What the Reds Should Do

by Greg Sullivan

The Reds have some decisions to make this off-season. They have to decide what to do with their remaining 10 arbitration-eligible players. They have to figure out a way to compensate for the losses of Denny Neagle and Dante Bichette to late season trades in 2000. They have to figure out what kind of moves they can afford to make in the free agent market. They have to find an identity.

Of course, it should be easy to establish an identity centered around Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin, but for the Reds, a different kind of identity needs to be forged. Cincinnati needs to figure out whether it is a big market or small market team. This may sound confusing, but right now the Reds are stuck in between the two labels. On the one hand, they can't even afford to retain all of their own players, but on the other hand, they can have both Larkin and Griffey signed to huge, long-term contracts.

The way I see it, the Reds have two options. They could spend some money now and try to build a contender around Larkin, who may retire when his current contract runs out. Or they could trade just about everyone but Griffey and Larkin for prospects and build for 2003, the first season in their new park and the last of Larkin's contract.

Although there really was no reason for the Reds to commit so much money to Larkin if they were just going to tread water for two years and tapdance around his salary, the sensible thing to do at this point in time is to live within their means. They don't have the money to field a roster of 25 capable major leaguers, so they are going to have to use Scotch tape and popsicle sticks to hold this thing together this season and to steal some wins.

The first thing the Reds need to do is decide who they absolutely have to keep on their current roster. They have three free agents this season - Benny Santiago, Mark Wohlers, and Deion Sanders - that they would be fine without. They should let them all walk and save whatever minimal cash they can.

The next step is to deal with the arbitration-eligibles. Who do they want, who can they live without, and who could fetch them the most in return?

Two of the players are no-brainers - they have to hang on to Sean Casey and Pokey Reese. Casey was hurt last year and slumped badly before the all-star break, so keeping him at a reasonable salary may be possible. Reese may be a little costlier, but if they wouldn't trade this guy for Griffey, then they should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep him.

Their two stud young pitchers, Scott Williamson and Danny Graves, present a different problem. One of them will likely have to go, and it should be Williamson. While Graves is arbitration eligible, the Reds should find a way to sign him and trade Williamson, who's arbitration eligible after the 2001 season and has some people worried about potential arm problems.

Williamson, a former rookie of the year who can start or close, would be an asset to a young team, such as Oakland or Kansas City, until his arbitration year, and could bring back a quality players who can contribute now in return. Landing someone like Mark Quinn from the Royals' crowded outfield would be a great place to start as they build for 2003.

As for the rest, the Reds should trade Scott Sullivan, Steve Parris, and Alex Ohoa. Sullivan should bring a quality prospect or two while the Reds should just package Parris and Ochoa and take the best affordable offer they get.

Osvaldo Fernandez and Dennys Reyes have to be kept around, for the simple reason that someone has to pitch. Chris Stynes should be an affordable utility man and Dmitri Young, a decent power hitter who hasn't yet lived up to potential, should be a relative bargain in arbitration.

Based on these moves, the current roster, and the minor leaguers and rookies that should get a shot next season, the Reds would only need to add one reliever and one bench infielder to round out their roster. Bargain hunting in the free agent market has always been a specialty of Jim Bowden, so expect him to make a run at some forgotten free agents such as Randy Myers and Manny Alexander.

Actually, I would go after these exact two, since Alexander played much better in the National League while with the Cubs and Myers, a member of the "Nasty Boys" bullpen for the Reds in the early 90's, is coming off of a major arm injury and should be very affordable because of it. These are just the type of cheap risks that Bowden is famous for touching and turning into gold.

Plan B:

Spend some freakin' money to upgrade the absolutely horrific group of pitchers below and make a run at an unpredictable division.

2001 Suggested 25-man roster:

2B - Pokey Reese
SS - Barry Larkin
CF - Ken Griffey, Jr.
RF - Dmitri Young
1B - Sean Casey
LF - Mark Quinn
C - Eddie Taubensee
3B - Aaron Boone

C- Jason LaRue
IN - Manny Alexander
IN - Juan Castro
Util. - Chris Stynes
OF - Brian L. Hunter
OF - Michael Tucker

Pete Harnisch
Rob Bell
Osvaldo Fernandez
Elmer Dessens
Ed Yarnall

Danny Graves
Chris Reitsma
John Riedling
Dennys Reyes
Randy Myers
Larry Luebbers

Send Sully your opinions, comments or verbal abuse at sully@JBaseball.

© 2000 JBaseball

"How can you not be romantic about baseball?" - Moneyball.