- Mike Petriello, ESPN Insider
The Cincinnati Reds are in trouble heading into 2014. That might sound like a controversial statement, though it really shouldn't be, considering how circumstances have changed in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals, fresh off a trip to the World Series, will get the benefit of a full season of their celebrated young pitching and have finally filled their black hole at shortstop. The Milwaukee Brewers will have Ryan Braun back along with Matt Garza in their rotation, and while the Pittsburgh Pirates haven't added anyone of note, a full year of Gerrit Cole and the impending arrivals of Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon should make them dangerous once again.
And the Reds? The sum of their offseason has been to import bench players Brayan Pena and Skip Schumaker, who combined for minus-0.8 WAR last year. They watched Shin-Soo Choo and his .423 on-base percentage depart for Texas, and they plan to replace him with Billy Hamilton, who has elite speed but enormous questions about whether he can get on base enough to use it, as evidenced by a .308 OBP in Triple-A last year. When Brandon Phillips drops from 103 runs batted in to 70-something, it's not going to be because he's playing any worse; it's going to be because he won't have Choo on base all the time to drive in. For a team that finished only 15th in wRC+ even with Choo last year, that's a big problem.
The Reds need to do something, and that something is to trade Homer Bailey, for reasons we'll get to in a moment. But more importantly, the loopholes of the current collective bargaining agreement mean that they would be best served to do it before Opening Day.
Given the strength of the NL Central in 2014, the Reds would be well advised to trade Homer Bailey when his value is highest -- and that means dealing the hurler before Opening Day.