Dusty Baker was fired after leading the Reds to a 90-win season and two of the last four NL Central pennants. His inability to lead them deep into the postseason is what ultimately did him in. Now Cincinnati will depend on former pitching coach Bryan Price to pilot the team.
The Reds have a potentially huge hole to fill if they fail to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, which appears very likely. GM Walt Jocketty doesn't have a budget surplus to work with this offseason. That may be why Choo and Bronson Arroyo aren't expected back, and could be the main reason behind the Brandon Phillips trade rumors. Phillips is due $50M over the next 4 seasons and posted his worst OPS in ten years. In addition to his down year at the plate, he struggled to find a groove on the base paths, leading to just 5 stolen bases. But Phillips doesn't need to be a spectacular offensive player to provide value. He won his fourth Gold Glove this year (though the analytics crowd might argue Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney was better) and has been one of the most consistently solid fielders in the National League. But for the Reds, that contribution might not be enough to validate his relatively large salary.
Letting Arroyo and Choo walk will undoubtedly aid the Reds in their efforts to sign Jay Bruce to an extension -- something the Reds are likely to pursue, according to Yahoo's Jeff Passan. He compares Bruce's contract situation to that of Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria -- both players added years to their prior extensions at similar points in their careers. Arroyo's absence will open up a regular spot for Tony Cingrani -- who filled in admirably for an injured Johnny Cueto this season, and perhaps afford the team with the financial flexibility they'll need to sign Homer Bailey and Cueto to extensions as well. Choo will be greatly missed, but Billy Hamilton showed his potential during his brief stint in the majors. If he can maintain a solid OBP at the top of the order, the blow will be unquestionably lessened.
SS, OF, RP
Zack Cozart could very well get another chance at the everyday short stop gig again in 2014, but if the opportunity to improve there presents itself, the Reds will have to consider it. Their main concern will likely be in the outfield. Hamilton should see plenty of playing time in center and Bruce has right locked down, but left field was an area of weakness for Cincinnati in 2013. Ryan Ludwick, Xavier Paul, Chris Heisey, and Derrick Robinson are internal (and volatile) options that they could go with, but if they decide to focus their attention here, the market could reward them.
After the Reds signed Brayan Pena to kick off the offseason, rumors began circulating about the team possibly shopping Ryan Hanigan. While this is certainly a possibility, the potential return on Hanigan might not be proportionate to his value in Cincinnati. Devin Mesoraco on the other hand, might have enough former prospect clout to interest a few clubs. Hanigan is coming off of his worst season as a pro hitting just .198, but he still finished with a higher OBP than Mesoraco and Cincy values him at a level that reflects his career .359 OBP and solid defense.
Phillips, Leake and Bailey could bring back solid players, but the Reds could choose to keep them if the market doesn't play out the way they'd like it to. Trading a starter would open up a spot in the rotation for prospect Robert Stephenson and free them of another potentially expensive player. Bailey is primed for a significant raise through arbitration this offseason.
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