For the second straight winter, the Cincinnati Reds committed to building a winner the old-fashioned way: by opening their pocketbook. Last winter’s additions were good first steps, but as much as they hoped to unseat the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals, the Yasiel Puig blockbuster aimed to lure bodies through the turnstiles. This winter’s blusterous free agent spending spree, however, had all the urgency of a team earnestly on the rise. These Reds expect to compete.
- Pedro Strop, RHP: one year, $1.825MM (incentives could push total value to $3.5MM)
- Nicholas Castellanos, OF: four years, $64MM (opt out after 2020 and 2021, $20MM club option for 2024)
- Wade Miley, LHP: two years, $15MM ($6MM in 2020, $8MM in 2021, $10MM club option for 2022 with $1MM buyout)
- Mike Moustakas, 2B/3B: four years, $64MM ($20MM club option for 2024)
- Shogo Akiyama, OF: three years, $21MM ($6MM in 2020, $7MM in 2021, $8MM in 2022)
- Total spend: $165.825MM
Trades and Claims
- Claimed LHP Josh Smith off waivers from the Marlins
- Selected Mark Payton from Athletics in Rule 5 Draft
- Acquired RHP Justin Shafer from Blue Jays for cash considerations
- Acquired OF Travis Jankowski for future considerations
- Acquired RHP Jose De Leon from Rays for OF Brian O’Grady and cash
- Exercised $5.5MM option for SS Freddy Galvis
Notable Minor League Signings
- Jesse Biddle, Nate Jones, Boog Powell, Brooks Raley, Matt Davidson, Tyler Thornburg, David Carpenter
- Kevin Gausman, Jose Peraza, Christian Colon, Keury Mella, Jackson Stephens, Jose Iglesias, Alex Wood, Juan Graterol, Jose Siri, Nick Martini (claimed from Padres, lost off waivers to Phillies), Jimmy Herget
The Reds halted their run of four consecutive 90-loss seasons in 2019, albeit modestly with a 75-87 record. David Bell’s rookie campaign as the skipper had its ups and downs, but there are plenty more reasons for optimism than the record alone might suggest. Losing seasons, after all, have a tendency to compound on themselves. As the playoffs fade from view, games take on more nuanced objectives than victory alone. For the 2019 Reds, that meant getting a look at new toy Trevor Bauer, letting Aristides Aquino play superman for a time, and evaluating the roster on the whole to identify – with actionable intent – areas to target for improvement in the offseason.
So what did they find? In a nice change of pace, the Reds put together a top-10 pitching staff in 2019 – only to see their offense sink to the 25th ranked unit in the majors. It would have been temping to roll back the same group in the hopes that Aquino continue his power display, Nick Senzel develop as originally projected, and Eugenio Suarez heal enough to put together another .271/.358/.572-type season. But the Reds saw an opportunity to add offense. It’s fair to wonder if they bid against themselves, but the addition of power bats Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos deepens their lineup enough to forestall the risk of injury depletion elsewhere.
Perhaps most importantly, they filled a hole in center with Japanese import Shogo Akiyama. Akiyama would have been a good fit on a dozen clubs, but the 32-year-old brings his all-around game to Cincy. He’s a true centerfielder with on-base skills that should nicely augment a power-heavy group of sluggers. The Reds aggressively pursued Akiyama from the jump, and now the first Japanese player in franchise history will roam the grass in center on a reasonable contract. Like the Puig deal, Akiyama fits from an on-field perspective, but the business implications of expanding their potential fanbase overseas makes this deal work on multiple fronts.
At shortstop, Freddy Galvis takes over full-time from Jose Iglesias. It’s a lateral move, more-or-less, though Galvis leans a little heavier with the bat. The quality of Galvis’ glove depends on your metric of choice – 11 Outs Above Average from Statcast, 4 DRS and -1.7 UZR from Fangraphs. Let’s assume the Reds are believers. If not, are they just punting on defense? Moustakas is now Galvis’ full-time double-play partner, and he’s been a third baseman for most of his career. That said, Moose graded out okay at second in his limited time there last season (2 OAA, 0 DRS, -0.1 UZR), and it’s at least worth wondering how much body type plays a role in the skepticism over his ability to handle second full-time without a net. It’s natural to assume Senzel will play Moose’s defensive replacement (as well as his understudy), but Senzel is essentially making the same transition with a stopover in centerfield. He looks the part more than Moose, but the jury’s still out on his viability as a defensive upgrade. Regardless, he’s the closest they have to a defensive replacement on the roster.
Which brings us to the first counter-theory to the wisdom of the Reds’ offseason acquisitions. With Castellanos now entrenched in right, the Reds are betting that the offensive contributions from their newcomers will outweigh their defensive limitations. This subplot will be one of the more interesting to track if/when the season gets underway.
The other concern is this: there’s not a lot of flexibility baked into their future rosters given that Votto, Moustakas, Suarez, and Castellanos are all on the payroll for the next four seasons (at minimum). Not only do they need all four to contribute, but even if one falls off the map offensively, the presence of the other three means there’s nowhere to hide (assuming Castellanos opts in after both 2020 and 2021). That said, if Castellanos rakes as one might expect him to in Great American Ballpark, he could very well opt out, and they’d be a little better off in terms of their financial flexibility (while having reaped the benefit of his bat for a year). Positionally, even if Castellanos opts out, it doesn’t lengthen the leash much in the dirt where they’re looking at a 2023 infield of a 31-year-old Suarez at third, 34-year-old Moustakas at second, and 39-year-old Votto at first – but that’s a $54MM problem for the future.
On the other hand, roster flexibility takes many shapes. By upgrading via free agency, the Reds maintained versatility in terms of prospect depth. Nick Senzel steps into a super-utility role, but his name will make the rounds in the trade papers until he finds a regular role or proves himself indispensable. The Reds obviously see a window to compete, and they’re feeling the burn, which turns Senzel and any other prospect in the organization into currency with which they might further upgrade the roster down the line.
On the other side of the ball, the rotation was solid at the outset of the winter. The Reds staffed two of the top 25 starters in the game by measure of fWAR in 2019 (Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo). Bauer was roughed up in his first ten starts as a Red (6.39 ERA), though by FIP he was only marginally worse than his career norms (4.85 FIP). Believe it or not, Anthony DeSclafani tied with Chris Paddack and Robbie Ray for 29th in the NL by fWAR in 2019 (2.4 fWAR). Any team would feel pretty good with one of those guys slotting in as a fourth or fifth starter. Still, the Reds had room for another arm, and they got one in the form of Wade Miley on a two-year, $15MM deal. Miley imploded at the tail end of last season, but he was tipping his pitches. Assuming he’s cleaned that up, Miley solidifies their starting five into one of the more impressive units top-to-bottom in the league.
Tyler Mahle becomes the all-important sixth starter, a role akin to a backup quarterback. Whether or not he sees the field, he’s an important piece of the roster. Mahle doesn’t have a bullpen appearance on his major-league record, but the Reds are going to find out if his stuff plays up coming out of the pen.
As for the rest of the bullpen, there are some question marks. Raisel Iglesias is the foundation, and as far as lockdown artists go, he’s fine. Neither a superstar nor a liability, Iglesias enters the year as the closer for the fourth consecutive season after putting up career-best numbers with 34 saves and, more impressively, a 11.96 K/9 rate in 2019. He also sustained 12 losses and 6 blown saves. He’s a piece, for sure, but he’s far from a sure thing.
Amir Garrett evolved into one of the game’s premiere wildcard personalities in 2019, but he’s in a similar boat to Iglesias when it comes to production. He racked up 22 holds with a 3.21 ERA/4.14 FIP, good strikeout numbers (12.54 K/9), but the control was spotty (5.63 BB/9). Not to mention, he took on one entire roster in fisticuffs.
Pedro Strop adds some veteran chops to the bullpen, but he’s coming off a down year. Michael Lorenzen is an extremely handy bench/bullpen piece, but he’s not elite at any one thing. If there’s a concern for the Reds bullpen, it’s that they lack that one sure-thing, All-Star piece. Still, they have viable arms to choose from, and it’ll be on Bell to mix-and-match them to get the most out of this group.
The Reds were one of the more aggressive teams of the winter, and while their stature in the NL Central is rising, it’s not a foregone conclusion that they’ve surpassed any of the three clubs they’re chasing. Fangraphs projections peg them for 83 wins over a full 2020 season – even with the Brewers but behind the Cubbies and ahead of the Cardinals. Defense remains a concern, and the bullpen could end up needing an upgrade or two throughout the season (as many do). All that said, if/when a 2020 season is played, the Reds will be one of the more interesting teams to track. They have the depth in the lineup and the rotation to make a run. With Castellanos and Moustakas joining a perennial bottom-dweller in Cincy, they’re going to have some serious “nobody believes in us” energy to feed off. Did they do enough already to make you believe?
How would you grade the Reds’ offseason moves? (Link for app users.)
I think they have a legit shot at winning the Central with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers all getting worse over the offseason. But less games means more randomness.
Think more about third
13yearoldbf the Reds have made moves but I don’t think they are a great team. They are lucky that the Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs are loaded with tremendous players that are surrounded by huge holes. This is why the Reds will run away from the pack. The Reds brass have embarrassed the other teams with superior build. They have a good balance which will give them the central…. hands down! and I have a grand on them doing so and that is easy money. Also be careful to listen to many goats peddling their Cardinals and Cubs as a contender. Those two teams will be punished by the Reds
FYI: Christian Colon is still in the organization
a good omen
I’m really curious on how Moustakas and Castellanos are going to be over the course of their contracts. I mean they are just complete wild cards.
I would agree with that statement more on Castellanos then Moustakas as Castellanos is more on the rise whereas Moustakas has a Ring to his name and has plenty of Championship/Playoff experience.. even when he isn’t having the greatest of a season he’s still an asset over liability. Sometimes his attributes aren’t in stats either.. he’s that guy on your team you know is going to be ready 162 games a year if he’s healthy. My concern with Castellanos is he has been know as a complainer before.. hope he stays positive with us and doesn’t become a Debbie downer.. but if we get off to a hot start we should have something here.
I would agree with that statement more on Castellanos then Moustakas as Castellanos is more on the rise whereas Moustakas has a Ring to his name and has plenty of Championship/Playoff experience.. even when he isn’t having the greatest of season he’s still an asset over liability. Castellanos would be the main concern as he has been known to be a complainer before.. if the reds get off to a good start they should be in good shape to compete.
Jay one of those guys will end up winning an NL MVP award. Fooled I don’t listen to goats talking otherwise
Don’t sleep on Robert Stephenson. He could end up being a huge piece of the pen.
Best slider in MLB per fangraphs’ pitch value metric
They picked up some good players but not necessarily great roster fits, and they didn’t address shortstop or catcher positions. They have to bank on the pitching being relatively good again, in that ballpark, or the fans might end up being disappointed. I wonder how this offseason will look for them a few years from now in hindsight.
While catcher isn’t a strength, it isn’t a weakness either. The group was middle of the pack in terms of WAR last year, and have a young prospect nearly ready in Stephenson. I would’ve welcomed Realmuto last off-season or Grandal this one they’re not in a terrible position.
SS is troubling until Garcia is ready and progresses as hoped but that’s not a great solution either
The Human Rain Delay
Seems Grandal instead of one of Cast/Moose would have been a better fit-
All money remarkably very similar
Perhaps they didn’t wanna block the C position for Tyler Stephenson
A for not selling low on Senzel alone
Not as good as the Pirates who loaded up.
I’m really torn. On the one hand, it’s nice to see the Reds doing something to make themselves better and hopefully that works out. On the other hand, I AM NOT happy with the trades they’ve made. We gave up Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, now two Top 100 prospects, for basically Kyle Farmer because Wood, Puig and Kemp are all gone and none of them did jack for us (and let’s be honest, that trade wasn’t going to put us into contention anyway). Then they trade Trammell, another Top 100 prospect, for Bauer. And he stunk. Jury is still out on him, but he’s probably gone after this season too. And none of the moves they’ve made this offseason turns them into a contender, in my opinion. We’ve gotten rid of three guys that could have really made an impact in the future for a team that will be better now, but ultimately won’t win it all and it’ll be for nothing.
The Human Rain Delay
Refreshing to see a fan take a critical yet still optimistic take on their club
I do agree the trades were probably rushed and don’t look good
I worry they had all that time to develop some controllable talent in the OF and they never really hit on anything- All those years with Billy and Duvall Scheb LA castoffs and many more never amounting to much tangible today (Winker on fence) This hurts in the wallet down the line but………
I do Love that staff this year and think its enough to win the Central and even have them slight favs in my mind – They should mash, their gonna K and be slow, but I think they pitch enough to make it work –
A canceled season though would hurt them more than most as theyve pushed quite a few chips in the middle this year
Yeah, if Bauer plays better the pitching staff should be really good. Hopefully Castillo takes another step forward and becomes a Cy Young candidate all year long.
At least I have The Show, where I can make my own moves and bring Gray, Downs and Trammell back to the team. haha
The trade with LA was a solid trade. It lost some its luster because Wood missed ST and then half the season. Prospects are just that: prospects. We got three very good prospects for Cueto and how did that work out? Puig played well for the Reds and netted them Bauer. I’m expecting Bauer to bounce back mightily, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he re-signs with the Reds.
I get that it would have been better if Wood wouldn’t have gotten hurt. My problem with the trade is that it still wouldn’t have made a difference. Wood and Puig were not going to make us contenders, and they were both free agents at the end of the year. So we got rid of two promising prospects for guys that were one-year rentals, and wouldn’t have much of an impact anyway. It was a bad trade overall, which is consistent with the trades the Reds have made over the last decade or so. Dan Straily for Luis Castillo was a steal. Alfredo Simon for Eugenio Suarez was a steal. The Sonny Gray trade has been good. But other than that, look at the Reds history of trades and tell me how many of them have been good. We traded Aroldis Chapman for nobodies and then the Yankees got freaking Gleyber Torres for him. The Reds are terrible at trades, and they probably just got lucky with Castillo and Suarez.
All of you seem to forget that the LA trade was MORE about dumping Bailey’s contract than the players they got in return. Why do you think they had the cash to spend this yr?
The Reds assumed that if they were out of the playoff chase, They could trade Wood and Puig at the deadline. If wood had been healthy, that is exactly what would’ve happened. Puig helped us land Bauer, and despite last year’s finish, Bauer makes the top of the rotation formidable. And as Willie Mays points out (not forgotten, just not mentioned), a main component of the trade was the Bailey salary dump.
In addition to Castillo, Suarez, and gray, the Reds made nice pick ups with Latos, Simon, Disco, and Scooter.
Christian Colon and Michael Lorenzen are both Cal Starr Fullerton Titans. Winners!!!!
Cal State FullertonTitans!
Who ever wrote this clearly doesn’t follow the Reds closely. From the outside it would appear they picked up Akiyama to play center but that spot belongs to Senzel. They want to avoid using Senzel as a super utility player as much as possible. According to the GM Senzel will get the vast majority of his playing time in center and Akiyama in left. Most likely, Aquino starts the year in the minors to get everyday at bats since he’s one of the few outfielders with options left.
Thank you Jimbo. Senzel is the everyday CFr, despite what casual fans might say. Akiyama is here in case Senzel doesn’t stay healthy and for when he needs a day off. Akiyama will be behind Winker in LF as well: think 4th OFr.
“Casual fans” haha. Everything is speculation because the season is in limbo, but there have been several publications talking about Senzel playing a utility role. A shortened season with the potential for a lot of double headers so they can play the most games possible, would mean David Bell would have to get more creative with the lineup, and that could move Senzel around to give the regular infielders a day off. Senzel was a 2B in both high school and college, and played infield in the minors as well. He’s the best player they have that could play both infield and outfield. It is not out of the question that he could become a utility player if the season does happen. Get out of here with your snobby know-it-all attitude.
Publications don’t write line-up cards.
Neither does anyone commenting on here. So to flat out say Senzel is entrenched at CF is ridiculous.
Perhaps you should try reading the MANY quotes from Bell about whether or not Senzel plays in the infield this year. Then get back to me with your apology.
David Bell does and he said Akiyama in center until Senzel is healthy. He’s healthy now.
Please provide your sources to back up your claims. That’s not my job. All I’ve said was it’s possible. It’s all speculation because of the delayed season and how it will impact the games.
Oh well a guy tweeted Senzel will play CF most of the time so I guess that means he’ll never play anywhere else ever! Good call! I’m convinced!
I didn’t say he’ll only play CF. I think he’ll see time at other positions. All I’m saying is according to everything the Reds have said, the majority of his time will be in center. Everything they have said points to him not being a super utility player.
Ok, I can agree with you there. I’m more peeved at the other guy who’s acting like he’s David Bell’s confidant and knows what he’s going to do at all times. Any quotes Bell has had about Senzel’s position came before the season was delayed. Who knows what’ll happen this season if games are played. It’s a speculation is my main point. And to flat out deny Senzel will play anywhere else is obnoxious.
I’m wondering how expanded rosters affect everything. If they can keep and extra position player do they keep Aquino or does that just mean there is now room for both Deitrich and Vanmeter? If they keep 6 outfielders I think that increases the time Senzel sees in the infield.
I hope VanMeter remains on the active roster. He’s from my area so I like seeing him do well. Aquino should be sent down. After his hot start, he returned to what he normally is. Ervin should make the team before him.
No. I can just read. It isn’t my job to spoon feed you, kid. 2 or 3 clicks and you can find it on your own.
BTW….. I DIDN’T say he wouldn’t play other positions. I DID say he wouldn’t play in the INFIELD.
If you choose to be too lazy to find your own info, that’s your problem, but don’t put words in my mouth, skippy.
Does constantly being an a-hole usually make people agree with you? It ain’t working with me, sorry.
I’m sorry if I upset you. David Bell is sorry too …
Last winter’s additions were good first steps
Gray certainly worked out. But the Jeter/Gray trade for Puig, coupled with getting Bauer for Puig/Trammell, means that they traded Downs, Gray & Trammell for one year of Bauer at $17.5M. Pretty hard to spin that as ‘good first steps’.
Will be at least a 6 man if not 7 man rotation. Lots of day night twin bills.
Mahle will be #6 on list. Not who will be #7.
Rosters will be 30 man. Season, not sure when it will start, I was hoping for memorial day weekend, but that may be optimistic.
Senzel will NOT be playing ANYWHERE in the infield. Get it out of your heads people! 5 seconds on Google and you will see Bell has been quoted on this MULTIPLE TIMES. My goodness, the short attention spans………
Perhaps you should try reading the MANY quotes from Bell about whether or not Senzel plays in the infield this year. Then get back to me with your apology.