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Reds rebuilding strategy a common path but not complete

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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.

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Cincinnati Reds

Remembering Reds: Corky Miller

Among the Reds’ fan favorites is a man not known for his statistical achievements, but for simply how awesome he was.

Clay Snowden

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Morgan, Bench, Robinson, Larkin, and Miller. All names that Reds fans recog…wait, Miller? As in Corky Miller? Absolutely. Corky Miller, the minor league catcher with 539 career MLB at bats. The Miller that holds a career .193/.277/.306 53 OPS+ and a 0.0 WAR, yet everyone knows his name. And adores him. His stats won’t jump off the page, but his laid back attitude and fu Manchu leave a mark on your memory.
Signed by the Reds in 1998, Miller did not reach the show until 2001. In his 11 year career spanning from 2001-2013 (didn’t appear in 2011/2012) Miller never played more than 39 games in one season. So how did he become a household name? Well, probably because he looks more like your fun uncle than your favorite team’s catcher. Now don’t get me wrong, Corky brought value to the teams he was on. He was as much as a coach/mentor as he was a ballplayer. You will still find him in the Reds organization helping the young catchers develop. Let’s take a look at some of Corky’s highlights.

Corky steals home

https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=1802290979915796

When you think about baseball players stealing home you might immediately think about the great Jackie Robinson sliding in against the Yankees as Yogi Berra losses his mind at the “safe” call. Hell, you might even think about Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pulling off the impossible feat in the last scene of the Sandlot. Well, Corky Miller joined this elite group on September 27th, 2001. As Omar Daal of the Phillies threw to first Miller showed off his wheels as his much slimmer self had a perfect slide under the tag. Miller walked back to the dugout as if he’s done this 1,000 times. Incredible swagger.

The Dancing KING

Fast forward to late June 2013. Miller finds himself back in a Reds uniform for the first time since 2010. Looking more like the Corky we know and love, sporting the fu Manchu, Miller shows off his quick footwork. Juan Uribe flies out to Jay Bruce who’s throw home took Corky off to the left of home. Hanley Ramirez, not the best baserunner himself, runs past home, retreats, dances around the grounded Miller only to be tagged on the third attempt while flailing towards home. This is so ugly that it is absolutely beautiful.

The Next Cy Young

Corky was more than a catcher and fan favorite. He was an elite pitcher. Well, maybe not elite. Over his career in the minors he pitched 7.2 innings and surrendered 14 hits, 13 earned runs and struck out 2. But in 2012 while playing for the Louisville Bats he pitched a scoreless inning. Down 13-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Miller came in to throw some rainbows in the general direction of home plate. A fly out to left, a pop out to first, and a fly out to right Miller put down the Columbus batters in order.

While his career might not stand out, Miller’s impact has. One of the beloved players in the clubhouse, he has mentored many young catchers along the way. Here’s to many more great years to Corky!

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Cincinnati Reds

How a Shortened Season can Help and Hurt the Reds

step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.

Clay Snowden

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The world is in an obscure and unsure place. Today we were supposed to be watching a parade and cheering on the Redlegs. Instead, we are confused about the future of the 2020 season as we watch the 7th straight episode of a Netflix series, perfecting social distancing. How the 2020 season will be played has yet to be determined. I want to take a step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.

Each day that passes without baseball is a day closer to a season without 162 games. For the sake of argument, let’s say the season is somewhere between 75-100 games. What ways can that benefit the Reds?

1. They can get healthy. Suarez, Senzel, and Galvis (amongst others) have battled some spring injuries. Extra time off only helps their recovery and could lead to a 100% healthy “Opening Day” lineup. Although Galvis is not a top ten talent at short, he is much better than the current back up options. Luckily, he should be ready to go and 100%.

2. The rotation can be a great strength. We all know how strong the current rotation is. The Reds could adjust the strategy because you won’t be worried about getting starters 32 starts and 200ish innings. With a compact season, you could let starters go deeper in games, or even go to a shorter rotation because you won’t be trying to strength out the innings over several months. Bauer and Disco are both on contract years and will be laser-focused on making the most of their fewer starts to prove their value come next offseason. If the league goes heavy on doubleheaders, Mahle and a few others could step up into the expanded rotation and stronger than many team’s depth starters.

3. How a shorten season benefits Votto? As Joey ages, he will need more days off, especially if the decline is steady. If Joey does not have to prepare himself for 162 games, it could lead to better results as he would be fresher. We all know he can get off to slow starts and avoiding that would be crucial in a shortened season.

How can the shortened season hurt the Reds?

1. David Bell is still a new manager. Fresh, unproven, inexperienced. At times in 2019, he cost the Reds some games. There is little to no margin for error in a short season. Each game means more and the lineup experimenting with playing players out of position won’t fly. Managerial experience will be extremely important in 2020 and hopefully Bell has improved after year one.

2. Lack of important experience for prospects. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, and many other prospects are missing out on developmental time. This one really stings. A couple of the Reds top prospects are projected to be on the 2021 roster but needed some time in higher levels of the minors to learn and iron out a few things. You can train and work with coaches during this time, but the actual game experience cannot be overlooked.

3. Pressure. Obviously, every game counts each season. But a shortened season stresses the importance of each game. The Reds cannot afford to go on a losing streak as they did at the beginning of 2019. The expectations for 2020 remain high, and the pressure to perform is building. The adjustment to the MLB for Shogo must happen fast. Senzel has to stay healthy. The margin of error shrinks and pressure goes up. Iglesias cannot struggle to close out games or he’ll be replaced.

The 2020 season won’t be ideal. No one wants it to be this way. Watching 162 games a year is a joy and I will miss the routine of watching the Reds every night. Let’s hope this shortened season feels and plays like a playoff series where every aspect of the game is emphasized and more important. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy, and the Reds winning the pennant.

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Cincinnati Reds

March Mailbag

Take a look at a few thoughts before we get this 2020 season underway!

Clay Snowden

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

What is this team’s greatest weakness and how do they go about addressing it? (@GeraldSHuber)

To me, it has to be defense. (Here’s an article I wrote about it: https://bit.ly/2wft1Bs ). Tucker and Casali are fine but not spectacular, Votto is mediocre, Moose is an unknown, and the outfield defense leaves you wanting more. Galvis is great at short, but many others could be troublesome. If defense is your greatest weakness, you probably have a pretty good team.

How many years until we see Jose Garcia? (@smoffe87)

Everyone’s new favorite prospect, and he should be. The future is bright. Garcia has yet to reach AA, where he’ll likely start this season. In high A Daytona he hit .280/.343/.436 with 8 HR and 37 (!) doubles. No need to rush the 21-year-old, but he likely is the SS in 2021 if all goes according to plan. The lack of depth at SS could rush him if injuries happen or he hits the cover off the ball.

Who will lead off? What do they do with Schebler, Reed, Mahle, and other players without options? (@StachlerJames)

Shogo Akiyama should see time as the leadoff. A career .376 OBP who has been closer to .400 in recent years (NPB league) has a chance to be a real difference maker.

Schebler, I think, will end up being traded or DFA. Reed has a tough first start, but its early and he looked great in limited time last season. Another lefty in the pen not named Peralta or Duke is welcomed. Mahle has an option and likely is headed to Louisville to get regular starts. The Reds will likely need him to start at some point during the season. Sims likely earns a pen spot, Travis Jankowski could be the final spot if injuries occur. His speed and defense are useful.

Is Senzel going to be a utility player or end up getting traded? (@GerryYnciarte65)

Being a super utility is not a bad thing. Ben Zobrist was a hell of a player in that role. However, I think Senzel will be seeing plenty of time in CF splitting with Akiyama. His bat is too good to be a true bench player. I don’t think he will be traded. It feels like he would have already been moved if that was the plan.

 

If Tucker or Casali get hurt do they let Farmer catch or Stephenson? (@OdeToRedsWS)

Catcher organizational depth is lacking. Stephenson could be the option if he is hitting well in AAA Louisville. I think we see him at some point this season. Only other catcher in the organization with MLB experience besides Casali and Tucker is Francisco Pena (190 AB .216/.249/.311). His stats are underwhelming at the plate but he’s a veteran and that carries value. Sadly, I doubt we see former Red great Ryan Lavarnway in 2020. Add Garcia and Stephenson to this lineup in 2021 and that team is very strong.

 

Over/Under….When do the Reds give up on the mix-n-match platoon ideas and have a regular lineup? Line is May 31st. (MTGPackFoils)  

The days of the “same lineup everyday” are gone. And they should be. Putting out the same lineup doesn’t always mean the results will follow. Some players hit lefties but not righties and some hit righties and not lefties. Play the best players for each situation. Platooning can lead to the best results at times. So OVER. (More on that here: https://bit.ly/38cbCXD)

 

What are your thoughts on Shogo playing mostly center or left, if Senzel is healthy? (@Win1SuperBowl)

As it stands today, the outfield is crowded. It will play itself out. Akiyama can play all three OF positions and I could see him getting at-bats in the corner OF when Senzel is in CF. There’s true competition for at-bats this season and that’s absolutely a good thing. Players will have to earn their playing time.

Who is the backup SS? (@GebzillaG)

Kyle Famer. He ‘s such a unique player who can play all over the field. He was a college SS and has worked their early this spring. Across all levels he’s seen 76 innings at SS and hasn’t recorded and error. Blandino could also be the back up SS. Blandino has 60.2 innings at short in the MLB and is a .941 fielder there. 1692 innings at short in the minors with a .951 fielding %.

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