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01/08/10 2:38 PM EST

Inbox: Hanigan ready to man backstop?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon fields fans' questions

Will Ryan Hanigan be given a shot at the starting catcher's job or is he already penciled in as Ramon Hernandez's backup?
-- Nate L., Toledo, Ohio

Hernandez wasn't re-signed for $3 million to be a backup. But that doesn't mean Hanigan's catching gear will collect cobwebs in the dugout. Hanigan made a team-high 72 starts behind the plate during his rookie year in 2009, in part because Hernandez spent two months on the disabled list. Hernandez also played a lot of first base when Joey Votto was on the disabled list.

Hernandez is 33 and will need breaks to keep his surgically-repaired knee fresh. Many clubs would like to have a backup like Hanigan, who is a slight upgrade defensively for the Reds when he plays and is a decent hitter. Hernandez is better in run-producing situations, however, and the Reds need all of the offense they can get.

Do you think pitcher Aaron Harang will get traded? If so, where do you see him going, and who should we get for him?
-- Jacob B., Cincinnati

I can't offer predictions on the last two questions. On the first one, unless they're overwhelmed with a good trade proposal that brings both salary relief and prospects in return, Harang isn't going anywhere. I also don't believe he should be traded. The Reds need to keep as much starting pitching as they can, especially with Edinson Volquez not expected to be back until midsummer. Harang is capable of lasting 200 innings, having done it three times, and he has the fortitude to get through nearly any situation on the mound. If anyone is motivated to produce ace-like numbers after two consecutive rough seasons, it's Harang.

Obviously Harang's record wasn't much to look at the past two seasons, especially for the money he's been earning ($12.5 million in 2010). He's also prone to giving up the long ball. But he's also had hard luck working against him. In his 6-17 2008 season, his lineup averaged 3.52 runs per game of support. Last year while he went 6-14 before having season-ending surgery to remove his appendix August, it was 3.42 runs per game. The lineup scored two or fewer runs for him 12 times and got shutout twice.

If Harang can return to form, his value would shoot up and the trade return would be much better should the Reds fall out of the race and seek to unload players closer to the July 31 deadline.

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Are the Reds interested in acquiring a Matt Stairs-type player? I think they could use a player like that to pinch-hit in big situations.
-- Milton B., Harbor City, Calif.

I know they would like to add a hitter, and at their price range, I'd expect it would be someone that could come off the bench. When Javy Valentin was around, the Reds always had a veteran bullet off the bench that wouldn't be overwhelmed against another team's closer with a game on the line in the ninth. Last season, the team's best pinch-hitter seemed to be pitcher Micah Owings. Reds pinch-hitters had four homers and 26 RBIs last season while batting .227 -- all those stats ranked them in the middle-to-bottom range of the National League.

Why did the Reds re-sign Laynce Nix and forgo Jonny Gomes? Gomes adds protection behind Scott Rolen and has pop from the right side. The Reds already have Jay Bruce and Chris Dickerson from the left side in the outfield.
-- Dan M., Noblesville, Ind.

This perfectly illustrates the financial situation the Reds are operating under. Nix was re-signed to a Minor League deal with no guarantees but an invite to camp. I don't have the numbers yet on the contract but I'm guessing it will be close to the $600,000 plus incentives that he earned after making the team in 2009. Gomes was arbitration-eligible and non-tendered because the club knew he might get over $3 million with his raise after making $600,000 last year.

The best thing the Reds could do would be to sign Vladimir Guerrero to play right field. They need a right-handed bat. Until last year's pectoral injury, Guerrero had a string of .300 average/25 homer seasons. While he isn't the same defensive player he once was, his presence in the lineup would be similar to what Kevin Mitchell gave the Reds back in the mid 90's. Guerrero isn't going to get a large contract, so he might consider a nice little two-year deal with the Reds.
-- Eric G., North Judson, Ind.

The bat Guerrero wields would be nice for the Reds to have in their lineup, but he played all of two games in right field last year for the Angels. He seems headed to exclusive DH status with his next club in the American League. As for little contracts, that's not likely. Different reports have the Rangers offering Guerrero one year at either $5 million or $7 million. Considering the Reds weren't able to go to $3 million for Gomes , I don't anticipate them going higher for a 35-year-old Guerrero and definitely not for two years.

Which of the prominent left-field prospects (Juan Francisco, Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier) do you think has the best chance of winning the position before the end of the 2010 season? Do you see any of them eventually batting fourth or fifth in the order? I would like to see Phillips moved to second in the order personally, but that can't happen until we get another bona fide power hitter for the middle of the order.
-- Chad, Audubon, Pa.

Tough to predict what will happen by the end of the season. But Heisey seems to have the best opportunity of the three to start the season in the Majors in left field. As for what happens later in the year, it will be determined by the circumstances and, obviously, performance. You also can't count out players like Dickerson.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.