Spring Revisited

In my first Redleg Nation post during spring training, I posed the question  “Is a better tomorrow for the Reds here yet?”.  The answer clearly has been no. But have the Reds at least taken steps forward in answering the questions about a building better tomorrow which confronted them this spring? What new questions do they face heading into the off season?  Let’s take a look back and ahead.

This spring the Reds were seen as relatively settled at the corner infield and outfield positions; and, the performances of the corner position players during 2017 have generally met and often exceeded expectations. Accordingly while there are still some issues to be addressed at corners, we will follow the baseball adage that winning teams are built “up the middle of the field” and focus on the middle of the diamond.


The Reds catching was seen as a significant question mark in spring training. The dominant issue was the status of Devin Mesoraco who was coming off two seasons missed with hip and shoulder surgeries. Could he return to the 4.8 bWAR form he flashed in 2014 to earn his current contract? What would the Reds do if Mesoraco was a bust for the third straight season? Unfortunately for Mesoraco and the Reds, once again in 2017 he has had trouble staying on the field and understandably he has never quite found his offensive mojo in limited playing time this season.

However, all is not on the downside for the Reds where catching is concerned. Thrust into the full time starter’s role by necessity yet again, Tucker Barnhart has matured into a legitimate everyday catcher. He currently stands at 2.3 bWAR for 2017 after earning only 1 net bWAR for his career prior to this season.

The catching questions looking forward start with what role Mesoraco will fill in 2018, the final year of his contract. Will Mesoraco be capable of working in a tandem arrangement with Barnhart; or, should the Reds look to acquire someone else for that task? And where does Stuart Turner, free of Rule 5 limitations and now optionable, fit in if at all?

Middle Infield

How soon Zack Cozart would be traded was the first in a series of cascading questions for the Reds middle infield during the spring.  It was presumed that when (not if) Cozart was traded, Jose Peraza would be installed at shortstop for an extended trial; but, who would  play 2B, Dilson Herrera? Then Scooter Gennett happened; the Reds never got around to trading Cozart; and, shortly after mid season Peraza was benched. At AAA, Herrera’s suspect shoulder required season ending surgery.

Zack Cozart is eligible for free agency. The Reds control Scooter Gennett through the 2019 season if they are willing to pay the arbitration piper. Jose Peraza’s offense and defense, at SS at least, are both questionable. Middle infield is still more of a question mark than a work in progress.


We wondered about Billy Hamilton’s health this spring following offseason shoulder surgery. Also, would BHam continue the surge in offensive production he experienced in the second half of 2016 as evidenced by his .369 OBP for that period compared to his career .297 OBP? The good news is that Hamilton has stayed healthy and on the field this season. The less favorable news is his offense has regressed. His current 2017 OPB is back at his career level, .297. His oRAR (offensive Runs Above Replacement) rate has fallen from 13 in 2016 to just 1 so far in 2017. His bWAR has also taken a big hit, dropping from 2.8 in 2016 to 0.1 to date in 2017.  Two years into arbitration, BHam is becoming expensive.  Is he the Reds centerfielder for 2018 and beyond?

Starting Pitching

Then there is the pitching. At the beginning of spring training, the  question was which young Reds prospects might pitch their way into a projected rotation comprised of Anthony Desclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman, and by early May at the latest, Homer Bailey. Before spring training ended, Desclafani and Bailey were out with arm woes; and, less than a month into the season, Finnegan joined them. The chaos which ensued, beyond detailing here, persisted most of the season. While Bailey returned in late June; Disclafani and Finnegan remain sidelined. Feldman joined them in August. Only in the last month has a semblance of order appeared to emerge with the Reds rotation.

Can the Reds sustain and grow the rotation progress of the last month into 2018 and beyond relying only on arms already in the organization; or, should the team spend resources, be that talent, money or both  to bring in one or two established middle of the rotation starting pitchers for 2018?  How the Reds proceed here may be the canary in the coal mine indicating the organizational view of the 2018 season, a time to be competitive or yet another sorting season?


The Reds bullpen core seemed set in spring training. The belief was that  one or two players falling out of the starting rotation competition would fill out the staff; and, hopefully the woes of 2017 would be forgotten. Things didn’t work out that way. Raisel Iglesias has been all one could hope for. Wandy Peralta and Michael Lorenzen have been brilliant at times and struggled at times. Drew Storen has remained on relatively even keel. Otherwise the bullpen has not performed well as a myriad of want to be and never quite were guys endlessly cycled through.

The top two bullpen questions for the Reds in the offseason involve Iglesias and Lorenzen. Is Iglesias’ greatest value to the Reds pitching in their 2108 bullpen or as a trade piece who could bring significant top talent in return?  Should Lorenzen be given another shot at the rotation? Given the full stable of young potential starting pitcher prospects the Reds have, finding arms to fill the gaps might not be all that difficult.

Final Thoughts

Back in the spring I concluded the Reds lacked enough quality players to be competitive in 2017. Sadly, that turned out to be correct. Of more concern to me now is that while the corner positions, both infield and outfield have performed well this season and are good enough for a competitive team, the progress up the middle of the diamond has been erratic and minimal. Even where players have done well, i.e. Tucker Barnhart and Zack Cozart, depth remains a serious issue, especially if Cozart leaves as a free agent. Despite the recent upturn in the rotation, the future pitching is still unsettled due to injuries and performance issues.

Given the recent news that Bryan Price will return as manager in 2018, I suspect the Reds share my opinions and see next year as more of the same as this year although with enough improvement and stability in the pitching to post a marked step forward in their record. However, the tomorrow I hoped for is still likely further into the future.

Data and stats courtesy of Baseball Reference




Twitter: @jn_walkerjr

Join the conversation! 36 Comments

  1. I agree in that bringing Price back is a clear cut message from the Reds FO that next year is gonna be, rebuild…status quo (ad nauseam). This is disappointing bcuz if we had had a good, stable starting rotation (maybe even BP) then we could’ve been competitive this year in spite of Price.

  2. Here is where my optimism lies for 2018:

    Votto continues to produce at MVP levels. Suarez has improved immensely both at the plate and in the field. In fact he may be the Reds second best hitter at this point. Duvall has been able to replicate his unexpected season from last year at the plate providing real power in the middle of the order, and has continued to be excellent in LF. Schebler, outside of an injured month of July, has been very good as well. Winker has shown he can continue to do what he does at the big league level. Ervin has improved his stock as well, and looks to be a valuable bench piece at the least.

    Barnhart has proven to be an everyday catcher with elite defense behind the plate. 2B has plenty of options starting with Gennett. I’m hopeful Herrera can finally put his shoulder woes behind him. Bone spurs aren’t the most intrusive surgery and he should be on track for next season. Hopefully he can show off his hitting tool he’s always displayed in the minors and be a solid platoon option for Gennett. Blandino has greatly reinvigorated his prospect status after a bounce back season in AA/AAA.

    Shortstop remains a huge question mark but I’ll hope the improved plate discipline post-benching that Peraza has shown will continue on next season. CF likewise is a question mark offensively, but maybe Ervin can offer a platoon option for Hamilton. Hamilton’s defense and speed remain elite and as you mentioned he’s stayed healthy.

    I believe Castillo and Romano have proven themselves big league pitchers. Mahle hasn’t been overwhelmed with an aggressive promotion and Stephenson has seemed to make real strides. Their relative youth makes me hopeful we’ll continue to see improvements. I’m optimistic that Garrett will bounce back after his hip is fully healed after an offseason of rest and recovery. I also hope Reed’s new mechanics will help him improve.

    We have a lot of relievers who have been good in the minors who are on the cusp to join Iglesias, Peralta, and Lorenzen.

    We also have Senzel’s arrival approaching after tearing up the minors this season.

    Yes several questions remain but I find a lot to be excited about next season. That’s all we really have at this point. A few well worked trades of surplus this offseason could help answer a few more questions.

    • I personally, wouldn’t get too worked up over Blandino. And with regards to Dilson Herrera, I would just counsel “wait and see”.
      But I think the starting rotation will be MUCH better in 2018, and actually think that the bullpen will be better, too.
      I saw Jimmy Herget pitch yesterday, and see him as a middle-innings right handed specialist (what is a right hand version of a “loogie”?). He’s a side armer/ threequarter pitcher, who would be tough on righties, debatable on lefties.
      Ismail Guillon looked awful, no control.

      I think Finnegan will be in the bullpen in 2018, based on his injuries in 2017. That would give the bullpen another left -handed power arm (to replace Cingrani). He could close/set-up in tandem with Iglesias.
      Bullpen 2018: Iglesias, Finnegan, Lorenzen (yes, in the pen), Peralta, and some combination of Wojo, Shackleford, Ariel Hernandez, Herget, Luke Farrell, Chacin and maybe Adelman as long man/swing starter.
      Rotation in 2018: Bailey, Mahle, Romano,Castillo and then choose the best from Stephenson, Desclafani (if healthy), Reed (if his head is OK) and Garrett. Romano or Mahle may end up in AAA, and Stephenson may have actually turned the corner. I also think that Garrett is out of options, so they may HAVE to keep him on the 25 man roster. If he doesn’t start, maybe he is a long reliever/spot starter instead of Adelman.
      And maybe a free agent pitcher they can sign that is actually good (not Feldman or somebody like that, please).

    • Agree with your assessment, Hotto4Votto.

      • The biggest problem that I see is with Cosart gone will Hamilton and Peraza bat 1 and 2 in the order.

        • That would be Bryan Price all over. It should be Winker and Suarez.
          Hamilton should bat 8th or 9th, if he is even starting. I would have Scott Schebler start in CF, and have Billy on for a late inning defensive replacement. A lot of other commenters here have said the same thing. It’s just me saying….Me TOO!

        • Scott, I hope we don’t lose Cozart bcuz I don’t trust Peraza. I would hate to see 2B or SS turned over to him or even Herrera. But if Cozy does not come back to us next yrs then I would hope that Senzel would be brought up so that our infield is Senzel, Saurez, Gennett & (of course) Votto. Would feel a lot better about Senzel starting a full year than Peraza. Senzel just has a higher ceiling. But if Nick isn’t ready to start a full year in the bigs then bring Cozy back.

  3. Dick Williams stated in the Enquirer that the Reds would go after the best possible starter they could get, someone of higher quality than Feldman. I don’t think they can afford much more than that through free agency, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a big trade this summer.

    That could involve some of the young starters, which could bring some clarity to their plans. I expect a competition for at least two rotation spots involving a number of people even if there is a trade.

  4. My offseason would involve 3 things.
    1. Trading 3-4 surplus prospects for a controllable starter.
    2. Deciding on whether Suarez is your SS. If yes, don’t trade Hamilton. If no, trade Billy and use his arbitration raise money to re-sign Cozy to a 2 year deal. Can’t have both he and Peraza in the lineup.
    3. Extend Tucker and Eugenio.

    • I’ve done the research on deals for young, controllable starters (post coming Friday!), and the Reds would probably need to include at least one of Mahle and Trammell and possibly both plus other pieces. I’m assuming that they won’t give up Castillo, Greene, or Senzel.

      I’m not saying they shouldn’t make such a trade. I hope they explore the possibility. But, it’s going to take a lot. Actually, this might help my post on Friday: who are controllable pitchers who might be had in a trade?

      The only two I’ve identified thus far that are youngish and have at least three years of control are Marcus Stroman and Michael Fulmer. Both the Blue Jays and Tigers are probably rebuilding soon and getting multiple pieces for one might entice them.

      • Man…I would hate to give up Mahle or Romano. A rotation headlined by Stroman and Castillo sounds pretty spectacular though? You might add Jose Urena to that as well? Obv he’s not accomplished yet like Stroman, but the talent is there and the Derek Jeter group will be doing some wheeling/dealing with Miami!

        I just ask that they have enough and stay healthy enough to void out Price’s excuses! 2 men on/1 out the other night and Stuart Turner swings on 3-0 and hits into a double play. The guy is hitting .150?? Cmon?? Price doesn’t get it and next year will be no exception!

        • I’d trade Mahle or Romano in the right deal, but I think the Reds would rather have either of those guys than Urena (wouldn’t you?). From DW’s comments, it seems they want someone more established that can provide some surety, if such a thing exists with pitchers.

          • The only thing sure about pitching nowadays is you need more than 5 over the course of the season. You need several pitchers, at least 7 or 8. The Dodgers have awesome pitching. They have had to use at least 8 or 9, all of them fairly solid. Kershaw, Wood, Hill, Ryu, Maeda, etc.etc. all have spent time on the Disabled List. It is foolish in this day and age to try to rely on 5 as the Reds did in 2012 – that was a fluke. It’s better not to trade away the young talent but to use the numbers, the depth as a strength for the 2018 rotation. Castillo, Mahle, Romano, Stephenson and DeSclafani might be a good starting point.

            One, two, three may incur injuries or struggle and that’s where Finnegan, Bailey, Reed, Davis, etc. come in as spot starters/replacement starters/long relief. Given the tendency for some of these young starters to go 5 or 6 strong innings before tiring, it may be desireable to have 3 or 4 guys in the ‘bullpen’ who can pump out 3 or 4 innings, like having backup starters. The San Diego Padres manager at the outset of 2017 talked of having games where there would be three pitchers scheduled to throw 3 innings each. He didn’t followed thru with that concept but it’s a good idea for some modified version of such.

            Having 7 guys in the bullpen limited to 2 innings, often less, and one long relief guy feels like an old school methodology that leads to numerous arm injuries. As good as it worked a couple years for the Kansas City Royals, many of their one inning stints used 70 times a year resulted in surgeries and a lost year for their relievers.

      • Nick – Stroman or Fulmer would be great! A young SP is definitely going to cost quite a bit. I’m not sure if this next season is the right time for such a deal or not. I’d hate to trade Mahle. Here are some other starting pitchers to consider though from the Angels and Mets:

        Alex Meyer
        Andrew Heany
        Tyler Skaggs
        Garrett Richards

        Jacob deGrom
        Steven Matz

        Maybe the Reds could trade a second baseman to the Angels for Richards? 2 years of Gennett for 2 years of Richards? Or the Reds could trade Shed Long or Dilson Herrera. I’d love to have deGrom if the Mets considered rebuilding and depending on the price. There’s always Chris Archer as well, who would cost quite a bit too.

        • Ryan, I’m very torn on whether they should make such a deal this offseason or not as well. It seems they could still learn a lot about their pieces next season by just handing the reigns over to the young guys. But getting a Stroman or Fulmer (especially Stroman) could make a big difference too. I don’t know what to think.

          • If (big IF) Bailey continues to progress and can stay healthy in 2018. The Reds could have their cake and eat it too by acquiring 1 solid middle rotation starter and letting the young guys fill out the rotation.

  5. Santillan (Dayton) is the one to trade this winter. he is 3-4 years away and the Reds have Greene, Scott Moss, and Heatherly, and others just behind him. He + a package will get a very good controllable starter.

    • I like Santillian, but he would likely have to be the third piece in a deal, second at best. Controllable starters usually take two top 100 prospects or three of a teams top 10. Santillian isn’t even in the top ten of some outlets. The Reds could trade a Major League piece instead of a prospect, but I’d imagine prospects would need to be involved.

      Anyway, I think Santillian is a great bargaining chip, but if history means anything, he won’t headline such a deal.

  6. Tanner Roark won’t become a free agent until 2020, and he might not break the prospect bank.

    • Ervin Santana is a solid innings eater…36 years old next year…makes 14 million next year in the last year of his contract.
      ERA last 5 years: 3.24, 3.95, 4.00, 3.38, 3.35.
      FIP falls in just below 4, although it spiked a little this year 4.59.

      He’s very affordable for the small market Twins who seem to be in a contending mode, so it’s a longshot.

      • The Enquirer article state that “Williams signaled that the team is ready to start looking for major-league pieces that can help the Reds transition into their competitive window, as opposed to additions intended only to help an uncompetitive squad make it through a full season.”

        I just don’t see two years of Roark or 1-2 years of Santana fitting into that category, but maybe the Reds do.

        And DW said “I think we’d be open to moving an asset of value if it were the right under-control pitching asset to strengthen us.”

        I sense they are looking for a younger, longer term solution if they can get it. which is hard to do.

        • We’ve been burned several times by Jocketty saying one thing, but doing another. I want to give Dick Williams the benefit of the doubt, but no. Let’s see how well he works. He did OK on the Dan Straily trade. But I can’t go as far as saying, In Dick We Trust.
          I am all-in on another Mat Latos type of trade, the 2011 version of course. There was one veteran included in that deal, Edinson Volquez, with 3 top 15 prospects.

  7. Here are the free agent pitchers. Hopefully the format is readable.
    I see Bartolo Colon in our future.

    Slim pickings for sure…I might speculate on Chacin, Cobb, Lynn.

    Brett Anderson (30)
    Jake Arrieta (32)
    Clay Buchholz (33)
    Madison Bumgarner (28) — $12MM club option with a $1.5M buyout
    Trevor Cahill (30)
    Matt Cain (33) — $21MM club option with a $7.5MM buyout
    Andrew Cashner (31)
    Jhoulys Chacin (30)
    Tyler Chatwood (28)
    Jesse Chavez (34)
    Wei-Yin Chen (32) — Can opt out of the remaining three years, $52MM on his contract
    Alex Cobb (30)
    Bartolo Colon (45)
    Johnny Cueto (32) — Can opt out of the remaining four years, $84MM on his contract
    Yu Darvish (31)
    John Danks (33)
    Jorge De La Rosa (37)
    R.A. Dickey (43) — $8MM club option with $500K buyout
    Nathan Eovaldi (28) — $2MM club option
    Marco Estrada (34)
    Scott Feldman (35)
    Doug Fister (34)
    Yovani Gallardo (32) — $13MM club option with a $2MM buyout
    Jaime Garcia (31)
    Matt Garza (34) — $13MM vesting option/$5MM club option (can become $1MM club option based on DL time)
    Gio Gonzalez (32) – $12MM club option with $500K buyout; vests with 180 innings pitched in 2017
    Miguel Gonzalez (34)
    Jeremy Hellickson (31)
    Derek Holland (31)
    Ubaldo Jimenez (34)
    Ian Kennedy (33) — Can opt out of the remaining three years, $43MM on his contract
    John Lackey (39)
    Francisco Liriano (34)
    Jordan Lyles (27)
    Lance Lynn (31)
    Wade Miley (31) — $12MM club option with a $500K buyout
    Mike Minor (30) — $10MM mutual option with a $1.25MM buyout
    Matt Moore (29) — $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Jon Niese (31)
    Ricky Nolasco (35) — $13MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Martin Perez (27) — $6MM club option with a $2.45MM buyout
    Michael Pineda (29)
    Clayton Richard (34)
    Tyson Ross (31)
    CC Sabathia (37)
    Anibal Sanchez (34) — $16MM club option with a $5MM buyout
    Hector Santiago (30)
    Chris Sale (29) — $12.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Masahiro Tanaka (29) — Can opt out of the remaining three years, $67MM on his contract
    Chris Tillman (30)
    Josh Tomlin (33) — $3MM club option with a $750K buyout
    Jason Vargas (35)
    Jered Weaver (35)
    Chris Young (39) — $8MM mutual option with a $1.5MM buyout

    • I think Cueto would pose an interesting situation if he opts outs with the Giants. Right now his annual payout is essentially the same as Bailey’s; the contract just runs a couple of years longer. But then if he opts out, would he be looking for more per year or just another 2-3 years at the same price? Given what has gone on with the Giants, if Cueto does not opt out. might they look to move him? if so, would he come back to Cincy? Would the Reds want him; and could they afford him.

      Here’s the bottom line. The total guaranteed amount left on Bailey’s contract is $49M which pays him to pitch the next two seasons and buys out 2020. The total remaining guarantee on Cueto (assuming he does not opt out) is 89M which pays him to pitch the next 4 seasons and buys out 2022.

      Could the Reds afford both for 2 years? Should they pursue if it fits their budget?

      • Keep in mind that no starting pitcher for the Reds right now will be arbitration eligible before the 2021 season at the earliest. Bailey would be off the book by then. Cueto would have one guaranteed season remaining. It is intriguing.

      • Spending big bucks on a FA pitcher over 30 is NEVER a good idea.

        Cueto is not the Cueto we remember pitching for Cincinnati. The best pitching move the Reds have made in 10 years was signing Cueto to an extention while he was still arbitration eligible. The second best pitching move the Reds have made in 10 years was not signing Cueto to a FA contract.

        The Reds paid Bailey for two seasons on his FA contract without him pitching a lick. Please, no more FA pitching contracts of FA extensions for pitchers.

        • Semardja for the Giants is 32. Big power pitcher…200 inning machine…good peripherals….really good this year. Nice #3. 3 years $54 million left on his contract. Roster wise….he would be cheaper than an Archer/Walker/ Stroman.

    • I would normally be in favor of taking a flier on a low cost, bounce back candidate, but after seeing how DW and BP handled the pitching staff this season, I don’t want to see anything resembling a low cost FA pitcher signed by the Reds, even on a minor league contract.

    • Looking at that list, maybe we can get Slim Pickens to sign this winter.

    • Whew, Giants are probably going to pay Cain $7.5-million NOT to pitch for them next year.

  8. Have no problem with the Reds signing Jamie Garcia( lhp with lots of ground balls)What they really need is a quality lefty reliever with a “rubber arm”.

  9. What a collection of scrubs? Or if they’re halfway decent, then the cost is outrageous. Alex Cobb has been on the D/L 5x this year. Nada….no thanks! Don’t call us….we’ll call you!

  10. Nice review here Jim. I like this follow-up to your first post.

  11. Nice insight Jim. A good read.

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About Jim Walker

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2017 Reds


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