In a surprising move, Yasmani Grandal signed a 4-year $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. Many had thought that the catcher would be making a return to the team that had originally drafted him in the Cincinnati Reds. Their need for a catcher is still there but, with Grandal off the market, their offseason budget has been freed up significantly to improve elsewhere.
They still need help at catcher and can shore up the position either through a trade or a cheaper offseason acquisition. Outfield, middle infield, relief and starting pitcher are all areas they could look at as well. Dave Williams and Nick Krall are committed to making this a World Series contending team, so they have some choices to make and with the Winter Meetings coming up, here are some moves they could consider making.
Sign Travis d’Arnaud
After coming back from Tommy John surgery, Travis d’Arnaud reminded everyone why he was once a first-round pick. He signed about a month into the season with the Rays and never looked back. Batting .263 with a .323 OBP, 16 doubles, 16 home runs, 67 rbi and an overall WAR of 1.4, he established himself as one of the better hitting catchers in baseball. While he may not be the stud that Grandal is, d’Arnaud would be an offensive upgrade and could share time with Tucker Barnhart.
A platoon of the two could add up to a very strong position for the Reds. Last season d’Arnaud, a right-handed batter, hit left-handers to the tune of .276, 10 home runs and 27 rbi in a small number of plate appearances. Tucker when batting left-handed was significantly better as well hitting .247, all 11 of his home runs and 37 of his 40 rbi. Together, this could mean that the Reds catching position has a season looking something like a .260 batting average with 20+ home runs and 65+ rbi. For reference Grandal hit .246 with 28 home runs and 77 rbi last season.
Now, looking at the money, Grandal will be paid an average of $18,250,000 a year. If the Reds could get d’Arnaud for around $4 million a year for two-years with a team option then they should be very happy. The combination of the two catchers would equal out to about $8 million a year with only slightly less production. Defensively d’Arnaud would not be all that inspiring but, he would get the job and Tucker would continue to provide top-level defense. Overall, this could be a sneaky good deal for the Reds to make.
If They Are Going to Sell the Farm, Go For Lindor
Right now the Reds need another star player either in the middle infield or outfield. The options in free agency for both are very limited if not potential busts. That said the rumor mill has said that the Reds are looking at Mookie Betts. While Betts would instantly make the Reds a contender in 2020, the team needs to also consider the future when trading the farm for a star player. The Reds want to contend for a number of years, not just one. Betts has already stated that he wants to test free agency after the 2020 season. So even if the Reds traded for him, he like Bauer would likely be gone after 2020.
Instead, the Reds should look at another young star, Francisco Lindor. There have been rumors that the Indians know their reign over the AL Central is ending and they need to blow it up. If that were the case they could either build around Lindor or ship him off for an insane amount of young talent. He is under team control for another two years and while only a year more, the Reds could look at signing him to a massive deal like they did with Sonny Gray.
Honestly, the biggest issue with this would be whether or not the Reds have enough to convince the Indians to trade Lindor. Hunter Greene is their best prospect and could lead the deal, the problem is that he is coming off Tommy John and is much less valuable than he will be once he is healthy. Also behind him, they have India, Santillan, Lodolo and that is about it. It would likely take at least two, probably three of these prospects to get him and maybe one of the Reds current trio of Winker, Ervin or Aquino. If the Reds can, they need to take the chance to get Lindor. Adding a bat of his quality for the next two seasons and hopefully beyond would significantly increase the Reds contending window.
Solidify the Rotation with Gio Gonzalez
This is definitely not a flashy move. That said Gio Gonzalez is consistent, has experience and would not cost the Reds an arm and a leg to be their fifth starter. Last season Gonzalez had to settle for a one-year $2 million deal with the Brewers. This year, the Reds could likely offer him a two-year $5 million deal and add his services.
Gio Gonzalez will do a couple of things for a team like the Reds. He will eat innings, not give up a lot of runs and more importantly not give up home runs. His biggest problem is walks as he has lead the league in them two separate times in his career. This is obviously an issue but, he has a lot more control than he used to and still gets about a strikeout per inning. He also brings a lot of playoff experience from his time with Washington and Milwaukee these past few years.
With Gonzalez, the Reds would officially have a top-five rotation in 2020. They would know that all five of their starters are going to give them solid innings consistently which would in-turn give the offense some much-needed confidence. He wouldn’t be their biggest move of the offseason, but contenders often make moves like this and they payoff dividends by the time the postseason rolls around.
Adding Lindor, d’Arnaud and Gonzalez would fill some major holes for the Reds. With their decision to keep Freddy Galvis, the Reds would have to move Nick Senzel back to centerfield in this scenario. This is definitely not the worst outcome as the free agent market and even trade market are not all that ripe with available options for the Reds. They can use recently acquired Travis Jankowski as a defensive sub later in the game and move Senzel to one of the corners. Also if the leftfield platoon of Winker and Ervin doesn’t work out or Aristedes Aquino struggles then the Reds can upgrade the outfield at the trade deadline instead.
With this rotation, a better year from the bullpen and the addition of Lindor, the Reds would absolutely be on their way to contending in 2020 and 2021. Their window would be bigger than many thought and they could look to pounce on an NL Central that seems to be falling off with the Cubs underperforming, the Cardinals and Brewers losing some big pieces and the Pirates rebuilding. This is a good time for the Reds to make big moves, but also ones that wont completely compromise their future for a one-year burst.
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