The Cincinnati Reds have seen their fair share of greatness. The Big Red Machine. The wire-to-wire Reds. That team that got Shoeless Joe banned from the sport forever. Ken Griffey Jr. Pete Rose. Johnny Bench. Joey Votto.
When greatness cycles through your door every decade or so, a sudden influx of above average can feel a lot like failure.
On Monday, our own Jason Linden wrote for Cincinnati Magazine about what he expects the September 2017 Reds to look like. Who’s left when the old dogs have been set to pasture and the excess roster filler has been trimmed.
- Barnhart (or, if a miracle happens, Mesoraco)
Jason said that this team will finish second in the NL Central. Even so, the 2017 Reds will not be great.
By nature, greatness is a nebulous and hard to define word. The attribute is relative and great teams (re: the Golden State Warriors) are fallible. Yet, we can safely say the 2016 Reds are not a great team. The 2017 Reds will likely not be a great team. Who even knows about the 2018 Reds. But let’s ignore the year and look at this a different way. Of all the current Reds, who will still be around the next time we can call a Reds team great?
Joey Votto — The most obvious lock, Joey Votto isn’t going anywhere. Yes, this choice is based mostly on his contract keeping him in Cincinnati through 2024 and his talent making him a viable contributor through then as well. (He’s 16th in the majors in wRC+ despite this probably being the worst season of his career.) (The next closest Red is Jay Bruce at 52nd, and he’s not even a Red anymore.)
Billy Hamilton — All of 25 years old and steadily adjusting to his role in center and the leadoff spot, I don’t expect Billy to be going anywhere soon. His contract status helps solidify that claim, but if Billy keeps trending the way he has been 2016, he adds far more to this club than his below-average bat takes away.
Anthony DeSclafani — Probably the ace of the staff already, prepare for Disco to be with the Reds for a while. He currently holds a 2.94 ERA, and while the peripherals don’t speak to that level of dominance being sustained, a 3.65 FIP is pretty good in its own right. Oh, and he’s signed with the club for longer than Billy is.
Brandon Finnegan — This pick may be confirmation bias more than anything, but the way Finnegan has pitched of late speaks to a solid mid-rotation starter. Assuming he develops more and can fill a number two role behind Disco, Finnegan is assuredly a lock in Reds’ rotations for a while to come.
Michael Lorenzen — Okay, here’s where the numbers game comes in. By calling, bullpens are volatile and unpredictable creatures. There’s a good chance half the pen won’t be with the Reds for 2017, much less the next time the team can be called great. But Logan Ondrusek managed to stick in the Reds’ pen for five years, so someone from this iteration will certainly still be around. I just think Lorenzen has the best stuff.*
*See note on Raisel Iglesias below before any pitchforks are brought out.
That’s it. Those five are the only current Reds I expect to be around on the next great Reds team. Yes, part of that is talent and what they can contribute to a roster, but a larger part is just longevity. You have to be cost-controlled for a long amount of time to land on a list as time-independent as this one.
But where does that leave everyone else?
Just looking at Jason Linden’s lineup above, you rule out a good portion of the current roster even by next year. Phillips, Cozart, and probably Schebler won’t be doing this team any favors next season. Go ahead and write off the entire bench too.
Eugenio Suarez is interesting because he could theoretically stick around in a utility, bat-off-the-bench role for years to come. So maybe he is on the next great Reds’ team. He’ll just be one of the forgettable types.
Raisel Iglesias and Tony Cingrani are the only eye-grabbing names in the bullpen not already discussed. Cingrani has had a bit too much trouble finding himself the past few years for me to slot keep him in the bullpen, and Iglesias honestly serves the Reds better in a trade capacity than a relief one. If it’s true and the Reds don’t want to use the Cuban as a starter, then flip him to a team who will for someone who can round out a fearsome big league roster.
The same logic goes for Homer Bailey. The Reds have too much pitching talent coming up to keep paying Homer what they are, so if he can put together some sort of a comeback campaign in 2017, the Reds should trade him to the highest bidder. Bring back major league caliber players for both Bailey and Iglesias and suddenly 2018 looks a lot more interesting.
Finally, Cody Reed. (I feel like we can all draw our own conclusions on Alfredo Simon.)
The rookie’s had a rough go of it but pitched well his last time out. At the moment though, I still feel he’s the odd one out when the rotation fully matures. In my opinion–feel free to disagree–the Reds 2018 rotation looks like DeSclafani, Finnegan, Stephenson, Garrett, and Lamb. Reed could end up like Suarez in this scenario: On the next great team, but everyone has to check the Baseball-Reference page just to make sure.
When will the Reds be great? I personally have no idea, but Jason’s lineup plus a couple years maturity and a free agent or two could go a long way in making it happen sooner rather than later.