I believe that this is the season where the Reds move themselves from being perennial cellar dwellars back to respectability. I don’t think they’ll be in serious contention for a playoff spot, but I believe that they will have a winning record this season, right around 84 to 85 wins. I think that they’ll accomplish this by having a bit below average pitching and an above average offense. I think the starting pitching additions will result in their rotation being just a bit below league average, and the pen will be right about average. The offense will pick up the pitching by being well above league average with Kearns, Dunn, Griffey, and Casey having big seasons, and Jimenez, Randa, Aurilia/Lopez, and LaRue all hanging in at or near the leaguee average mark. This combination, along with much improved depth, and great team chemistry will result in the Reds first winning season since 2000.
More importantly, this season will result in making the Reds an up and coming team, with great team chemistry, that will make it a target destination for the desireable free agents that will be needed to fill in the missing pieces to put this team into playoff contention the following year. As I believe it was Steve who alluded to in an earlier post, the good free agents don’t want to come to a perrenial loser with no direction. That is why we had to lobby hard to get the right to overpay a pretty average pitcher like Milton to come play for us this season. The Reds may not have built a playoff contender this season, but they have put together a club very capable of a winning record. This will put them into a position next winter to be able to attract the quality players on the market to fill in the missing pieces.
One key to this will be the development of Wagner and Coffey this season. It would be ideal if one of these two would develop enough this season to step in for the departing $6M dollar closer Danny Graves. This would both give us a stronger pen, and free up a significant amount of money to resign players, or attract new ones. Another key is Edwin Encarnacion continuing to bloom at AAA this season. That would make him the starter at 3B next season, a big offensive improvement, and ensure that Joe Randa is the one year stopgap he was meant to be. Felipe Lopez coming of age would also be a huge plus. Also keep an eye on the likes of Gardner and Pauly at AA this season, they could put themselves into position to strengthen the back end of the rotation next season.
So if you are bit dissapointed by the aged mediocre signings the Reds made this offseason, I understand. Because you are right, they are not going to put us in the playoffs this season. They are just placeholders to establish the team once again as a winning franchise until the young guys on the horizon develop, and to help position the frachise as one that is attractive to potential free agents.