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

Extensions

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.



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