Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams has made it known that the club’s front office is entering the offseason focused on building a playoff-caliber team for 2020. The Reds have failed in that regard six straight times, but the team aims to bolster its playoff chances for next season by upping its payroll. Williams explained the Reds’ approach to the upcoming offseason in an expansive Q&A with C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic (subscription required). It’s worth reading in full, but we’ll touch on a few of the highlights here.
Cincinnati made almost all of its notable additions on the trade market last winter, picking up several household names (including right-hander Sonny Gray, who was superb this season). That continued into the summer with their acquisition of righty Trevor Bauer, who will join Gray, Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani as locks for next year’s rotation. The Reds remain open to bettering their roster via trades now, but it seems an ideal scenario for Williams would be for him and general manager Nick Krall to make most of their hay in free agency.
Williams told Rosecrans he expects Cincy will “be aggressive in trying to get some guys in free agency.” That’s a drastic change from last offseason, when the Reds’ lone guaranteed contract went to lefty reliever Zach Duke. That $2MM signing didn’t pan out, leading the Reds to release Duke in July.
While Duke struggled as part of the Reds’ bullpen, fellow relievers Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson and Matt Bowman each gave he club respectable or better production. All five of those hurlers are slated to return in 2020, though the Reds still “want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to improve the bullpen,” according to Williams.
Upgrading starting depth, defense and team speed are also on the Reds’ to-do list, but there probably won’t be a bigger winter priority for the team than improving its offense. The Reds ended the year 25th in the majors in both runs scored (701) and wRC+ (87), and only third baseman Eugenio Suarez and the young outfield duo of Aristides Aquino and Jesse Winker provided well-above-average numbers over a sizable sample of plate appearances.
Aquino, 25, started his career on an offensive rampage after an Aug. 1 promotion. He was a home run threat just about every time he stepped to the plate for a few weeks, becoming the fastest player ever to ever hit 15 (he did so in 122 PA). Aquino wound up with a prolific 19 in 225 trips to the plate, though his overall output tailed off badly over the final couple weeks of the campaign. Perhaps as a result of that, the Reds don’t want to gift him a starting spot in right field for next season.
“He’s going to have to continue to earn it and improve and build and we will take the approach in the offseason that the outfield as a whole, you know, we will be trying to add,” said Williams.
The Reds’ outfield next year could also continue to include Nick Senzel, a high-end infield prospect who transferred to center this season. Cincy was impressed with Senzel’s work in his first outfield action in the bigs, but Williams values Senzel’s flexibility and doesn’t want to commit to a 2020 position for him just yet. Whether the Reds add a starting-level second baseman or pick up a No. 1-caliber center fielder figures to influence where Senzel will primarily line up in a year. Indeed, the Reds’ middle infield “needs to be figured out,” acknowledged Williams, who revealed the Reds will “look into” re-signing pending free-agent shortstop Jose Iglesias. The light-hitting, defensively adept Iglesias proved to be a shrewd minor league signing for the club going into this season, but his ceiling isn’t particularly high. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Reds let him walk and pursue better options than him and the controllable talent on hand (namely Freddy Galvis and Jose Peraza).
Between Suarez at the hot corner and Joey Votto at first, the rest of the team’s starting infield appears etched in stone going into 2020. Elsewhere, while Williams regards catchers Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali as starting-caliber backstops, he admitted that “we could look to get more offensively out of the catching.” Big-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, a former Reds farmhand, headlines the class of backstops who are about to reach free agency. He has already been linked to the Reds in the rumor mill this week.
Regardless of whether the Reds try to reunite with Grandal, it appears they’re shaping up to have one of the league’s most active offseasons. There’s “a strong emphasis on trying to win now,” Williams declared. “And win in the short term. We believe we will build a postseason team for 2020.”