It is May 7th and our beloved Redlegs sit at 8-26 on the season, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in baseball. It’s hard for me to get excited about the actual games during another lost season and I often find myself wondering how much longer we will have to wait to see a competitive Reds team. A lot of time has passed and the club has made a number of moves, but are they the right ones? Have the Reds front office shown the competency to bring an end to this rebuild and start winning? In this three-part series I hope to shed some light on who the Reds have acquired and determine if they will be on the next competitive Reds team and try to forecast when the Reds might start winning again.
The road to recovery starts with admitting that you have a problem in the first place. If you ask me, the Reds admitted this on Sunday, July 26, 2015, the day the Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Royals for starting pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed. What a sad day in Reds history. I will always have fond memories of Johnny pressed up against the backstop at GABP kicking any Cardinal within five feet of him. The results of that trade are not looking great. John Lamb is no longer in the organization, Cody Reed can’t seem to figure things out at the Major League level (or at AAA for that matter), and Brandon Finnegan has had injury issues and has been ineffective this season (8.27 ERA, -0.8 WAR). I think that Finnegan could still have success as a starter. He has three pitches that he throws pretty well (four-seam fastball, sinker, and slider), and his change up is still a work in progress. Finnegan could be a four or five starter on the next competitive team if he can develop his change up and limit the amount of fly balls he allows.
Our next stop brings us to the 2015 trade deadline, also known as the day the Reds traded Mike Leake to the San Francisco Giants for minor league pitcher Keury Mella and IF/OF Adam Duvall. Mella was not a super prospect when acquired in this trade, but was one of the best prospects that the Giants had to offer from their depleted minor league system. He got a cup of coffee with the Reds last year in a September call up and is currently in AA Pensacola. He has a 0.84 ERA over six starts with an impressive 32 strike outs compared to just six walks. Last year the Reds called up both Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle straight from AA and I don’t see why they can’t do the same with Mella. He could be a very interesting piece in the rotation if he can get batters out in the majors the way he does in the minors. We should all be familiar with the other player that the Reds acquired in that trade. Adam Duvall has been the Reds primary starter in left field since acquired in 2015 and was the Reds’ lone representative in the All Star game in 2016. He has shown impressive power and solid defense in left, but has really struggled as of late. This year he is the owner of a .192 batting average to go along with a .606 OPS. At this point in his career I think that he is a decent fourth outfielder at best and should not take playing time away from Jesse Winker or Scott Schebler. If the Reds are truly committed to the rebuild then they need to move on from Duvall starting everyday and let the younger, more talented hitters play. I don’t like his odds of contributing to the next competitive Reds team considering his age (30 in September) and declining bat.
The 2015 season mercifully came to an end and the Reds looked to the offseason to unload some more of their players. On December 16, 2015 the Reds sent third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox in a three team trade that also involved the Dodgers. They received infielder Jose Peraza, infielder Brandon Dixon, and outfielder Scott Schebler in return. Peraza has had mixed results during his time with the major league club. He finished the 2016 season with a .324 batting average over 256 plate appearances, had a dismal 2017 season that saw him benched at second base in favor of Scooter Gennett, and has showed signs of promise this year at short. After an 0-12 start to the season Peraza is now hitting a respectable .293 with an OPS of .713. He has also made strides on defense at shortstop and I can see him getting better and better each game. This would be huge if Jose can pan out and be an average shortstop at the major league level. It will allow Eugenio Suarez to remain at third and Nick Senzel to focus solely on playing second. I definitely think Jose can be a starter on the next great Reds team if he can continue to develop his glove at short. Scott Schebler was not thought of a as a highly touted prospect in this trade but has offered more value than expected. He has a lot of power potential and has hit for average when healthy. He got off to a great start last year but suffered a bruised rotator cuff on June 3rd which sapped him of some power until he finally went on the DL near the end of July. He still went on to hit a very quiet 30 home runs and ranked near the top in hard hit percentage amongst all outfielders last year. After a brief stint on the DL this year, Scott is hitting a solid .273 and is still hitting the ball incredibly hard. He is another player that I can see contributing to the next winning Reds team. Brandon Dixon was a throw in player that didn’t even crack the dodgers top 30 prospect list at the time. He is currently hitting .329 at AAA and has the chance to be a decent bat off the bench as well as a reliable utility infielder. Meanwhile Todd Fraizer has played for three different teams and hasn’t finished a season batting above .225. This trade is starting to look better and better as time goes by.
We will follow up a really good trade the Reds pulled off by taking a look at a really bad one. The club traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees on December 28, 2015 for four players, three of which are no longer in the Reds organization. The only one left, Rookie Davis, is on the 60 day DL after having hip surgery this past offseason and isn’t expected to be back until after the All Star break. Davis posted an 8.63 ERA in six starts last year for the Reds and looked in over his head. I am willing to hold out judgment until after he returns from injury but I do not expect him to be a top five starting pitcher in the future. I think the bullpen might be his best bet and even that might be a stretch. What hurts the most about this trade is that the Yankees turned around and traded him to the Cubs for much more than what the Reds got in return. The Yankees received uber infield prospect Gleyber Torres, reliever Adam Warren, and two other players from the Cubs in exchange for Chapman. There were reports that the Reds had a deal worked out with the Dodgers prior to the Fraizer trade but it fell through when MLB learned of a domestic dispute that Chapman had earlier in the offseason. This resulted in a 30 game suspension and diminished Chapman’s value on the trade market. If they would have waited until after the suspension they could have received much more from a team still in the playoff hunt and desperate for a shut down closer to bolster their bullpen.
We will leave it there for part one. So far the Reds have acquired some players capable of helping the Reds long term, and many who are no longer in the organization. In part two we will look at events that occurred starting with the 2016 amateur draft and bring us right up to the start of the 2018 season. Part three will focus on when the Reds might start winning again and even question their commitment to the rebuilding plan.
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