Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Best move for Reds to make at deadline may be no move at all


July 31 is a magical day for Major League Baseball as teams scramble to try and find the right pieces to their roster puzzle ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline. Calls and text messages run wild as front office personnel entertain a flurry of possibilities before the clock strikes midnight on the ability to deal freely. There are buyers and there are sellers, untouchable prospects and big contract veterans, and everything in between.

For the Reds, this year presents an unusually difficult challenge. The picture remains quite hazy as to what the team should do. No, I'm not referring to whether the Reds are buyers or sellers, because they are definitely looking to buy at this point if anything, but rather whether they should make a deal at all. 

Yes, the needs for this club are pretty obvious at the moment. Namely, the Reds desperately need a right-handed run producer in the middle of the lineup to go along with the likes of Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips. Additionally, the Reds could also use an offensive upgrade at shortstop, third base, and/or catcher, but any move addressing these areas would be very surprising. The inconsistency of the offense certainly doesn't help matters, either. The Reds have shown the ability to score runs at will at times, and have gone ice cold in others, so who knows which offense is more telling of reality.

San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has been rumored to be a possibility for the Reds, and so has Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, but it appears the asking price for them are much too high. Aside from the cost, general manager Walt Jocketty also has to weigh whether the addition of a player such as their caliber makes sense, considering current outfielder Ryan Ludwick is expected to be ready to play soon.

Cincinnati has been without their starting left fielder since Opening Day, but all signs suggest that Ludwick could return to the lineup as soon as next weekend, assuming all goes well with his rehab assignment. The addition of Ludwick could be exactly what the Reds need in order to spark an offense that has sputtered mightily over their past four games entering Tuesday. 

The 35-year-old batted .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBI a season ago, prompting the Reds to re-sign the veteran to a 2-year, $15 million contract in the offseason. Unfortunately, the club has yet to get their money's worth.

Ludwick isn't the only player the Reds hope to have at their disposal soon, though. Injured relievers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are currently working hard to get back on the diamond, as well. However, Broxton looks to be the closest of the two to being back and healthy, and could re-join the team as early as next week. The timetable for Marshall's return is a bit more hazy, but the Reds should be okay without him as long as Aroldis Chapman and Manny Parra can stay active and productive.

All in all, Jocketty has a tough decision to make as we enter closer to the deadline. The argument can definitely be made in favor of adding another piece or two to help in Cincy's push to the postseason. But who would they add, and who would they give up to do so? Furthermore, the answer to their right-handed hitting woes could lie in the trusty hands of Ludwick. Or the answer could just be a classic case of being patient and waiting for the offense to finally break out of their periodic funk for good. 

I don't know what the solution is. But given the options, and weighing them carefully, it seems wise for the Reds to hold steady with the cards they currently have, and hope for the best. Remember, it is not necessarily a guarantee that any player added via trade would ignite a winning streak, anyway.

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