Its pretty clear that the Reds are going to need to pay a substantial price in young talent to add the quality starting pitcher or two that the team desperately needs moving forward. Some combination of the promising young position players arriving on the scene will probably need to be shipped off along with some spare arms and not yet ready kids. Alonso, Francisco, Frazier, Heisey, Stubbs, Sappelt, Valaika, Grandal, Phipps, Soto, Volquez, Wood, Masset, Maloney, Arredondo, Bailey, etc. all hold varying degrees of promise going forward. That promise is why some combination of those names will probably be shipped off for a pitcher or two who can bolster the rotation and maybe the back of the bullpen. The result is that the Reds may need to look for some backfills on the position player front. With Alonso and Francisco both being pretty high on the list of guys who may be in demand in return for the needed starter, it would seem a LH bat who can handle RHP might be something the team needs to be after in the off-season. The major resources probably need to go toward the pitching staff, so the team will probably need to try to address other weaknesses through buying low.
Here are some potential buy low guys who may round out the position players so that the team can pay the necessary price to add quality with some certainty to the rotation.
Ian Stewart - LH Hitting 3b who may be available as a buy low guy. From 2008 to 2010 he had OPS numbers of .804, .785 and .781. In 2011 he dropped to a horrid .464 and was sent to AAA. He’ll be arb eligible and maybe a deal for some one like Nick Masset, who also stands to make some arb cash, would make sense for both teams. Stewart will be 27 in 2012 and may be a bounce back candidate. He made $2.29 Million in 2011. Might be a decent partner for Rolen in 2012 and a possible replacement or at least stop gap after Rolen retires. That's something that might be needed if the Reds deal Francisco (and maybe even if Francisco sticks since none of the 3B candidates are a sure thing).
Luke Scott - Had a bad season in 2011 that ended with shoulder surgery in July. From ‘06 - ‘10 he had OPS numbers of 1.047, .855, .807, .828 and .902. He’s a likely non-tender who may be a cheap free agent LH bat who would allow the team to deal some of the OF kids for an arm or two.
Kelly Johnson - A free agent after the season and a LH Hitting 2B who is probably a better defender in LF. Had OPS numbers of .831 in ‘07, .795 in ‘08, and .865 in ‘10. OTOH, had a .692 in ‘09 and is at .704 this year. Might be a buy low LH bat who could play LF and possibly stop gap 2B after Phillips leaves after 2012. A cheap 2 year deal might be a good investment.
Logan Morrison - .811 career OPS (119 OPS+) who was sent down for disciplinary reasons in 2011. The Marlins may be sour on the guy. He’ll play 2012 as a 24 Y/O. He’s affordable payroll-wise. The Reds should make a substantial offer IMO. He'd be the clear LF in 2012 and would provide the 1B fallback if Votto leaves and would allow the team to deal Alonso for an arm without the "what do we do when Votto leaves" question clouding the picture.
Garrett Jones - Hits RHP to the tune of an .820 OPS this season and .843 for his career. The Pirates are likely to go after a bigger bat for 1B and with Tabata and McCutcheon being main guys in the OF and a couple kids coming, Jones may be in for a drop in PT. The Pirates may not be up for his arb in the off-season. A Volquez for Jones deal may make sense for both teams. The Reds could stick a platoon of Jones and say Frazier in LF hitting 5th, while allowing guys like Alonso, Heisey or Stubbs to be made available in bigger deals for some arms.
Anyone with any other names for a list like this? I don't have any pitchers on the list because I think the Reds need to pay a high price to add quality. The team already has plenty of question marks and adding more makes little sense to me, but if a buy low picther is out there, feel free to post a name with a blurb explaining why he'd be a buy low and a good idea for the Reds.