Additions: Ramon Hernandez, Willy Taveras, Arthur Rhodes, Jonny Gomes, Aaron Fultz, Humberto Cota, Daryle Ward, Jacque Jones, Laynce Nix, Mike Lincoln (re-signed), Jerry Hairston Jr. (re-signed), David Weathers (accepted arb). Midseason: Nick Masset, Danny Richar, Micah Owings
Subtractions: Jeremy Affeldt, Josh Fogg, Gary Majewski, Matt Belisle, Ryan Freel, Corey Patterson, Paul Bako, David Ross, Javier Valentin, Jolbert Cabrera. Midseason: Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Todd Coffey
In September I mentioned the Reds as a sleeper candidate for '09, given their rotation depth. Last year's front four are returning. Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto combined for a 4.38 ERA in 754.3 innings. Even with regression from Volquez, I expect them to maintain that performance level. Owings and Homer Bailey are strong fifth starter options. The bar is low – Reds' fifth starters combined for a 7.47 ERA in 140 innings last year.
The bullpen was decent last year, and the loss of relief innings leader Affeldt was treated with the Rhodes signing. Subtract out bad performances from Majewski and Coffey and the pen shouldn't be worse.
Defensively the Reds ranked dead last in the NL according to The Fielding Bible II. The worst culprits: third base (Edwin Encarnacion), shortstop (Jeff Keppinger, Hairston), and left field (mainly Dunn). Reports on shortstop Alex Gonzalez have been positive, and the subtraction of Dunn will help in left field. Last September I pushed for Walt Jocketty to make an aggressive offer for Adrian Beltre, but Encarnacion will stay at the hot corner for '09. Taveras has the tools to play a great center field and help the corner outfielders.
The Reds scored 4.35 runs per game in '08, 12th in the NL. How will they fare in the post-Dunn/Griffey era? Keep in mind that it's also the post-Patterson/Bako era, and the Gomes/Chris Dickerson platoon should be effective. CHONE projections and the lineup analysis tool call for 4.42 runs per game which unfortunately still would've ranked 12th last year. This team still falls short offensively, even with strong years from the team's young sluggers.
Even if I generously put the Reds at 750 runs allowed, they project to win 77 games. It's difficult to see this team cracking .500 as it's presently constructed.
Bottom line: The Reds' rotation looks strong, but Jocketty failed to add the needed offense.