Offseason In Review: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are going for it in 2012 after acquiring Mat Latos, Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall this past offseason.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Brett Tomko, Jeff Francis, Willie Harris, Dioner Navarro, Ron Mahay, Clay Zavada, Kanekoa Texeira, Sean Gallagher, Chad Reineke.

Trades and Claims


Notable Losses

When the offseason began, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes identified GM Walt Jocketty’s primary challenge as “trading for an affordable front-line starter.” Mission accomplished. 

The Reds obtained Mat Latos in a five player trade than sent Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal to San Diego and it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Cincinnati. Though he just turned 24, Latos has already completed a pair of standout seasons with the Padres. He isn't yet arbitration eligible and will remain under team control through 2015.

Jocketty didn’t stop there, either. He added lefty reliever Sean Marshall in a deal that looks equally promising for both the Cubs and the Reds. And when the market for Ryan Madson caved in, Jocketty struck, obtaining the reliever’s services with a one-year, $8.5MM deal. Madson’s contract looks like a bargain in light of Jonathan Papelbon’s deal and, best of all, there's no chance it will handcuff the Reds long-term.

However, Jocketty locked up Marshall, Nick Masset and Jose Arredondo on multiyear extensions, so he doesn't seem to mind committing to relievers. The Marshall deal is understandable — he’s about as good as they get from the left side and could be closing games by 2013 — but the upside on the latter two contracts is limited. The Reds took on additional risk without obtaining free agent seasons or option years, so I much prefer these deals from the perspective of Masset and Arredondo.

It’d be difficult to fault Reds fans for lamenting the unresolved contract statuses of Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. Phillips, who hits free agency after the 2012 season, says he's open to a long-term deal and the Reds have interest in extending Votto, who is on track to hit free agency (and obtain a Prince Fielder-like mega-contract) two offseasons from now. Votto's one of the game's top hitters, but in a market the size of Cincinnati, accommodating a $23-24MM player would require creative accounting and roster construction.

The long-term uncertainty surrounding the Reds' two most recognizable players shouldn’t diminish the optimism in Cincinnati. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder left the NL Central for the American League, and suddenly the division is up for grabs. 

Offense wasn't a problem for the 2011 Reds; the World Champion Cardinals were the lone NL team to outscore Cincinnati a year ago. Most of their top position players are back, though Ramon Hernandez signed a free agent contract with the Rockies. If all goes according to plan, production at catcher won’t drop off this year, when highly-touted rookie Devin Mesoraco will get most of the reps behind the plate. There's room for improvement on defense, since Hernandez is viewed as below-average with the glove.

Though Chris Heisey has 26 homers in 534 career plate appearances, the Reds brought in the right-handed hitting Ryan Ludwick and the left-handed hitting Willie Harris to provide depth and competition. Heisey's ability play all three outfield positions enabled the Reds to send Dave Sappelt to the Cubs without having to worry about backing up Stubbs. No one's counting on Ludwick to hit 37 home runs again and if he provides some offense against left-handed pitching in a part-time role, he'll meet expectations.

The club let Edgar Renteria leave as a free agent, content to rely on the sure-handed Paul Janish and rookie Zack Cozart at shortstop. Given the cost of the few available free agent shortstops who would have represented an upgrade for the Reds, standing pat at short made sense. Most contenders won't be relying so heavily on rookies at up-the-middle positions, however.

After parting with Wood and Volquez in trades, the Reds found themselves short on MLB-caliber starters. The signing of Jeff Francis topped MLBTR's list of the offseason's best minor league deals. He's no front-of-the-rotation starter, but the southpaw adds balance to a righty-heavy rotation at minimal risk. In fact Jocketty minimized risk throughout the entire offseason, preferring one-year contracts and minor league invites to the multiyear deals that threaten to become albatrosses.

On paper, the Reds strengthened their big league team over the course of the winter. Jocketty added a frontline starter, two of the game’s best relievers and a collection of complementary pieces, improving their chances of winning a weakened NL Central in the process. Team-friendly extensions for Phillips and Votto would have capped the offseason off perfectly, but the coming season promises to be an exciting one nonetheless. The Reds can legitimately hope to reclaim the NL Central title in 2012.

15 Responses to Offseason In Review: Cincinnati Reds Leave a Reply

  1. TophersReds 3 years ago

    Very well written. Just a minor note, though. Janish will likely start in AAA with Wilson Valdez (no options left) getting the backus SS role to Zach Cozart.

    • That’s right. They trade LH reliever Jeremy Horst for Wilson Valdez, who’s ahead of Janish now on the depth chart.

  2. Also agree that this is very well written, thorough overview. I’m glad you didn’t use the “going all in” phrase that many have been using. Yes, they are “going for it” as you noted, but they have been going for it the past couple of seasons.

    One other thing worth noting is that although they had a losing record last year, the Reds scored more runs than they allowed. Their exW was 83 games last year. With better luck and improved pitching, they’ll hopefully win 90 or more this year.

  3. skandy1 3 years ago

    Hey, if the Tigers could swing the Fielder deal, the Reds surely could figure out a way to keep Votto.

  4. skandy1 3 years ago

    notable loss – Dontrelle Willis???
    he’s available now for a jelly donut…

  5. Bryan Harsnett 3 years ago


    I don’t see your logic. Are you saying that the Tigers and the Reds have similar payrolls? if so you are sorely mistaken. 

  6. skandy1 3 years ago

    same size markets –

    • mgarner543 3 years ago

      thats just wrong, the detroit metro area has roughly 4.3 million people and cincy metro has about 2.1 (according to the 2010 us census), so the market sizes are nowhere near the same.  in fact, detroit is much closer to boston (4.5 million people) than it is cincy. 

      • skandy1 3 years ago

        OK-so are you taking into consideration KY fans as well?

      • skandy1 3 years ago

        OK-so are you taking into consideration KY fans as well?

  7. skandy1 3 years ago

    …and an owner (over)committed to winning?

  8. ctownboy 3 years ago

    Back in the 1970’s, the Reds were second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers in attendance during the decade.  Ca$htellini COULD raise payroll to $90 million to $100 million dollars and put a GOOD product on the field.  One that people WANT to come out and see.

    However, he is more interested in fielding a team that stays around .500 and one which he can make a profit on.  You see, if the Reds are bad and out of contention early then people wont come out and buy tickets and spend money and he will have to lower ticket prices and use more promotions.  On the other hand, if the Reds are good and stay in contention longer then he is either going to have to pay the good players what they want or trade for guys who the other team wants to get rid of in a salary dump.  Either way, the profit margin sinks.

    Nope, the “Goldilocks” situation is for the Reds to be a .500 team.  Just good enough to keep the fans interested longer in the season but not quite good enough to warrant raising team payroll for.

    If that isn’t the case then Ca$htellini shouldn’t have ANY problem in giving Phillips his extension AND paying Votto what he wants….

    • al11 3 years ago

      i think you’re dead wrong…castellini has weathered the very difficult transition from a less-than-mediocre team saddled with too many players not of mlb caliber and an aging superstar…while waiting on the farm system to develop their talent…to a solid team with yet enough ‘holes’ to keep them from being very good.  but the transition is made, and while last season developed into one where, more than anything else, the rotation lacked the ability to get to the 7th inning much, it wasn’t as bad as many want to make it out.  the need to sign phillips, to me, is important but also somewhat questionable if they have to go more than 5 years, and votto is more important…though even now, i don’t want to give him more than 8 years considering his age…the players, even great ones, who keep up their ‘levels of production’ past age 35 is just way too high for a team like the reds to consider such things and they really can’t sustain any good level of competition if they wind up saddled with huge contracts.

      this team is very good on paper, and we all know how that often works out.  still, the rotation looks to be solid and even very good, while the bullpen will be fine if given a chance to settle into their roles.  the hitting will be fine, possibly very good, and there’s little chance anyone else in the division will equal it.  and the defense should approach superb levels.  all in all, only a couple of devastating injuries could do much to derail this club.

      too many people, also, don’t recognize that baseball now competes with so many things for the ‘fan dollar’, and while i agree that more people will come out for a consistently competitive and winning team, i think markets like the one in cincinnati will be held back by the overall economic strains so many are feeling.  i just think that any rise in attendance that comes with having a really good club on the field is still going to be less than what a lot of people think, and therefore not so great as to allow the team to simply spend a whole lot more money, especially when you consider that we’d be talking extended years on contracts which would have to be countered by having the attendance remain so high.  it’s circular, i know, but i think it’s just realistic, particularly when you consider that so few players have really stellar years for very long.

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