[This post was written by Warren Leeman, who comments here as Shchi Cossack. We appreciate his thoughts from the old recliner.]

The Reds are in an enviable position regarding Todd Frazier. Although the Reds may not be competitive in 2016, the young starting pitching should shake out and be ready to go by 2017 and the Reds control Frazier’s arbitration through the 2017 season. If the Reds receive an offer for Frazier that simply can’t be refused, the Reds will consummate the trade and smile all the way to the bank. If the Reds do not receive a trade offer for Frazier that bowls them over, they keep Frazier on a favorable contract in 2016 and negotiate an arbitration contract for 2017 with a premier major league 3rd baseman playing the hot corner and hitting in the middle of the lineup. The Reds win in either scenario. Frazier and his contract are not problems for the Reds.

Devin Mesoarco and Tucker Barnhart have the catcher position covered. Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez have the middle infield positions covered. Joey Votto at 1B…enough said! The outfield is a problem. The top of the lineup is a problem. Those problems need to be addressed. Jesse Winker still needs some seasoning at the minor league level, but he’s getting very close to being major league ready. Even with Winker, the outfield and the top of the lineup issues remain. Billy Hamilton plays stellar defense in CF and represents a disruptive terror on the base paths, but Hamilton has never proven he can hit or get on base regularly at the major league (or AAA for that matter) level and after two seasons (and two years of team control) has made no improvement. Jay Bruce appears to be Bruce, inconsistent and unreliable. LF is still a black hole.

A clean sweep of the OF in 2016 would not be a bad start. Bruce, as a LH power-hitter who plays good defense in RF, does not have a hard-to-move contract and should return some value in a trade. Shoot for lower-level, high-upside prospects in a trade for Bruce. Hamilton has options remaining. It’s time to utilize one of those options. Send Hamilton down to AAA with specific instructions to avoid running into outfield walls, to avoid diving to make catches and to limit his base running to going from 1B to 3B, 2B to Home and 1B to Home. He has nothing left to prove regarding his CF defense or his base stealing capability. If Hamilton wants a ticket back to the show, he must prove he can hit and get on base at AAA and quit hitting the ball in the air. He must eat, sleep and breathe plate discipline, line drives and ground balls.

Unless the market for Dexter Fowler explodes, the Reds simply have to find a way to sign Fowler as a FA. I do believe the QO and draft pick comp will have a depressing impact on Fowler’s value. Steve Mancuso made an eloquent case for signing Fowler as the answer in the outfield. Signing Fowler will cost the Reds their first unprotected draft choice, but Fowler simply fills too many holes for the Reds to quibble over a post first round draft pick. The salary relief from trading Bruce will cover Fowler’s salary as a FA. If Fowler’s contract moves beyond a realistic option then a decision must be made to fill the hole in CF (Span, Y-Rod, etc.)

Last off-season, the Pirates signed Jung Ho Kang for his age 28 season to a 4 yr/$11MM contract with a $5MM negotiating fee. Kang plays premium defensive positions at 3B & SS, making his value significantly more than a corner OF with the same offensive capability.

.291/.387/.489 in 532 PA during 2013 (KBO)

.356/.459/.739 in 501 PA during 2014 (KBO)

.298/.383/.504 in 3560 PA during 9-season career (KBO)

.287/.355/.461 in 126 PA during 2015 for PIT (MLB)

That $16MM investment worked out pretty well for Neal Huntington and the Bucos.

That brings us to this off-season for the Reds and two more KBO options.

Hyeon-soo Kim is a FA LF entering his age 28 season.

.322/.396/.488 in 528 PA during 2014 (KBO)

.326/.438/.541 in 630 PA during 2015 (KBO)

.318/.406/.488 in 4768 PA during 10-season career (KBO)

Ah-seop Son was posted this week with the LF entering his age 28 season.

.362/.456/.538 in 570 PA during 2014 (KBO)

.317/.406/.472 in 517 PA during 2015 (KBO)

.323/.398/.462 in 3542 PA during 9-season career (KBO)

Kim, Son and Kang compare favorably offensively with Kang having demonstrated more power (+.050 ISO), but unlike Kang, they do not play a premier defensive position. I expect a similar investment (around 4 yr/$15MM) for each of the two OF to bring them to GABP and that cost would be more than offset by the anticipated off-season Aroldis Chapman trade. Both Kim and Son could fill a top of the order hitter role and play the corner OF positions. Both Kim and Son also hit LH and could even offer a platoon option with Adam Duvall, Suarez, Y-Rod, Tyler Holt or Ivan De Jesus, should the Reds move in that direction.

On top of the successful acquisition of Kang by the Bucos, the last Korean acquisition (some guy named Choo) by the Reds produced pretty good results too. The addition of Fowler, Son and Kim would dramatically transform the Reds lineup heading into 2016 and could possibly even provide enough offensive boost in the team’s run production to allow the young starters a chance to compete. Five of the 8 starters could put up an OBP of .350+ with the remaining 3 starters around league average. Then the bench impact would be enhanced by any of those players not starting (Barnhart, Kim, Son, Suarez, Cozart, De Jesus, Duvall, Y-Rod, Holt). If the Reds would miss on Son or Kim, then a look at Aoki as a FA on a 1 yr/$5MM, with a vesting for 2017, contract might be beneficial.

#1 Son

#2 Fowler

#3 Votto

#4 Mesoraco

#5 Frazier

#6 Kim

#7 Phillips

#8 Cozart/Suarez

Then things could get really interesting in 2017. The experience during 2016 identified and separated the talent from the pretenders in the starting rotation, with every starter stretched out and ready to pitch. The Reds would enter the 2017 season with a solid starting rotation and more talent still waiting in the minor leagues for their chance at the show. The major league ready arms not making the starting rotation will fill out the bullpen. If Homer Bailey is healthy and productive, he might not even be among the best 5 starters. That’s not a knock on Bailey, just a comment on how good the starting rotation could be. The entire pitching staff could be pre-arbitration or cost certain.

If Kim and Son produce along the lines of Kang (sans the injury) and Winker is beating down the major league door … If Fowler produces to his career average and Hamilton learns to hit and get on base …Well the Reds find themselves in the supremely enviable position of having five proven major league talents capable of starting for just 3 positions. The Reds could find themselves with quality depth beyond their needs. Injuries be darned!

If the Reds have a need to fill behind a serious injury to a key player, they would have the means to do so without sacrificing the present of the future. If two of the five OF (Hamilton, Fowler, Winker, Son, Kim) come up short of expectations, then the Reds have their starting OF locked in place with cost certainty.

If Kim and Son produce along the line of Kang’s offensive production, the Reds may even want to dip into the KBO market again during the 2016/2017 off-season.

Jae-gyun Hwang will be a FA for the 2017 season as a 29 year old 3B.

.321/.388/.475 in 550 PA during 2014 (KBO)

.290/.350/.521 in 596 PA during 2015 (KBO)

.280/.343/.417 in 4131 PA during 9-season career (KBO)

It would start now with reflections back to the fabulous 2013 season when Shin-Soo Choo teamed with Joey Votto atop the NL OBP leader board, giving the Reds a real presence on the base paths and scoring runs by bushels and baskets. Now is the time to revamp the philosophy and personnel to accommodate the move to the future, by harkening to the past.

46 Responses

  1. i71_Exile

    YES. Other than giving up the high second round pick for Fowler, I agree completely.

  2. WVRedlegs

    I like the idea of bidding on one of the Korean players. I also like the idea of giving Bruce the first half of the season to get his game going, or trade him at the deadline if he can’t.
    Son would be the choice, especially if you think he would be the better one to leadoff. The media types could have a bit of fun, instead of Aesop’s Fables, we can have Ah-seop’s Fables.

    • RedsFaninPitt

      I would rather take the chance in 2016 and 2017 on younger and cheaper prospects that are close to being major league ready that the Reds obtain by trading most of their vets than adding older risky talent from Korea. This would be a better strategy in 2018 to fill holes when the Reds are most likely to be competitive again. This is a once in a decade opportunity to rebuild/restock farm system and most assuredly build a long-term competitive team. To me it is more risky to largely maintain status quo with one or two smaller trades/free agency signings. Fowler+a Korean signing are not likely alone to make this team competitive in 2017.

  3. DHud

    As great of a fix it would be, I seriously doubt the Reds would be able to sign both. Others teams get a chance to sign them too. Also, I haven’t heard any chatter about the Reds being in on Son

  4. Scot Lykins

    Bruce, Hamilton, Frazier, and Votto, (monetary) I feel, all need to go.

    • jdx19

      Why get rid of your best bargain? (Votto)

  5. reaganspad

    It would be fun to bring in both Korean players just from the novelty of it. The production could be fun and a big fix. Actually, if you could get both Koreans, I may not even need Fowler, and bank that 2nd round pick. But Fowler for that pick is no factor if you cannot land the Koreans.

    I like the international angle as we have better luck than with MLB free agents. When is the bid for them? That probably also impacts the Fowler decision as I do not think you can wait long on him.

    If I got 2 out of the 3, I would prefer to keep Jay Bruce.

    Billy needs to be at AAA, we are agreed there…


    • Shchi Cossack

      Son was posted this past Sunday with bids due by this weekend. Kim is a true FA, having fulfilled his KBO obligation.

  6. Steve Schoenbaechler

    That is an idea. I never thought of that consideration. Interesting. I like the idea. After all, not much over here for us.

  7. Jennifer Campbell

    The Reds will not lose a first round pick if they sign Fowler because the top ten teams in the draft are protected from having to surrender a 1st round pick for signing a FA who got a QA from their previous team. They are picking at #2 behind the Phillies in the 2016 draft.

    • Shchi Cossack


      “…will cost the Reds their first ‘unprotected’ draft choice…’post’ first round draft pick…”

  8. WVRedlegs

    The Cubs and Yankees are said to be in serious talks about a Starlin Castro for Brett Gardner trade. That might make Didi Gregorius expendable for the Yankees.
    Maybe the Reds can get Didi Gregorius back to be SS for possibly Phillips and a pitcher. Have Didi, Suarez and Cozart man the middle infield positions. It fits the Reds budget, it doesn’t diminish the defense, helps the team get younger, and might help the offense. Didi and Suarez would make a nice young middle infield combo for a few years to come. Cozart would be a stellar backup at both positions while he gets his knee better.

    • CaliforniaREd

      Castro would be used at second, don’t think Didi’s going anywhere.

  9. redslam

    Good and timely piece…. emphasizes that the Reds need to get creative and leave no stone unturned in evaluating how to get better sustainably.

    By the way, recently looked at the draft situation, so it seems like we will have the following early picks:

    2 (first round), 47 (competitive balance), 55 (second round), 92 (third round – not sure about this one)

    Big Compensatory Round and Competitive Balance round A makes our second round pick all the way back to 55… anyway, a top 3 pick and then two more in the top 60… hopefully can get a nice haul of young talent there and find a few gems in later rounds.

  10. WVRedlegs

    The Cardinals are looking for a big bat for the middle of their lineup. Jay Bruce a Cardinal? No way the Cards trade OF Stephen Piscotty. Maybe Randal Grichuk. But how about one year of Bruce for one year of Jon Jay? Give up Bruce’s power for Jay’s OBP. Jay was hurt half of last year and had a down year. Bruce just had a down year. Jay is scheduled to make $6.2M in 2016 so that would save the Reds another $7M. Jay hitting in front of Votto would be helpful.

    • WVRedlegs

      The Hammurabi Code in baseball. A Jay for a Jay.

      • jessecuster44

        Jay to the Jays for J. Harris or J. Bautista.

    • reaganspad

      I agree. We are going to get payroll relief in the next few years via trade or attrition. We do not get quality MLB free agents to entertain Cincy (not dissing Bronson), so this is a logical way to spend those extra monies on international players. I would go all out internationally…

  11. PDunc

    Both Kim and Son are young enough (28) that they should still be productive the next time the Reds are in serious contention (2017), fill needs (high OBP top of the order hitter and left-fielder) and are relatively inexpensive (if the 4 year, $15 million estimate in the article is close to accurate).

    I don’t see a down-side to these potential signings. Great idea.

  12. Jeremy Conley

    I wouldn’t have any problem with the Reds going after one or both of these guys. I do not find the arguments for Fowler at all convincing. Paying him $15+M a year to be average does not make any sense to me given where the Reds are. Billy Hamilton will be likely be just as valuable as he will be at a fraction of the cost.

    At the same time you’re shipping Jay Bruce out because he’s unreliable, but somehow believe that he will also bring back value in a trade. Bruce has had two seasons that are way better than the best Fowler has ever put up, and he’s younger and cheaper. I’d also rather than him than Fowler.

  13. Pooter

    If were to win the WS with these two Korean players then we can really say we are world champs. It always bugged me that the winners of the MLB could claim to be world champions.

  14. Chuck Schick

    Signing Fowler and jumping on the Seoul Train would help transform a 64 win team to a 74 win team. Instead of finishing 35 games out they would be 25 games out.
    There’s no reason to try to improve this year. Any move needs to be geared towards being better than the Cubs and Cardinals from 2018 onward.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Chuck, I understand your thought process, but I think you are discounting several factors coming out of 2015 and going into 2016.

      The Reds have already jettisoned these factors:
      Brennan Boesch (-1.3 WAR)
      Jason Bourgeois (-0.5 WAR)
      Kristopher Negron (-0.5 WAR)
      Skip Schumaker (-0.8 WAR)
      Nathan Adcock (-0.2 WAR)
      Dylan Axelrod (-0.6 WAR)
      Collin Balester (-0.3 WAR)
      Kevin Gregg (-0.7 WAR)
      David Holmberg (-0.7 WAR)
      Jason Marquis (-1.0 WAR)
      Josh Smith (-0.8 WAR)

      That’s addition by subtraction of more than 7 wins.

      Byrd produced 0.9 WAR in LF, Bruce produced 0.8 WAR in RF and Hamilton produced 1.0 WAR in CF. All three of those values are sub-marginally league average and totaled 2.7 WAR for the entire OF. Fowler has averaged 2.0 WAR and 2.8 oWAR per season over the past 7 seasons. Fowler alone replaces the production of the entire outfield from 2015. The addition of 2 corner outfielders making <$4MM each per season for the next 4-5 seasons is an investment in the future at minimal present nad future cost. If those players were not going to be here and contributing beyond the 2016 and 2017 seasons or if their contracts were $10MM+ per season, your argument would be completely valid. Those corner OF have a reasonable expectation to mirror Kang’s performance and Kang put up a 4.0 WAR season making <$4MM. Taking a conservative approach and halving that expectation to 2.0 WAR for each corner OF produces 6.0 WAR for the new OF.

      That’s an additional OF contribution of 4 wins for virtually the same cost as the 2015 OF.

      Tucker Barnhart (0.1 WAR), Brayan Pena (0.4 WAR) and Ramon Cabrera (0.5 WAR) produced a sub-marginally league average 1.0 WAR for the catching position. Devin Mesoraco produced 4.6 WAR in 2014 and should be fully healthy in 2016 with Barnhart starting and pinch hitting only against RHP and maximizing his offensive contributions. Again let’s be conservative and credit the 2016 catching contribution at a total of 4.0 WAR.

      That’s an additional contribution of 3 wins from the catching position.

      The infield should be a wash year to year.

      For the starting position players and the bad baggage dump, that’s an improvement of 14 wins with no additional cost and if the 5 wins below Pythagorean are included, that’s 19 wins with no additional cost, just for 2016. Of course, once the pitching is factored in, those 20 wins get whittled down in 2016, but after 2016, the pitching starts to pick up and not only carry their weight, but provide added contributions. The real key is no additional cost from 2015 through 2017 and beyond for the OF changes suggested and the creation of additional options going forward after 2016 when the pitching matures and becomes competitive again.

      • Chuck Schick

        A very well reasoned and enlightening comment. While I believe that WAR figures give us a good estimate of future performance there certainly are variables that can +- those numbers.

        Will Fowler’s numbers drop off after achieving security?
        Will the KIA’s adjust in real time to MLB pitchers?
        57 of the 162 games will be against 3 teams that had the best records in baseball….will that negate some of that WAR?
        Young pitchers are like back up QB’s….everyone loves them until they have to play. History tells us we really have no idea if those guys are actually going to be good.o if it can be sustained Jack Armstrong started an All Star Game…Mo Sanford pitched a complete game shut out.
        You have a manager coming off a 98 loss season……is his mandate to develop players for the future or to improve results? Is Bob looking at W’s or player improvement?

        Lastly, and this is just personal opinion, I don’t see them signing any non bargain basement free agents until the cable deal is resolved. Comcast just pulled the plug on YES Network in New Jersey and Connecticut and that makes getting a deal done soon even more difficult. The Reds are negotiating in the worst possible environment and they have absolutely no leverage. I believe there is absolutely zero probability that Dexter Fowler will be a Red and zero probability that any international free agents will be signed.

      • Shchi Cossack

        We in 100% agreement regarding what will not be done. The Reds will neither sign Fowler nor any Korean or Cuban FA who might have an immediate impact. I think the FA signing they made today fully demonstrates it’s the same old WJ ballgame.

      • Chuck Schick


        I think today’s signing was Bob the Businessman overriding Bob The Fan. He increased payroll 50% and the results became worse each subsequent year. There is a very high probability that attendance will be down 250-300k and the lack of certainty around the cable deal will be huge drivers in setting the budget. If Chapman, Frazier, Phillips Etc. are traded then I don’t see that money being spent this year.

      • I-71_Exile

        Looks to me like the Reds just signed their new closer. 🙂

      • Jeremy Conley

        I like the idea of looking at the Korean market, but your arguments here get a little slippery. First, Fowler put up 2.2 bWAR last year, so that’s not offsetting the 2.7 entirely. Second, the Reds haven’t addressed their bench or bullpen players yet, and some of them are likely to be below replacement level again. Third, I don’t think it’s conservative at all to guess that the catching combo will put up 4 WAR.

        Mesoraco has had one good season, and has been slightly below replacement level in parts of 3 others. Coming off a completely lost season and surgery, I’m hopeful that he can return to MVP-caliber form, but the conservative guess would be he’s going to struggle.

        A lot of this is nit picking because I think your main proposal is good. But I think a lot of the assumptions you make are more hopes than likelihoods.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Fowler = 3.2 fWAR, average with 2.2 bWAR = 2.7 WAR

      • Jeremy Conley

        A nifty coincidence, but Cossak presented all bWAR values when listing the player’s contributions, so I don’t think that’s what he was saying. You would have to do that for all the players then, right? I think more likely was that Cossak said 2.0 WAR, and 2.8 oWAR and then used the 2.8 in his comparison.

        As I said, it’s nitpicking, but when you’re making the argument that one player is going to offset an entire outfield, and then you give the numbers, that those numbers should support your statement.

  15. Chris Miller

    This is a really good and out of the box article/suggestion. I really like it. Also, to say this isn’t a move towards 2017 & 2018, is just ridiculous. Both Koreans would sign for probably 4 years, at less than 3 mil a year. That keeps them financially sound, and certainly carries them into the next few seasons. It also gives them trade room at mid-season, if they feel Winker is going to be ready.

  16. ohiojimw

    The rest of MLB is starting to shake and move; the Reds big move is to sign a veteran not quite journeyman reliever who spent 2015 at AAA to a MLB contract when they are already out the wahzoo with guys who could fill the role this guy will likely be tried at.

    Oh, well maybe this portends a string on nontenders to clean out the bullpen house.

    • lwblogger2

      Yeah, that signing felt like the same old same old to me. Seems similar to the Gregg signing but he’s got better stuff than Gregg. Absolutely hate his bb-rate.

  17. rhayex

    MLBTR just came out with a Reds-Orioles Jay Bruce article. Apparently they’re in discussions, although nothing is close.

  18. sezwhom

    All sounds good on paper…so to speak. Son, Fowler and Kim in the lineup with Hamilton in AAA. Nice fodder but it isn’t going to happen.

  19. TR

    ‘Nothing is close’ seems to be the Reds mantra when it comes to trades. Chapman was said to be gone the weekend past but he’s still a Red. Not that I want Trader Jim Bowden back in the front office. I guess the Jocketty /Williams team is saving the action for the Nashville MLB meetings in December.

    • RedAlert

      You are correct – same old same old – amazing how other teams seem to be able to get deals done and Reds can’t match up with anyone – Walt already settled in for his winter’s nap ( maybe Williams can keep his eyes open long enough to get something done soon)

  20. vegastypo

    Unsure where to post this, but the Reds and Orioles are/were talking about Jay Bruce supposedly.

    “With Chris Davis expected to land a huge contract in free agency, the Orioles continue to look at possible replacements for their lineup. According to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, the club has had trade talks with the Reds for outfielder Jay Bruce. However, there’s “no momentum” toward a deal at the moment.”

    • RedAlert

      “No momentum” – Jocketty breaking Williams right on in

  21. TR

    It’s amazing how we’re talking about resigning Bronson Arroyo, and the proposed Chapman trade, which is a key to the Reds rebuild, continues to be stuck in second gear.

  22. redslam

    If we somehow don’t trade him this winter, how much does his value plummet for a mid-season trade?

    • Steve Mancuso

      In general, a lot. But it only takes one team at the deadline that needs a closer and has the prospects. What makes it harder at the deadline is that teams will be more reluctant to trade MLB-ready players when they are in contention. If they make that trade now, they can patch up the loss easier in the offseason.

      John Fay did make the case recently to convert Chapman to a starter – his plan starts with calling Chapman (and agent) into the office to point out the financial difference for Chapman as a starter compared to a closer. Fay estimates that difference at $50 million. I’d put the number north of $100 million. Get Chapman to agree to start for three months then shop him as a starter (or closer) at the deadline. The team that trades for him may think they would have the inside track at signing him to an extension. Just a theory.

      But yeah, back in the real world, it will be a huge hit if they don’t trade him. You get the sense that the front office has a sequence in mind for their offseason moves and the first is clearing the books.

  23. DHud

    Zero teams bid on Son according to MLBTR.

    Well, that’s a head scratcher…

    • Shchi Cossack

      Seems to imply that the Lotte Giants were not sincere in posting Son, just hoping to land an outrageous bid, and the MLB organizations knew it. His posting before 3rd baseman Jae-gyun Hwang was strange to begin with since the Lotte Giants could only post one player and Hwang would be a true FA next season while the team has an additiona season of control for Son.