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Cincinnati Reds

Transaction Thoughts (Pt. 1)

What do the first round of transactions bring to the table for the 2021 Reds season?

Clay Snowden

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Last offseason was unlike any other for Reds fans. Big free agent splashes, aggressive roster boosting, and a new (cautious) sense of hope. Well, this offseason might be unlike any other as well. The pandemic has hurt revenue and the Reds are like many other teams trying to cut costs. Remember, the offseason still has a loooong way to go, but here’s my reactions to the first wave of moves made by Nick Krall.

Brandon Bailey acquired from Astros

I can’t lie, I don’t know much of anything about Bailey. 85 (58 starts) minor league games 3.22 ERA he will likely be a depth piece.


Jeff Hoffman & Case Williams for Robert Stephenson & Jameson Hannah

This is a trade I actually like. Stephenson had a good year in 2019, but the vast majority of his career has been underwhelming. Of course he will always be a “what if he puts it all together this year” case due to his prospect ranking….but a change is good for both parties at times. Hannah was a middle of the road prospect OF that likely didn’t have a path to the roster.

Hoffman is similar to Bob Steve in a way. Both big time
prospect status, both yet to live up to their hype. Yet another pitcher to be tagged as “DJ’s project” and I’m ok with that. Possible 5th starter/ long arm out of the pen, the versatility never hurts. Williams was a player the Reds wanted in the draft, missed, and now acquire. Years away from MLB but he has traits they like.

Bradley/Goodwin/Farmer/Alaniz/Casali non-tendered

Goodwin was not great in his short time in Cincy and frankly was going to be too expensive. Farmer resigned. Alaniz is a non-factor.

When Bradley was traded for many people talked about the years of control being attractive. He’s a good pitcher, too. Career 114 ERA+ and a 422 ERA + in his 6 games with the Reds which is just a hilarious stat. I wanted to see him back, but he wasn’t cheap, so I get it.

Casali did everything and more the Reds ever asked of him and still lost his job. That’s just baseball. Stephenson is ready to go and he needs at bats. Tucker is under contract and is a gold glover. 126 OPS+ and 6 HR while being solid behind the plate will land him a contract. At 32 years old, he wasn’t part of the future, but he’ll catch on elsewhere and be remembered well for his time in Cincinnati.

Raisel Iglesias & cash for Noe Ramirez & PTBN

Twitter seemed to have very mixed feelings about this one. The Reds do shed Iglesias’ contract (9 mil) but we do not know the amount of cash sent back. Fans had mixed feelings of Iglesias as his play consisted of highs and lows and his attitude wasn’t always the best. Bottom line: He’s a damn good pitcher. 2020 he had an ERA+ of 176 (112 ’19 /176 in ’18/ 181 ’17 /169 ’16) and came up huge in many clutch moments. OF course, 2019 that wasn’t the case, but he has many more good years than bad. At 31, maybe they wanted to sell while his value was still higher. Maybe he wanted out. There’s always a lot of unknowns and we will never know. But I appreciate what he brought to the club in his 6 seasons.

Noe Ramirez, 30 year old RHP with experience who will fill in a bullpen arm. He’s actually not a bad pitcher and is keeping somewhat overlooked because of the Iglesias name. Only 211 innings in 6 years but he has been a factor in the past 3 years. ERA + of 151 last year but the attraction is low salary and team control…YAY small market baseball things! Matt Wilkes wrote more about him here.

Sign Dwight Smith and Cheslor Cuthbert to minor league deals

I have always liked Smith and I’m not sure why. He has pop in hit bat (13 HR in 2019) but the rest of his game isn’t jumping off the page to anyone. Small sample sizes outside of 2019, but an interesting depth option in a crowded OF. Cheslor Cuthbert is a corner INF with 323 games in the show. He has a some pop as well but I don’t really see him getting much of a shot with the Reds.

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Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back & Breakout: Bullpen

Here are two names to look out for from the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in 2021

Clay Snowden

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The Reds bullpen will look different in 2021. Robert Stephenson, Archie Bradley, Raisel Iglesias, Nate Jones and many now “Obscure Former Reds” are gone. Iglesias at times was lights out. Bradley had a short stint with the Reds, but a dominant one. Although these guys are gone, it will leave the door open for some other players to step up and fill these roles.

New Names in the mix (on 40 man) : Brandon Bailey, Edgar Garcia, Jeff Hoffman, Riley O’Brien, Noe Ramirez, Jared Solomon, Art Warren, Tony Santillan  

 

Bounce Back: Jeff Hoffman (9.28 ERA 21.1 in 20 K’s 57 ERA +)

Picking a bounce back was hard. A lot of these names have not really had much of a chance. But Hoffman is a former 9th overall pick who has bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation. Will he start? Time will tell. His career stats are pretty rough for a top ten pick. The one thing that catches my attention (and the Reds attention) is his spin rate, which is 82nd percentile. Not elite, but good enough to take a flier on a guy. We all know the Reds and their organization has been big on targeting guys with great spin rate since adding Boddy and Johnson. Hoffman is the latest project for DJ to make into what everyone once thought he could be.

The main reason why I think Hoffman will bounce back is simple; change of scenery. A fresh start in an organization with top notch pitching coaches is the perfect situation at this point in his career. I hope they define his role, let him focus on that, and don’t bounce him from starter to long man to other pen roles. It feels like it’s now or never for Hoffman and he is surrounded by great pitching minds to help him find his way.

 

Exempt from breakout consideration: Tejay Antone (he was in the starters article)

Breakout: Lucas Sims (2.45 ERA 25.2 in 34 K’s 196 ERA+)

I know I know…a guy who has already maybe went through his breakout. However, I think he isn’t exactly a name all baseball fans around the league know, and that’s about to change. Sims was incredible in 2020. He has earned a larger role with the Reds. His dominance made it much easier to move on from Bradley and Iggy.

LOOK AT THAT PICTURE.  Sims was in the top 2% in the league in: Barrel %, XBA, XSLG, XWOBA, and xERA. It doesn’t get much better than that. I want to see Sims as the closer for the Reds. I know Amir will get his chance there as well, but I think Sims emerges as the most reliable arm out of the pen and makes himself a household name in the league.

Honorable Mention: Riley O’Brien (Acquired for Cody Reed)

O’Brien has mostly been a starter in his career, which consists of 56 minor league games. However, with the rotation being closer to set than the bullpen, if he cracks the roster it would likely be as a reliever. Minor league stats: 2.83 ERA 232 innings 250 K’s. Listed at 6’4” and only 170 pounds don’t confuse him with former Red Jimmy Herget, although I think his pitching will make it easy to see past the physical similarities.

 

This bullpen doesn’t have a lot of bona fide veterans. There will be plenty of opportunities for younger guys to make the roster and earn a spot. I would be surprised if a few more veterans (2021 versions of Nate Jones and Tyler Thornburg) get an invite to Spring Training to try to earn a spot.

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Cincinnati Reds

What’s Wrong With the Reds Trading Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo trade rumors got you worried? Here’s the fatal flaw in the reports that will ease your mind.

Jeff

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Rumors have flared up, from some varying sources all stemming back to Jim Bowden spitballing on a radio show, that the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds are seriously discussing a swap that would send Luis Castillo to the Bronx. Before we get to the “What the…?” part, check out friend of the podcast Doug Gray’s thoughts as to why we shouldn’t worry about the Reds doing this, too much. 

Now then…what in the world? Why would the Reds be considering the trade of an ace-caliber pitcher who makes less than half of their other ace-caliber pitcher who will make less than half of what Trevor Bauer is likely to sign a free agent contract for? Yeah, that’s a long question, but the fact that reports surged out of a passing comment by Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio leads me to agree with Doug that there isn’t much to worry about here.

The weirdest part has been the reported return that the Reds require: 

Or maybe this is more extrapolating by Yankees-focused sources that are looking at something small. Both of those players make little sense for the Reds. Andujar is woeful in the field. If he were to put on a glove, it would be in the outfield. Frazier is also an outfielder. The Reds have Shogo Akiyama, Nicholas Castellanos, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, and even Aristides Aquino already on the roster. Why on earth would key return pieces be outfielders? That helps the Reds very little, if at all.

To expound on the inequity of these trade rumors, we have this beautiful website Baseball Trade Values (shout out to Obscure Former Reds for introducing me to this site). I find that I am extremely biased in matters of evaluating Reds players’ trade values, so a site that does math and applies objectivity to such an endeavor is very intriguing. Let’s take a look at how this website values Castillo and then how it values the rumored return.

I get how reported returns work. When a report says “key pieces” that means there are more pieces. But if you look at that value discrepancy, there is going to need to be lots more value in the remaining pieces, which means the reported “key pieces” don’t objectively move the needle.

Per Baseball Trade Values, Luis Castillo is the ninth-most valuable player in all of baseball. Yup, you read that right, Castillo is top-10 in all of Major League Baseball in trade value. They figure that out by taking what they call “adjusted field value,” which takes several performance factors into account, and subtracts the salary from that to come up with the trade value. They explain it more, here.

The most valuable player on the Yankees, per Baseball Trade Values, is Gleybar Torres at 69.2. In other words, the most valuable Yankee is still little more than half as valuable as Castillo. Now, it’s not as if these numbers drive every trade discussion. In fact, the folks at Baseball Trade Values admit this is just them creating formulas and basing values on their formulas…but it’s better than a Reds fan and a Yankees fan screaming at each other.

Overall, this website shows the herculean task that Nick Krall would have of getting back even comparable value for Luis Castillo, if he even thought of actually trading the talented La Piedra. It’s not being overly biased to say the Yankees can’t put together a trade that keeps them contending and meets the Reds demands, at the same time. So why is it even being talked about? For that, I invite you to take a look at the rabid Yankee fan base on Twitter that is beside themselves that the Bombers have only resigned Dj Lemahieu and added Corey Kluber. They’re pining for more and they’re stretching to find any rumor that brings more to New York, no matter how farfetched.

 

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Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back & Break Out: Infield

Who will bounce back in the Cincinnati Reds infield, and who will break out?

Clay Snowden

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As it stands today, 1/11/2021, the Reds infield situation looks very similar to their 2020 situation. Galvis and Casali are gone, but most everyone else is back. Votto is a year older while Stephenson and Garcia headline the youth movement. Veterans Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas look to rebound after average seasons. Although I think another MLB caliber middle infielder will be added, we will work with what is currently on the roster.

 

Bounce Back: Eugenio Suarez (.202/.312/.470 15 HR 102 OPS+)

The Alfredo Simon trade (lol), the HR record, the team friendly deal, the huge smile and big bubble gum bubbles are a few of the many reasons we all love Suarez. With HR numbers increasing year after year big things were in store for Geno in 2020. Sadly, I think the offseason shoulder injury played into his slow 2020.

The batting average and on base % took a dive. Around .270 avg and .360 OBP was the standard in previous years but an absolutely terrible start to the season really set things back. However, he improved his average and OBP and Slugging every month of the season.

July: .080/.258/.120

August: .213/.315/.489

September: .228/.326/.557

An entire offseason to get healthy and get right should lead to more of what we expect from the star third baseman. Getting his shoulder back to where it needs to be is crucial. He’s still only 29 years old and is in his prime. Strikeout numbers are something we’ll probably just have to live with (the case for many HR hitters). A bounce back year would help this Reds team add to what was a lackluster offense at times.

Honorable Mention: Every other starter 

Just look at the stats 

 

Breakout: Tyler Stephenson (.294/.400/.647 2 HR 17 AB 170 OPS+)

We all know the Tyler Stephenson story. His big homerun on his debut was a moment we will not forget. A 2015 first round selection, the fans have been waiting patiently for Stephenson to contribute. It always takes catchers longer and his injuries did not help. The glimpse that we saw in 2020 has us excited for what the future holds.

The Reds moving on from Curt Casali leaves the door open for Stephenson to be on the roster. Tucker is back after adding his second gold glove to the collection, but I don’t think that holds Stephenson to a reserve role. Tyler will get plenty of chances to start. His bat is something that Tucker simply cannot match and this Reds team needs more offense from the catching position. Prepare yourself for some growing pains. Not necessarily like what we saw from Jose Garcia, but Stephenson has very little experience and will take some time to adjust. We haven’t seen enough of his defense to make too strong of judgement but working with Tucker daily should help immensely.

Honorable Mention: Jose Garcia 

The talent is there, but his youth and lack of experience showed. Hopefully, another offseason under his belt will help. The Reds likely will add a veteran to help ease him along. 


Several Reds infielders had a down 2020. Hell, most of us had a down 2020. This team is better than what they showed in the shortened season. If a few of them can get back to the numbers on the back of their baseball cards, I think the Reds will be fine.

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