With Volquez out the rest of this year and probably all of next, this offseason is going to be crucial for a Reds team that, as evidenced by the signing of Scott Rolen, will be playoffs or bust in 2010.
I've been scanning free agents on MLBTR, and it's sure a weak class coming up. Jocketty's going to have his work cut out for him. I'm going to give him the benefit of Rolen because it was a need at third base. As much as the trade has been bemoaned here, I'm glad to see him on our side. As for the rest of the needs:
Shortstops worth looking at include Marco Scutaro and that's it, Tejada if you're desperate. Look for Scutaro to get a big raise after his solid '09, probably 6 or 7 million/year. You'll have to sign him long term to get him.
Left fielders are Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, who will both be making a ton of money next season. Unless Castellini opens up the pocketbook like he said he would this year and reneged on, there's no way to bag either of these guys. Unless you want to go after Cliff Floyd...hands?...anybody?...didn't think so. This is obviously the spot where that fabled "One Big Bat" would fit nicely, but don't be shocked if you see Gomes/Nix there all next year. The other possibility, though, is that the Rays dump some salary by not picking up Carl Crawford's option. He would look great in Red and in the two-hole.
I would put center fielders here, but we've got Willy Taveras!
The starting pitchers list has some groaners (see Fogg, Josh and Backe, Brandon), and the ones we might actually want — Garland, Beckett, Lee — all have options that I would imagine will be picked up by their respective clubs. After those guys, you're looking:
Justin Duchscherer (who I like and has pitched well as a starter)
Jason Marquis (hello, Walt)
These are the guys that will be in high demand, and we've seen the salary trend go up exponentially recently thanks to CC Sabathia.
So assuming the Hernandez, Gonzalez and Weathers contracts all go off the books next season plus Edwin's, that leaves about $22 million new dollars, $11 million of which goes to Rolen, $6 million of which goes to raises to Arroyo, Harang, Lincoln and Taveras. Correct me if I'm wrong with these rough calculations, but that leaves around $5 million if the payroll stays the same, at $73 million. Castellini hinted that the payroll would actually go up to around $80 million this year, which it didn't, but if it was an economy thing, next year he could add around $7 million to that, making $12 million available. Let's assume that won't happen though, and lower that number to around $8 million.
The ideal situation would be to shed Arroyo and/or Harang's contracts, which will be $11 million and $12.5 million, respectively. Obviously, to make that trade happen, the Reds would have to send probably half of that in cash, but that still comes out to a savings of more than $10 million, which would put the space Walt has to work with at about $18 million.
Again, these are rough estimates, and I could be way off, but it seems to me that $8 million is not going to be enough to work with to fill all three (or four) holes, but $18 million would just about do it. I don't think we realize how important it is for Walt to move Harang and Arroyo this offseason. I love both of those guys, but their contracts just don't warrant the way they are pitching, and they are tying Walt's hands.
Thoughts? I'm prepared to be blasted if need be.