The outfield market in free agency is drying up. Nori Aoki is easily the biggest name available and he’s at best a solid bat that would look much better in center than in the corners given his lack of power. Still, a .350 on-base percentage is incredibly enticing to put in front of Joey Votto, who over the last four years has had one season with someone batting in the two spots in front of him who actually was able to get on base at anything resembling an average rate, much less an above-average one. Rumors have been floating around for the last week that he would end up getting a two year deal worth $14-16M total. Aoki will perform well enough to earn that money unless he gets injured or just completely falls flat on his face, neither of which are things that are predictable from what we know about him.

The Cincinnati Reds general manager said Wednesday that the team is more likely to find a left fielder on the trade market than in free agency though they are still looking at the free agent market. Before jumping into the players that are rumored to be out there, let’s try to figure out the types of players the Reds should be targeting.

The Reds traded away Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon to save money for 2015. Of course that money is just going to be taken up by raises given to just about everyone on the team as only a few players are making the same amount of money they made last year. To me, that suggests that players who are making more than $10M are out of the equation unless they are also coming back with salary relief. That usually indicates that the player is on the downside of something or your team gave up a hefty price in trade to get some money coming back. With Jesse Winker, Kyle Waldrop, Donald Lutz and Yorman Rodriguez all in that range of “could be ready at any given time”, I’d be surprised if the team chased down a player with more than two years left on their current deal unless that player were more of a 4th outfielder than a starter.

Now that all of that is out of the way, who is out there? Well, in theory, just about everyone is available. In reality that isn’t true. While there is probably some scenario where a team could land Mike Trout, it’s not going to happen. The biggest name that’s been floated on the trade market seems to be Justin Upton. The latest rumor is that he could be going to an AL West team for a package built around young pitching. Upton would be a great fit for the Reds in terms of the value he would provide, but Upton is owed $14.5M. I can’t see the Reds taking on that kind of salary even if it means bringing in a talent like Upton. If the rumors are true about the kind of package it would take to acquire Upton, the Reds do at least have the bullets to make the deal happen.

The Dodgers just traded Matt Kemp to the Padres, but they still have about 15 outfielders on their roster. That’s a slight exaggeration but they still have Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson. Puig and Pederson seem to be locks to be staying with the Dodgers. Ethier however is owed $71M over the next four years. He’s out. Carl Crawford is owed just over $62M for the next three years. He’s out. That leaves Scott Van Slyke as a possible option.

Van Slyke is still arbitration eligible, so he is making the right amount of money for the team. He hit .297/.386/.524 last season in 246 plate appearances. On the surface, that is an outstanding line. But, there are some real concerns there. First is that he rode a .394 BABIP during that time frame and that simply isn’t sustainable. The second is that he struck out 29% of the time he stepped to the plate, which is borderline horrendous. Both of those things are big red flags that he can’t come close to repeating that level out output and his Steamer projection points that out as it suggests his likely 2015 line is .239/.324/.406. That is certainly a line that would be an upgrade over what the team had in left field for 2014, but it’s not exactly what you want to see either. Then of course is the fact that he will be 29-years-old next season and has never topped 250 plate appearances in a single season. While teams shouldn’t play the public relations train when making roster decisions, that’s not exactly the sell the teams fans are going to be thrilled about. What does make Van Slyke a quality addition though, even if he’s not a starter, is that he can play left, center, right and first base. He could be more than a platoon type of player and provide value all over the field.

Another interesting option is Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler. The team has an abundance of outfielders and while they have been making moves to try and get out of the basement, they aren’t exactly ready to compete just yet. Fowler is entering his final year of team control and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $9M. That number seems to be near the top of the Reds price range. The question is more about do the Reds and Astros matchup well? The Astros have one of the top farm systems in baseball and have quite a few top end pitching prospects so from a prospect standpoint they may not be a good match up. He’d be a great pick up for the team, posting a .374 on-base percentage over the last four seasons with quality plate discipline. He has struggled to stay healthy though, topping 125 games just once in the last four years, though he’s topped 115 in all six years of his career.

Ben Zobrist has “been on the trade market” for two plus years. His name constantly comes up in trade rumors and the biggest reason for that is probably two fold. First, he is a very, very valuable player. Second is that he isn’t exactly a “starter” in the traditional sense because he plays six positions and moves around the field day-to-day. Even with that, he’s played 146 or more games every year since 2009. He’s a strong defender and he’s had a .354 on-base percentage each of the last two seasons, though his power has dried up some, going from a .470 slugging percentage in 2011-2012 to a .398 mark over the last two seasons. He makes just $7.5M in 2015 and then he would be a free agent. That he can play so many positions plays into the Reds needs, though if he were to become a Red he’d probably see the majority of his starts as a left fielder.

There are other names out there and I’m sure there are guys out there who are options that we haven’t heard of. Where do you fall on who the Reds should go after and if they need to be acquired, what would you be willing to offer to acquire that player? Right now the Reds simply don’t have an internal option for the start of 2015 that they seem comfortable with. A move is coming whether it’s a free agent signing or a trade. Put on your GM hat and share what it is that you would do.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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