Inbox: Can Gomes handle left field?

Reds Inbox: Can Gomes handle left field?

Before getting to this edition of the Reds Inbox, I wanted to extend best holiday wishes to everyone. If you celebrated a few weeks ago, a belated Happy Hanukkah. For this weekend, I extend you a Merry Christmas or Happy Kwanzaa.

And of course, all the best to you and yours for 2011.

Are the Reds going to address left field? I'm not sold on Jonny Gomes for a whole year, plus the Cards adding Lance Berkman kind of worries me.
-- @jamiewhited on Twitter

It's weird to me how Gomes has become the guy fans want to rail against this winter. I've gotten a fair amount of e-mails from people who don't want him to start or are wondering if the Reds would trade him. He had a career-high 86 RBIs and is willing to eat a truck for his team if asked. I know he dipped from a blistering May and June, but if he kept up the pace he was on, he'd be Matt Holliday. And for all of $800,000 in 2010, he matched or outproduced much more expensive players like Jason Bay, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. Next year, Gomes will make $1.75 million -- also a pretty good bargain. Is his defense superlative? No, it isn't. But for the money he's making and the production he's had the last two seasons, I'll take it. Plus, he's a very good character guy to have in the clubhouse and the Reds don't discount that.

The only thing that could change Gomes' status in left field is if the Reds add a leadoff hitter that happens to play left field. Especially if that person is a left-handed hitter (someone like Scott Podsednik or Fred Lewis), then a platoon situation of some sort could develop.

As for Berkman, the Cardinals should be more worried than you. While there is no doubt that he can rake, I'm one of many people who are curious to see how, at 35 years old, he will hold up playing the outfield every day. That's something he hasn't done on a regular basis since 2004, and the St. Louis outfield that has the less-than-stellar defense of Holliday and Berkman could be troublesome.

What's Walt Jocketty's highest priority between getting a genuine leadoff hitter, shortstop or starting pitcher?
-- @kevkhayat on Twitter

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A leadoff hitter is something they would like, but not want if the price is too high. I'd look for them to zero in on a reasonably priced left-handed hitter for the bench and perhaps a veteran backup shortstop to play behind Paul Janish. There is no need to add starting pitching since they already have more quality arms than available spots.

Who do you expect to be the Opening Day starter? Bronson Arroyo is definitely the most veteran pitcher with more experience. But I think Johnny Cueto or Edinson Volquez would be an interesting play against the Brewers' Zack Greinke.
-- mcdiesel21, commenting on Mark My Word blog

I believe Arroyo will get the offer to start like he did last spring. For his own reasons, the distractions of the opener don't suit him, and he asked to have Aaron Harang make the start. This time around, if Arroyo passes, I expect it would be Volquez. He's next down on the veteran totem pole and he'd be a great matchup against Greinke.

Is it a coincidence that Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs got hot right after Jim Edmonds was acquired? Did you hear any of that kind of talk?
-- Samantha

No, I didn't hear it, but I'm sure it didn't hurt as the 41-year-old Edmonds was a great presence and helped younger players even when he couldn't play because of injury. But hitting coach Brook Jacoby should be credited for his work, and manager Dusty Baker also worked with the hitters -- often helping both Bruce and Stubbs.

After seeing the Greinke trade to the Brewers, what would the Reds have given up? I see a shortstop was in the deal, so Zack Cozart or Chris Valaika or Dave Sappelt? Would they have given those type of pieces? Simply, what would it have taken?
-- Jonathon D.

It's not so simple and no, the Reds obviously weren't willing to give up those types of players since they never seriously got into the bidding. But for the sake of the question, it probably could have only started the conversation by offering one or two of the players you mentioned. It would have taken a whole lot more. Think about this -- Milwaukee gave up its best pitching prospect, its starting shortstop, a likely starting center fielder and a pitcher that was a first-round pick from 2008.

The Reds would have had to match or exceed that quality. And considering Greinke only has two years and $27 million left on his deal, the Reds weren't willing to go that far. The Brewers have plundered their farm system to get Greinke and pitcher Shaun Marcum and have put all their eggs in the 2011 basket. The Reds are trying to stay competitive for years to come.

Volquez, Cueto, Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, Travis Wood, Sam LeCure, Daryl Thompson and now, Dontrelle Willis. Am I forgetting anyone? Will the starting five please take one step forward. Not so fast, Thompson. What is the starting rotation going to be? It's like the making of a band with 10 guitarists. Who gets cut?
-- Dan M., Noblesville, Ind.

You forgot Matt Maloney. As for Willis, he will be in camp as a non-roster player trying to get a spot in the bullpen. Chapman is also most likely expected to get a bullpen spot. As for Thompson, he'll probably need at least a healthy start to the season in Triple-A after his injury-plagued 2010. As for who makes it, that's what Spring Training is for and it's a little early for predictions. After the definites of Volquez, Arroyo and Cueto, I see Bailey, Wood and Leake vying for those final two spots.

Do you think the Reds should look to sign a free-agent closer because Francisco Cordero has had his problems and Chapman isn't going to be in the bullpen for long?
-- Zack S., Lincoln, Neb.

Not when Cordero is being paid $12 million next season to close. If the Reds were to pick a different closer, it would be someone already in their uniform. Chapman would be a good candidate based on his 100-plus-mph velocity, but Nick Masset could also handle the ninth. But that's just speculation -- the job is Cordero's and I do not see that changing before the season starts.

Scott Rolen was a revelation last year, with the glove and the bat. But he seemed to slow toward the end of the season with injury. Where do you think the Reds will go for a solid backup for him?
-- Rob T., Fairfield, Ohio

They won't have to go far. Juan Francisco is still a top prospect who could get a shot if Rolen misses an extended amount of time. But if Rolen just needed a break here or there, Miguel Cairo did a nice job filling in last season.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.