Friday, March 05, 2010

First Base Breakdown

Joey Votto (.322/.414/.567/.981/155 OPS+ in 544 PA's. 25 HRs, 84 RBIs, and 38 2Bs)

Those are damn good numbers especially for a 25 year old who was also dealing with the loss of his father and other issues. After missing a week in May and three weeks in June to deal with those issues, he managed to return and play at the same high level. Let's hope this season he can stay on the field and put up solid numbers again. He should get a chance to play everyday if he is healthy. His backups will be various OF's or utility players who need a few AB's when Joey is off.

His nearest competition for the everyday job raises an interesting question on the Reds future. The development this spring is what do you do when your best prospect, Yonder Alonso, happens to play the same position as your best everyday player, Joey Votto. Does one find a new position? If so, which one? Does one get traded? If so which one?

On the one hand, Alonso has been working in the outfield and third base at times in Arizona but most scouts feel he can only play first due to his big build and lack of speed and agility. He will be a 1B/DH type and there is no sense in him learning other position if he will never see time there. That time would better be spent hitting and learning 1B.

On the other hand, Joey is a 1B. He may have the speed and agility to play LF but why would he move there? He has worked hard at first base and become above-average so why should he have to learn a new position, especially if it may effect his hitting? He has proven he can be an everyday 1B thanks to his quality hitting and improved defense. He is also the best position player and a team leader. Those players don't like to move positions (see Jeter, Derek)

The Reds are in a bit of a pickle on this one. Both players are still young and inexpensive so there is no pressing monetary reason for them to act now. However, Joey starts arbitration next season and Alonso cannot be in the minors past 2011 so it is either this season or next season when something must be done. Both have high trade values but it would be difficult to get equal value in return since the other teams are in the position of power knowing the Reds have to trade one player. I think they should try and lock up Votto for 4 or 5 years at a low salary, as most teams do with cornerstone players. (Longoria, Upton, Braun) If that happens then you show Alonso off at AAA then trade him for a stud SS prospect, stud Catching prospect, or a power hitting LF. Those are the 3 areas the Reds have the most need. If Votto doesn't want a deal or one can't be agreed on, trade him next season before he starts making big money and give Alonso the everyday 1B job. I just don't see a way for both to be on the field at the same time unfortunately.

If I were the Reds, Alonso is too much of a wild card. I make sure I can lock up Votto and trade Alonso this season. Once I get a nice return for him, I have Votto sign for 4 or 5 years, taking him to 30, and worry about the rest of the team. If Alonso becomes a star somewhere else it won't be so bad because he wouldn't have played here anyway.

1B should not be a cause for concern for the Reds until 2015 thanks to the great depth. The key is turning that great depth into other pieces that will help the rest of the team.

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