’ AJ Reed. He is a 1B, but can convert to LF. Getting AJ Reed would be better than anything the Padres got from Boston.

      • WVRedlegs

        If the Padres are dealing, I wouldn’t mind taking Wil Myers off their hands for LF. He seems to be healthy now, but does have a recurring wrist problem. One of the Reds starting pitching prospects might get him. There are 7 in the Reds top-10 prospects, so they could part with one of them. His value is down because of the wrist injuries he has had the last two years. I don’t know what his service time is because of those injuries, but I think he has the 2016 season before he is arbitration eligible. Plus he is only 24 now, but will be 25 when the 2016 season starts. I’d take a flier on him. Myers in LF, keep Bruce in RF for now, and upgrade CF.

      • WVRedlegs

        One thing I didn’t know about Myers is the Padres had him batting leadoff in 2015 when he played or wasn’t hurt. In 230 PA’s, Myers had a .271/.344 line, a marked improvement on BHam’s line.

      • DHud

        I think you have to give up more than you want to get Myers.

        I think that conversation goes from Stephenson to Garrett to Travieso, and I personally would rather keep all 3 of them compared to Myers

    • jdx19

      Matt Kemp is not a good baseball player. He’s one of the worst defensive OFers in baseball and doesn’t get on base. Even 20-25 homers doesn’t make up for that, as evidenced by his 109 wRC+ and 0.4 fWAR last year.

  26. jessecuster44

    Thought Chappy would be moved by now. The longer you wait to make a deal, the less pieces are available to you.

    Reds should have learned this last year when Byrd was the best LF available in late December. They don’t learn. Sad.

    Maybe I’m wrong.

  27. streamer88

    I’ll insert my flailing assessment in here too. I’m all for at least critically assessing the free agent market and even trying for a steal at the right price for a guy like Fowler. Rebuilds are never total, the Cubs, Royals, Cardinals (and Marlins teams of old) did not and your future Reds (heaven willing) will not perfectly blossom 9 sure-fire prospects onto the field simultaneously with 5 sure-fire young starters for 2017 or 2018. Sure a rebuild is a change in philosophy, but all of these teams are still a combination of youth and veterans ALL performing well. If the market inefficiency is in aging, but still productive veterans – then that’s where we should strike!!