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.

55 Responses

  1. alexw1

    Oh Steve please let all the things you are saying be true. I kinda wish you wouldn’t do this. Hope is tricky and can be deadly. I fear the words, “former cardinal”, “grit”, “spring training vet invite” and “cozart and Phillips must play everyday” are the words being kicked around the reds executive table.

  2. Hotto4Votto

    How refreshing would it be to hear a clear and concise message coming from the FO at a time where it’s hard to pick out a clear or cohesive plan. And while I’m still in the “wait and see” with Williams, holding out hope he’ll be better than his predecessors, most of the movement during his tenure (primarily roster churning), have left me scratching my head. Even so, I can see how it would be hard for him to come out now and declare the starters in the infield without upsetting a certain dimming star, or completely giving away their intentions to every other team in the league, not that it would be hard to determine regardless. Still, with everyone knowing with certainty you will play the young guys, it may be harder to move the two veterans, and it’s already a tough task. Even if we can’t imagine Phillips having any trade value, Cozart should still return something potentially of value.

    With that said, even a refreshing and clear message can have it detractors. I would say that determining that Strailey will definitely move to the bullpen would prematurely devalue him. He’s gaining interest now as a starter, which is inherently more valuable than a reliever. He may be a nice trade piece, on a team that may not have any, at the deadline with another solid first half. I wouldn’t subvert his value at this point int he offseason on the chance that two of Stephenson, Reed, Lorenzen, or Garrett are ready to step into the rotation full time.

    I also don’t see a reason to bring Senzel up in 2017. It’s a time for sorting. Suarez needs the time to play 3B without looking over his shoulder. He should get the full year to show what he can do at the plate and in the field. There’s also no need to start Senzel’s clock in a noncompetitive year. Senzel hasn’t played above Low-A. Start in Adv. A, move to AA by midseason, maybe get a cup of coffee in Louisville by year’s end if everything is going according to plan. Be ready to be called up in 2018 after the teams gains that extra year of control.

    • lwblogger2

      I pretty much concur with everything written here. This is especially true of naming the infield starters, naming the exact players you’re still trying to trade, relegating Strailey to the pen, and announcing that Senzel WILL make his debut in 2017.

      I’m not saying that some or most of these things shouldn’t be the plan. I’m saying that baseball decorum dictates that he doesn’t boldly announce them before spring training even starts.

  3. Scotly50

    One should always remember the Reds are a product. They are designed to entertain, (of great importance to the fans), and make money, (of great importance to the organization). Putting a minor league team on the field produces neither. I would like to see their best team fielded when I buy a ticket.

    • Patrick Jeter

      If they always tried to maximize the team of the field RIGHT NOW they’d be spending $60M on Edwin Encarnacion and $80M on Aroldis Chapman, Redux.

      The role of the Reds is to maximize profits in perpetuity; not in one season. Giving young guys time to develop and be evaluated might usher in the next great Reds dynasty where profits (and on-field product) skyrocket. That’s the point. You can’t always put expensive vets on the field, unless you are LAD, NYY, or BOS.

      • msanmoore

        Now, now Big Jeter … that’s just the logic talking. BTW, the recent comments from Mr. 105 confirmed to me that he will continue to be a Major Headcase. Let the Evil Empire deal with him.

    • Patrick Jeter

      And, to be completely honest, I’d venture there’s a greater than 50% chance that both Peraza AND Herrera would out-produce BP (and Cozart) this year. BP is no longer a good defender, and will likely be worse this year, and hasn’t been a good hitter in a long time.

      In this case, the best product on the field does NOT include BP or Zack.

      • lwblogger2

        See Patrick, I’m still not sure about that. Of course, it will be almost impossible to know. All 4 of them can’t play enough to really know what you have.

    • Hotto4Votto

      Yes, they are a product, which is why they do a disservice to their fans by not playing, or allowing their fans an opportunity to witness the future, to watch them grow and develop. Part of the reason many fans have had a hard time seeing players leave is because they have spent most of their last decade following these players from the minors to MLB success. Why take away the fans opportunity to do the same with the next generation. The rebuild is over two years strong, the time to say goodbye has past, it’s time for saying hello.

      And how is this a minor league team? Out of the potential starting 8, Herrera has the least MLB experience and he has already accrued 119 days of service time across two seasons and spent all of last year in AAA. Unless you’re against rookies (which technically he wouldn’t even qualify for ROY) I don’t understand your point on that.

    • Chuck Schick

      The incremental increase in revenue the Reds receive from winning isn’t enough to cover the cost of spending to win right now. Adding 50 million in payroll to “get after it” might add 20 million in revenue. It’s not sustainable.

      What they’re doing now is the only way they can develop and sustainable winning team.

  4. Bob Foist

    To quote Lance McAlister on WLW Sports Talk…..winning fixes everything.Put a good product on the field and you’ll pack GABP…Cincinnati has always been a baseball town.Not sure if I agree with all the personal choices but like the general theme,Reds will never be successful as long as they have to bid for Free Agents against franchises with twice the cash so alternative is to stock Farm System and grow your own talent.And look ahead,have some long term plans when these guys reach Free Agency so you’re not forced into that ‘it’s me or nobody’ situation…IMHO the Walt Jocketty GM model has crashed and burned,I am ready for a new direction…

  5. ScottyA

    I like it. But add, we are announcing a trade of Robert Stephenson, Taylor Trammel, Dan Strailly and a PBTNL for Jose Quintana. And add we intend to compete for championships soon!

    • lwblogger2

      Have you heard of what the Sox are asking? I don’t think that package gets it done. WVRedlegs mentioned one in a past thread that I’m pretty sure the Sox would jump at. Personally, I thought it would be too much but I’m pretty sure the Sox would go for it. Too bad I don’t remember it and I don’t really have time to look it up right now.

  6. msanmoore

    Oh yes!!! This would be a major Christmas Miracle!!! I’m behind this logic 100%.

  7. Eli J

    I’m for most of this, and it’d be comforting to know that Dick Williams shares the vision, but wouldn’t a public statement to this effect cost us some leverage in a possible Phillips or Cozart trade?

    • msanmoore

      You are assuming we have any significant leverage on those two. The entire world knows what we want to do (and should do). Frankly, given BP is complete sunk cost, you DFA him and let him go to whoever will take him. It won’t hurt the books any more than keeping him since we’ll pay anyway and it will open the slot for the youngsters who need to play.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        There will be leverage when some other team’s starting second baseman or shortstop suffers a major injury. That’s what the front office is waiting for.

      • msanmoore

        To some extent, yes. Cozart has far more value along those lines than BP. And, I think if you count on that for Cozart and dump BP (or bench him) then it can work out. He’s at the end of what has been a good career, but it is the end. And don’t get me wrong – I like the guy. I’m just saying it’s time to move along.

      • Bob Foist

        Cozart had a career year going in 2015 before his injury and got off to a pretty decent start 2016 first half .267/.316/.416 before getting shut down …and we all know the guy can field his position.Kinda hard for me to nobody would want to take a chance on him,that he has no value.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        Cozart absolutely has value if healthy. He will have to demonstrate in Arizona that he is.

      • Bob Foist

        Baseball Reference estimates Reds will have $4.7 Mill invested in Zack in 2017…bet Big Bob thinks Zack has value too 🙂

    • Yippee

      If BP is not traded during the offseason, he will ride out 2017 as a Red, get the complete swan song treatment.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The idea of leveraging BP and ZC at all is a mirage. Club needs to move beyond that distraction and opportunity cost. There is no alternative scenario where the Reds get a meaningful return for either player. Time to face that reality.

      The hypothetical statement is more about winning fans over to the concept of the rebuild instead of selling a one-foot-in, one-foot-out team.

      • David B.

        Steve, I’ve always thought since the Reds are already planning on paying BP, and they would like to trade him, why not just tell the other team the Reds would pay his whole salary? Gets BP out so they can clear some playing time, potentially gets Reds a better return. I think its a win-win. Am I missing something?

      • Chuck Schick

        The issue isn’t the “cost” of BP. The Reds were likely on the hook for most of his salary when they traded him twice last year. BP seemingly won’t budge unless he gets his deferred salary….which is likely tens of millions….paid immediately or at an accelerated schedule.

        So in order to move him, the Reds would need to pay him to play for someone else and give him tens of millions of dollars immediately. No person with an IQ above 4 would do that when they can just ride out the next year and pay him his deferred salary over the course of the next several years.

      • ohiojimw

        Regulars here know that for some time, I’ve said BP and ZC both need to be in the Reds rear view mirror ASAP.

        I also was somewhat outspoken in saying they should have cut the cord on ZC rather than put the $4.5M~$5M at risk in hopes of getting some sort of meaningful return at a point during the 2017 season.

        A major part of my reasoning was that the money not spent on ZC was the money that might have greased the skids toward getting out from under BP’s already sunken cost at less than the full face value remaining the contract. Instead, they are now looking at ~$20M in sunken costs (instead of $14M) that are going to get them nothing more (at best) than a face saving middling prospect or two at the opportunity cost of experience for their young middle IF prospects in addition to the portion of the two salaries they have to pay.

        It is not coming to terms with these kind of decisions that wastes their resources much more than a contract to a guy like Votto who out performs the his cost curve.

  8. Greg Niemeyer

    Hi Steve,

    I like the article, as I enjoy most of your articles, and I agree with the premise.
    The point I disagree with is with regard to Cozart.
    I believe there are reasonable scenarios where he yields something of value.
    He was on pace for a 3+ win season last year.
    I believe there is value to be (re)proven and capitalized on with him.
    I would play him regularly the first 1/2 of the year and hope that a contender develops a need at the position.
    As usual, take the best prospect available, even if, realistically, that just turns into a potential bullpen arm.
    Regardless of whether he is moved at the deadline, I would play Herrera regularly the last 2 months of the season, with or without Cozart.

    I see this as different than the case with BP – he is essentially replacement level at this time. I don’t know why any GM (non Dave Stewart division) would give up anything for him.
    But a 3+ win player have value, 3+ wins t be precise.

    Love the site, Happy Holidays to all

  9. TR

    If that’s the scenario our new GM follows then there should be a renewed interest in the Reds in 2017 regardless whether they win or lose. At least we’ll know where we stand with the rebuild and which direction to go to have a contending team. We can’t live in the past; time stops for no one.

  10. cfd3000

    This is good stuff, Steve. I might quibble with a few of the details, but as a whole this would be a wonderful outcome. I sometimes say when evaluating options that if my choices are take this exact option with no changes of any kind, or go back into the lottery of life and roll those dice again, I’ll take this option in a heartbeat (or, sometimes, throw me back in the lottery). This is a no brainer. Sign me up for this and keep me off the Reds front office roulette wheel of uncertainty. Merry Christmas!

  11. Tct

    Agree with the sentiment. However, I don’t think you gain anything by making this statement while BP and Cozart are still on the roster. If Herrara and Peraza are healthy then they should be starting opening day. But just make your moves quietly to get that done and then make the announcement. Seems disrespectful to those guys to announce they are being phased out before they have even been traded or released.

    Also, I don’t really see the need to move Straily to the bullpen yet. Too many questions in the rotation to move a guy who seems like a capable, innings eating fifth starter.

    And I also disagree about Senzel. No need to rush. Let him earn his promotions and make adjustments along the way.

    Other than that, good piece. It would be nice to hear the plan spoken out loud like this. But just because they haven’t stated it publicly doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan.

  12. Old-school


    Can we fly that banner from a plane over GABP every day…

    You can’t re-establish something new when its not new. There’s no hope or clever marketing or reinventing the wheel.

    • Tct

      When have they ever done that though? What veteran did they play over a more talented youngster for the sole reason of establishing trade value?

      Maybe you could make the case that once they acquired Herrera that keeping him in AAA and playing BP was about trade value. But I would disagree. Herrera had a nagging injury and the Reds know that BP has very little trade value left anyway.

      Cozart over Peraza at the start of the season? Maybe. But Peraza genuinely seemed to need some more time in AAA and they gained an extra year of control by keeping him down instead of starting him on opening day.

      The guys they have traded have been the best options at their positions. Jay Bruce is really the only one who gained some trade value back by the Reds running him out there everyday. And they ended up getting Dilson Herrera instead of a grade C prospect and a salary dump that Bruce might have fetched if they hadn’t let him build some value back. I say they made the right call on that one.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Phillips over Peraza. Alfredo Simon over take your pick.

        Not saying never play veterans to rebuild trade value (your Bruce example). Just not specifically now.

      • Tct

        Yeah I agree. I think the point is that the rebuild has entered a new phase. The part where you try to add as much young talent as you can by trading your veterans has passed. The Reds weren’t wrong to try and build Cozart and Bruce’s trade value last year, although they were wrong if they got a decent offer for Cozart and didn’t take it. But the Bruce situation worked out about as well as we could have hoped for.

        I was just objecting to the implication that this was a mistake the reds have made in the past. From this point forward if the Reds play veterans just to increase trade value it will be a mistake because the opportunity cost will outweigh any possible benefits. But it wasn’t a mistake if they did it in 2015-2016.

  13. Bob Foist

    Nice Nick Senzel article on Reds MLB site now…..

  14. I-71_Exile

    This the best Reds Fan Fiction that I’ve read in a while. Come true please.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Shaffer looks better than Jenkins. Shaffer will be 26 by Opening Day. Consistently good BB% at all levels, even with hitting going up and down. Jenkins has had awful K% and BB% above A-ball. But only 24 so why not?

      • Tom Mitsoff

        They waived Graterol to create room, but I haven’t been able to find out who the other player coming off the roster is yet to make room for these two.

      • Hotto4Votto

        They were only at 39. For whatever reason, VanMeter was showing up on the 40-man roster even though he didn’t need to be on there.

    • sezwhom

      Once again, we pick through someone else’s trash. Sorry, can’t get excited by either pick.

      • Bob Foist

        Last March Reds claimed Dan Straily off waviers,hard to complain about that.Just low risk high reward situation…

      • lwblogger2

        True. Waiver claims sometimes work out nicely.

  15. big5ed

    I want Straily in the rotation until he proves he doesn’t deserve it. My theory on him is that he is an exceptionally good command guy, and in the age of 98-mph throwers, high-command guys are rare and difficult for new-age hitters to square up. I get all the peripheral-stats stuff, but I’m taking my chances that they don’t tell the whole story on Straily.

    I also want a 6-man rotation.

    Assuming they can ditch Phillips and Cozart, this will be one of the youngest teams in baseball. Votto would be the only guy over 28, and Duvall the only one over 26, depending on how you analyze Mesoraco. This will be a much more athletic and dynamic team than the Reds have fielded in decades.

    • Bob Foist

      During a pre-game show earlier in season Bryan Price said all pitchers are starters until they prove to you they aren’t….I think that’s an excellent philosophy.And Straily hasn’t gave me any reason believe he’s not a starter…

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Agreed on Straily. You make people earn spots on the pitching staff, and he certainly earned a starting role based on his performance last year. If someone outpitches him for a rotation spot, great. Then he could go to the bullpen. Otherwise, DeSclafani and Bailey will have rotation spots due to performance and seniority. At this point, it looks like Iglesias and Lorenzen will be in the bullpen. Aside from that, turn everyone loose for the other jobs in spring training and see who emerges. I don’t want Stephenson, Reed or Garrett in there because “it’s their turn.” I want them pitching because they beat out other competitors for jobs.

  16. Eric The Red

    Perfect. But I’d add something like “fans also have the chance to come watch one of the greatest pure hitters of the last 50 years ply his trade day in and day out.” We take him for granted way too much.

  17. jessecuster44

    I have the feeling that the Reds will just be running in place – AGAIN – this season.

    IF they added a couple bullpen pieces and perhaps one more bat, they could be in the wildcard conversation in September.

    IF they stand pat and play the youngsters, they will sort who is capable and who is not.

    BUT – they’ll do something in the middle, because they don’t know what they want to do.

  18. David

    I don’t get it. Where does Jumbo Diaz fit in? 🙂

    There are still a lot of moving parts before Opening Day, 2017. I don’t think Cozart gets traded before Spring Training, but other teams will scout him to see how healthy his knee is, and then he MIGHT have trade value.
    And BP might have trade value with a few particular teams, IF the Reds pick up part of his contract for 2017.
    I also think that Cingrani gets traded before Spring Training.
    I have my doubts about either Stephenson or Reed being ready, based on what they did in 2016, but then again, one of them may set the Cactus League on its ear this March. I would put my money on Finnigan and Garrett starting in 2017. Strailly has value in the rotation and in the bullpen, especially if one or more young guys gets innings-limited in 2017 and he moves back and forth to fill out the needs.
    I would also bet that Winker starts the year in AAA, unless he too sets the Cactus League on fire this March. I think Selsky will be the “Fourth” outfielder until June, barring any injuries.
    Speculation is fun and easy this time of year. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a higher OBP next year.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      and fewer home runs given up by the bullpen next year too!!!

  19. Eric The Red

    Here’s a question. Let’s say Straily has a first half that mirrors last year: solid results, underwhelming peripherals. How valuable would he then be as a trade chip? Would you cash him in? What if his peripherals are a little better?

    • Tom Mitsoff

      If he has a first half that mirrors last year, I don’t know why he would be a trade chip. The Reds still have four years of control of his contract. If he pitches in 2017 like he did in 2016, doesn’t that make him a building block? (Of course, unless someone overwhelms them with an offer. That doesn’t seem to happen very often.)

  20. Birkle

    Bravo! Perfectly stated. Here’s a New Year’s wish that this is indeed the mindset and approach the Reds take. I know it won’t be exactly this, but here’s to hoping it comes closer to this than bringing in Jason Marquis and Marlon Byrd right before training camp and giving them starts and at-bats.