The Reds entered the offseason on the heels of their sixth straight sub-.500 showing, but president of baseball operations Dick Williams made it known at the end of the campaign that a seventh consecutive subpar effort wouldn’t be acceptable. The team’s goal when the winter began was to build its first playoff-level roster since 2013, and with most of its offseason heavy lifting likely done by now, there’s a case Cincinnati has done just that.
As we noted previously, the Reds have been one of the highest-spending teams in the National League in free agency. They’ve added two $64MM players – infielder Mike Moustakas and newly signed outfielder Nick Castellanos – as well as $21MM outfielder Shogo Akiyama (their first-ever Japanese player) and $15MM left-hander Wade Miley via the open market.
Now, the Reds’ position player cast – a group that finished last season 21st in WAR and 25th in runs – suddenly looks promising with Castellanos, Akiyama and some mix of Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino and Nick Senzel in the outfield, Joey Votto at first base, Moustakas at second and Eugenio Suarez at third. But there are questions in the group, including the health of the 49-home run man Suarez – who could miss the beginning of the season after undergoing right shoulder surgery – and the strength of their catcher and shortstop positions. Both spots looked ripe for upgrades when the offseason began, but the Reds have so far stuck with Tucker Barnhart and Freddy Galvis, respectively, despite their interest in landing a much more formidable option at short. Moreover, there’s the possibility of a Senzel trade, which could provide a helpful return for one of the Reds’ weak spots, but Williams doesn’t sound like someone who’s ready to deal the prized 24-year-old.
Meanwhile, there doesn’t appear to be a lot to worry about in the Reds’ starting staff. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani and Miley comprise an impressive one to five on paper, though Bauer did have more than a little bit of trouble preventing runs after the Reds acquired him from the Indians last July. The bullpen, although largely untouched this offseason, also boasts its share of stone-cold locks. Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett are all returning after posting respectable or better numbers in 2019.
While it’s nice for the Reds that they’ve bettered their roster since last season’s 75-win effort, it’s also a boon that their division has seemingly taken steps back. The Cardinals won the NL Central in 2019, but they haven’t done anything all that notable since, and they just lost their No. 1 free agent, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, to the Braves. The Brewers – fresh off their second straight playoff season – have seen quite a few changes (good and bad) to their roster, including the losses of Moustakas and an even better free agent in catcher Yasmani Grandal. The Cubs have been quiet after a dismal finish to last season, and it’s still not out of the realm of possibility they’ll trade Kris Bryant or another important member of their roster before the new campaign rolls around. And then there’s the Pirates, who figure to be among the worst teams in the game this year.
Between the improvements they’ve made and the actions (or lack thereof) of their divisional foes, this may be the time for the Reds to return to relevance in the NL. The way their roster looks now, do you think they’re capable of doing so?
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