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Cincinnati Reds

Time for Reds to stop hoping and hit the reset button

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Remember when Reds fans and commentators used to talk about the future. The discussion was always about “the next good Reds team.” Some may have said “great” or “winning.” That talk has disappeared.

For the past month, the talk has been a feeling-sorry-for-ourselves lament in the mire of this awful start. I’m weary of talking about who bats lead off, who plays left field, who’s in the bullpen, who’s starting tonight’s game, etc., etc. Time is wasted on hoping for short-term Band-Aids. It’s about time we get over that and think about what comes next. What are the changes that might be made and should be made to reset the rebuild (assuming that’s even possible)? Let’s think about long-term solutions and focus on that because this team will lose 100 games at this rate.

The Reds have relied too much on hope. Hope that all of these young pitchers will come together as a solid starting rotation. Hope that Billy Hamilton will learn to hit more, walk more, strike out less and pop out less. Hope that Scooter Gennett can be a good infielder and hit for power again like he did last year. Hope that other teams’ castoffs will suddenly produce again at an acceptable major-league level.

Some hoped-for things materialize. We might be seeing that with Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Tyler Mahle. But at some point this team must cut the emotional ties it has to some of this hope and put the best 25 players it can on the roster and play the best nine it can every day.

Instead, of making my own wish — or hope — list, I hope it’s more productive to analyze what the Reds just might do if Dick Williams decides to have the same urgent need to improve the team that he said the players need to have the day he fired Bryan Price. The front office made a bunch of moves two years ago to start this rebuild. It’s time to kick it into phase two or hit the reset button.

Infield

Scooter Gennett has to be the first player to come out of the every-day lineup. He was picked up to be a utility player, and that’s what he is. Scooter is likable and can be an asset as a spot player and pinch hitter. But he’s not a starting second baseman.

Nick Senzel will be part of the next good Reds team, could be an all-star and is already a better second baseman than Gennett. Why is he still in Louisville? If he is not called up by the first of June, that will be further proof that this front office has no urgency. After a slow start he is owning AAA pitching. The Braves have a 20-year-old (Ozzie Albies) and a 21-year-old (Ronald Acuna Jr.) playing every day. Why isn’t 22-year-old Nick Senzel doing the same for the Reds?

When you have a player you think can be a difference-maker, get him to the majors. The quicker he gets here, the quicker he makes rookie mistakes, the quicker he becomes a good big-leaguer and the quicker this team becomes more competitive.

An infield of Joey Votto, Nick Senzel, Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez starts to look pretty good.

Outfield

The evidence is strong for Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler to be every-day players. Not so for Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton. If that’s the case, then play the two every day who will be part of that next mythical good Reds team. Platoon the other two and quit hoping they both figure it out.

Who honestly thinks that Duvall or Hamilton will be regulars in 2020? But the other two? Yes, that is more than likely.

There is no one else ready today to be the third full-time outfielder. But just like the argument I’ve made for Senzel to get to the big leagues sooner than later, make room for Taylor Trammel or TJ Friedl or Jose Siri next year. If you do, you have a good shot of one of them being a solid big-leaguer by 2020. And with Winker you don’t have to bat them lead off.

And if the Reds are certain that 2020 is too soon (which I doubt), then find a center fielder in the offseason at least as a stop-gap to one of the youngsters.

Keep Hamilton as a fourth outfielder to do all the things he does well in situations where you need those things. Let Duvall go. He’s almost 30. Baseball history is full of guys who had a couple of productive season in their late 20s and were out baseball a few years later.

Starting rotation

Don’t mess with Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo or Sal Romano.

Homer Bailey’s contract isn’t going anywhere, and he can be a solid back-end-of-the-rotation pitcher for a few more years.

Brandon Finnegan is coming off his best start, but is he better long term than Amir Garrett? I understood the necessity of Garrett in the bullpen because of injuries to David Hernandez and Michael Lorenzen. But this guy might be too good not to start. He was good enough last April.

And if this rotation doesn’t round into a competitive form by the end of this season, go get somebody to help.

Bullpen

Going forward keep the good ones and give the young ones a chance. Hernandez and Jared Hughes were good signings. But quit bringing in the Gallardos and the Quackenbushes in lieu of young guys who might actually be part of the next good Reds team. The bullpen needs reinforcement every year. Keep finding the good ones, not the also-rans.

This is probably where Finnegan belongs. He walks too many to be a starter and he’s inconsistent. At this point he shouldn’t keep his starting role because of what he did in 2016.

Manager

Get a young, forward-thinking manager who doesn’t manage like it’s 1965. Jim Riggleman isn’t that manager unless he’s willing to change. At 65 years old that’s not likely.

Analytics in the dugout is here to stay. The best managers pay attention to the math and get to know their players well enough to be able to make good lineup and situational decisions. They look at all of the evidence — math and otherwise — and make decisions everyone in the dugout can support. Not every move works, but raising the confidence level in those moves will make this team better.

No manager will make this team a winner today. But when the best 25 players in the organization are on the roster, it would be nice to have a manager who knows how to put that roster in the best position possible to win.

Then we just might be able to talk about the next good Reds team. But not until the front office stops hoping and starts playing the best players.

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

Clay Snowden

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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.

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Cincinnati Reds

Non-Tender Candidates

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.

Jeff

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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.)

Brian Goodwin

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.

Archie Bradley

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? 

Robert Stephenson

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

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

Clay Snowden

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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

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