The pages are turning, more slowly than we may have thought. But it’s happening. The book is closing on the team that brought winning baseball back to Cincinnati. Yes, some of the players from that core remain, most notably on the position player side. But with Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Todd Frazier gone, we are entering the final chapter of a fun and exciting time in Reds’ history. Early this season, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce have reminded us why we’ve enjoyed them so much. But in one sense, they seem out of place, with younger players waiting in the wings. Joey Votto and Homer Bailey may be the only members of the old guard that will see the next winning team in Cincinnati.

With the closing of one book comes the opportunity to write another winning story in Cincinnati, and the Reds have now revealed their plan to do so. Zach Buchanan and C. Trent Rosencrans recently published an excellent piece that details the Reds rebuilding strategy, straight from the new head story writer himself, Dick Williams.

While the goal is simple, win the World Series, the path is full of obstacles. The starting point is (was?) a team that lost 98 games last season and was devoid of young talent at the upper minors until recently. The thing that made the 2015 season so hard was the lack of hope, at least for most of the year. Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, and Eugenio Suarez gave us something to believe in, but we could all see the Reds needed to get younger and more talented.

Now, with an influx of youth to the roster at the major league level and right below, hope abounds once again. The plan really began at the trade deadline when the Reds received four promising pitchers in Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Cody Reed, and Keury Mella and a likely fourth outfielder in Adam Duvall for two expiring contracts (Cueto and Leake). In the offseason, they unloaded Frazier and Chapman for additional youth, even though these trades were met with more skepticism than the deadline deals.

Looking back, we can see part one of the plan, which isn’t finished. The Reds intend to trade valuable pieces that are unlikely to be around for the next winning team. They tried to send Bruce and Phillips away but failed for various reasons. If Zack Cozart and/or Alfredo Simon play well in the first half, they may try and trade them as well.

This step is necessary for a team with payroll restrictions, but it requires tough decisions. We grow attached to the characters of a good story. When Cueto and Leake were traded last July, it was like the writers had killed off two of the best characters from my favorite TV show.  Those two had given us so much and almost instantly, they were gone.

But, it’s the wise thing to do. As Steve said in his Opening Day post, we “will be falling in love with a different group of young players.” The Reds need to bring in new, talented players to eventually have a chance at that storybook ending that has eluded them since 1990: a World Series championship.

But, these new players won’t come only through trades. Part two in the plan is to “invest aggressively in the amateur market.” This step includes drafting well, as the Reds have arguably done in the past decade, and by signing international free agents, something else they have some success doing (Chapman, Iglesias).

Signing international players is risky. For every Chapman, there is a Yasmany Tomas or Rusney Castillo. The Reds have taken a conservative approach to signing international free agents in the past. But now, they have the largest pool of money in baseball to sign draft picks and international players. With the second pick in the draft, the Reds may be able to invest highly in an impact bat if available. Or, maybe they make a splash in the international market.

Part three is to create payroll flexibility. Not because the Reds intend to sign high profile free agents, but because they will need to sign young talent as it gets more expensive. They also may need reinforcements at the deadline once they begin contending again. Apparently, the money they saved from trades last season has gone into a “war chest” for the Reds to access at just the right time. As Winker, Stephenson, Peraza, and Reed begin producing, the Reds could possibly lock them in beyond their arbitration years.

So far, all parts of the plan involve acquiring, developing, and maintaining talent. For this recipe to work, the Reds must properly evaluate players both internally and externally. If the Reds fail to trade, draft, sign, and develop effective players, the next decade could look like 2000-2009, an era we’d like to forget. In modern baseball, the information available to make these decisions and improve a player’s skill set is astounding, and the Reds are taking steps to better utilize the abundance of accessible data.

Part four is to invest in other areas to better the team. The Reds have hired new scouts and an analytics team. They invested in new technologies to help scouts gather better information. In the area of player development, they did the following:

“The team is expanding its player development staff, including strength and conditioning coaches at each minor-league affiliate and an increased budget in nutrition for its minor-league affiliates. This is building better players not just through their skills on the field, but in their preparations for playing. There is new leadership training offered throughout the minors and an expanded offseason strength camp. The Reds have also invested in improvements to their academy in the Dominican Republic.”

The Reds are using sport science to try and prevent injuries and gain more advantages through medical research. In short, they are beginning to modernize their baseball operations in order to maximize their effectiveness.

And that’s it. The four-part process to making the Reds World Series champs once again. Will it work? I’ll go on record as saying the strategy is solid. They have multiple ways of acquiring new talent, have upped their investment in both scouting and analytics, and are looking for ways to improve player development. But good strategy and good execution are two entirely different things.

The Reds roster is likely far from contending and questions remain. Is Jose Peraza a franchise cornerstone or a utility infielder? Will the young pitchers develop and stay healthy? Will position prospects like Jesse Winker, Alex Blandino, and Phillip Ervin blossom into everyday players or better? The list goes on.

One thing is certain: a new story is about to be written. New characters have already been introduced and even more are coming. The plot will begin to take shape this year as players develop and foreshadow what’s to come. We will fall in love with some of the new faces and vilify others. Stories are only as good as the people crafting the narrative. Let’s hope the Reds’ new head writer, and his four-part process, will deliver a story we will all remember fondly.



Join the conversation! 32 Comments

  1. How about we win with #ThisTeam

    • That would be nice, but how often does every single player out-perform their expectations in the same season?

      5-1 is a nice start, but there really isn’t any reason to think the Reds are going to compete with this team unless you think Raisel wins the Cy Young and Jay Bruce, Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, and Zack Cozart will all be MVP candidates.

    • I have floated that same premise but the consensus view from the experts is that Reds’ fans have got to stop hoping or believing that this team can over-achieve and must instead simply bring the kids down to Rae’s Creek, jump in and enjoy fishing for golf balls. As I’ve learned from my friends here, its completely inappropriate to be fixated on winning … you need to get comfortable with losing 100 games this year and simply enjoy the experience of going to the stadium, having a couple of hot dogs, and a beer for the experience.

      • Everyone wants the Reds to win and no one wants them to lose 100 games. You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is that they’re trying to do and why it is important.

        The probability that the Reds, as they’re currently constructed, can beat the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates over 162 is rather small. In order to compete for championships they need to build a solid, largely cost controlled core of players. They also need a great development system that enables them to replace players who become too expensive. They cannot spend their way to success.

        You may want a 77 win team, that maximizes payroll, and keeps it interesting until September each year. Those whom you are criticizing want the Reds to be in a position to have SUSTAINABLE success.

      • Bobby, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Which experts are those, Robert? I haven’t seen anyone on here that is trying to dash your optimism or suggest that it is inappropriate to have said optimism. In fact, the posts that I’ve seen carry some optimism about this team, if not guarded. Btw, some hot dogs and a beer at the ole’ ballpark sounds like a great time to me!

      • I still want them to win the ‘winnable’ games, such as the first game in Chicago. But I don’t want them doing so in such a way as to jeopardize future talent, as they did with that extended outing for Finnegan.

        Competitive, yes. At the risk of the future, not hardly.

  2. I predict Finnegan will be the closer when all is said and done. I saw a lefty named Doolittle for Oakland yesterday with the save. Finnegan could be nasty coming in at 95. Sort of Cingrani’s attitude but better stuff. It was nice to finally see Bob Steve and all the hype but I still think Lorenzen’s stuff is slightly better? I see him as having #2 starter potential but I know a lot of people see him as a late inning type reliever? I just don’t feel like he’s had enough time on the mound yet for anyone to know? Its not an exact science. The scouting reports were mediocre for Suarez when we got him but I liked his short swing and bat speed immediately. Of course I also thought Drew Stubbs could be a star. Jay Bruce has to be the biggest surprise so far…..looks like an old dog maybe can learn new tricks! It may not last but you’re pretty dangerous when you can hit the ball foul line to foul line!!

    • I hope you are right, but he is not a starter. I don’t see a dominant closer either (gives up homers too much) but in a group of other good relievers he would probably be fine.

  3. I just watched the game, so please forgive me for posting this here instead of on the game recap since everyone seems to have moved on.

    1) Why the heck was Cingrani not used in either the 8th or 9th? In both innings he could have faced a LHP, or just pitched. Is he hurt again?

    2) Interesting that Hoover didn’t pitch the 9th, tied at home. He threw 9 pitches Friday, and 11 Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, if that means Price will be more flexible with “roles” I’ll take it. But our nominal closer didn’t pitch in a spot the closer usually pitches, and the TV guys and RLN commenters didn’t say anything, so I thought I’d bring it up.

    3) Beautiful play by Mes in the 8th. Great positioning with the new rule, and great tag. Go Reds!

    • So what is the take on Cingrani a couple of fluke minor league season and a bigger fluke 2013???. Is he just injury prone????- is it me or do his injuries seem to be less severe than others but he is just held out a real long time. Is there any logic to his use or is he just not as talented as I perceive he is???

  4. Thanks for the write-up, Nick.

    I’m also optimistic. The more I hear Williams speak, and the closer Jocketty gets to going away, the more I like our future chances.

    Germane to the topic at hand:

    • With Votto in a bit of a funk at this time, it would seem like a nice time to move Votto up to second and Suarez third. If they could move him to third without messing up his mojo and get Votto clicking at the same time. Don’t mess up the mojo though.

      • This thought process seems logical as long as BP is clicking. I would have never thought we would want to look at Suarez with BP lurking to get JV something to hit to get on track.

  5. Part of that rebuilding plan.
    Kourage Khoundal tweeted this out about Rookie Davis’s Reds org. debut this afternoon,
    “After two long rain delays, that’s probably all we’ll see of Rookie Davis in his #Reds org debut: 5.0ip, 1er, 4h, 2bb, 4k on 81p/58s.”
    Not bad at all. Pounding the strike zone.

  6. Honest question. Has there been something said by a member of the Reds hierarchy indicating that Homer Bailey is untouchable? Cueto, who was much better, was traded. Why not Bailey? All that is needed is for him to get healthy and pitch well during the first part of the season. I understand Votto as untouchable but Bailey is not in Votto’s class, nor even Cueto’s.

    • Anyone is tradeable at the right price.

    • There is zero market for someone who is coming off TJ surgery and hasn’t pitched in a year…..especially when they make 18 million per year.

      • Agree, but if he establishes that he is healthy and is pitching well he then has value.

        • Exactly. I didn’t say trade him now. The keys are for him to prove he is healthy and pitching well. Tommy John surgery is very common these days. I think it’s been written here about how common it now is for good pitchers to bounce back.

    • Haven’t seen anything regarding Homer as untouchable. He needs to pitch well coming off his surgery to have trade value.

    • I would say if Bailey reestablishes himself then the Reds may look to move him. I wouldn’t say he’s off the table. I just will echo the sentiments of others in saying that right now, there isn’t a market for him.

      • PLEASE PEOPLE…..homer is not JIM Maloney; look at his career stats!!! 2 NO-hitters is 2 wins; no more.

        • Who’s saying he’s Maloney? All I said was if he proves healthy and effective, he may have some trade value and therefore it is likely he would be on the table.

    • Cueto and Bailey’s contract situations were vastly different. Not one person suggests that Bailey is better, but he was cheaper and still is a major league pitcher with high upside. Cueto got traded because he wasn’t going to be here any more under any financial circumstances. He also brought back the Reds more in talent than somebody else could have. Trade talent to get talent.

      If they keep Homer, it’s because they think he can be a valuable contributor to a winning team. Good teams need good pitching. He can do that.

      He and Votto may be around for the next playoff run because their current contracts would afford them that opportunity in terms of years left. Doesn’t mean it has to be that way.

      That said, I agree with everyone else that they should always consider trading him for the right reasons.

  7. I’ll believe all this warm and fuzzy rebuilding stuff when I see results. I’ve repeatedly heard heard this crap before from the Red’s front office under Jocketty.

    • You mean the “crap” about when the Reds started making the playoffs and playing winning baseball for the first time in a decade? If anything, Jocketty came in at the tail end of a rebulid, he never had to strip it down and build it up.

  8. Like a lot of others, I registered my displeasure with the lack of high upside prospects the Reds received in return for Chapman and Frazier. I guess we will have to wait and see how Peraza and the others develop. I will give the FO credit for shoring up the overall depth of the organization.

    Before the beginning of last season, RL had an article where everyone was invited to post what they thought the Reds record for 2015 would be. I doubt anyone prognosticated 98 losses. Many of the optimistic posts made their prediction with the caveat that injuries were minimal. The reason being the Reds’ lack of depth not only on the bench but also available in the minors.

    We all had to witness that lack of depth play out in the miserable 2015 season. The bullpen was imploding almost daily early in the season, but there were no quality arms ready to bring up to help. With Bruce and BHam struggling to hit and a conglomeration of forgettables filling LF, the Reds had one of the worst producing OF’s in the majors. Lutz and YRod, who were both awful in the little time they spent on the big league roster, were mentioned as the likely call ups to help. Not much hope there either. When the Reds finally threw in the towel and traded Cueto and Leake, the Reds ended up setting the ML record for most starts by rookie pitchers.

    There haven’t been any predictions of the 2016 team making the playoffs no matter how the Reds fare with injuries. But you can see the organization has some potential coming, some of which we will most likely see this year.

    It’s just a start, as their plan details. The draft and international signings needs to come up with some more hitters. But it’s a more optimistic view this year than it was last season.

  9. I’ll root for #thisteam, while keeping my eye on the future. Nothing like a 5-1 homestand at season’s start to stir up the optimism. There probably will be rough patches, but 5-1 beats the heck out of 1-5.

  10. We’ve found we can’t shake Brandon Phillips…and I have to say we should accept that that’s not the worst thing ever: wonderful career both in substance AND style. He’s a Redleg HoFer, hands down. I’d like to get him out of the 4-hole, but that’s another day…

    For all of you folks who can’t forgive Jay Bruce (including Redlegs’ “brain-trust”) for not becoming blooming Babe Ruth or–more likely–wannabe Larry Walker or thereabouts, think about how tough it is right now to find some kind of middle-of-the-order corner outfielder with plus defender notes.

    Then look at JB’s age, payroll, benign commitment to Cincinnati and copacetic personal groove and ask yourself, “Why are we working so damn hard to deal a homegrown run-producer when productive corner-outfield run-producers are rare as hen’s-teeth?

    Oh, yeah, it’s because every time he strikes out or pops up, we remind ourselves how he’s FAILED US. The bastard SHOULDA BEEN BETTER!!

    I think we’ve made enough crucial deals. Phillips can’t be moved, but it’s not the worst thing that ever happened–he has panache, plays 2B like he invented it and–face it–we love him and he loves us. But time’s almost done.

    I would REALLY heartily recommend offering Jay Bruce a close-out career deal. I’m thinking 5 years for 65 or 70 mil. Maybe that’s crazy-small money; maybe it’s a leap.

    It’s just this cry from the wilderness, but to the Reds’ boss plan, PLEASE,lock Jay Bruce into the long-term.

    I R A idiot…

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