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Are the Reds in a better position than last season?

Jacob Rude

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It feels like it’s been ages since the Cincinnati Reds looked like a real, contending team. A win over St. Louis on July 14 gave the Reds a record of 43-52, the only time this season the team dipped below 10 games under .500. It also meant the Reds had gone 40-34 in the post-Bryan Price era, 18-7 over the previous 25-game stretch and had taken series from the Cardinals, Cubs (a four-game sweep, even!) and Atlanta.

Since then, it’s been nothing but sadness, particularly since the All-Star break. Injuries have decimated the roster with Joey Votto, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker all spending time either on the disabled list or, in Winker’s case, having the season come to an end as a whole.

The once-competent Reds look destined to finish with a worse record than year’s past even despite the promising middle months of the season. Heading into Friday’s contest, the Reds are 59-82. At the same point last year, the Reds were 61-79. Two years ago, the team was 59-82. The team needs to reach the 69 win mark to finish with a better mark than years past. To avoid another 90-loss season, the team must go 14-7.

In short, it doesn’t look great for the franchise, which begs the question, are the Reds really in a better spot than years past?

Coming into the season, the Reds appeared to have a plethora of starting pitching options, more than one rotation could even hold. And that didn’t even include Homer Bailey or Matt Harvey. Fast forward six months and there’s never been more uncertainty about the starting pitching.

Luis Castillo has been disappointing in his sophomore season. At times he looks incredible, like going 6.2 innings while allowing just two hits and striking out 11 against the Cardinals. At other times, like the start that preceded that in which he lasted just 3.2 innings while allowing five runs, he’s frustrated.

Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano suffered struggles of their own. While both had positive signs, the negatives outweighed the good and both were demoted in separate ways, the former sent to AAA and the latter to the bullpen. Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson look like lost causes as starters. Reed has shown enough promise to earn a chance in the bullpen while Stephenson looks like a player that needs a change of scenery.

Harvey and Bailey hardly deserve discussion about the future. Neither belong in the present Reds rotation and certainly don’t warrant a spot in the coming seasons.

While the bullpen has been largely a positive for the team this season, overall, the pitching has tons of question marks. Free agency or trades could address the matter but it means the team can’t address other holes with their limited funds.

The offense has not been a source of questions. When at full strength, the Reds not only have an offense worthy of competing at a high level but one of the best in the league. Heading into next season, the Reds will have some combination of Votto, Schebler, Winkler, Nick Senzel, Eugenio Suarez and even potentially Scooter Gennett in the lineup. That’s the type of offense that a contending team should have.

The biggest source of concern for the Reds, though, is not on the field but off of it. Recent moves, or lack thereof, have raised many concerns about the structure of the front office. While President Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall are saying many of the right things publicly, owner Bob Castellini has handcuffed both of them.

The comments about the team not moving Billy Hamilton and Harvey point to an owner unwilling to let those who he hired have freedom. And when your boss is hovering around in the day-to-day operations, it wears on a front office.

To be honest, does any fan trust Castellini to make the moves necessary to turn the Reds into a winner now? Hamilton’s time as a starter should be done. Harvey and Bailey’s time as Reds should be done. Gennett should have been traded months ago and that’s not even taking into account the necessity of finding a spot for Senzel in next year’s team.

Because of Castellini’s lingering, the Reds appear to be in a worse position than any year prior. The team is on the brink of capping off the rebuild and balking at the trade deadline could prove costly. Even then, the correct sequence of moves in the off-season could still put the Reds back into contention. But the question marks are continuing to arise more quickly than they disappear and without a properly-functioning front office, the Reds may be moving backwards than forward.

Jacob is a journalist and lifelong sports fan across the board. From soccer to basketball to baseball, he enjoys watching his favorite team’s break his heart. After finishing up at Indiana University and majoring in journalism, Jacob is now a sports editor during the day and an online journalist at night.

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