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.

  1. Hamilton
  2. Winker
  3. Votto
  4. Schebler/Duvall
  5. Senzel
  6. Suarez
  7. Peraza/Herrera
  8. 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?

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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.

Join the conversation! 49 Comments

  1. If that is the rotation for 2018, the rebuild has been an abstract failure. That is a 90 loss rotation with Finnegan, Stephenson and Lamb.
    As Dick Enberg would say, “Oh, My!”
    How would Chris Berman describe that rebuild? “It’s a fumble!”

    • I’m not sire how you can say that. All 5 of those pitchers have more than a little upside, and I’m still pulling for Reed to live up to the hype. By this time next year, our young rotation may be rounding into form and we’ll all be talking about how the sky’s the limit.

      Or you could be right and they’ll all faceplant on us.

      The truth is most likely somewhere between the scenarios, but I for one would be shocked if that group isnt at least in the top half of the league by 2018.

  2. Lamb over Reed is a bit of a head scratcher. I don’t think Lamb is anything better than a bullpen arm who can go long in relief. That said there will be a surplus of arms at some point and what the FO decides to do with them.

    Personally, I think Cingrani won’t be here too long and would love to get Finnegan to the Set-up role with Iglesias closing.

    Suarez is likely to be the odd man out if he doesn’t start swinging more consistently until Senzel arrives late next year or early 2018

    • I am not sure why everyone thinks Finnegan is going to be so great. He was not as good as Cingrani was during 2013. I expect regression and they bouts of greatness like both of them currently show. To dismiss Cingrani is foolish but will agree probably see more potential in Finnegan since he is younger.
      I think Cingrani as your 2nd lefty, 4th or 5th reliever gives a deep bullpen.

      • If for no other reason, he can throw more than 1 pitch and sometimes accurately, he has a better future than Tony.

  3. Yeah I’m going to have to agree with the first post. Lamb is not going to be in the rotation he is destined for bull pen use.

  4. I wonder who agrees or disagrees with me about Suarez and it is a different mindset? I knew last year when he was put in Cozarts place that .315 wasn’t a “REAL” number. I do think he is a solid .265 or better guy with doubles power and maybe 15 to 20 HR’s. The issue I see since shifting to the corner is a much longer looping swing trying to lift the ball out of the park. He has that beautiful short compact and LEVEL swing that he had last year and some this year that makes him a hitter. The “by the book” approach of power from your corners, IF and OF is the reason he is struggling IMO. He can use that short compact and level swing that he has I have seen it and still put a pretty good charge in the ball. He doesn’t need to load up, it just slows his bat down and it has a huge hole in the swing!

    • And if Suarez ends on the bench for other starters, he makes a good piece to have for contender to rotate in and out serve as sub for injuries that are bound to occur.

  5. Great teams need great players at multiple positions and roles. Therefore, it doesn’t follow to me to flip Iglesias, especially when he is signed through 2020 on terms (very) favorable to the team in terms of future $$$. His contract does have an opt to arb when eligible provision which at the earliest will be after the 2017 season if he makes Super2 or after 2018 if he doesn’t. However since his contract calls for $4.5M-$5 annually from 2018 thru 2020, if he is in the pen he isn’t likely to go to arb until 2019 or 20 unless he has become truly Chapmanesque.

    • Agree, and see no reason to force him into the rotation a great arm who has issues with arm trouble and going deep into games when you already have some starters who might be better suited for this. Who would trade him for a major league starter, trade him only if they will not contend before 2020?
      What so bad about have studs as relievers?

    • Agreed. Iggy’s a keeper!

  6. I think that is pretty good list and you are making fair predictions. I do however, as I assume you do, know there are a lot of caveats in this list. Can Iglesias be turned into a starter, can Bob Steve, find the strike zone consistently, can Reed learn to differentiate speeds a little better, can Lamb learn to control his pitches? What if Barnhart continues to improve with the bat? I do think it is safe to assume that Senzel and probably Trammel and Okey and possibly Friedl and Garrett will be on the next Great Reds team as those who are not on the roster now. But then again many of these as well as some of those on the roster now may be traded to fill a weakness in the team.

    • Oh there are a million caveats, you’re completely right. I approached this with the mindset that the next great team won’t be completely homegrown, so where do we have expendable talent and went from there

  7. Wesley, you’re a good egg — but if John Lamb, Robert Stephenson, AND Brandon Finnegan wind up as starters on the next great Reds team and Cody Reed does not, I’ll change my name to Todd Van Poppel.

    • Cingrani has been a better starter in this league than has Reed. The 3 pitchers you mention above have been as well.

      Unless Reed develops another pitch, he will go the way of Cingrani. Finnegan has shown development of a 3rd pitch, stephenson already has 3 and Lamb has 4.

      Reed desperately needs a 3rd pitch

    • I can see the angst about John Lamb vs. Cody Reed, and I understand the drawbacks on both Bob Steve and Brandon Finnegan. Much of this list was put together assuming the Reds make a run in 2017 then trade for some established players to shore up for 2018. In that scenario, I see Iglesias, Reed, and Bailey all traded for a viable outfield or middle infield bat. But again this is all theoretical and any other scenarios are welcome!

      • I might be pessimistic but who is going to trade a viable OF bat for those players? If someone wants them, why would the Reds not?
        Are there cases where teams are making similar trades.

        • the whole “if someone wants them, why would the Reds not” argument is somewhat nonsensical. Why would any trade be made in that case? If you have a team that desperately needs pitching but has a surplus of outfielders–like say the current Mets (rotation injury riddled, five corner outfielders who cant all play at once)–why would they not orchestrate a deal to pick up Homer and maybe Reed for one of the outfielders?

          Yes, I’m using a current example for a future theory, but its more about who needs what than I want that

      • That free agent class for 2018 is supposed to be very loaded. Big Bob might have a little spare change in his cushions and few extra bucks in his pocket to maybe splurge on an OF with power and good OBP. A mid-tier free agent in this class could be a bargain.
        Iglesias and Reed should be playing integral parts of that 2018 team and beyond.
        Others should be firmly on the block. This winter and probably next winter also will be the time to start bundling some players/prospects for trades. Some 3 for 1 trades or 4 for 2 types.
        Upgrade baby.

        • Except for the fact that the only impact free agent we have been able to sign to a big contract was an overpay for:

          Coco Cordero

          I think those monies are better spent on our own free agents or for the international players

    • I also cannot see Lamb and Finnegan making it. The organization does seem committed to seeing Finnegan through though so that wouldn’t surprise me but I would definitely not say he is a lock

  8. I disagree on Bailey. What team would possibly take that contract? Either the Reds pay some other team for him to pitch. so if he can put together some sort of a comeback campaign in 2017… why not keep him to build the rotation around. Even if he is not a top Tier pitcher you can win around a couple at the front end and a bunch Dan Strailey’s…with an elite bullpen…reference 1990

  9. 2019 Reds

    1. Billy Hamilton, CF
    2. Dilson Herrera, 2B
    3. Joey Votto, 1B
    4. Nick Senzel, 3B
    5. Jesse Winker, LF
    6. Aristides Aquino, RF
    7. Chris Okey, C
    8. Jose Peraza, SS

    BN: Blake Trahan, SS/2B
    BN: Alex Blandino, Util
    BN: Phillip Ervin, OF
    BN: Adam Duvall, OF
    BN: Tucker Barnhart, C

    1. Anthony Desclafani
    2. Cody Reed
    3. Homer Bailey
    4. Amir Garrett
    5. Tyler Mahle

    LR: Sal Romano
    MR: Wandy Peralta
    MR: Jimmy Herget
    MR: Robert Stephenson
    MR: Brandon Finnegan
    SU: Michael Lorenzen
    CL: Raisel Iglesias

    • I like everything except the “CL” next to Iglesias. Call him whatever you want, but using him effectively (not just 9th inning with 3 run leads) and keeping him healthy cannot be overstated as a top priority for the organization going forward

      • I think Iglesias’ current role is perfect. I just think the Reds will eventually fall back into bullpen group think and made him the “closer” to end games. Always putting your best relievers in at the end of the game instead of at the most critical situations is idiotic, but it’s what most teams do. Also making so many relievers one inning guys is dumb.

        • Couldn’t agree with this more. the ideas of closer and set up should not be set in stone. How about a “High Leverage Pitcher”. Have 1 Rgihty and 1 Lefty. If they need to be used in the 6th, go for it. 8th? Sure.

          Its time to stop pigeonholing relievers.

  10. I think the flaw here is assuming that the Reds have enough pieces right now to be anything near great in 2018. To have a great team you need to have some great players. Right now the Reds don’t have a single great player on their team.

    Votto is a great hitter, but his defense has been so bad this year that he’s no longer great. If he bounces back in the field, he could be great again, and that would be one.

    Hamilton is a great defender, and a great baserunner, but a pretty bad hitter, so not a great player. If Billy can learn to get on base as a .370 clip, he could be great, and that would be 2.

    Disco looks like he’s going to be good, but not great. His ERA looks good, but not great, right now, but his peripherals are worse.

    Finnegan? Really? The guy is barely replacement level. He’s got a career 5.14 FIP at the ML level, and it’s 5.50 this year. Asserting that he will be great seems pretty out there to me.

    Lorenzen is having a good, not great, year out of the pen, over 25 innings. Maybe he continues to develop but maybe he can turn into a great reliever with lower walks.

    So who is going to be great? To be a great team the Reds are going to have to have to beat teams with great players; players that will put up 7+ WAR seasons, players like Bryant and Seager. So who is going to do that for the Reds in 2018? Votto will be almost 35 in two years, and he’ll have the best chance of any of the players we have now, so that’s asking a lot.

    The real answer is that the next great, not good, Reds team is still a long ways away. It takes time to put all the pieces together, and because the front office delayed the rebuild by a few years, they don’t have that many pieces. I think the Reds were a great team in 2012 that could have won it all if Cueto hadn’t gotten hurt in the first game. Look at when some key pieces of that team came together.

    Votto (2007 Reds debut), Bailey, (2007), Bruce, (2008), Cueto, (2008), Chapman (2010), Frazier (2011), Latos (2012).

    The next great Reds team will probably be when guys like Winker, Stephenson, and Garret are all established big leaguers, and there are promising young guys coming up BEHIND them. 2021 maybe.

    • I don’t think the 2018 team will be great, not even close. But that wasn’t the point of this article. The point was: Who will still be around when the team is great again and those five have the best chance of anyone to stick in my mind. You’re right, the next great Reds team will probably come after 2021, in which case all of those five have a good shot at still being here (Finnegan and Lorenzen the most likely to have moved on). I don’t think we’re arguing different things here really.

      • Ok, I guess I wasn’t totally clear on when you were saying the Reds could/will be great next. It’s sort of a critical point, because the Reds obviously only have contract control of these players for a certain amount of time without extending them.

        What we can say for sure is that unless they trade him, if the Reds are great again by 2023, Votto will still be around.

        If the Reds can be great by 2121, then anyone who’s a rookie this year could still be around, including Finnegan and Reed.

        Unless they extend Hamilton and Disco, the Reds will have to be great by 2019 or they’ll be gone.

    • I get what you are saying here, but how many GREAT players did the mets have last year? They had great rookie starting pitching and Cespedes who was acquired in a midseason trade. Same really can be said for the royals, who were really a collection of above average players. They have such a large allotment of pitching coming through, one or two of those guys are bound to be really good. Their bullpen should be elite for the same law of large numbers reason. They are starting to acquire more positional talent over the last 360 days.

      I do think 2018 is the year they can begin to contend. 2017 just isn’t realistic. If one of Garret/BobSteve/Reed emerges next season AND Homer bounces back, they may deal Disco at the deadline for another impact bat to complement Winker and Senzel on the next reds team. Because they will need another middle of the order bat to go with those guys, especially if one of them doesn’t pan out.

      • You make a good point, it is true that sometimes you can have a lot of average and above average players and make the WS, but both the Royals and the Mets did get some great seasons last year.

        Lorenzo Cain 6.6 (fWAR)
        Wade Davis (2.0 fWAR in 67 innings)
        Curtis Granderson (5.1 fWAR)
        Jacob DeGrom (5.2 fWAR)

        But I could make my same argument about when the Reds will be great based on the premise that you need to have a lot of average and above average players, rather than some great ones, because the Reds currently have very few average and above average players.

        I think it’s possible that the Reds could contend as early as 2018, in the same way that they contended in 2010, but weren’t really ready to win it all.

    • Jeremy, I am with you. The next great Reds team is several years away. Some people are too optimistic about the current Reds in the majors or those in the minors. Teams don’t become good because the fans project them to be.

  11. Most of this article I believe except the fact that you have John Lamb in the rotation instead of Cody Reed. John Lamb to me is better as a lefty out the pen used in tight situations to get one left handed hitter out he has not shown anything in his career yet to prove that he had what it takes to be a starting pitcher

  12. No Yor-Rod. I may be the only person on the planet that thinks he can be, at least, a utility player.

  13. I will use “win the Central” as kind of a filler for “great team.” You can be great and not win the division, or so-so and win it, but I think that’s a good enough barometer for now.

    With the way the re-build is going, Joey Votto may be the only one left under contract the next time the Reds have a shot at first place.

    I was looking at the 2013 Chicago Cubs just as a barometer. 25 position players had at least one PA with the Cubs in 2013; only one is still on the roster – Anthony Rizzo. 31 players pitched at least one inning for that team; only 5 are still on the roster – Wood, Rondon, Arrieta, Strop and Grimm.

    Travis Wood was an All-Star, 26 years old, and had a 3.11 ERA (3.89 FIP). He’s been in the bullpen the last two years. Dan Straily is 27, has a 4.61 FIP and the Reds treated him as nearly untouchable in the best sellers’ market for pitching in a decade. Anthony DeSesclafani ranks 26th in FIP since 2015 out of the 57 starting pitchers under 30 with at least 240 innings pitched. He’s a good pitcher, but if he’s the best starting pitcher the Reds have in 2018 or 2019, we’re probably not looking at an 80+ win team.

    64-70 win teams are generally not just a couple players away from contention. They are in need of complete roster overhauls. I certainly hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see the Reds tinkering leading to anything more than 75 win seasons.

    • So, six players, right? Wesley is pretty close.

      • Yeah, if the Reds were doing what needed to be done to compete in 2018-2019. I don’t see the front office taking those steps though.

    • Well they’re more than a couple players away but not exactly in need of a total overhaul. If Senzel and Winker pan out then they’re not too far away offensively and they should have more then enough good arms to be competitive! I wish they had a Danny Duffy or a Dylan Bundy type with just electric stuff but I don’t see it yet. I think Lorenzen could be that kind of starter but time will tell. I’m somewhat encouraged!!

  14. Liked the article. I generally don’t get into visualizing lineups for 2+ years down the road cause so much can change. But here is my attempt at rating the Reds assets by trade value. I didn’t include Votto because I have no idea about his trade value at this time:

    1. Disco
    2. Iglesias
    3. Senzel
    4. Hamilton
    9. Cozart
    10. Suarez
    11. Duvall
    12. Stephenson
    13. Peraza


    • This should probably be a topic of it’s own, but I can’t agree with nearly any of this. The major issues:

      Billy Hamilton, having played 3 years in the majors (meaning he’s about to start getting paid and only has 3 years of team control) should be much lower.

      Reed, having never been a very highly regarded prospect and now struggling at the big league level is definitely worth less than either Herrera or Winker.

      Robert Stephenson, still having one of the best arms in the minors, is worth way more than guys like Suarez and Duvall, who in their best years as pros are barely league average players.

      Of these same 13 I would rank them:

      1. Disco
      2. Winker
      3. Garrett
      4. Senzel
      5. Stephenson
      6. Herrera
      7. Iglesias
      8. Hamilton
      9. Cozart
      10. Reed
      11. Peraza
      12. Duvall
      13. Suarez

      • I think Winker’s stock is down a lot more than you seem to think. He’s showing no power at all.

        Cody Reed was right with Robert Stephenson, if not ahead of him, on all the prospect lists coming into the season. Reed was way better in AAA. Stephenson is looking like a reliever.

        Billy Hamilton is the 3rd best CF in the NL by WAR. He is 25 and has a ridiculously high floor. He was one of the worst hitters in baseball last year and still put up 2 wins. He only has 3 years of control remaining at arb prices, but he is not the kind of player that gets big paydays in arbitration. And if he ever becomes even an average hitter, then hes a superstar. I wouldnt trade him for anybody in the organization’s than the 3 I put ahead of him.

        • Reed is looking like a pitcher who will never be a big winner, in my opinion. His pitches are too flat with little movement.

        • Winker is showing no signs of power? Hmmm… Seems to me that the wrist injury really affected him in May prior to hitting the DL. Slugging would be 461 without May.

          Winker’s Slugging Pct by Month

          April – .438
          May – .264
          June – .486
          July – .461
          August – .457

  15. I like Reed way ahead of Lamb. I think he adds a third pitch and figures out how to mix up locations and speeds before Lamb ever finds consistency. I think Winker, Senzel and at least one other prospect (maybe even one that hasn’t been drafted yet) will be fixtures in the field next to Votto, Hamilton, and some mix of prospects, free agents and trade acquisitions. I expect Disco, Finnegan, Reed, and Garrett, and one of Bailey, Stephenson or Davis is your starting five. I agree on Lorenzen in the bullpen. That still leaves a lot of ifs and who’s. And I doubt you get a great team out of all that. But great is rarified air. I could see that being a team that contends for a playoff slot for several years though, and right now that sounds pretty good.

  16. Depends on what you refer to as “great”. Winning record? Wild Card? Division winner? NL Champs? World Series winner? More than likely the stars of the next version of the Big Red Machine have yet to be conceived.

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