Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How the Wily Taveras Signing Could Make Sense

I know, it's hard to justify giving a center fielder with no power and a .308 OBP last season a 2 year contract. In most situations, this contract would be considered incredibly stupid, especially considering how bad the free agent market is right now. But considering how this Reds team is constructed, signing Wily Taveras actually makes sense.

What the Reds needed most headed into 2009 was a table setter. The Reds had a pretty good offense in 2008, but they lacked a consistent leadoff hitter who could set the table for Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce. Hell, even Corey Patterson got 82 starts for the Reds, which tells you how dire the situation was.

Also, Taveras is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. Sure his 2008 numbers were pretty bad (.251 BA, .308 OBP, 1 HR), but Taveras has demonstrated the ability to perform on the big league level. Taveras has a career batting average of .283 and in 2005, he was second to Ryan Howard in the Rookie of the Year voting. One down season does not diminish his previous accomplishments.

In addition, Taveras's best attribute is by far his speed. In 2008, Taveras stole a career best 68 bases while only getting caught seven times. When Taveras gets on base, he is absolutely lethal on the base paths and a near guarantee to swipe a base or two. He will add a new dimension to a Reds lineup that in 2008 ranked ninth in the NL in stolen bases (85) and second in the NL in caught stealing (47).

Reds fans are going to love watching Jay Bruce and Wily Taveras run down fly balls. These two guys are great defensive players and will be a major asset to the volatile pitching staff. Taveras uses his great speed to track down balls that most outfielders would not come close too. This aspect of Taveras's game cannot be understated.

And finally, for all these folks who are screaming and yelling about the length of the contract: remember that the Reds were looking for an outfielder who fit their specific wants (i.e: fast, cheap center fielder). Besides Taveras, there is no one else on the market who fits that description. Two years is not an unreasonable amount of time for a guy with the pedigree of Taveras. Point to his 2008 stats all you want, but two years of Taveras is not the worst thing for a Reds team that only has three outfielders right now on their 40 man roster.

If Taveras can produce at his 2005-2007 level, then the Reds lineup could become one of the best in the National League. While they lack the names of the past (Dunn and Griffey), this lineup offers more depth and options, which could make the Reds a fun team to watch. I look forward to seeing Taveras set the table for the young studs (Votto and Bruce) as the Reds continue to play high scoring games at Great American Ballpark

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