For about the last month leading up to the All-Star break, the Cincinnati Reds were playing their best baseball of the 2014 season and had pretty much everyone healthy, after starting the season in an injury-filled rut. Their starting rotation was back to health with the return of Mat Latos in early June, Joey Votto was healthy after a stint on the DL earlier in the season, and catcher Devin Mesoraco was having a career year after two trips to the DL to begin the year.
All this good luck and momentum has gone south for the Reds. Brandon Phillips went down with a torn thumb ligament, which he ended up needing surgery to repair and is now expected to miss six weeks, which means he would return mid August to the beginning of September. Joey Votto is expected to be out about the same amount of time as Phillips.
These two injuries to their star players could not have came at a worse time. The Reds were just 1.5 games behind the first place Brewers going into the All-Star break. Since the break, the Reds took a six game road trip to New York to face the Yankees and Milwaukee to see the Brewers. Unfortunately for the Reds, they got swept in both of those series. Not only were their bats quiet, but their defense did not look like one of the best in the Major Leagues like it has been all season. Their stellar starting pitching even has hit a wall and has not been cranking out the quality starts we are used to seeing from them.
So, with all these injuries and recent struggles, will the Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty make a move?
In order to give this team a spark he has to. A front runner to pick up before the trade deadline would be utility player Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist doesn’t have striking numbers, but he is consistent. He has been batting between .269 and .275 in the past three seasons. The Reds haven’t been able to find consistency at the plate all season so it would be good for them to grab a guy who can bring that to the table. Zobrist also could fill in in the infield, and that would relieve players like Brayan Peña and Skip Schumaker because he can give them off days when filling in for them at first and second base. Zobrist may cost the Reds a few young prospects, but the Rays tend to like young pitchers and the Reds have a few of those they can offer.
Zobrist is making $7 million this season and has a $7.5 million team option for 2015. If the Reds do pick him up, they could choose to let go of Ryan Ludwick at the end of the year to make room for Zobrist. Ludwick has a mutual $9 million option for next season with a $4.5 million buyout, so if the Reds decide to decline that offer Zobrist could be a longer term utility man than just this season.
The Reds are in desperate need of some bench depth, and Zobrist is not the only option but the one that makes the most sense at this time for Cincinnati.