Another interesting tidbit from Monday came via a Major League source, who said the Reds may have some interest in Jeff Francoeur. But the Braves are still providing every indication that they aren't actively shopping Francoeur.
"Frenchy" has been a little bit disappointing lately with those low OBP totals and a sudden loss of power, but there's no denying that he has talent and some possible upside. Reds GM Walt Jocketty actually has a pretty good track record for finding talented players who are underachieving and making trades for them (i.e. JD Drew, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, etc). If he has interest in Francouer, I could get behind something like that. Francouer is still only 24 years old. Could be a good "buy low" candidate. Maybe he just needs a change of scenery.
Here are Francoeur's stats the last three years.
At the age of 22, he hit 29 bombs and had 103 RBI. With The Legend of Jay Bruce, Joey "Ballgame" Votto, and 1st round draft pick, Yonder Alonso, all hitting from the left side of the plate down the road, the Reds are desperate for some punch on the right side of the plate. I'm not sure what the Braves would be looking for in return, but I'd be inclined to give up some young talent for a guy like Francoeur. Heck, if the Reds wanted to throw Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo into a deal to get some additional Braves prospects in return and maybe even someone like Yunel Escobar, I would explore that as well.
All I think about is that everyone was writing off a talented young shortstop named Brandon Phillips a few years ago, and he suddenly blossomed with the Reds after a change of scenery . Francoeur could easily be a disaster, but it might be worth a shot.
If the Reds actually made a play for Francoeur, they could have a potential middle of the order lineup of:
Throw in Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez and some of the other young arms out there (including a still only 26 year old possible sleeper in Micah Owings who has apparently been lights out in fall ball), and that team could be awfully interesting.
One thing I will say about the Reds at this point is that I'm glad Jocketty immediately shot down those rumors about a Jermaine Dye for Homer Bailey trade to the White Sox. There is absolutely NO REASON to give up a 22 year old former #1 pick who still has upside for freaking Jermaine Dye. Dye is a good veteran player, but he has one year left on his deal. Why would a Reds team that has zero shot at contending in 2009 give up a young player like that for a one year rental player?? That trade never made any sense.
I'm not opposed to exploring a Homer Bailey trade at all (he has clearly regressed and lost some of his electric stuff, the Reds actually have a surplus of young arms, and Bailey has been so poorly handled and mismanaged that he's now out of options after this year), but it better be for a young player in return. Maybe a young middle infielder who can hit leadoff or a young centerfield prospect or something. But no rebuilding team should be giving up young pitchers for old veterans. That is the old line of thinking for the Reds. I hope Jocketty brings smarter leadership than that, and I'm glad that he looked borderline angry when someone asked him about that proposed deal. Maybe Jocketty was leaking rumors to the press to drive up the bidding for Homer Bailey. I hope so.
One giant cloud still hanging over this franchise though: Johnnie B. Baker, Jr. Ugh. Dusty is already out in the media clamoring for a veteran bat, and I hope that Jocketty ignores him. This team is not even close to competing. Stay with the youth, rebuild the right way, and hope that the team starts to win in 2010.
-- As for this Reds-Baltimore trade involving Ryan Freel for Ramon Hernandez, I can't really complain about this type of trade. I know I just spent the last 500 words saying the Reds need to be entirely focused on the future, but there's nothing wrong with making a logical move that can help you solidify a position of need in the present without giving up anything. Ryan Freel was dead weight on this Reds team. When you have as many needs as the Reds, the last thing you need to be doing is paying $4 million to a utility guy who gets hurt all the time. Freel is great for about two ten day streaks a year, and then he's either slumping or hurt for the rest of the year. I like Freel, but he provides no value to this Reds team. Giving up a utility guy for a guy who is going to be our #1 catcher is fine with me, especially when it sounds like the Orioles are going to pick up the contract difference.
Ramon Hernandez isn't exactly the Geovany Soto or anything, but he hit 15 bombs last year in 450 at bats. Put Hernandez in that bandbox Great American Ballpark, and he could easily hit 20 homers next year. Heck, two years ago, he hit 23 homers with 90 RBIs. The Baltimore beat writers seem to think he needed a change of scenery. The Reds started Paul Bako, David Ross, and Javier Valentin last year, and I think those guys combined for about 10 homers in about 550 at bats. The Reds have had a black hole at catcher for about a decade. Hernandez is a league average catcher with some upside. It's at least somewhat of an upgrade.
Hernandez has one year left on his deal, and the Orioles are going to pay a significant chunk of his salary. It's a contract year for Hernandez. The Reds can keep Hernandez for a year, make a decision on his option in 2010 if he plays well, take draft picks if not (he's apparently a Type A free agent) and then hopefully one of their young catching prospects will be ready by then. Makes sense to me.
--One other rumor that won't go away. Joey Votto to Toronto straight up for Alex Rios. WOW. Color me intrigued by that one. I love Joey Votto and thought he had an incredible year and has a bright future, and I'm not taking him for granted at all. I don't want to say that first basemen with pop in their bat are a dime a dozen, but there quite a few of those types out there. Votto is mainly a valuable piece because he's young and cheap, but I don't know if he has that much upside from what he gave the Reds last year. A guy like Rios with his speed and glove and bat would be a huge upgrade to the Reds' outfield and give them a defensive presence that they haven't had in a long time in the outfield.
I don't know if anything will come of it, but I'd at least be talking to the Jays if they are interested. I would certainly be happy with Joey Votto on this roster for many years to come, but I am not opposed to Jocketty exploring all options. The only "untradeables" in my eyes are Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto.
--Not sure what I think about this Francisco Rodriguez signing by the Mets. On paper, this is a great deal for the Mets, and they are getting a 27 year old closer widely considered to be one of the best in the game. And it's not like they gave him a 6-7 year deal or anything. For three years, they are presumably getting his best years and won't be on the hook for him if his arm starts to break down in his 30s. The Mets have had all kinds of problems with their bullpen. KRod should give them a dominant guy on the back end, and he's gotta be excited to be coming to the NL.
On the other hand, I am always leery of giving big money to closers. There are some elite closers of course, but some of these closers are "system guys." They get into a good groove in an organization with a certain pitching coach, and then they can't replicate those results with other teams. Part of the reason the Angels have had such a good bullpen is that they have a great coaching staff in place to nurture those guys.
Keith Law appears to like it though, so the Mets have that going for them. As much as I hate to admit it, Law is my go-to-guy for info during the MLB offseason.
The Mets obviously have a ton of money, so the finances aren't really a factor with them. I think it's a good signing considering the length of the deal and KRod's success, but there's always some risk with these closers.
--As for the Cubs, if Hendry somehow pulls off this deal to get Jake Peavy for about 45 cents on the dollar and without having to give up a stud like Soto or Samardzija, he will continue to solidify his legend for stealing players in their prime for overrated prospects. How does he do it??
The Cubs could be on the verge of landing Jake Peavy in his absolute prime at the age of 27. They were somehow able to pull in Rich Harden as well last year at the ripe age of 27. The Cubs would have a frontline rotation of Zambrano, Peavy, and Harden all in their late 20s to go with Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly. I can't see the Cubs losing to anyone next year with that rotation.
My biggest fear as a fan of an NL Central team was that the Cubs would someday wake up and get competent leadership to go with their huge revenue dollars. The Cubs not only have the dollars to take on big free agents (Soriano, Fukudome, etc), but they also have the dollars to trade for players in their prime looking for contract extensions (ARam, Derrek Lee, Harden, Peavy, etc). And they seem to have enough hyped-up prospects that other teams bite on these trades.
The Hendry/Piniella braintrust has the potential to wipe out the rest of the NL Central for the next decade. I gotta hand it to the Cubs for figuring it out, but it could be a long time in the wilderness for fans of the Reds, Cards, Brewers, 'Stros, and Pirates.