Saturday, November 26, 2011

Yonder Alonso: Should he Stay or Should he Go?

Yonder Alonso must feel more like a grub worm than a professional baseball player right now. This due to the recent speculation claiming the team is dangling the prized prospect as their primary trade bait for pitching -- namely another top-notch starter and/or closer to fill the vacancy left behind by free agent Francisco Cordero.

While there's no doubt Cincinnati's starting rotation could use another "stopper" at the top, they must be extra cautious in parting with Alonso too soon. For one, Joey Votto's time in the Queen City may be coming down to it's final stretch. Given the market value for a player of Votto's caliber, it's improbable the Reds will be able to afford his services when his contract expires at the end of 2013. With Alonso being the only MLB-ready first basemen currently in their arsenal, it makes the decision on what to do with the Cuban slugger all the more difficult. Furthermore, it's plausible that the very pieces they seek in return for Alonso may already be on their roster. Let me explain.

The Reds have been stockpiling arms in their farm system for many years now, and it's about time they enjoy the fruits of their labor. We've already seen the great strides made by Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake this past season, who's to say the same maturation process won't or cannot happen with the likes of Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Edinson Volquez, Aroldis Chapman and/or Brad Boxberger in 2012?

Volquez hasn't been able to repeat
the success he enjoyed in '08
It's easy to forget that Volquez is just three years removed from recording a 17-6 record and 3.21 ERA in 2008, but he did. He earned a nod to the All-Star Game and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting, which had many around Reds country believing he would be the ace of the staff for many seasons to come. That hasn't been the case, but it's also important to note that he's battled multiple injuries since then and still remains only 28-years old. Perhaps the patience and loyalty the organization has showed the right-hander will pay off very soon.

As for Bailey, Wood and Chapman, they also have shown flashes of brilliance at times. Any one of them is capable of putting together a breakout campaign, let's just hope for the Reds sake it comes in the near future. While Chapman might be the least likely of the group to experience his in '12 (due to his transition to starter from reliever), he has all the makings of becoming a dominant pitcher in due time.

Boxberger is a name that many around these parts may or may not have heard of yet. The 23-year old has worked his way into the conversation as one of the favorites to assume the newly-vacated closer role. After posting a 2.03 ERA in 55 relief appearances in the high-minors this past season, in addition to a great showing in the Arizona Fall League, the former first-round draft pick looks ready and poised to join the bullpen in 2012. He probably won't have a rookie season like Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel did last year, but a season like the one Scott Williamson had in 1999 would be impressive enough I think.

But let's just say for hypothetical purposes they do decide to deal Alonso and receive a guy like Oakland's Andrew Bailey or Gio Gonzalez, Colorado's Huston Street, or Tampa Bay's Wade Davis in return. Would any of those guys turn the Redlegs into serious World Series contenders? Not so in my opinion. Secondly, there's no guarantee that any of those pitchers would pan out -- especially in a hitter-friendly park such as Great American. Plus, you still have a hole in left field, unless of course you give the everyday nod to Chris Heisey at that position, which as we've seen with Jonny Gomes last year doesn't always go as planned.

All in all, given the information I have just presented, I for one would hang on to Alonso. He has all the tools, work ethic and savvy to be a productive, middle-of-the-lineup hitter in the majors. Unless GM Walt Jocketty could receive an absolute ace in return, namely a James Shields of the Rays or Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, I'd be ultra hesitant to accept anything less in exchange. Besides, the answers to the team's starting pitching and closer needs might just be right under their noses.

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