I think the Reds should explore all the options but obviously not overpay and find a good fit. It is unclear whether they are looking for a long term solution (thus ruling out Mesoraco), a 2-3 year solution, or a short term stopgap. Regardless, they should certainly but low.
Basically the requirements for this catcher is as follows...
1. Be a substantial upgrade over Ross
2. Need a guy who has enough experience to help our young pitchers.
3. Must not be a liability in the field.
4. Relatively inexpensive trade and salary wise. (obviously Bailey or someone of that caliber as a trading chip is far too much unless it is a top of the line catcher).
5. Offensively a guy who can consistently OPS over .750 would be great as well... a lower OPS would hurt our lineup.
And as far as a trading partner, obviously we need to find either a team that is unloading (Orioles, Giants) or a team that has a stack of catchers (Nationals, Jays, Rangers, Indians, Mariners, Angels, etc.)
As far as what we'd give up, unless it was an exceptional player, it would seem that prospect wise the best players on the table would be Stubbs, Maloney, Wood, Pelland, or Juan Francisco. As far as players on the roster, Freel, Belisle, maybe Hopper if there is interest. We also have far too many guys vying for bullpen spots so a few of them could be on the table as well.
Obviously some targets that should be looked into are:
1. Jeff Clement- Probably would take a heckuva package to snag him.. .867 OPS in AAA last year and he tore up the majors in his brief stretch (1.287 OPS). He is blocked by Johjima, however, so he might be on the market.
2 Ryan Doumit- Might be buying high after he had his best ever 2007, but he could be a solid hitter for us and the price could be right.
3 Chris Iannetta of the Rockies... coming off a weak year and has some insurance issues. Would be a solid pickup if on the cheap.
Most Realistic options:
- Shoppach of the Indians. I could see him as almost an .800 OPS type, decent fielder too.
- Jeff Mathis- Might be a good buy low.. showed promise in 05' and 06' but a rough 07' plus the fact that the Angels have other options makes him a good choice for the Reds.
- Jesus Flores of the Nationals, who is blocked by both Estrada and Lo Duca. Estrada, BTW could be an alright pickup midseason as he is back up this year.
- Ramon Hernandez of the O's.. coming off a bad year and would benefit from GABP. Arguable a better hitter than Barrett with much better fielding. The issue here would be the contract but throwing in Stanton or Ross to offset the salary might be an attractive alternative.
-Curtis Thigpen of the Jays... might be worth a fringe prospect or two but it all depends on how highly the Jays value him. High OBP catchers are always good finds.. He could be similar to Kendall in his prime (say what you want about Kendall but the guy did have 6 years with over a .390 OBP and has a .375 career OPS with solid defense).
-Shawn Riggans.. I saw this name thrown around as an idea and he is a solid option.. could be obtained cheaply and potentially some reward... chances are he's a AAA or AAAA guy but trading a Majewski type for him might be worth it.
Probably not worth messing with:
-Michael Barrett.. while his value is clearly lower than it was, his defensive problems and weak offensive 07' are concerns. He also did worse after his change of scenery to SD. its unclear what plans SD has for him but it is arguable whether he is an upgrade over Ross. DR has outperformed Barrett in both 06' and 07'.. Ross has better defense and has OPSed higher both years. Barrett's salary is another issue as the most noticeable upgrade in my eyes is the payroll....not good.
-Mike Piazza.. his defense was subpar 10 years ago.. probably is horrendous now and his hitting has declined. While he might be an alright bat off the bench, he should not be considered as a catcher anymore. He has his most value with an AL team as a DH but no one is interested. He should be converted to a 1B if he wants to still play. I would not mind Piazza being acquired but not as a catcher.. We must do better.
-Bengie Molina.. mediocre hitter at best and the Giants will probably want some of our better prospects for him.
-Laird... I put him on this list because I'm afraid we'll overpay for him. The Rangers are starting Laird over Salty, sending a message about his value. Also, he struggled as much as Ross last year and is clearly not a substantial upgrade.
There are clearly a handful of decent options but the Reds should not give up anything of value in return unless they are getting a player who is a clear upgrade over Ross.