By Travis Thayer
(Cincinnati, Oh.) – Major League Baseball has officially entered into the “Hot Stove” season as the general manager’s meetings are underway in Boca Raton, Florida.
With that being said, diehard Reds fans are likely on the edge of their seats anticipating the club’s first offseason transaction. President of Baseball Operations and former GM Walt Jocketty has said that the team is listening to offers for all players.
Again, everyone player on the Reds roster could potentially be moved, which means fan favorites such as Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, Joey Votto and even Todd Frazier could be moved before Spring Training.
That’s not to say that the Reds will completely empty the cupboard, but Reds fans who have an emotional attachment to the aforementioned players, or any other, such prepare themselves for the worst.
But let’s break down the pro’s and con’s to help anyone and everyone cope with the potential loss of such fan favorite players.
The Reds resident gold glove second baseman appears first on the list because he is the first player to be rumored to be traded this winter. On Wednesday, reports from around the league suggested that Phillips could be sent to Arizona in a swap for Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill. The initial reaction to the hypothetical trade was not good, but let’s remember the Reds are rebuilding in 2016.
Pro’s of trading Phillips: He is owed $27 million over the next two years before he hits free agency. Phillips is still a plus defender and he did slightly redeem himself at the plate last year (.296, .330, .396), but he will be entering his age 35 season in 2016. Aaron Hill is in the last year of his contract, and is owed $12 million in 2016. A swap of Phillips for Hill would save the Reds almost $15 million, while still giving the Reds a veteran hitter.
Con’s of trading Phillips: In this case, Phillips is a better player than Hill, so the Reds would theoretically be getting worse. Everyone will miss the childlike passion and enthusiasm that Phillips plays the game with, and of course it will be difficult for fans to see Phillips making web gems in a different uniform.
The bottom line is: This rumored trade looks terrible at first glance. The Reds would be trading an aging player that is still pretty solid for another aging player who is on the decline. However, the money the Reds would save would go a long way to begin a rebuild that the organization hopes will only take a couple years. The good news for fans of Phillips, he has a no-trade-clause due to his 10-and-5 status (10 years in the league, five with one team). Therefore, Phillips may only agree to a trade to a legit contender, but my gut says he will and Eugenio Suarez will be the Reds starting 2nd baseman in 2016.
The Cuban-Missile is all but guaranteed to be traded this offseason. One could agree that Chapman should have been dealt during the 2015 season when his value was at its highest. Several teams including the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Nationals, and Tigers could be in the mix.
Pro’s: Even though Chapman would only be controlled by his new team for one season, he should still bring back a solid haul of talent. Plus, what is the use of having the most talented closer in the game when your team isn’t likely to win more than 70 games in 2016, rendering him useless. If he were a starter, that would be a different debate, but he is still one of the Reds biggest trade chips.
Con’s: The team may have less 11 strikeout games without Chapman, which means less free pizza for the fans. Watching Jumbo Diaz or J.J. Hoover close may leave fans pulling their hair out, although J.J. Hoover had a fantastic year setting up Chapman in 2015.
The bottom line is: He’s gone. He is definitely gone. Boston is said to be a player in the Chapman sweepstakes. With their heap of young talent, the Reds could get two or three prospects with one being a top 75 talent. Getting a prospect like 20-year-old shortstop Javier Guerra from Boston, or a major-league ready outfielder like Jackie Bradley Jr. would be a great get for the Reds.
Sometimes its hard to tell if fans are chanting BRUUUUUCCCEEE or BOOOOOOO! The much maligned Reds right fielder has had an up and down career. At times Bruce has lived up to his ranking as the number one prospect in baseball in 2008. In 2012, Bruce had his most complete season batting .252 with 34 home runs and 99 RBI, all while posting his career best .841 OPS. Bruce’s last two season have not been good at all from an average standpoint, but Bruce’s power returned in 2015 when he hit 26 HR with 87 RBI.
Pro’s: Trading a player like Bruce would likely bring back a decent prospect or two, but it would also open up a spot for the Reds top hitting prospect, outfielder Jesse Winker. Bruce is also another player who will make a lot of money of the next two seasons, $12.5 mil in ’16, $13 mil in ’17). Teams might be willing to give up a little more for Bruce considering he would be controlled for two seasons despite his inconsistency at the plate.
Con’s: Bruce is a gold glove caliber right fielder with a cannon for an arm. He’s home runs are majestic, and for the most part he is durable. Although the biggest con could be trading Bruce and signing a washed up veteran to play right field. If the Reds trade Bruce, which they could wait until the summer, they must bring up a young outfielder to take his place i.e. Winker, Yorman Rodriguez or Phil Irvin.
The bottom line is: Bruce will be traded at some point. It may be this winter if the price is right, but the more likely scenario is that the Reds trade Bruce right before the July 31 trade deadline – thus giving his eventual replacement Jesse Winker additional time to develop.
The Home Run Derby Champ and Cincinnati fan favorite isn’t likely to be moved, but the return could be intriguing.
Trading Frazier would be a bit of a shock, but one could argue that it’s the perfect time to pull the trigger. The “Toddfather” has one year remaining before he is arbitration eligible, which really means he’s in line for a new contract in 2017. Frazier was a late-bloomer in the minor leagues as he is entering his age 30 season.
Pro’s: Frazier is just now reaching the prime of his career (64 home runs over the last two seasons), which means his trade value may never be higher – and he may be 33 or 34 years old by the time the Reds legitimately compete again. Every MLB team is in need of power hitters, and Frazier could bring back a big haul of talent. \
Con’s: Trading Frazier would be devastating to Reds fans, mostly because he has taken Sean Casey’s spot as the new mayor, and he is a great player. But if you understand the rebuilding process, making an unpopular trade is sometimes necessary to get where the organization wants to go.
The bottom line is: Frazier will likely stay in Cincinnati for at least another season, but new GM Dick Williams won’t and shouldn’t pass up a deal that he can’t refuse.
Votto will definitely be the toughest player to trade because of his contract (full no-trade clause) and the simple fact that he is the team’s best player. Votto returned to his MVP form in 2015 (.314, .541, 1.000), so much so that he is a finalist for the National League MVP alongside Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt.
Pro’s: Votto will on average make $22.5 million dollars per year during the final nine years of his contract. Votto much like Frazier and Chapman would bring back an ample amount of talent.
Con’s: Losing the face of the franchise officially puts the team into a tanking situation (could be considered a pro as well), which would make games almost unwatchable and very depressing. The Reds are likely to be a bad team for at least a couple of years, baring a miracle, but it would be nice to be able to watch really great players like Votto play on a daily basis.
The bottom line is: Votto will likely stay put because it will be difficult for a lot of teams to take on his contract, and he can block all trades. One interesting trade would be sending Votto back to his native land of Canada and the Toronto Blue Jays. Everyone knows the Blue Jays can hit for power, but Votto’s on-base presence and overall hitting ability would make the Blue Jays are perennial favorite in the American League.