As a Cincinnati Reds fan, I am thrilled that the team seems to have recovered from the malaise that afflicted it in San Diego, but I have to recognize that there are a couple of mitigating factors in their recent run of success. First, they’re beating up on the rebuilding Chicago Cubs, and, secondly, they’re doing it all at home. The fact remains that the Reds’ offense has been sub-par this season, and that will only become more obvious when they hit the road again after the All-Star break, especially if Brandon Phillips’ injury proves to be serious. One spot where Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty could make an immediate upgrade is in left field, and the Minnesota Twins’ Josh Willingham has the firepower to make a difference in the second half.
Willingham, in the third year of a three-year deal, battled injuries (wrist) through most of last season and got hit early again in 2014. He didn’t return until late May, and, while his batting average is atrocious, he’s actually hit quite well over the last month-and-a-half. His OPS stands at .788, and he has slammed eight homers in just 45 games, averages which would be a major boon to a streaky Reds’ offense that has been anemic more than it has been hale.
Given his recent health issues and the fact that he is 35, Willingham probably would just be a rental-type player for the Reds, and the rent likely wouldn’t be all that steep. He has about $3 million left on this year’s contract and will be a fee agent after the season. Also, as Scott Weber at Lookout Landing points out, the Twins probably can’t expect to get a ton in return for Willingham since he has health questions and can provide little assurance beyond this fall. Of course, if enough teams line up for Willingham’s services, the price will undoubtedly go up, but it’s hard to see the Reds (or Mariners) parting with more than a low-to-mid level prospect.
In this era of big strikeouts and tiny ERAs, offense is suddenly at a premium, and the Reds are not alone in their quest to beef up run-scoring. Josh Willingham just might provide enough short-term pop to help the Reds scamper into the playoff.