The Hot Stove season is upon us once again, and the Astros appear poised to be particularly active in it.
One potential trade partner would be a former NL Central rival, the Cincinatti Reds. In an article from MLB Trade Rumors which cites C. Trent Rosecrans and Ken Rosenthal, the Reds and their owner, Bob Castellini, have come around to the idea of a necessary rebuild and are actively listening to offers for anyone on their major league roster. Aroldis Chapman (whom the Astros sought at the trade deadline this past season) and Jay Bruce are not surprises in their trade availability.
But Todd Frazier (he of the Home Run Derby champion fame) is certainly a surprising name to see on the "available" list. So is likely-future Hall of Famer Joey Votto, long considered a cornerstone of the Reds franchise. Either player could be expected to join a new team and provide instant, high levels of value.
In 2015, Todd Frazier blazed into the realm of superstardom in the first half of the season, slashing .284/.337/.585 with 25 home runs and playing excellent defense at third base. He then slumped quite significantly in the second half, slashing just .220/.274/.390 with 10 home runs, but he retained his defensive excellence and still finished the season with 4.4 WAR, per fangraphs. He'll be 30 just before Opening Day and is signed moderately cheaply - especially for a 4+ WAR player at third base - through 2017, including a modest $7.5 million contract for 2016. That's two years of a player who posted a WAR north of 4 in 2015.
Joey Votto, on the other hand...what can one say? He played in only 62 games in 2014, but still posted a 127 wRC+ that year that would have immediately ranked right near the top of the 2015 Houston Astros roster. Then, however, he came back with a vengeance in 2015 and posted an MVP caliber season (again) with a 172 wRC+, .427 wOBA, .314/.459/.541 slash line, a .228 ISO, 20.6 BB% to 19.4 K%, and stole 11 bases to boot while playing above average defense at first base (6 DRS, which was 5th among all qualified MLB first basemen, to go with the 10th best UZR, 10th best UZR/150, 5th most OOZ plays, 13th best RZR, and a .993 fielding percentage) and providing valuable left handed power and on base ability.
For his career, Joey Votto owns the following stat line: .311/.423/.534 slash line, .410 wOBA, 157 wRC+, and 41.6 cumulative WAR - again, per fangraphs. Joey Votto's biggest knock comes in the form of his contract, which is obviously heinous at ten years in length (signed through the 2023 season, not counting an option) at a whopping total of $225 million. That would put him in Houston through his age 40 season, since it'd be almost impossible to unload that contract once we took it on. It'd also appear to block A.J. Reed if he remained in the Astros' system, though it seems exceedingly likely that Reed himself would necessarily have to be part of the trade to bring Votto here in the first place.
If the Astros were somehow able to land Votto without giving up Reed, it's at least conceivable that Reed could begin his Major League career as a DH before transitioning to first base as Votto ages and requires more and more time at DH himself to stay fresh - though the Astros have indicated reluctance at the idea of A.J. Reed's Major League career beginning as a DH.
All in all, it seems to this writer that Todd Frazier would be the best target for the Astros, while Aroldis Chapman and Joey Votto would be the next likeliest candidates.
What worries this writer, however, is that the starting price for any of those three (and particularly the two hitters) is likely to be a pretty elite young, near-major league ready prospect. Names that come to mind? Alex Bregman. A.J. Reed. Lance McCullers, Jr., even. Are these the caliber of players the Astros - and their fans - are willing to give up to land a top tier third baseman for two years? Or an outstanding-but-already-32 first baseman, who's signed for eight more years at exorbitant prices?
These are the questions the Astros...and their fans...must answer before undertaking a trade with the Reds.
So, allow me to pose a question, open to every dear reader, fan boy/girl, Chron commenter, SABR aficionado, or bro baseballian who flies the Astros banner:
Which Cincinatti Reds player (you can only pick one, for our purposes here) are you most interested in? Votto? Frazier? Chapman? Or perhaps one we haven't focused on, like Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips?
There are longing whispers (okay, shouts) floating around TCB behind the scenes about the desire for a Votto/Chapman trade. To those who share this lofty dream: I'm sorry. I don't see it being a realistic possibility. So we're going to keep the poll to one player per choice and see which individual player (if anyone) is most sought by Astros fans. Please feel free to discuss below, and include trade package ideas you might have.