Fans of the Reds have one more month before they can legitimately worry about the 2014 season. The exact date is June 22, which is when a team that was nine and a half games back started its climb to the 2013 division championship.
Last year, seventy four games into the season, the Dodgers found themselves in last place and nine and a half out. They ended up not only winning the National league west, but winning it by a whopping eleven games.
The Reds find themselves in a similar situation now, seven games out in the N.L. Central. At four games under .500, they are on pace to find themselves with a record similar to that of Los Angeles last June 22 (30-42).
Hopefully, like the Dodgers, Cincinnati will catch fire in July and August. L.A. went 42-12 over those two months, and many people accredit the turnaround to the emergence of one player.
Yasiel Puig was called up in June, and he injected new energy into the club. He hit 19 home runs with a .319 batting average, and exhibited a great arm in right field.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati fans, the Reds have no player like Puig waiting in the minors. Any spark the team might get must come from a trade, which is not likely, or a still-unsigned free agent.
The best option to stir the Reds from their doldrums could be Stephen Drew, a solid shortstop who has still not signed with a Major League club. Drew would provide a huge upgrade offensively over Zack Cozart, while also providing a veteran leader who won a World Series last year in Boston.
Drew made around $8 million last season, so he could probably be signed for close to that now. Obviously that is an increase over what the Reds are paying Cozart, who will probably make $8 million on his way to arbitration after this season.
The left-handed hitting shortstop would be a perfect fit for the number two spot in the Cincinnati batting order, providing protection for rookie speedster Billy Hamilton and setting the table for Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. He also hits the Cardinals, one of Cincinnati’s main rivals, better than any other team in the National League.
While he may not garner the excitement Puig brought to L.A. last summer, Drew could certainly be the catalyst Cincinnati has lacked for the first two months. The Reds front office better hurry, though. Several perennial contenders are showing needs at shortstop, including the Tigers and the Yankees.