The Reds recently wrapped up a 75-win season, their sixth consecutive sub-.500 campaign. President of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall have seen enough. They have every intention of assembling a playoff-caliber roster for 2020.
- Joey Votto, 1B: $107MM through 2023 (including $7MM buyout for 2024)
- Eugenio Suarez, 3B: $54.75MM through 2024 (including $2MM buyout for 2025)
- Sonny Gray, RHP: $30MM through 2022
- Raisel Iglesias, RP: $18.125MM through 2021
- Tucker Barnhart, C: $7.725MM through 2021 (including $500K buyout for 2022)
Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)
- Trevor Bauer – $18.6MM
- Kevin Gausman – $10.6MM
- Derek Dietrich – $3.1MM
- Anthony DeSclafani – $5.2MM
- Michael Lorenzen – $4.2MM
- Curt Casali – $1.7MM
- Jose Peraza – $3.6MM
- Matt Bowman – $900K
- Non-tender candidates: Gausman, Dietrich, Casali, Peraza
- Freddy Galvis, INF: $5.5MM club option or $1MM buyout
Most of the Reds’ focus last offseason went to their starting staff, and two of the three key acquisitions they made in that regard couldn’t have worked out much better. Picking up Sonny Gray from the Yankees has been a brilliant move thus far. Tanner Roark, whom the Reds landed in a trade with the Nationals, was effective for Cincinnati for a few months before the out-of-contention club flipped him to Oakland in July. Alex Wood wasn’t healthy enough to pitch for most of the season, so acquiring him from the Dodgers was the one starting addition that didn’t work out for Williams and Krall. But the two front office bigwigs swung a massive trade for then-Indian Trevor Bauer prior to the July 31 deadline, meaning the Reds are now slated to get a full year from him alongside Gray, Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani. It’s unclear who will primarily occupy the last spot on Cincy’s staff (perhaps Wood or another free agent on a one-year deal), but it’s obvious the rotation is no longer a major concern for the club.
The Reds’ main problem at the moment seems to be their offense, which finished 25th in the majors in both runs and wRC+ this year. Although he surprisingly struggled this season, first baseman Joey Votto isn’t going anywhere. Neither is third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who fell one home run shy of the 50 mark.
Aside from Votto and Suarez, the Reds’ position player cast certainly isn’t etched in stone. Nick Senzel will also start somewhere, whether it’s second or center field (where he played in 2019), and his flexibility will afford the Reds the opportunity to shop for help at either of those spots. The upcoming class of free-agent center fielders looks quite weak, however, so unless the Reds swing a trade for someone like Starling Marte of the Pirates or Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox, odds are they’ll be adding second base help over center field aid. Fortunately for Cincy, free agency will be teeming with passable second basemen once the offseason rolls around. Of course, we’d be remiss to ignore that the Reds have a few in-house second base possibilities besides Senzel. Jose Peraza, Derek Dietrich and Freddy Galvis led the club’s second basemen in starts this year, and all are controllable through next season. However, Peraza and Dietrich look like possible non-tender candidates, while Galvis has a $5.5MM option or a $1MM buyout for 2020. Even if the Reds keep Galvis, his track record indicates he wouldn’t make for more than a mediocre-at-best starter at either second or shortstop.
Short, like second, appears to be a position the Reds could give some attention in the coming months. The trouble is that free agency won’t be loaded with obvious solutions there. Jose Iglesias, who started the vast majority of the Reds’ season at the position, is due to hit free agency. The Reds could easily re-sign the defensively adept, light-hitting Iglesias for what surely wouldn’t be a sizable sum, but they’d be wise to hunt for a better alternative first. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Reds seek a reunion with Yankees free agent-to-be Didi Gregorius, whom Cincy signed as an international free agent back in 2007. Otherwise, would the Reds pursue a trade for the Indians’ Francisco Lindor or the Rockies’ Trevor Story? They’re a pair of star shortstops who are likely to come up in trade rumors during the next few months (the speculation has already started in regards to Lindor).
While the Reds could rekindle their relationship with Gregorius, the same holds true for pending free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal. Clearly the premier catcher set to hit the market in the next couple weeks, the Brewers’ Grandal was the 12th overall pick of the Reds back in 2010. Grandal never wound up playing a game for the Reds, but he’d be a massive upgrade now over the combination of Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali. That said, signing the soon-to-be 31-year-old Grandal at this point would likely mean forking over $60MM or more in guarantees. If the Reds aren’t willing to go that far, and if they do try to add a somewhat high-profile backstop to upgrade over Barnhart, they could wind up with anyone from the affordable trio of Jason Castro, Travis d’Arnaud or Robinson Chirinos in free agency.
The way the Reds map out their 2020 outfield will depend in part on their plans for Senzel. As mentioned earlier, though, finding an obvious center field upgrade in free agency will be difficult. It’ll be less of an arduous task in the corner outfield, where ex-Red Yasiel Puig, Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, Avisail Garcia and Corey Dickerson are all on the cusp of becoming free agents. The Reds traded Puig in July as part of the Bauer deal, though Krall expressed interest in a Puig extension shortly before that.
Whether the Reds bring back Puig or find one or two players from the outside, their corner outfield does look as if it should be a priority. Cincinnati has in-house possibilities in Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin and Josh VanMeter, granted. However, they all come with warts. The left-handed Winker was just about unplayable this year versus same-handed pitchers; Aquino came back to reality after a historically remarkable start; Ervin’s decent overall numbers were buoyed by an unsustainable first few months; and VanMeter didn’t produce much outside of a red-hot July.
Meanwhile, the Reds’ bullpen seems to be much less of an issue than their outfield, though it’s still an area they (like just about every other team) could attempt to improve.. Raisel Iglesias has been a prime trade candidate in the past, but if Cincy’s as bent on pushing for a playoff spot next year as it has indicated, he seems unlikely to go anywhere this winter. So, he’ll stay a key member of a unit that will also welcome back Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson and Matt Bowman, while Cody Reed, Lucas Sims and Joel Kuhnel could also be among in-house arms pushing for innings. Kevin Gausman, whom the Reds claimed from the Braves in August, may be a part of the unit again, too (or even vie for the Reds’ fifth starter job); however, considering his lofty arbitration projection for 2020, it seems more likely the Reds will non-tender Gausman.
Deciding Gausman’s future is one of the more immediate tasks on the Reds’ plate as the offseason nears its official start. If the Reds do let Gausman go, it’ll further increase spending space for a team that’s all but guaranteed to boast a franchise-record payroll in 2020. The Reds opened this season with an outlay just over $126.6MM, and Williams has said that number will go up next year as the club tries to bring an end to its long-running playoff drought.
“The goal for us now, all we’re talking about is the postseason. That’s what matters,” Williams declared a few weeks ago. “That’s the goal next year. It’s not taking incremental steps in a rebuild. It’s about the postseason.”
Judging by the Reds’ win-now attitude, they could be among the majors’ busiest teams during the upcoming offseason.