The front office of the Reds could send its underachieving team a huge message early this winter by signing one under the radar free agent. In one simple, relatively inexpensive move, Cincinnati could address its most pressing need as well as opening the likelihood for a huge trade acquisition to shore up its inconsistent offense.
With the departure of Shin-soo Choo, the Reds are in dire need of a leadoff hitter. Prospect Billy Hamilton looks ready to take over in center field, but he is far from ready to be relied on at the top of the batting order.
The best option then is for the Reds to sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, who just helped lead the Red Sox to the World Series championship. For his career, Drew has hit .283 with a .343 on base percentage as a leadoff hitter. Those numbers pale to Choo’s performance last year, but they are better than any of the Reds in the current lineup.
By signing Drew, who should be affordable after making $7 million last year, the a Reds could then have a variety of trade options. The club could ship Brandon Phillips to bring in a power bat for the middle of the lineup, or just to rid the club of one of its cumbersome contracts. Zach Cozart then would slide over to play second base.
A popular online baseball site believes the deal makes sense for the Reds.
“They sign Stephen Drew to play shortstop and move Zack Cozart to second, which would at least give a right-handed-heavy lineup another left-handed hitter,” said bleacherreport.com.
The absence of Phillips would have little effect on the offense, since Drew’s numbers were nearly equal to his. Drew hit .253 with 13 home runs, while Phillips hit .261 with 18 home runs. Drew’s .333 obp trumps that of Phillips’ .310, thereby compensating for the slight difference in power and average.
Even if the Reds find no takers for Phillips, the Drew signing still makes sense. The club could deal Cozart, who has not lived up to expectations after being named the everyday shortstop in 2011. He hit just .254 last year with an embarrassing .284 obp.
Drew would give the Reds a steady veteran in the middle of the infield, one who has just experienced a World Series championship. He was a key addition Boston made in its successful effort to go from worst to first, so there is no reason why he could not help push Cincinnati from third to first in 2014,