Walt Jocketty, GM of the Cincinnati Reds, has apparently changed his mind about making one of his young first basemen available via trade this winter. Despite reports early in the off-season that Jocketty would be holding on to both Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso, the Reds have reportedly been in contact with a number of clubs this month, dangling Alonso as trade bait. In return, Jocketty is said to be targeting a closer or number 2 starter.
First, let’s just get the obvious part out of the way; there is no way Jocketty should be trading a talented young bat like Alonso for a closer. Closers are considerably overpriced and over valued. There is seemingly always a glut of them on the open market and one can be had relatively inexpensively. The smart clubs prefer to either create their own closers or to pick up an inexpensive veteran to fill the role.
Jocketty has apparently figured that out, as he balked at potential deal with Oakland that would have brought Andrew Bailey to the Queen City in exchange for Alonso. If they were to trade Alonso for a closer, they’d be hard pressed to find a better option than Bailey given his success, his youth, and his team controlled contract.
Focusing on just starting pitching then, would the Rangers be a fit for Cincinnati as a trading partner?
Texas has six starters under contract for 2012 if you count Scott Feldman and are reportedly still in the market for a front-end guy like Mark Buehrle or C.J. Wilson. They have also been linked to a pair of free agent first basemen in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
I’m not saying that Alonso would be on the same level as either of those two, but I think it’s fairly clear that if the Rangers do choose to spend any additional money this winter, they’d at least be open to either adding a starting pitcher or a first baseman. If they could swing a deal for Alonso, they may be able to do both.
Let’s assume for a moment that Texas does still intend to land another starter. That means that a rotation that already goes five deep with a solid spot starter would now go a full six deep. Certainly, should that happen, one of the Rangers current starters would be made available via trade. The Reds aren’t a club with deep pockets, so they’d be looking at Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, or Derrick Holland as a possible return.
Feliz, of course, has the highest ceiling based upon age and pure stuff, but Holland certainly wouldn’t be far behind in either category. Add in Holland’s left-handedness and his success as a starter, something Feliz hasn’t yet had, and you could consider the two on equal footing.
At 28, Ogando is the oldest of the bunch, but he also has the most team-control remaining, as he’s not eligible for free agency until 2017. Feliz and Holland are both eligible one year earlier, while Harrison is eligible in 2015.
While the Rangers have publicly stated that they are comfortable heading into 2012 with Mitch Moreland at first base, Alonso has a pedigree that suggests a clear upgrade offensively, at least from a power standpoint. If questions continue to linger about Moreland’s injured wrist, the need for a first baseman could become intensified.
Though the Rangers have a significantly higher payroll than the Reds, they’ve already expanded payroll twice in the past two years, each time by a wide margin.
Conventional wisdom would say that there would be little in the way of extra cash lying around for Nolan Ryan and company to play with. While they may be able to dig deep enough to land a $12-13 million starter, which would be enough to upgrade the rotation, that kind of money won’t be enough to land a better option at first base than Moreland.
A lot of dominoes would have to fall in exactly the right order for this to happen, but if Jon Daniels feels confident that he can land a guy like Buehrle through free agency or Matt Garza via trade, he may have enough pitching to entice the Reds to unload Alonso to Texas.