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.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.
The Cincinnati Reds Optimal Lineup
Let’s look past the Opening Day Lineup to the lineup the Cincinnati Reds could have, if everything is going right.
There will be many things said/written about the Opening Day Lineup and what that should like for the Cincinnati Reds. With the first full team workout happening Monday, let’s take a look at what the lineup should look like if things are going well for the Reds, this season. I’m going to exclude positions for this experiment and you’ll see why.
- Shogo Akiyama – Ideally, Shogo will be getting on base much closer to the clip he posted in September than the one he did in August of last year. If he does this, he will be producing what the Reds hoped he would when they made him the first Japanese-born Cincinnati Red.
- Jesse Winker – He broke out in a big way in 2020 and was the Reds best hitter. There’s no reason to think that won’t, at the very least, continue and probably will even get better.
- Eugenio Suarez – He should be the Reds best hitter and I believe he will regain that title in 2021.
- Mike Moustakas – Moose has always been a run driver-inner and, if things are going well he will continue to do so.
- Nick Castellanos – he could be the third hitter, but it would be an amazing season, indeed, if he gets on-base at a higher clip than Geno.
- Joey Votto – this isn’t meant to be an insult, just realistic. I’ve seen and heard takes putting him in the three-spot. That’s a great idea in 2017. Now, any power should be considered a bonus with the main expectation of him being an on-base catalyst for the bottom of the lineup/turning over of the lineup.
- Nick Senzel – him being down here is more a hope that the top six indeed prove worthy to be top six. This is also hoping he’s healthy enough to play everyday, or almost everyday, and build up enough momentum to produce at the level he is capable of. Also, the not labelling defensive position thing is because he should be in the running as a shortstop option, but it sure feels like that’s not the case. Before you say, “Jeff, he’s not a shortstop…” who on this roster is? Get the best eight (nine if the NL miraculously gets the DH) in the lineup and worry about defense later. That’s pretty much how this roster is built, anyway.
- Tyler Stephenson – in a few years, he should be hitting in the middle of the order. In 2021, let’s keep the pressure on low and watch him thrive in the box.
- Pitcher (again, we’ll reassess if the players and owners ever get together and figure this out before the season begins, but we aren’t holding our breath).
This lineup could be pretty good…maybe. As fans we can hope, the folks who run the Reds should not lean on that. The lineup I propose should only be if each player is performing to the level that is expected of him. More than likely, this lineup will not happen, because it is doubtful every single bat bounces back in 2021.