There have been some major changes to the Cincinnati Reds this offseason, including a payroll dump mandated by ownership that required GM Walt Jocketty to shed salary through a series of trades. Jocketty shipped out two key rotation cogs who are expected to hit the open market next offseason in exchange for a handful of mid-level prospects. Given the payroll limitations, Cincinnati isn’t expected to go after any of the remaining big free agents, but there still is a need to find a cost-effective option to play left field at Great American Ballpark in 2015.
Let’s take a look at some potential targets:
Nori Aoki: The left-handed hitter will be 33 come Opening Day and spent the 2014 campaign with the AL Champion Kansas City Royals. Aoki first broke into the big leagues in 2012 with Milwaukee and owns a career .287 average with 67 stolen bases. He doesn’t posses a great deal of power, hitting just one home run this past season and with just 19 in his three years in the majors, but he shouldn’t require a big financial commitment for the Reds.
Mike Carp: Another lefty, Carp is coming off a dismal 2014 season between the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers in which he hit .175 without a home run. He was an unsung hero for the Red Sox in their 2013 World Series run, seeing time at both corner outfield spots and first base, so perhaps this past season was an aberration. He likely would command less money than Aoki but he’s been strong when given consistent at bats.
Colby Rasmus: Although he’s primarily been a center fielder, he represents an intriguing option for the Reds. A true left-hander, Rasmus broke into the majors with St. Louis in 2009 and has quietly put up 116 home runs over the past six seasons. The biggest question mark surrounding Rasmus is his injury history. He has played less than 120 games in each of the last two seasons and struggled at the dish in 2014 to the tune of a .225 average and a career low 40 RBI.
Ichiro Suzuki: Ichiro to Cincinnati for a full time role seems unlikely given his age, but there likely wouldn’t need to be a long term commitment. He hit .284 last seas0n but stole only a single base while posting career lows in home runs, RBI, and total bases. At 41, he isn’t a spring chicken anymore, but is still a serviceable major league outfielder that would bring a veteran presence into a Cincinnati clubhouse featuring young speedster Billy Hamilton.
Jonny Gomes: Gomes, 34, is a 12 year veteran who previously spent time with the Reds from 2009 to mid-2011. Historically he has a strong split, favoring left-handed pitchers and he hasn’t been used in a full time role since appearing in 148 games for Cincinnati in 2010. He is another candidate for a short term, low money deal and already has experience playing in the Queen City. He has 155 HR and a .244 average in his career.
None of these guys jump out as a potential All Star, but Aoki and Rasmus likely carry the most upside. Many viable trade candidate have already come off the table. With their recent acquisitions, the San Diego Padres could still look to move Seth Smith or Will Venable, who could both be options for the Reds.