After the Reds earned their first playoff berth since 2013, their offseason began with the surprise resignation of president of baseball operations Dick Williams. General manager Nick Krall, who previously worked under Williams, is now at the helm. Krall already has a lot on his plate with the possible departure of right-handed ace Trevor Bauer, who’s now the preeminent free agent on the market after a Cy Young-winning season.
- Joey Votto, 1B: $82MM through 2023 (including $7MM buyout for 2024)
- Mike Moustakas, 2B: $52MM through 2023 (including $4MM buyout for 2024)
- Nick Castellanos, OF: $48MM through 2023 (including $2MM buyout for 2024)
- Eugenio Suarez, 3B: $45.5MM through 2024 (including $2MM buyout for 2025)
- Shogo Akiyama, OF: $15MM through 2022
- Sonny Gray, RHP: $20MM through 2022
- Raisel Iglesias, RHP: $9.125MM through 2021
- Wade Miley, LHP: $9MM through 2021 (including $1MM buyout for 2022)
- Tucker Barnhart, C: $4.25MM through 2021 (including $500K buyout for 2022)
Note on arb-eligible players: this year’s arbitration projections are more volatile than ever, given the unprecedented revenue losses felt by clubs and the shortened 2020 schedule. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who developed our arbitration projection model, used three different methods to calculate different projection numbers. You can see the full projections and an explanation of each if you click here, but for the purposes of our Outlook series, we’ll be using Matt’s 37-percent method — extrapolating what degree of raise a player’s 2020 rate of play would have earned him in a full 162-game slate and then awarding him 37 percent of that raise.
- Brian Goodwin – $2.7MM
- Curt Casali – $1.8MM
- Luis Castillo – $3.0MM
- Amir Garrett – $900K
- Michael Lorenzen – $4.0MM
- Tyler Mahle – $1.5MM
- Robert Stephenson – $600K
- Jesse Winker – $2.0MM
- Archie Bradley – $4.7MM
- Non-tender candidates: Goodwin, Casali, Stephenson
It didn’t look as if the Reds-Bauer union was going to work out after they acquired him from the Indians leading up to the 2019 trade deadline. Bauer had an immense amount of difficulty keeping runs off the board in the wake of the deal, evidenced by the bloated 6.39 ERA he put up in his 56 1/3-inning Reds debut.
While Bauer didn’t make an ideal first impression on the Reds, there was a 180-degree turnaround in 2020, in which the 29-year-old recorded a 1.73 ERA/2.88 FIP with 12.33 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 over 73 frames. His pitching was instrumental in getting the Reds back to the playoffs, but the problem is that excellence could lead him out of Cincinnati. Williams said before he stepped down that the team would do all it could to keep Bauer, but he also stated that he’s unsure how the Reds’ payroll will shape up in 2021 in as a result of the pandemic. Krall said Friday the team and Bauer haven’t had “substantial” contract talks.
If it’s any consolation for the Reds, they’ll at least get some compensation if Bauer does leave. They made the no-brainer decision to issue him an $18.9MM qualifying offer, which he summarily rejected.
The good news for the Reds is that a rotation devoid of Bauer and fellow free agent Anthony DeSclafani would not be a lost cause. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle should once again comprise 60 percent of the group. Wade Miley had a rough, injury-shortened season, but he’s under contract for another year and should get a chance to rebound. It’s unclear how the Reds will fill the other spot in their rotation, though reliever Michael Lorenzen seems poised to get the opportunity to win the job. Tejay Antone could join Lorenzen in competing. Otherwise, free agency is pretty stacked with established arms (Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi, Corey Kluber, James Paxton and Adam Wainwright are some of them). The trade market should be led by the Rangers’ Lance Lynn and the Pirates’ Joe Musgrove.
Bauer’s situation aside, the main question the Reds have to answer this offseason may be at shortstop. Indeed, Krall admitted Friday that the position “would be something you’d like to address.”
Freddy Galvis was a useful piece for the club from 2019-20, but he’s now a free agent. That leaves Jose Garcia, 22, as the Reds’ No. 1 at the position. Garcia is a promising prospect, but he never played above High-A before this year. It showed during a major league debut in which Garcia hit a woeful .194/.206/.194 line with no home runs and a wRC+ of 3 across 68 plate appearances. He seems to need more seasoning below the majors before the Reds hand him the reins. That could point the team to free agency, where ex-Red Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons lead the way. The KBO’s Ha-Seong Kim should soon join them. The Indians’ Francisco Lindor and the Rockies’ Trevor Story could be available via trade, but it’ll be a challenge for the Reds to win a sweepstakes for either of those stars.
Besides shortstop, the Reds’ offense probably won’t face many changes over the winter. As seen above, their position player corps features a handful of guaranteed contracts that they won’t be willing or able to jettison. First baseman Joey Votto, second baseman Mike Moustakas, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and right fielder Nick Castellanos are etched in stone. The Reds also seem likely to continue with Tucker Barnhart at catcher, though they could non-tender backup Curt Casali and give his role to Tyler Stephenson. Meanwhile, they’ll have to find playing time in the outfield for the mix of Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel (unless they use him as a trade chip), Aristides Aquino and Brian Goodwin. Granted, the Reds are probably going to non-tender Goodwin.
The Reds’ bullpen should also return largely the same bunch in 2021. As mentioned before, there’s a question whether Lorenzen or Antone will earn a rotation spot instead of a bullpen job. That aside, the club’s not in danger of losing anyone of great importance. Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims and Archie Bradley will all be back. Lorenzen, Antone or both will rejoin that group. That’s a nice core, but the Reds could still add at least one veteran free agent to supplement it. Liam Hendriks, Trevor May, Brad Hand, Blake Treinen and Trevor Rosenthal are the leading relievers looking for work. If they’re out of the Reds’ price range, the likes of Mark Melancon, Jake McGee, Brandon Kintzler and Shane Greene are a few of many who could make for sensible targets.
2020 didn’t include a postseason victory for the Reds, whom the Braves swept in the wild-card round, and it’s now probable that Cincy will see the head of its starting staff depart. Even without Bauer, though, this is still a respectable-looking team and one that could make a return to the playoffs next year if Krall finds a way to address the few glaring holes on the roster.