Reds GM Dick Williams has been generous in speaking with reporters about his offseason plans, at least in comparison to his predecessor. Williams – understandably – wants to convey a sense of action to calm rumblings that the front office isn’t being aggressive enough. But what folks, including national writers, may not understand about the Reds is the team doesn’t need free agent signings this offseason.
Just the opposite. The last thing the Cincinnati Reds need is an influx of veteran inning-eaters. Those innings they’d be devouring will represent crucial opportunities for young players. That includes starting and relief pitchers. Effective sorting requires playing time.
Dick Williams hasn’t asked for my help, but if he did …
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know, for two years, we’ve taken the Cincinnati Reds through a process of rebuilding. It commenced with trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon out of our starting rotation before the 2015 season. We followed those moves by trading Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake at the 2015 deadline and Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier last offseason. We moved Jay Bruce a few months ago. We also took aggressive steps in last season’s amateur draft and international signing period.
This process isn’t quite finished. We’re still hoping to trade veteran infielders Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart. And another big opportunity looms in the 2017 amateur draft. We have the second pick again, and three of the top forty.
The front office has been putting the transition into place, some steps more quickly than others.
I’m here today to do something unconventional: To announce the 2017 Opening Day lineup for the Reds.
Our infield starters will be Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza, Dilson Herrera and Joey Votto. Our catchers will be Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart. In the outfield, four players will get the majority of playing time: Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Billy Hamilton and Jesse Winker. We expect Nick Senzel to make the big league club in 2017.
For the pitching staff, we’re counting on Homer Bailey and Anthony DeScalfani to anchor the starting rotation. We’ll conduct an open competition between Amir Garrett, Brandon Finnegan, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Michael Lorenzen for the final three spots. The decisions will be based on which pitchers have matured and developed the most in the past six months and arrive to camp with the mindset of succeeding as a major league starter.
We’re moving Dan Straily to the bullpen, where he and Raisel Iglesias will pitch multiple innings in high-leverage spots. Blake Wood will be our closer. Tony Cingrani will have a role. Those four will be joined by one or two of the pitchers I named a moment ago who don’t make the starting rotation. Pitchers like Rookie Davis, Nick Travieso, Keury Mella, Sal Romano and others will compete for a chance to pitch for the 2017 Reds. We’re going to let the young arms test their abilities and gain experience against major leaguers.
All of this, of course, assumes good health. We’ll make adjustments where necessary as injuries strike, as they do for every club.
If it’s not already clear, I’m here today to deliver this message: The Reds future has arrived.
No more half measures. No more playing veterans with the hope of establishing trade value. No more blocking young players with place-holding offseason signings. Youth will be served, tested and evaluated. That’s the fastest, most effective way back to the win column.
This season – 2017 – is a year to find out how successful we were with our rebuilding acquisitions. We don’t expect every one of them to succeed. Odds are against that, of course. Scouting remains an imperfect art and science. On the other hand, certain position logjams may continue even among our young players.
But as we move into 2018, I can assure fans that the front office will act aggressively in the free agent and trade markets to address holes that appear. Ownership is committed to supporting the club the way it did in recent times, now with stronger revenues from our FSO relationship and MLB’s streams.
In conclusion, I’ve heard it said that Cincinnati Reds fans won’t turn out to see a young team that isn’t winning. I don’t believe that. Yes, the winning will come, sooner than folks expect. But even before then, we’ll put an exciting, talented young team on the field every day. That team will offer fans a new set of players to get to know, cheer for and support.
Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you at the ballpark.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.