I had relatively reasonable expectations for the 2019 Reds season. I predicted and still expect them to finish 81-81. I felt like the ceiling for this team was getting a Wild Card spot with near 87 wins. The floor being at least fourth place in the NL Central. Since 2015 I have not expected much from this Reds team in the way of wins but more so in player development. That narrative no longer fits this organization, or even die hard Reds fans expectations, even though the team hasn’t posted a competitive season since 2013.
The front office appears to be taking this team in the right direction with it’s aggressive offseason. I believe the coming month, as well as the upcoming offseason, will see how serious they are about creating a winning culture. I use this term loosely as the definition of a winning season is posting a record .500 or better. For die hards, band wagon, and new fans this has been a difficult team to follow for the most part for the last generation.
What would I define as a winning culture organization? The St. Louis Cardinals. Many of us, including myself, have despised them ever since the big brawl in 2010. I think that resentment has passed now especially with the Pirates and Cubs antics of recent memory. The Cardinals are THE definition of “Winning Culture”. Since 2000 they have had 18 winning seasons, four pennants, nine division titles, three wild card appearances, and most importantly two World Series titles. The Reds since 2000 have had only four winning seasons, two division titles, one wild card appearance, and ZERO playoff series wins. By no means am I expecting the Reds to live up to the Cardinals resume of winning. However, I do expect this organization to no longer accept losing, like it has in the past 20 years. The Reds can do this by investing in player development, knowing when to trade, opening up the payroll, and being aggressive in the trade and free agent markets.
For the past decade the Reds player development has been some of the worst in the league. According to Driveline Baseball, the Cincinnati Reds were 28th in player development from 2012-2019 for value generated from prospects signed and acquired in that time. Generating a whopping -$182 million.
Again that’s NEGATIVE 182 million dollars.
The Reds picks have either been total busts, slow to develop, or are still struggling in the minors. Outside of Winker and Senzel, not really a whole lot has been proven in the majors from this group. Until this offseason the Reds minor league organizations did not seemed to be synchronized with the front office into developing there best prospects. The Reds organization, as a whole, now appears to be striving towards the same goals of development. That couldnt’ have been made more apparent with all the new hires within the front office as well as new jobs created specifically for player development. The Reds farm system is still rated as one of the better systems in baseball with Trammell, Greene, India, and Lodolo on the horizon. The future looks promising. Hopefully now with the Reds investing more in player development we can see more success with the draft picks in coming years.
When it comes to trading, I’m gonna start with some of the good news. They did acquire Gray, Roark, Puig, and Farmer while giving away nothing (by nothing I mean Homer Bailey and some lesser known prospects). They were able to trade for Castillo, Disco, and Suarez all for players who’s best days were behind them. However, when the rebuild started this team held out way too long to have a fire sale. One that should have begun during the 2014 trade deadline but instead start until after the 2015 All-Star game, hosted by Cincinnati. The Reds would ultimately trade Cueto, Chapman, Leake, Fraizer, Bruce and Phillips. The only players that are even still some what relevant from these trades are Peraza, Schebler, and Reed. Most of those acquired have flunked out of the majors by now. None of which are making a substantial production for this team right now. They were also kind enough to hold onto Cozart long enough to make the All-Star team but failed to trade at the deadline. Hamilton and Harvey were also, at one point last year, announced traded through waivers until that deal fell through. However, that apathy towards the trade market changed this offseason. The front office proved to be one of, if not the most aggressive this offseason. I hope to see that near the trade deadline. That goes for both if they are buyers or sellers. I really hope any one of the players in contract years that they decide to hold past the break is at least offered a contract for next season or beyond. They can no longer afford to sit on there hands while the rest of the NL Central continues to build competitive teams. I hope this past offseason of aggressiveness is a sign of things to come before the deadline.
This year was the Reds highest payroll in the teams history. Dick Williams has even said they are entering a period where they expect to win and that the payroll will at least be as much as it was this year. What makes this offseason an incredible opportunity for the Reds going into the free agent market is they’ll have lots of dough to spend. As of now the Reds are only committed to $60 million for the 2020 season. Puig, Roark, Wood, Scooter, Iglesias, and Hernandez are all free agents who walk at the end of this year.
Some of the current players on the roster are eligible for arbitration. I doubt the Reds are interested in keeping all of those eligible. If Dick Williams and Nick Krall have proven anything over these past few seasons it’s that they are some of the best at getting the biggest bang for your buck through free agency. I fully expect them to blow us away with some of there acquisitions this offseason.
Finally something that is probably the most common complaint among many Reds fans is that they are small market team with a small market budget. I don’t really buy into that. For example, the Astros had a payroll of just $54 million in 2012. Their payroll now is $162 million with the 8th highest payroll in baseball. Even more important, they still have one of the most loaded minor league systems in baseball. How’d they do it? Check out the book The MVP Machine. It’s the new Moneyball.
I won’t delve into a whole lot of detail about it. Essentially they did by pouring money into there enhancing player development. Using the analytics to not just build better teams but develop better players. They used slow motion cameras to allow batters to adjust there swing better and pitchers to develop pitches or fix mechanics. Developing their youth while acquiring big name talent as well like Verlander and Cole. They have given themselves a 10 year window to be competitive while reinventing the game. The Reds have already shown they know how to work the free agency and trade markets. Now if they can open up there pocket books for a big free agency or contract extention they could finally make a serious leap forward next year. As well as all of the new front office people they have added to developing young talent they could be setting themselves up for a good window for the future to develop a winning culture in Cincinnati. Fans will welcome it with open arms.
A Look at the 2020 Reds
Taking a look at what the Cincinnati Reds roster may look like in 2020.
The 2019 version of the Cincinnati Reds was different from the past few years. New manager, new players, “rebuild” players finally getting called up. Unfortunately, the outcome was not that much different from years past. Players were moved at the deadline to help retool for the future. We all know this process far too well. Well, 2020 is the true start of “the future” of this organization. 2020 is the year they need to make the playoffs to keep the fanbase sane (according to my twitter feed). So, let’s dive in and see what this roster could look like.
This 2019 Reds roster will not likely produce 80 wins. Let’s get the facts out there. As of today (9/5/19) they are 65-75. Bringing back the same roster will not produce the same results. Plenty of players on the current roster are part of the future and some have yet to hit their prime.
Team needs/decisions for the offseason:
1) Bullpen help (especially adding a lefty)
2) Figure out the middle infield situation
3) 4th and 5th starters
4) The catcher situation
Let’s start with the pitching. What we know is Castillo, Gray, Bauer will be 3/5 of the starting rotation. I do not think Alex Wood will be brought back. Frankly, he can’t stay healthy. He pitched 30+ games each of the first three seasons in the league and reached that mark once in the past 6 seasons. His price tag will be too high for someone who’s honestly pitched “ok” this season. The 4/5 spots will be left open to DeSclafani, Mahle, Sims, (maybe) Gausman, or a free agent. I do not think many of the “prospects” will make the jump to make the team out of spring training. Vladimir Gutierrez is talented and had an up and down year in Louisville. Bringing back Gausman would be expensive and that money might be used elsewhere. Sims should get an extended look. He’s cheap, only 25, and shown he can strike out batters. DeSclafani has been good at times and a headache at times.
The bullpen needs stability. Players like Alaniz, Bowman, Herget, Mella, Peralta, Romano, Stephens, and Reed seem to be the most expendable. That’s not to say someone like Reed will build on this season to carry it over into next season which would be great. We all know a lefty would be appreciated. Right now, the pitching depth in the minors doesn’t seem to be ready for next season but a name to keep an eye on is Alex Powers. His 1.64 ERA this season and strong 2018 cannot go unnoticed. We all know Stephenson, Lorenzen, Garrett will be back. Iglesias is not as sure of a thing.
The catching situation could be the exact same as 2019. Barnhart and Casali have been, well, fine. But we all know management looked into trading for a catcher last offseason so I wouldn’t say either is a lock. Organizational depth is slim with Stephenson being the big prospect name and Reds legend Ryan Lavarnway released recently. (They are building his statue.)
The infield is a wild 2020 prediction. We know Votto at first and Suarez at third is a lock. Seems that Galvis will be back at either second or short. Iglesias will be due for a pay increase and his situation should be an article of its own. Mr. May, Derek Dietrich, offers similar versatility as VanMeter at a higher cost and less production. I’d say he’s elsewhere. Peraza and Blandino are not bad as backups but contending teams typically look for upgrades. I would expect at least Peraza gone. Do it all Kyle Farmer should be on the 2020 squad. I would not be surprised to see VanMeter as the second baseman next year or used in a utility role but getting near everyday at-bats.
The outfield is a bit easier to predict. We know Senzel will start in center while Aquino will be in right and Winker/Ervin will be on the roster. Aquino has been so much fun, but it would be absurd to think this pace keeps up. However, he has earned a starting spot in RF for 2020. Left might be some platoon of Winker and Ervin. Ervin against lefties, Winker against righties. O’Grady and prospect Jose Siri provide depth. Siri is fast as hell and plays top end defense so having him as a back up wouldn’t be a bad idea. He needs work with the bat so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reds brought in a free agent for competition for a back up in spring training. Scott Schebler will be elsewhere. Although I think he still has MLB talent I think he needs a fresh start.
The “random” breakout players are always welcomed as well. O’Grady, VanMeter, and Aquino weren’t expected to be making contributions this season and look where they are.
A few names that could take a similar route:
Narciso Crook (Outfield)
Luis Gonzalez (Shortstop)
Chadwick Tromp (catcher)
Just to name a few from Louisville
Regardless of what is in hold for the long and cold offseason, 2019 has been fun. It was weird and also showed us a glimpse of what is to come.
Unappreciated Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Farmer
Numbers don’t tell the whole story when you look at Kyle Farmer. His value goes far beyond the box score.
On December 21st, 2018, the Dodgers and Reds made a splash in the offseason with a blockbuster deal. The Reds received aging all-star Matt Kemp, animated outfielder Yasiel Puig, lefty Alex Wood, and a versatile utility player named Kyle Farmer. While Kemp’s Reds career ended after 20 games and fan favorite (and now U.S. citizen) Puig’s career ended in a trade, Wood and Farmer very much could be part of the Reds future.
What Kyle Farmer brings to this team is far beyond the box score. David Bell has shown trust and confidence in Farmer and his ability to pinch-hit. Offensively Farmer has improved from his first two seasons in LA. Over two seasons with the Dodgers he only played in 59 games and had 88 at bats. A .250 hitter with no home runs his value might have seen minimal. Reds fans saw his value immediately in spring training when he would catch bullpens then play short and second. Due to injuries, he found himself on the 25-man roster to begin the season. Many thought he would be the first sent down but his pinch-hitting and versatility proved his value to be too high. Farmer has played first, second, third, catcher, and pitcher. I have to mention his pitching stat line: 1.1 innings 1 hit 0.00 ERA. Hell yeah. With Casali injured Farmer has stepped in as the team’s second catcher and Alex Wood’s “personal” catcher. As many of you all know Wood and Farmer have been teammates and friends for a long time. The familiarity they have only helps each other during the game. Farmer’s 7 home runs look good, but his other numbers could use some work. .248/.288/.438 and 45 K’s to only 5 BB are not great. Improving on the walk to K ratio would go along way for his development. If you watched the Cubs series, you saw a few great plays he made at second. He is no Jose Iglesias, but he can hold his own.
How does Farmer play into the Reds future? Well, it’s no secret that the catching depth is not the Reds strength. Tucker is under contract but Casali is on a one-year deal, with arbitration left. In the minors, Tyler Stephenson looks promising but after that it’s slim. Questions on where Jose Iglesias (if resigned), Galvis, Peraza, VanMeter, Dietrich, and even Blandino will get playing time could limit Farmer’s time at second base. Votto will get plenty of off days next season and Farmer could pick up at-bats at first. Dietrich, if brought back, might get the at bats against right handers. What if Alex Wood is resigned? You could keep Farmer as a pinch hitter/late game sub and have him catch Wood every fifth game. His ability to catch opens opportunities for Bell to pinch hit his backup catcher (Casali) and not worry about a “what if” situation when they need a catcher in late innings/extras.
While there are plenty of unknowns about this team as the offseason approaches, we do know that David Bell values versatility and Farmer brings just that. Maybe knowing that he really does deserve to be in the big leagues will help his confidence going into the offseason. Either way, he’s a fun player to watch and adds value to this Reds club.
Here’s a couple of home runs for you:
Series Recap: Chicago Cubs
Here’s what we learned about the Reds, moving forward in 2019, after the weekend against the Cubs.
The Reds split a series with the Chicago Cubs in August and the fans feel upset. As strange as it might sound, that’s a good sign. In recent years I would be excited about splitting with the Cubs in August. The upset feeling shows this team is different. Expectations have changed. What we saw over the past four games leads fans to believe the future is bright.
The buzz across Reds twitter Thursday was refreshing to see. Fans were more engaged and thrilled to see the Reds welcome the first place Cubs to town for a four-game tilt.
Well, the first game was not a good start. Wood had a rough start going only three innings, Gausman made his debut, Sims showed a strong outing and David Hernandez did much of what he has been doing all season; disappointing fans. Hernandez, like many announcers have said after a pitch he’s thrown, “He’s gone”. We did see Phillip Ervin deliver a 4-hit night, Aquino continues to catch everyone’s attention, and Kyle Farmer displays his versatility by pitching 1.1 innings surrendering one lone hit and throwing slightly slower than Aroldis Chapman.
Friday was a different story. Trevor Bauer gave up a homer to new Cub and new Reds killer Nicholas Castellanos then was smooth sailing as he went 7 innings. The Reds collected 6 hits with no one having more than 1 but it was enough to show they wouldn’t go away easily.
Was Saturday the best Reds game this year? If seeing Cubs fans mad ranks high on your list than it might have been. Everyone besides Sal Romano had a hit and Aquino is now *checks notes for confirmation* the best player to ever play the game. His three homers and going back to back with Senzel gave us a glimpse into the future. Sonny Gray’s 2 hits allowed matched his 2 RBI he had at the plate. Sal Romano earned the rare 3 out save and Brian O’Grady had his first big league hit. The Reds won and momentum for Sunday was at a level we haven’t seen this season.
Having the Ace on the mound was not enough to earn the win Sunday. Castilo went 6.2 innings with 3 ER but Michael Lorenzen could not get an out. Bryant’s homer gave the Cubs the lead and they didn’t look back. A disappointing and frustrating loss to say the least. Jeff Carr said it best: “This is kinda where the Reds are in 2019. They are fun, they are interesting, they are entertaining…they are not a playoff team.”
What we learned from this series:
– Aquino is not only fun to watch but he is a legit piece for the future
– Sal Romano and Lucas Sims will get a chance to show how they can play into 2020
– Ian Happ and Nickolas Castellanos are banned for the City of Cincinnati (waiting on confirmation)
– Kyle Farmer had some great defensive plays and is very important to this team (Farmer article coming soon)
– Angel Hernandez should be embarrassed
– The Reds missed an opportunity to climb the standing but didn’t completely fall out
All in all, it was a fun series and seeing the fanbase this interested and invested in August is refreshing. Still plenty to learn about this roster and what it could look like next year. Let’s see if the Punisher can hit one to the White House.