McCoy: What do the Reds need to move forward?

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McCoy: What do the Reds need to move forward?

As one fan said, “As I left the stadium, fans all around me were really mad, really upset. They were all saying, ‘How can you lose a 2-0 lead with three games at home to win one?’”

How, indeed? But it happened. It’s now unpleasant history for Cincinnati Reds baseball fans. Deal with it.

Just think about it — you could be Washington Nationals fans, walking around this weekend with Cardinal beaks stuck in your hearts.

Remember the good times, the 97 wins that tied the Nationals for most in baseball, the second playoff appearance in three years after none for 15 years, the Homer Bailey no-hitter, the Aroldis Chapman buzz, the Todd Frazier run for Rookie of the Year.

And then think about next season and what needs to be done to take the next step toward the World Series.

  • 1. Is Dusty Baker coming back as manager or will he walk away? It is believed the Reds have offered him a short-term contract but he is seeking a long-term deal. The Noisy Minority wants Baker to find an out-of-state job, but The Silent Majority appreciate what he did this year against most odds as body after body went down in battle.

To steal a line from broadcaster Marty Brennaman, “In 40 years, I’ve never seen the perfect manager.” Nor have I, nor has anybody, nor will anybody ever see one. Baker, though, is perfect for this team and if the Reds let him walk they aren’t trying to stay on course.

  • 2. The priority for general manager Walt Jocketty is to see if the Reds can re-sign outfielder Ryan Ludwick, one of the few players who showed up for the last three games. Ludwick stepped up his game when Joey Votto went down and eventually filled clean-up hole in the batting order.

The Reds and Ludwick have a mutual $5 million option for 2013, but Ludwick is a free agent and with the season he spliced together other teams will be at his door, hats in hand.

While the Reds may not be able to match some of the offers, perhaps they can come close enough that Ludwick will return for a slight discount in appreciate for the Reds enabling him to resurrect his nearly dead career.

If he re-signs Ludwick, the left field and clean-up spots are plugged, permitting him to concentrate on his continuous and lengthy pursuit of a prototypical leadoff hitter. That would enable Brandon Phillips to be relieved of duty at the top of the order and dropped to his most comfortable spot, No. 2.

And the domino effect would be completed by dropping Zack Cozart from No. 2 to the lower part of the order, where he belongs.

Michael Bourn is a free agent. But is he affordable? He certainly would plug the leadoff spot. And center field, where he has won a couple of Gold Gloves over many talented competitors.

Center field? Yes, center field. As much talent as Drew Stubbs has hidden away in his fleet body, that talent refuses to reveal itself in Cincinnati. It probably is time for him to try his luck in some other venue if Jocketty can put together a trade that isn’t a giveaway.

  • 3. And then there is free agent pitcher Jonathan Broxton. Before Jocketty can deal with him, a decision must be made on Aroldis Chapman — bullpen or rotation?

The Grand Plan last spring was for Chapman to be in the rotation and he was the best pitcher in spring training. But injuries to Ryan Madson, Nick Masset and Bill Bray took the Grand out of the Plan and Chapman was needed in the bullpen, where he became one of baseball’s best closers.

Does he stay or does he go? If they want Chapman in the rotation, he needs to begin preparing now. And they would need to sign Broxton to be the closer, his natural spot. He saved 23 games for the moribund Kansas City Royals in half a season before they traded him to the Reds and he became Chapman’s set-up guy.

Broxton made $4 million this year and it might not be a hard sell to get his signature on a Reds contract for a couple of years.

  • 4. There appears to be an opening at third base because Scott Rolen’s contract is up and he more than hinted that his strikeout to end the season is probably his last major-league at-bat.

The opening is there for Todd Frazier, who made one start there during the five-game NLDS. Does he get that chance or do the Reds go hunting?

Although Baker didn’t use him much when Scott Rolen was healthy, Baker said of Frazier, “He is going to be an every day player for a long time to come.”

In Cincinnati? Yes, if Baker returns.

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