Cincinnati Reds fans watched the Milwaukee Brewers make a significant trade and free agent signing this offseason. Christian Yelich or Lorenzo Cain, many thought, sure would have looked good in center field in Great American Ballpark. Now they’re playing left and center at Miller Park.
Then there was talk of signing a starting pitcher like Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. None of those guys will be in red either.
Do the Reds really want to win?
Yes, they do, but Dick Williams and company have taken a realistic view that’s not easy for fans to accept and that Joey Votto has seen enough of. Like it or not, they have more patience than most fans, display an ethic of spending wisely and are probably holding some money back for the near future.
And numbers (that we will get to soon) show that the Reds’ approach isn’t much different from what a lot of teams do with the exception of the big payrolls on the East and West coasts and a couple of others in bigger markets. Small-market teams can win championships, but they can’t be as consistently competitive as the others.
Since 2010 the Reds have been that kind of team with three winning seasons and five losings ones.
The Reds aren’t idle even when it feels like it. They make trades and sign free agents and find players on waivers like Scooter Gennett in an effort to be more competitive. But they rarely do anything flashy for an immediate impact or to inflate the payroll.
Is Ken Griffey Jr. the last flashy move they made?
Instead, the Reds sign relievers like Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. Those might be great additions to the bullpen, but they might also turn out more like Drew Storen.
Greg Holland, the free agent who saved 41 games for the Rockies last year, is still available if the Reds want some expensive bullpen help. But hurdles like Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago, a high walk rate last year and post-All-Star Game slump seem to be keeping front offices away.
Signing a guy like Holland is at most what Reds fans can expect until at least July.
The rebuild lingers as the Reds wait to see what will blossom from youngsters Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Shed Long, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, etc., etc. A year from now we could be talking about that big trade or signing that fills in the missing piece or two for a contending team.
However, the Reds are a business with the long view and they want to see if their investments in these players pays off before they start shopping. So no guarantees.
The sense is that the Reds are trying to do it all through the farm system while others spend freely. But, to be fair, is the makeup of their projected 25-man roster this season all that unusual? The numbers don’t show the Reds to be out of whack with the rest of baseball.
The average number of homegrown players projected to be on a National League roster on opening day is 8.1. The Reds will probably have 11 (at least they are above average at something.) But that’s not the most.
The Cardinals will have 13 and the Mets 12.
The Phillies, Pirates and Rockies will also have 11.
Teams like the Braves, Marlins and Padres drag the average down with four or five apiece.
The Reds will likely start the season with six players acquired by trade and seven signed as free agents. Those totals are right about league average.
So the Reds have put together their 25-man roster like most teams do. A little bit of this and a little bit of that at bargain prices. And that’s how it’s going to be this season and probably beyond.
The hot stove next offseason should be a little hotter. Maybe not five years, $100 million hotter for an all-star, but it will warm us a little. That long list of prospects will only yield so much.
If the Reds truly want to win, it’s hard to imagine them taking a status quo approach at the trade deadline or in the next offseason. Fans are encouraged by the long-term contract for Eugenio Suarez. But they don’t really believe you are trying to win until you flash some cash at free agents.
Homegrown talent, cheap free agents and underwhelming trades only get you so far. The up-and-comers will have to be better than most up-and-coming groups or the front office will have to be more aggressive traders and free-agent signers.
Otherwise, this rebuild will lack a strong foundation.
And next year’s Yelich, Cain or Arrieta won’t wear red either.
The Cincinnati Reds and the 20 Pitch Limit
When it comes to quirky early Cactus League season games, there’s a lot to know. One this is the 20-pitch limit a manager can invoke on an inning his guy is getting clobbered in. The Cincinnati Reds have already done this.
This Spring has seen an interesting beginning in that teams have smaller rosters than normal (though still plenty of players to go around) and they can choose to play shorter games. One other added wrinkle of differentness is the ability of a manager to “throw in the towel” whenever his pitcher reaches 20 pitches in an inning.
The Reds have already taken advantage of this twice, both during the beat down at the hands of the Athletics. Sal Romano got the curtain pulled on him in the fourth inning while Shane Carl heard the music in the fifth. These don’t necessarily paint a larger picture, as of yet, but it is interesting to note.
Carle doesn’t factor into the equation that is the Opening Day roster, but Big Sal surely does. He is out of minor league options (meaning he’d have to clear waivers to be assigned a minor league team) and he has shown some flashes of talent in the past. He could be valuable depth for the Reds bullpen, so calling it quits after 20 tosses (which frankly were all a consequence of Nick Senzel misplaying a ball early in the inning) doesn’t mean he’s out, but it is something to watch.
We’ll keep track here on the blog for more 20-pitch tap-outs.
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.