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Losing out on DeRosa has Reds looking elsewhere

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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Cubs fans aren't done lamenting the fact that onetime North Side favorite Mark DeRosa was traded from Cleveland to rival St. Louis on Saturday night. Here's my advice to them: Drop it. Another team in the National League Central had an even greater need for DeRosa — and I'm not talking about the Cardinals. The most disappointed team after the deal was probably in the visiting clubhouse during this weekend's Buckeye Series at Progressive Field. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds wanted Mark DeRosa in the worst way. And on Sunday, two industry sources said the Reds are still very much engaged in their search for right-handed hitting. The Reds have left-handed power, with young sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. DeRosa, a right-handed run producer, would have been an ideal complement. DeRosa plays two positions, left field and third base, where Cincinnati has had below-major-league-average production, as judged by OPS. Laynce Nix has done an admirable job in left, but the Reds would like to add a right-handed compliment. Team officials have already considered Washington's Josh Willingham. Baltimore's Ty Wigginton is another option as a right-handed hitter, but he's more of a 2B/3B than an outfielder. Oakland's Matt Holliday would be the biggest prize, of course, but it remains to be seen if Cincinnati will put together an offer that Billy Beane deems sufficiently impressive. One name that can't be dismissed: switch hitter Gary Matthews Jr. of the Los Angeles Angels, who has been a trade candidate for some time. He's struggled to produce consistently since signing a five-year, $50 million contract prior to the 2007 season, and the Angels would almost certainly need to include a large amount of cash in the deal.
The Reds' pitching depth could make them a natural trading partner for the Angels, whose bullpen has struggled for much of the year. And Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker knows Matthews well, since the outfielder's father, Gary Matthews Sr., served on Baker's coaching staff with the Chicago Cubs. Cincinnati's production at third base — the worst in the majors (.554 OPS) entering Sunday — could improve soon if regular starter Edwin Encarnacion makes a successful return from his broken left wrist. He's currently hitting .286 for Class AAA Louisville on a rehabilitation assignment. So, the bigger infield need may be at shortstop, where Alex Gonzalez could be out until the end of July after having surgery to remove four loose bodies from his throwing elbow. An interesting possibility could emerge at that position: Julio Lugo. Yes, Lugo has been maligned in Boston, more for his defense than his offense. He's batting .292, with a .361 on-base percentage. That's better than Gonzalez's performance at shortstop and Willy Taveras' dismal showing as the leadoff man. Even though he's rarely done it this year, Lugo has experience in the leadoff spot: a lifetime .272 batting average in 393 career games, according to Retrosheet.org. Lugo is earning $9 million this year. He's set to earn $9 million next year, too. But the Boston Globe reported Sunday that he could be released once Jed Lowrie returns from the disabled list. If the Red Sox release him, they will responsible for all the money left on his deal, less the major-league minimum. So, Boston officials have some incentive to explore trades now — with the understanding that they'd need to include a large amount of cash, anyway. The Reds could also decide to stay with in-house solutions at shortstop until Gonzalez returns: Paul Janish, a good defender, and Jerry Hairston Jr., who is a second baseman and outfielder by trade. Cincinnati may look for a more direct way to replace Taveras as the leadoff hitter and center fielder. Pittsburgh's Nyjer Morgan, who has experience in both roles, is currently available on the trade market. (Most recently, Morgan has been batting second and playing left for the Pirates.) Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington has made it his goal to accumulate as much young talent as possible, and the Reds have a good farm system. So, the basis for a match is there. The only question is whether Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty would be comfortable dealing within the division.
Tagged: Matt Holliday, Ty Wigginton, Jay Bruce, Jerry Hairston Jr., Orioles, Josh Willingham, Jed Lowrie, Red Sox, Mark DeRosa, Angels, Indians, Julio Lugo, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, Paul Janish, Athletics, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto

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