The Rebuild

The big rebuild is in full swing with more to come for sure. At least there had better be more to come since the job is obviously only half done and there are a multitude of questions left unanswered with not much of a game plan left apparent to interested observers.

The rebuild began last winter with the Latos and Simon trades bringing back a couple of key pieces in DeSclafani and Suarez. It continued last midseason with the Cueto and Leake trades that returned Finnegan, Lamb, Reed, Mella, and Duvall. These deals added major pitching depth to a minor league system already full of good young pitching talent.

The latest rebuild activity was the trades of Frazier and Chapman that returned Peraza, Schebler, Davis and Jagielo as the notable return. These deals hinted at a change of sorts in that the Reds appeared to be targeting close to the big leagues position prospects.

That is the current state of the rebuild. The only remaining players that the Reds seem to be entertaining the idea of moving as part of the rebuild are Phillips and Bruce. Phillips will be tough to move due the Reds not pulling the trigger before he acquired this 10/5 trade veto rights. Bruce’s recent down turn and sporadic play the last two seasons will make it tough to get perceived value back in a deal for him.

Sorting Out The Pitching

The Reds have accumulated an awesome array of great arms that one would expect to become a formidable pitching staff by the end of 2017. The concern here is that there are many questions remaining to be answered in regards to which arms will be filling what roles. The Reds have not inspired confidence over the recent years that they are capable of sorting through this pile of talent, evaluating the players abilities, defining the roles that they will be filling, and then developing the players for those roles. Chapman and Cingrani are recent examples of players in which the Reds waffled back and forth on role definitions to various degrees.

Can the Reds evaluate these arms and make some timely decisions on their future roles so they can begin developing them appropriately? I can see the value in wanting to maximize a pitchers value by developing them as a SP for as long as possible while they are still showing that potential. It is evident however that the Reds will soon not have that luxury any longer as they will be running out of rotation slots for the many talented arms that they have acquired. They will soon need to put their scouting and analytic resources to good use and make some tough decisions on the future path of these young arms. We’ve already heard a few of these pitchers, (Finnegan, Lorenzen, Mella) mentioned as possible relievers down the road. A key to the Reds success of forming these arms into a great staff will be their ability to make these tough decisions the first half of this upcoming season.

Behind The Plate

Devin Mesoraco’s hip and bat are big questions that need and should be answered soon. Ideally, he is healthy, catches 100+ games and continues hitting something like he did in 2014 and life is good. If he’s not healthy, things start getting ugly. The Reds have already invested ~25M in him over the next three seasons. If he is not healthy like last year to the extent he can’t play, he becomes another Sean Marshall multi-year 60 Day DL veteran. If he’s not healthy to the extent he just can’t catch any longer but can play elsewhere, the Reds may be forced into attempting to transition him to LF where he’s really never played before.

If Mesoraco is ultimately moved to LF, it’s not only can he handle it defensively, but will his bat play there? Mesoraco the hitter of 2010 (.964 OPS at A+,AA,AAA), 2011 (.855 at AAA), and 2014 (.893 OPS at MLB) play just great in LF. Mesoraco’s best OPS in his other six professional seasons is .710. Perhaps it’s the rigors and additional duties of the position that have had effect on his bat over the years, but there’s still a legitimate question about what one should expect from him offensively and will it be enough to play at a prime offensive position.

If Mesoraco can no longer catch, can the Reds get by with Barnhart and Cabrera to bridge the gap to top prospect Tyler Stephenson, or perhaps Jake Turnbull, whose ETAs are probably about 2019 or 2020? If not, they might want to look at acquiring a near ready catcher in one of their upcoming rebuild trades.

Around The Infield

Joey Votto may be the only sure thing on this team. I’m already relieved that with the pickup of Adam Duvall we already have a legitimate backup in place in case he gets dinged up or needs a day off. If only the rest of the infield was as simple.

Todd Frazier has already been dealt away and as previously mentioned, the Reds would like to deal Phillips, as the failed deal to the Nationals would attest. I’d also put forth that if Cozart proves himself healthy this spring, he is a very likely a midseason trade candidate as well. One would expect that Phillips and Cozart will start out back at SS and 2B respectively and the Reds have already stated that Suarez is expected to start out at 3B in place of Frazier. Given that though, the Reds need to make some evaluations on the pieces at hand to lay out a plan going forward should they accomplish the Phillips and Cozart deals this year.

Who is the Reds SS of the future? Suarez has the inside track as he filled in nicely for Cozart last season with some questions about his defense there. The newly acquired Peraza could be a good option here as well. He has seen more time recently at 2B, but this is more due to him being blocked at SS in other organizations by top prospects Simmons and Seager. Alex Blandino ended last season at AA and has hit well at so every level far. I believe the Reds first step is to evaluate these three players and determine the best choice for the SS position. The 2B of the future should come from the two remaining players. My current personal preference is for Peraza at SS and Suarez at 2B, but I’ll leave it up to the scouts to evaluate how their defense stacks up best up the middle.

Who is the Reds 3B of the future? Whoever loses out at SS/2B (Suarez or Blandino perhaps) should have enough bat to hold down 3B going forward if all goes well. I believe Duvall, primarily a 3B in the minors, should get a long look at 3B this spring to confirm if he can field the position well enough. Newly acquired Eric Jagielo should soon be ready as he may very well start the season out at AAA after posting a strong .842 OPS in 248 PA at AA last season. Once again, there are lots of candidates and moving pieces here that the Reds to get sorted out.

In The Outfield

Entering the season, two thirds of the OF appears set for now. Jay Bruce is the RF until when/if the Reds can trade him. Billy Hamilton appears to be entrenched as the CF. LF, as usual here lately in Reds land, is a free for all. It’s rather sad that the OF got so little attention in terms of the prospects received in the recent trades given the lack of offense the Reds have gotten from it the last few years.

Love him or hate him, Jay Bruce will in RF every day until the Reds can unload him as part of the rebuild. Should they deal him the Reds should have a game plan in place to back fill for him. Current in house candidates would be Rodriguez, Schebler, and Winker. There will be more on these guys later.

Billy Hamilton is the incumbent in CF and we all know his value comes entirely from defense and base running. We are still waiting for him to hit at AAA, much less the majors. It is my hope that the Reds consider other options in CF for 2016. I feel Tyler Holt should get a long look in CF this spring. He slashed .304 /.398 /.382 /.779 in 703 PA at AAA over the last two seasons. He’s posted a 12.7 BB% at AAA and was named twice by BBA to be the Best Defensive OF in the Cleveland Indians system so he can play some defense in CF as well. I’ll gladly trade off a little defense and some SB for someone that may very well be a real leadoff hitter. Yorman Rodriguez is worth a mention here as well if he can ever put the whole package together and Phil Ervin may be the CF of future and he should start next season at AA.

Who plays LF? This year’s LF may just be a placeholder until Jesse Winker, who will start out at AAA this season, is deemed ready. The best candidate may very well be newly acquired Scott Schebler. Yorman Rodriguez, who is out of options and had some success at AAA last season, will get a long look as well. Adam Duvall, a CI throughout the minors, began getting a look in LF last season and will most likely be in the mix as well. As mentioned above, Mesoraco could be a wild card here also. The Reds evaluators have some more big decisions to make on prospects in the OF as well.

The Decision Makers

It also seems imperative that the decision makers in the front office make some changes in how they are managing the team as well. This is the year of the transition. Walt Jocketty has announced he’ll step into an advisory role following the 2016 season, ceding the day-to-day operations to Dick Williams. So the big question here is, will we begin seeing some changes in the way things are done this season with Dick Williams preparing to take over the helm?

The Reds actually participated in the major league portion of the Rule V draft this year for the first time since Walt Jocketty became GM. They picked up a LH hitting OF in Jake Cave and a LH RP Chris O’Grady who both currently have a half decent shot of sticking with the Reds for the 2016 season. This is a small thing, but definitely an encouraging step for the Reds to be utilizing an avenue of obtaining talent that appeared to be long forgotten by them in recent years.

What’s next, could the Reds start paying more attention to the Waiver Wire? The waiver wire can produce some decent finds from time to time. The Reds have picked up Alfredo Simon, Ryan Mattheus, and Tyler Holt up off waivers. It just seems that the waiver wire has become over Jocketty’s tenure to be another underutilized tool to pick up players to enhance the roster, supply depth and fill roster holes. I’m sure we don’t want to see its use reach the level of the Bowden/Krivsky days but it sure seems like a long forgotten tool now.

Will roster depth be addressed? It’s become obvious in recent years with all of the injuries that have befallen the Reds that roster depth has become a real problem. Maybe this issue will be addressed as a byproduct of the rebuild with all of the upper level talent being added in the recent trades. But it has become apparent that the current organization was ill prepared to produce replacement level players to back fill for the MLB roster when needed. Brayan Pena filling in for Joey Votto at 1B is the shining example here.

Will there be some sanity brought to roster management? The Jocketty tenure as GM is littered with sad examples of the Reds on field managers having their hands tied by being left shorthanded on the bench. First off, the Reds need to get back to being able to manage the bullpen such that they only need to carry 12 pitchers on the roster. There is this role called long reliever. He’s a guy that actually goes out there and pitches for 3-4 innings after you get a starter knocked out in the 3rd inning. With a 12 man pitching staff, you can carry 4 reserves on the bench besides your backup catcher. Ideally 2 of them would swing LH, the other two RH, and between all four can cover each of the 7 IF/OF spots defensively. Then if there if some semblance of roster depth in place, we can actually put a guy on the DL when he’s hurt and can’t play and be able to call up a reasonable replacement. Far too many times, players who were hurt and unavailable for a week or better sat on the bench taking up the roster spot and leaving the bench shorthanded.

The Conclusion

It’s been a really tough off season thus far as a Reds fan. Not only are we undergoing a rebuild, but it’s been set back by things like off field shenanigans and blocked trades. Our beloved team is currently a jumbled mess in transition. While we search constantly for answers to what and how the team will look like in the near future we are forced to wait patiently as possible and trust in the Reds front office to utilize their scouts and analysts to sort through the many scenarios and provide us with the best team possible going forward. The waiting is the hardest part.

Join the conversation! 35 Comments

  1. Just when there looked like there was some hope they go back to recycle bin. Those two were cut already and they are gonna do that dance again.

    • No harm in a minor league contract. Now if the Reds then pull another Kevin Gregg and give Ryan Mattheus or Pedro Villarreal a spot on the opening day roster please feel free to shout in a Brian Price manner. Hopefully they’ll learn from their mistakes… and if they don’t we will have all the more to discuss at the start of the year.

      • I was really, really done with Mattheus, and even on a minor league deal, I fear he’ll end up throwing too many innings for the big league club. I don’t feel much better about Villarreal. Is it that hard to build a bullpen, especially on a rebuilding club, without the retreads?

        • Agree, especially on Mattheus. I doubt he signed thinking he was ticketed for minor league duty.

          Villarreal could work as a cheap and passable long man given where the club is at. He’d save innings and service time on one or two of the younger guys.

        • I see more value in Villaerreal than I do Mattheus. I really don’t want to see Mattheus on the club this year.

        • I thought Villarreall did a solid job as long reliever/garbage time guy. I’m happy to see him back on a minor league deal. Mattheus and Wood still seem redundant to me.

  2. If Peraza has a good spring hitting, he could also be an alternative in Center Field if Billy Hamilton continues not to hit.
    We have some good young talent. Players will emerge, players will disappoint.

    Likewise with the pitching staff. There will be some brilliance this year, and some disappointments. I hope that at least the Front Office and Price are on the same page as to assembling the 25 man roster and the roles for all the players. And I hope no one is acquired for veteran presence, the most mis-used rationale for having an older player with declining skills on the team.

  3. I have heard Nick Cave, rule 5 draft pick from NYY, has a good shot at the opening day roster, presumably in the outfield. Any idea if he’s in the mix to start in LF?

    • Jake Cave should have a fair shot at making the roster. He will be just 23 years old this season and he slashed .269/.330/.345/.674 last year at AA and then did well in just 29 PA at AAA. Last year was a down year for him as his SLG numbers were down about .050 from previous levels. Ideally he’d be beginning the year at AAA. He will basically be trying to have a good enough spring to convince the Reds to keep him on the roster all year as a 5th OF/PH. What he has going for him is that he is a LH hitter, which the Reds currently have few of them as options for the bench right now, and he can play all three OF positions. It would be a shocking development if he was in the mix to be the starter in LF for next season.

    • So, if Cave doesn’t make the roster, he has to be sold back to NYY, correct? So he should have a good shot, otherwise why draft him?

  4. That about sums it up. It will be interesting to see how the Reds find playing time for these guys, either in AAA or in the bigs, to see how well they do. … And among the pitchers, how lengthy will the auditions be before deciding who stays in the rotation and who goes to the pen? With the number of arms the Reds have stockpiled, any of these guys who make a good impression will be, in effect, auditioning for all 30 teams.

    I’m also wondering how many guys will be kept in the minors, no matter their success, to preserve the service time clock from starting. Play the kids if they show they are ready.

    I heard one of the baseball experts — I think it was Buster Olney — on a San Diego radio station, and he listed the Padres and the Reds as mired in ‘no-man’s land,’ as in, no chance to contend, but so early in the rebuilding that fans could have a long wait on their hands. … The Padres have to be in deeper trouble, given that they traded away so many of their ‘farmhands.’ I didn’t think the Reds were that bad off by comparison.

    • It looks to me like barring a couple of serious injuries, the Reds pitching could really gel in a hurry. Tom suggested the end of 2017; I think by the beginning of 2017, Either way, other than Winker, even with the new bodies, the position side is not going to be ready nearly as quickly unless they sign some free agents or trade some really good pitching for established MLB position talent.

  5. I agree with the caution concerning Mesoraco. The hip surgery should work; but, nobody has ever had the surgery then gone out and been an everyday MLB catcher. Based on prior experience with this surgery, the worst case should be that Meso would be able to play every day at a position other catcher. If that position would turn out not to be LF, then he would probably have to be traded to a team that could use him as a 1B or DH.

    After the confusion surrounding Hamilton’s shoulder surgery, it was eventually clarified that the shoulder worked on was his right (throwing) shoulder. I think there has to be some concern for him too until it is established he can still throw well enough to play CF.

  6. I think the Reds should let Hamilton give up switch hitting, see how it goes
    don’t think his batting slash lines would go down.

    • Apparently, Hamilton asked to give it up, but the Reds said no. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially as he swings a wet noodle from the left side. But you know…a couple feet closer to 1B from the left side. Got to utilize that speed.

  7. While I am a fan of the direction the Reds are taking, it does raise some questions.25 yr old inciarte, 27 yr old Ben Revere are traded for pieces that we seemingly have on hand. Did the Reds not know Revere was available before they traded Chapman. With approx 20 young arms in the system did we not think to ask the D’backs about Inciarte. If we had to give up 6 players to get guys like this, so what. The Braves and Jays seemed to know who was out there. Why not the Reds.

    • In general I agree with your sentiments; but, I can see the reasons the Reds weren’t in on Inciarte or Revere.

      Inciarte was in the Shelby Miller deal. The DBacks look to be in “all in” mode; and, the Reds didn’t have a “right now” established starting pitcher of that ilk to send for him. However given the Braves propensities to continue to trade for quantity, if I were Dick Williams, I think I’d call them and ask about him.

      Revere is in a tough spot for the Reds in his cost/ control arc. 2016 is his 2nd arb year. He can become a free agent after 2017. So he is basically the same as Frazier was (and Cozart too), going to cost a bundle to keep when the Reds would really need him.

  8. It doesn’t bode well for Reds fans when upper management has to re-boot the re-build. What colossal cluster-you know what Walt Jocketty has been this winter. Castellini let Jocketty stay on for one too many contract extensions. Jocketty should have been shown the door just after Dusty Baker was shown it. That decision left the Reds with a half-decade deficit hole to climb back out of now. The Reds owner only said he was interested in bringing “winning baseball” back to Cincinnati. He never said he was interested in bringing “championship baseball” back to Cincinnati. The bar was set low and remains low with this front office of Walt Jocketty and Dick Williams.

    • “Championship baseball” IS “winning baseball.” I’m more worried about left field, among other things, than I am about semantics.

      • Guess we disagree. Going 82-80 would be winning baseball, but not championship baseball. I want them to build to be competitive every year, sure, but I also want them to be ready for when windows open to actually try for postseason success.

        I don’t see where the front office has done much to show it was preparing for success after this current ‘window’ closed. And they had to know it wasn’t going to last forever. Instead of incremental moves along the way, they waited too long. Hence rebuilding everything all at once.

        • Yes, Jocketty seems stuck in a set piece mode versus being more dynamic and fluid. If Williams is going to be different, we’ve yet to see the signs of it.

        • I don’t disagree, really, but a team has to win in order to contend for a championship. It’s rare that a complete stealth team goes from losing to the championship without intervening competence. I was really just commenting on semantics–my tendency, heightened by this slow time of year.

  9. This rebuild is just a way to not spend money. If ownership can’t afford the team then they should sell. Now this team is five years from winning anything. I’m sick and tired of the Reds losing. If you think last year was painful you haven’t seen anything yet. I for one will not spend another dime on this organization until w are committed to putting a winner on the field.

    • You are exactly in the same camp as my dad.

    • What exactly do you mean by “committed to putting a winner on the field?” They’re 6 of 30 in percent of revenue spent on payroll. They increased payroll by 50% from 2010-2015. Things didn’t work out and they’re rebuilding.

      • BAH! “Things didn’t work out.” They done screwed it up completely.

    • Whats wrong with NOT spending money for a year or two? I was preaching they should do just that. It rebuilds the coffers and readies for a bigger outlay for a couple of good FA’s in 2017 when they might start seeing a formidable array of cheap rookies and second year players.

      I wanted them to clear veteran payroll that will be on the downside or free agents when they’re ready to compete again. I realize they may make up for lower payroll with a big outlay, but at least the owner can reason he can after his finances are tidy for a season or two.

      Castellini has increased the payroll dramatically since he bought the team. I can’t believe ANY Reds fan would knock him and spending. Don’t you remember Linder and Schott? Yes, Schott had some fairly sizable payrolls a few years, but she didn’t spend on anything else (scouts fired, all sorts of materials and facilities gutted, etc).

    • er, “I realize they may NOT make up for a lower payroll with a big outlay.”

  10. Good review of the current roster, rebuild, and possibilities.

    The pitching will need to be sorted out. In fact, I don’t think it’s too early to try and turn some of that excess into other prospects instead of allowing time and possibility for injury or poor performance to occur (see Chapman, Bruce, Frazier etc). I would not trade either of Stephenson or Reed. Between those two, Bailey, Iggy, and Disco I hope the foundation for a top notch rotation is in place by 2017. After that, I’d be open for business on all others, with a few caveats. I would not trade both Travieso and Garrett in order to keep “elite level” depth. I would not trade both of Lorenzen and Finnegan as we will eventually need a back end closer. I’d give Lamb, Moscot, Lorenzen, and Finnegan the year to show what they can do as a starter. If they find success, they’re more valuable as a trade chip, if not I start the transition to the bullpen and see how they perform in that role. I probably start Mella in the pen sooner, as he has more competition at his level, and has already experienced some shoulder soreness that caused him to be shut down last year. He would have a high ceiling as a reliever.

    As far as catching goes, it is one of the areas that the Reds are fairly deep. Although the best two prospects played in rookie ball (Stephenson and Turnbull). But Hudson is a good defensive C who’s bat started showing a little life last season, and Wallach still has some untapped potential. Cabrera appears to be a great 3rd C to have even as a platoon option for Barnhart. I think Barnhart could probably move into a full time gig if Mes can’t stay at the position. He has the defense and I believe he’ll hit enough to be an average starter at worst. Obviously, Mes bouncing back from injury is the scenario we all hope for.

    In the infield, Votto is Votto. How 2B plays out will be real interesting. Peraza may be the heir apparent to the position, but before he was acquired Blandino looked like that guy. Blandino may be able to play enough SS to be a utility guy, but he doesn’t have the range to handle it on an every day basis. Renda, acquired in Chapman trade, appears to have high-contact rates and an ability to hit for average. Suarez could move there also. It will be interesting to see how it plays out across the INF. SS appears to be Cozart’s for now, but no telling how he’ll come back from injury. Suarez or Peraza could handle it, and one of the two is my best guess moving forward. 3B appears to be the most gaping hole on the field. With the Reds best 3B prospect, Sparks, likely repeating Adv.-A next year, and Jocketty already targetting Jagielo as a utility INF type (not to mention huge questions about his defense) there really is no one apparent to step in. Suarez or Blandino (college position) would be my best guesses, or maybe we could target a 3B prospect with some of our SP prospects. I don’t believe Duvall is an option as his defense was reportedly very bad.

    In the OF, I think we have plenty of options, including some intriguing platoon options. In CF we have the incumbent Hamilton, and if he can’t hit enough to play every day, then Rodriguez, Cave (possibly in platoon), and Ervin should get a shot. One of the names that I don’t see often mentioned as a CF option, is Peraza. He’s got (near) Billy’s speed combined with a high contact rate/low K rate. If we can find an everyday 3B and shift Suarez and Blandino to SS and 2B respectively, I think playing Peraza in CF could be a viable option. For the corners, Winker should take one, and then the other spot should come down to Rodriguez, Schebler, and Ervin or some combination/platoon. A few others will likely be int he mix (Duvall, Waldrop, Cave).

    Anyone who doesn’t pan out as a starter is automatically in line for a bench spot. We have options, but still could use a little more. 3B is the biggest hole in my opinion. Sorting out CF and opposite corner from Winker is crucial. But it’s good to have some solid options. Mes’ health will go a long ways in determining the C (and maybe LF) positions. Lots of questions marks, the next year or two will at least be interesting in finding answers to some of these questions, if not for anything else.

  11. I’m just hoping that the Reds’ brass isn’t resigned to the fact that Suarez’ defense doesn’t play at SS. A lot of guys struggled their first year or two at SS and then turned out to be at least average defenders for good portions of their careers.

    • His minor league numbers suggest he should be average to slightly above average as a defender. I hope he’s the SS of the future.

    • Yeah, it’s a disaster if he has to play 3B long-term.

    • Ease up on the sarcasm Steve. I am with LWBlogger a bit. That said, they have enough SS options now that I hope simply the best fielder there (with some semblance of a bat) wins the job and the others relocate to another position or are traded for another key piece in a year or two.

  12. Is it taboo to link articles from ESPN? There is a very good article on the state of the MLB rebuilds featuring Redlegs.

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