Tom Usher: Reds have upcoming moves to make

December 6, 2012

The baseball winter meetings are over.

But for the Reds, there’s plenty of offseason business simmering.

Coming off a 97-win season, the Reds are in pretty good shape. The pitching staff appears set, as is the majority of the everyday lineup.

However, the list of ways to improve the team is still sitting on the desk of Reds general manager Walt Jocketty.

At the top of the yellow-pad list reads “left field.”

The left field situation has to be settled before anything else. The best way to solve the concern would be re-sign free agent Ryan Ludwick, who took to the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park. Ludwick hit 26 home runs and was often in the heart of the batting order. He hit .275 and drove in 80 runs.

At 34, Ludwick is looking for a three-to-four year deal, while the Reds are probably set on giving him two years. The Major League Baseball network said to expect Ludwick to sign within the week.

If Ludwick doesn’t sign in Cincinnati, the Reds will have to look elsewhere for help. There’s always Chris Heisey, but the Reds seem to view him as more of a No. 4 outfielder.

Speedy Michael Bourne is on the market, but the Giants and the Mariners have shown the most interest (translation: thrown the most money) at him.

One possibility is dealing with the Diamondbacks. They have a surplus of signed outfielders, including Justin Upton and Jason Kubel.

Upton would be harder to pry from Arizona and it would have to start with the Reds super prospect Billy Hamilton, who the Reds won’t trade. Kubel would be a better option.

Former Ohio State outfielder Nick Swisher is a free agent, but is being wooed by the Yankees.

Delmon Young is available, but he’s probably going to stay in the American League to be a designated hitter.

There’s also Ichiro Suzuki, who will probably re-sign with the Yankees.

And forget about Josh Hamilton coming back to the Reds. No way are the Reds giving Hamilton the $20 million-plus per year for five years he covets.

One option is former Reds outfielder Cody Ross, who probably won’t re-sign with the Red Sox after they signed free agents Johnny Gomes and Shane Victorino.

The Reds may also look at trading Homer Bailey for an outfielder. The MLB network suggested a Bailey deal with the Royals for All-Star outfielder Billy Butler. The Royals would want more than Bailey to pull that deal off.

Once left field is solved, the Reds must turn to center field where .213 hitting Drew Stubbs resides. An attempt has to be made for an upgrade here if the Reds want to move past the first round of the playoffs. That center fielder would also be a leadoff hitter.

Victorino (three years, $39 million) was too pricey and the Red Sox gobbled him up.

Center fielder Angel Pagan elected to re-sign with the World Champion Giants at four years, $40 million.

A much cheaper option is Scott Podsednik, who hit .302 with eight stolen bases in 199 at-bats in Boston last year.

The good news about center field is Billy Hamilton will probably play there in 2014 once he proves he can play there at AAA this season.

Then, there’s third base.

Scott Rolen hinted that last year was his last year, but so far he’s been silent about his intentions for next season. He’s a free agent and the Reds don’t have to sign him, but Jocketty may sign him at a reduced price if he wants to come back.

The problem is the heir apparent at third Todd Frazier finished third in the Rookie of the Year balloting and is set to go. The Reds need to cut all ties with Rolen and officially proclaim Frazier as their third baseman.

And forget about Rolen at third and Frazier in left field. Rolen (shoulder, back) isn’t physically able to play every day and will be lucky to play 100 games next year. He played 92 with 294 at-bats last year and hit .245 — well under his career average of .281.

The Reds earlier signed reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year deal for $21 million. The speculation has been, but it’s not official, that Broxton would be the closer and Aroldis Chapman would slip into the rotation to take Mike Leake’s spot.

Chapman should be left in the closer’s role to take advantage of his 100-plus fastball and lack of durability.

However, if he’s a starter, Leake or Bailey would be available in a trade. Stubbs is also available.

At any rate, the winter meeting prattle is over.

But the Reds’ offseason work has just begun.