When Willy Taveras signed a 2-year, $6.25 million deal, it seemed reasonable enough. After all, he couldn't be worse than Corey Patterson, right?
His projections called for something like .8 WAR, and if he could hit like he did in 2007 -- when he posted a .344 wOBA -- and play defense like he did in Houston -- when he was put up a shiny UZR of 27.8 over two seasons -- then you got one heck of a bargain. Granted, that probably wasn't going to happen in Jocketty's wildest fantasies, but $6.25 million for 1.5 WAR is about market rate.
Instead of the fantastic or even the realistic happening, Taveras has royally sucked. His defense has slightly above average. The big problem is he has a .262 wOBA, and yet somehow continues to have his named penned at the top of Dusty Baker's lineup card night after night. Leave it to Dusty prefer a languishing veteran over a younger, more talented player in the minors, and the Reds have two players who could easily top Taveres' "production" right now in Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey.
Drew Stubbs, the Reds' 1st round pick in 2006, is everything Red fans wish Willy T. was. He steals bases, in fact he's leading the International League in swipes with 25, and has only been caught four times. Unlike Willy, Stubbs knows how to get on base, he's walking 12.6% of his plate appearances and has a .382 OBP. He's also an elite defender, by the scouting reports and by the numbers -- his Total Zone in the minors is +39 since 2006. Stubbs may not have a ton of homerun power, but the potential is there for above-average power, and it's not hard to out-homer Willy Taveras. There's just no logical reason Stubbs should be in the minors right now.
Even if the Reds felt they needed to give Stubbs a little more seasoning in AAA, they also have another center field prospect in AA, who is absolutely crushing the Southern League to the tune of a .468 wOBA in Chris Heisey. Heisey was drafted 16 rounds later than Stubbs out of a small college, and doesn't have the pure tools that Stubbs has, but he's steadily produced at each level before really going off this year. Between this season and the last he has stolen 42 bases and has been caught just twice, and over his minor league career he's been worth +66 runs with his glove, and has played all three outfield positions. Like Stubbs, he's not a masher, but he controls the bat well and takes his fair share of walks, over 11% the past two seasons.
Either of these two players represent a pretty significant upgrade over Corey Patterson Part 2, and I'm sure Reds fans are eager to see either of them get the call. The only problem is they have a manager who believes a player peaks when he is in his late thirties, so they may have to put up with a little more Willy then they'd wish.