It feels like centuries ago when the Reds fielded a good baseball team. In 2013 the Reds won 90 games then fired Dusty Baker leading to their downhill slide. 2014 brought 76 wins followed by a lousy 64 wins in 2015, 68 in 2016, 68 in 2017, and 67 in 2018. Folks, that’s four straight last-place finishes. The rebuild was in process. Think of the big names and fan favorites that would be traded you think of Cueto, Frazier, Phillips, Bruce, Chapman, and others. Here is a breakdown of what the Reds acquired for a combined 12-time All-Stars:
* Indicates players in the Reds organization
Todd Frazier – Jose Pereza*, Scott Schebler*, Brandon Dixon
Brandon Phillips – Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo
Jay Bruce – Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell
Johnny Cueto – Brandon Finnegan*, Cody Reed*, John Lamb
Mike Leake- Adam Duvall, Keury Mella*
Mat Latos – Anthony DeSclafani*, Chad Wallach
Aroldis Chapman – Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda
Jonathan Broxton – Kevin Shackelford*, Barrett Astin
Dan Straily- Luis Castillo*
Take the pitchers from this list and look at their stats combined in a Reds uniform:
43-92 record 6.03 ERA 6.3 WAR
Now remove Castillo and DeSclafani: 5-47 record (!)
7.25 ERA -2.3 WAR
Some of these pitchers are still young and can still turn it around and produce effectively for the Reds. You can find better statistics and break it down this way or that way and yeah yeah yeah. *Rolls eyes* At the end of the day the return, overall, simply is not strong. The Chapman trade and Cueto trade sting because they are the most talented pitchers on the list and the return was nowhere close to their worth. Castillo, as many young pitchers do, has had his ups and downs. At times he throws like an ace and at times he looks lost. His stats post All-Star break last year: 2.44 ERA, 5-4 record (Reds only won 24 games in that span), .206 BAA while striking out 69 and only walked 14. Castillo’s potential is high, he has the talent, now it is time for him to put it all together consistently.
The hitters that were brought in from these trades are headlined by Jose Pereza and Scott Schebler. Adam Duvall hit some home runs (84 to be exact) in a Reds uniform but only batted .235 while posting a .297 OBP, which is .01% worse than Billy Hamilton. Pereza has shown he has the stuff to be a good everyday shortstop now and in the future. At only 24 (25 in April) years old the Reds are set up well at short for the future. Schebler hit 30 home runs in 2017, but only 17 last year. He will see more time in center this year but is not the future in that position. He is a great lefty bat that will get plenty of at-bats and pinch-hit opportunities. Dixon, Herrera, Wallach, and Renda all failed to bat over .200 in a Reds uniform while Jagielo never got to wear one.
The most important and impactful rebuild trade was the Alfredo Simon trade with the Tigers that brought in Eugenio Suarez and Jonathan Crawford. Crawford is a career minor leaguer, but Suarez is an All-Star. In retrospect, one might ask “How did the Reds get Suarez for Simon?!” Alfredo Simon was 8-12 with a 5.18 ERA and -.4 WAR with the Baltimore Orioles when the Reds snagged him off waivers in April 2012. He was a starter, then a reliever, then a spot starter, then back to reliever, and he really didn’t have a fit in Baltimore. Simon was a better waiver claim than Scooter Gennett (HOT TAKE ALERT). Simon had a 26-23 record with a 4.06 ERA and 2.0 WAR in his four seasons as a Red that included a 15-10 All-Star season in 2015. For some reason it felt like a fluke. He couldn’t keep this up, right? Right.
Following the season, the Reds made a smart move to shop Simon and trade him to the Tigers. Simon’s $5.5 million contract might have looked like his 5.05 ERA, but that was not his value. Simon was let go after one season in Detroit. The Reds brought him back on one of those awkward return to the Reds and get cut in June deals we are all familiar with. Suarez, on the other hand, has developed into one of the top third basemen in the league.
With the Tigers, Suarez was a top-10 prospect in their organization clocking in around the seven to nine range. The Venezuelan shortstop played 81 games with the Tigers in 2014. When he came over in a winter trade, Zack Cozart manned short forcing Suarez to AAA Louisville. After Cozart suffered an injury, Suarez got his chance. He hit 13 home runs while batting .280 in 97 games. Cincinnati needed to find him at-bats, moving forward, making Frazier expendable, at that time.
Suarez had a monster 2018 season that he hopes to build off of, going into 2019. Amongst third basemen, he was second in home runs and RBI while ranking top-5 in walks, Slugging percentage, and WAR. He committed 23 errors which is the least he has made in a Reds uniform. Before the season Cincinnati locked up Suarez with a 7-year $66 million dollar extension. A deal that sets the Reds up to succeed now and in the future.
The value of this deal is incredibly important for the Reds and their rebuild. The Reds now have a special talent at third on a deal that gives the team more money to spend elsewhere. Compare Suarez salary of $7 million, average annual value, to third basemen around the league: Rendon ($18+), Bryant ($12+), Turner ($19), Carpenter ($14+), Arenado ($26), Seager ($19), Longoria ($14+), Frazier ($9), Prado *squints eyes* ($15). The most Suarez will make is $15 million in 2025, his age 33 season. Another aspect of this contract is it does not last until he is old and potentially not playing at the same level. The issue with the Machado and Harper signings is that teams do not want a big price tag on an aging player (Albert Pujols). Machado is due $30 million dollars in the last year of his contract when he will be 35 years old. We will have to wait and see how that plays out.
Now that the Reds have Suarez locked up what should fans expect from him? Since becoming the everyday third baseman, each year he has increased his home runs, RBI, average, WAR, and extra-base hits. At only 27 years old (28 in July) he is entering the prime of his career. The Reds will field more offensive talent in 2019. Gaining Puig, Kemp, Senzel, and getting Jesse Winker back will only help Suarez. This could lead to more at-bats with runners on. His slot in the batting order is not locked in yet, but he should fall in the 4-6 range. In 2019 Suarez saw the most at-bats in the 5 hole (336) batting .259 with a .368 OBP hitting 13 home runs and driving in 46. When batting 6th his stats were .282 avg., .392 OBP, 9 home runs, 23 RBI in only 124 at-bats.
Regardless of where he hits, he will hit. I am looking forward to this year for Suarez and many more years to come. The Reds have positions to fill for this year and the near future, third base is not one.
Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions
We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.
MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.
Riley O’Brien RHP
O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected
Vladimir Gutierrez RHP
The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected
Jacob Heatherly LHP
Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected
Alfredo Rodriguez SS
It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected
TJ Friedl OF
Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected
Joel Kuhnel RHP
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected
Mariel Bautista OF
Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected
Jared Solomon RHP
To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected
None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.
Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.
This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.
Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.
With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered.
(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)
As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.
According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.
This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.
I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man?
Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.
It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.
Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More
Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021
It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.
What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..
The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.
In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.
If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?
The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)
What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.
Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder
I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist. So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.
WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.
Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.
Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.
WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.
Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations.
Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl
I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl