There has been a lot of Discussion lately of options for 2007. Many have called for a lead-off type to play CF, others have said play Denorfia there. Some have said move Phillips to SS others have said leave him at 2B. Iíll say now that I donít think we need a lead-off type. My biggest concern for this team in 2007 is power. This is a little lengthy but Iíll try to lay out the problem and the options as I see them. Iím sure there will be much disagreement.
1B has been pretty much handed to Hatteberg. This year Hatteberg has slugged .439. The board consensus is that Hatte will drop off in 2007. His pattern suggests good even numbers years and bad odd numbered years. In 2005 Hatte slugged a whopping .343 and in 2003 he slugged .383. I expect Hatteís slugging to drop below .400 in 2007.
Middle IF has seen a big year out of Rich Aurilia slugging over .500. Richie is a free agent. He probably will get a lot of 2 year offers on the market. I could easily see him get a 2 year $8 Million package with a team option for a 3rd year with a $1 Million buyout. I wouldn't pay that if I were the Reds, but I think some one will. Probably some one with a hole and no immediate help on the way at 3B. I think he'd look good in Philly myself.
As for Phillips he has slugged a surprising .438 in 2006. In 2005 in AAA he slugged .409. I could see him drop below .400
Catcher has seen unexpectedly good offense for the second year in a row. Valentin is a spot player and Larue is strictly a number 8 in the order guy. Ross has slugged .581 in 2006. He slugged .380 in 108 AB with PIT in 2005 and .291 in 165 AB for LA in 2004. We can not count on a repeat. A huge drop is likely IMO. Possibly to below .400.
OF Freel is a top of the order guy who slugged .399 in 2006, .371 in 2005, and .368 in 2004. Denorfia is unproven. He has slugged well in the minors in 2004, 2005 and 2006, but he didn't put those numbers up until Age 24 in A+ ball in 2004. Not sure what we'll see from him, but I expect .375 tops. He may well OPS .750 which has been demonstrated to be average for a CF. The problem is with the other offensive problems the Reds need more than that.
This leaves us with a line-up that has Dunn, Edwin and Griffey as the only reliable sluggers. Griffey should have his playing time reduced meaning we will see a lesser player more frequently in his place (hopefully in RF). The board seems to think that Freel has shown he is better as a supersub than as an everyday starter at a single position. That means this team needs to bring in at least 1 everyday player. Many have called for a lead-off hitter. I think we need power. This team needs an everyday player be it at 2B, SS or CF who can play plus defense and slug .450 or so. Looking at the Free Agent list, I'm not sure who that is.
I am starting to agree with the Deno in CF crowd. Per Rotoworld yesterday, the Padres intend to exercise Mike Cameron's option (he was my first choice). I still like Torii Hunter (and his 29 HR in 2006) but feel he'll cost more than he is worth and Minnesota has an option on him. Aaron Rowand may be available. Philly may cut him loose with Victorino taking the job. He would be a consideration, but speculation is he'll go back to the White Sox. I like Deno better than any other option on the list. Unless the Coco Crisp dumping by Boston occurs. I donít see it myself w/o a replacement in place.
That brings us to the MI. Jeff Kent on a 1 or 2 year deal might not be bad. He could play 1B against lefties and 2B on other days. He'll be expensive, his defense is poor at 2B and he is in a decline. He probably wouldn't play here anyway. I'd explore with him, but I wouldn't go nuts. Ray Durham will cost too much and really isn't a good 2B anymore. So that leaves Julio Lugo, Ronnie Belliard or Adam Kennedy. Lugo is the best SS on the list, but like many others I think Phillips value is maximized at SS and Lugo would probably cost a ton. He doesnít really solve the power outage anyway slugging only .260 with LA in 2006 (but .498 with Tampa Bay). He slugged .403 in 2005. Kennedy is worse from a slugging standpoint .379 in 2006 and .370 in 2005. Belliard has slugged only .353 since the trade to St. Louis and slugged .420 with Cleveland earlier in the year. He did slug .450 in 2005. But mini-Manny has a thick body that could slow down and may become a defensive liability. He was ok in 2005 but has dropped off in 2006. I could live with him for the right price.
So what is the conclusion. With the news on Cameron, there is no best answer unless Hunter becomes available and comes much more cheaply than anticipated. The problem may solve itself if Phillips or Ross can repeat or Deno can approach his AAA stats. The problem becomes less urgent if Votto arrives in 2007 and adds the power needed to the line-up. So knowing help is on the way I wouldnít overpay multiple years for anyone when this is likely to be a one year problem. Iíd probably stick Deno in CF (I still have huge concerns about a bust here) and try to sign Belliard. Freel becomes a super-sub and insurance for Deno. Some one had the idea to play Freel in RF and Griffey at 1B against LHP. I like that one if KGJr will go for it. I hurry Votto along as much as possible.