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December 12, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Wednesday, December 12

by Daniel Rathman

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It started innocently enough, with this early-afternoon tweet from CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler suggesting that a two-way trade between the Indians and Reds was imminent. Over the rest of the day, we learned that the deal was in fact a three-team blockbuster expanded by the Diamondbacks, who acquired their new shortstop by sending Trevor Bauer to Cleveland. For more on that deal, check out the Transaction Analysis; today’s Roundup begins with a look at the Reds’ next move.

After adding Choo, Reds eye utility man to complete roster
General manager Walt Jocketty came into the offseason looking for a new center fielder, ideally one who could provide a jolt at the top of the order, where a hodgepodge led by Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs delivered—this is not a misprint—a league-worst .254 on-base percentage in 2012. Choo meets the latter part of that description, and while he lacks the optimal range to play up the middle, Cincinnati intends to make do with him between Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce. That means that manager Dusty Baker’s lineup is largely finalized.

So, too, are the bullpen—now anchored by Jonathan Broxton—and the starting rotation, now featuring Aroldis Chapman. Tuesday’s trade also sent infielder Jason Donald from Cleveland to Cincinnati, presumably to round out the bench. But FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported later in the evening that Jocketty is staying busy, with his focus turning to the market for utility men.

The Reds could survive with a five-man infield comprised of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, and Donald, so the need for a second reserve is not urgent. There are two notable factors, though, that may be at the root of Jocketty’s search. The first is that four of the five existing infielders hit right-handed, and while Bruce and Choo help to balance the offense, Baker’s bench currently has just one lefty, outfielder Xavier Paul. The second is that Frazier’s defense at the hot corner remains a question mark, and with two ground-ball pitchers (Broxton and Sean Marshall) set to work the highest-leverage frames out of the bullpen, a late-inning substitute could prove useful. 

With Gregorius en route to Arizona, the only other middle infielder on the Reds’ 40-man roster is Henry Rodriguez, a 22-year-old switch-hitter who tore up Double-A but scuffled in Triple-A before earning a September call up. Rodriguez was Cincinnati’s 10th-ranked prospect heading into last season, and while he has a bright future, a return to Louisville is probably in order. Connect all of those dots, and Jocketty’s desire to pick up a utility man makes sense.

The question, of course, is who appears on Jocketty’s wish list. Rosenthal’s colleague, Jon Morosi, tweeted from Nashville last week that the Reds were one of the teams in the bidding war for Jack Hannahan. That bidding war rages on, and as a plus hot-corner defender who bats left-handed, Hannahan fits the job description to a tee. Unfortunately, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis, Hannahan’s first choice is to sign with his hometown Twins. If the former Indian does land in Minnesota—from scanning the free-agent listings at Cot’s Contracts—Jocketty’s fallback options could include Adam Kennedy and Kelly Johnson. Neither of them has been tied to the Reds so far. 

Tigers tried to outbid Royals for James Shields, still seeking a starter
Speaking of 2012 playoff teams that have holes to plug, the defending American League pennant winners are awaiting a decision from their marquee midseason acquisition, Anibal Sanchez, who apparently has “multiple five-year offers” on the table. MLB Network Radio’s Jim Duquette tweeted on Tuesday that general manager Dave Dombrowski sought to hedge his bets on Sanchez by snagging Shields from the Rays, before the Royals ultimately pulled the trigger.

Knobler expanded on Duquette’s report, noting that Detroit’s offer was built around outfielder Avisail Garcia, who served in a platoon role for the Tigers down the stretch and in the postseason. Not surprisingly, though, the Rays preferred Wil Myers’ outstanding power ceiling to Garcia’s broader base of raw tools, and, as Knobler mentioned, the Tigers had little in the way of secondary prospects to offer. Dombrowski sent his number-one and –10 prospects from last year, Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly, to the Marlins in the July deal for Sanchez and Omar Infante, and he shipped his fifth-ranked minor leaguer, Andrew Oliver, to the Pirates last week. Knobler added that the system’s best remaining prospect, Nick Castellanos, would have been blocked by Evan Longoria in Tampa Bay.

As Dombrowski bides time for Sanchez to make up his mind, he is fielding calls about Rick Porcello, who is currently slotted as Detroit’s number-five starter. MLive reporter Sean Gagnier cautioned last week that Porcello is “off the table” unless Sanchez returns to Detroit, so the general managers who reached out to Dombrowski are equally anxious to hear the verdict from Sanchez’s agent, Eugene Mato.  

Mike Napoli might not be joining the Red Sox, after all
Nine days ago, Napoli came to terms with the Red Sox on a three-year, $39 million deal, kicking off a busy week at the Opryland Hotel for GM Ben Cherington and company. Eight days later, he traveled to Boston for a physical that was expected to seal the deal. It turns out, the operative word in the previous sentence might be “expected.”

Rosenthal heard that the Red Sox were planning to introduce Napoli at a press conference scheduled for yesterday afternoon—but, unless everyone in the press missed said conference, it never happened. Presumably, the holdup is a red flag that surfaced during Napoli’s physical, though the details remain unclear. Napoli spent 36 days on the disabled list with a quad strain last year, suffered a serious ankle sprain in Game Six of the 2011 World Series, and underwent shoulder surgery in October 2008. Only time will tell whether any of those ailments were responsible for piquing the interest of Boston’s medical staff.   

If the agreed-upon pact is nixed, and Cherington is unable to renegotiate a more amiable one with Napoli’s agent, Brian Grieper, then the former Ranger’s reentrance into the free-agent market could have a ripple effect on multiple players and teams. The Indians, who need to supplant Choo and were hoping to do so with Nick Swisher, might now find an unwelcome, deeper-pocketed competitor in Boston. Meanwhile, the Rangers could reevaluate their rapidly evolving plans, and try to bring Napoli back on a short-term hitch that would enable them to continue pursuing other targets. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick asked on Tuesday, “What impact addition is left for Texas besides Josh Hamilton?” Re-signing Napoli would be one possible answer.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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