While their 75-win tally fell far shy of postseason qualification, the Reds did crack seventy victories for the first time since 2014. Expectations are only ramping up from there, as club president of baseball operations Dick Williams made clear in his chat today with media members including Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The measure of success in 2020 is unambiguous. Per Williams: “The goal for us now, all we’re talking about is the postseason. That’s what matters. That’s the goal next year. It’s not taking incremental steps in a rebuild. It’s about the postseason.”
Getting there is going to require a massive effort, beginning with the hot stove efforts of the front office. Williams says he sees a path to an “even more impactful” offseason effort than he oversaw last year, because “we’ll have more financial resources at our disposal.” He went on to state plainly: “Our payroll will be bigger this year. There will be good opportunities to invest that payroll.”
The Cincinnati ballclub already ramped its spending up significantly this year, opening the season with over $126MM on the books. There’s a bit less than sixty million committed already for 2020, before accounting for the arbitration salaries of Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Jose Peraza and others. That should leave a fair bit of breathing room to work with, particularly with the Opening Day payroll figure slated to rise.
Williams didn’t exactly map out how the team intends to spend that cash, but did make clear that it isn’t going to “shy away from” a “big-dollar, multi-year contract.” There’ll be a healthy respect for avoiding too massive a commitment, he said, but made clear that open-market spending “is part of the strategy this year.”
The Reds have quite a few pieces in place, but no shortage of areas to improve. There’s need in the middle infield and room for an outfield bat (especially after dealing away top prospect Taylor Trammell to acquire Bauer). It’s possible to imagine the club again exploring a better-hitting catcher. The rotation may need only a depth addition or two, but the bullpen could stand to be upgraded with multiple good arms.
Figuring out how to sustain the pitching advances achieved in 2019 remains necessary. But the focus will surely be on bringing up an 87 team wRC+ that was sixth-worst in baseball. Williams says that the pitching strides came from “a combination of making smart trades, smart signings, the staff we brought in, the advancement in technology.” The Reds hope to replicate that blend with the bats this winter. The organization will anticipate “internal improvement” but won’t be content watching and hoping, he says. The Reds also intend to “add to the offensive side of the club.”