The Cincinnati Reds are looking to improve their ball club as the trade deadline continues to approach, and general manager Walt Jocketty will need to be creative in order to do so. While the Reds are in need of replacements at first and second base, their biggest need comes in the form of left field. With the production of Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey proving to be unacceptable, Jocketty must look for a solid player to fill the void.
Enter Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, the perfect candidate to start in left field for the Reds. Brantley has everything the Reds need in left field to be legitimate playoff contenders — talent, production, age and affordability.
Brantley made his MLB debut at the age of 22 in 2009 and has been a mainstay in the Indians’ lineup ever since, improving year after year. In 2014, Brantley is having the breakout season that many within the Cleveland organization have been waiting to see: .322 AVG, .382 OBP, .519 SLG, 15 home runs, 63 RBIs, 22 doubles, 10 stolen bases (zero caught stealing), 32 strikeouts and 30 walks.
Breaking those numbers down, there is plenty for the Reds to be intrigued by. His on base percentage of nearly .400 is cause enough for the Reds to be interested. Seeing the OBP of players such of Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips drastically decrease, the Reds must ensure that any additions they make are ones that will improve the team’s OBP as well. Likewise, Brantley’s home runs and RBIs give the Reds something they are desperately lacking without a healthy Phillips or Joey Votto — another run producer to go along with Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco.
Perhaps the most impressive statistics to me, however, are Brantley’s walks and strikeouts. After all, the Reds have struggled mightily in this department: Bruce (84), Frazier (81), Billy Hamilton (65), Phillips (61), Ludwick (59), Mesoraco (54), Zack Cozart (51) and Votto (49). Now compare those numbers to Brantley who has just 32 strikeouts in 351 at bats — more at bats than anyone on the Reds aside from Frazier’s 362. Likewise, Brantley’s 30 walks would rank right behind Votto (47), Bruce (32) and Frazier (32) for the most on the Reds team.
On top of his numbers, Brantley’s age of just 27 would be another huge green flag for the Reds. It’s hard to find many 27-year-old baseball players with five and a half years of MLB experience under their belt. Additionally, Brantley is controlled through 2017 on a team friendly contract (four years, $25 million) with an option for 2018.
All the upside of Brantley means one thing for the Reds: He will cost them quite a bit in return. To gain a strong and valuable player, a team must be willing to give that up in return. Likely, the Indians will ask the Reds about stud prospects such as Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Jesse Winker. And shockingly enough, for Brantley I would be open to it. And of these three, Winker is the only untouchable to me thanks to the Reds’ ability to draft and develop pitchers at an impressive rate.
If the Reds are able to land Brantley in exchange for Stephenson or Lorenzen in addition to a few mid-level prospects, I would jump on it in a heartbeat; the addition of Brantley would be that huge for this Reds team. Brantley could be the missing piece the Reds have been looking for offensively, and adding him with the youth of Hamilton, Frazier and Mesoraco could mean big things for the future of the Reds franchise.