This week, I found myself contemplating the recent declaration that the Reds were finished adding to the roster. So I sat down and looked at the roster as it stands, trying to see what I thought about the decision to stand pat.
- Tucker Barnhart C
- Joey Votto 1B
- Nick Senzel 2B
- Eugenio Suarez 3B
- Jose Peraza SS
- Jesse Winker OF
- Billy Hamilton CF
- Scott Schebler OF
- Adam Duvall OF
- Devin Mesoraco OF
- Dilson Herrera 2B
- Scooter Gennett Util
- Homer Bailey SP
- Anthony DeSclafani SP
- Brandon Finnegan SP
- Luis Castillo SP
- Raisel Iglesias RP
- Michael Lorenzen RP (almost certainly)
- Jared Hughes RP
- David Hernandez RP
- Wandy Peralta RP
That’s 21 spots that are already spoken for (I’m assuming Nick Senzel comes up fairly early in the season, though he probably won’t start the year on the roster. Dilson Herrera, of course, is out of options)
There is probably one more bench spot. The Reds will pick from Phillip Ervin, Patrick Kivlehan, and Alex Blandino for the final spot (my guess would be Ervin unless they really want him to play every day in Louisville). That’s 22.
And then two bullpen spots. The Reds have said a couple of the starting pitching candidates are probably going to transition to relief roles this year (I would guess Stephenson and Reed since they have control issues. Amir, I’m guessing, gets one more shot since he was apparently pitching hurt much of last year.) And there are still guys like Austin Brice and Ariel Hernandez who will get hard looks in spring.
And that’s 25. With some depth, if need be. And, to be honest, there’s not too much I’d really change about that. But I want to take a look at the team in parts anyway:
There were no shortstops on the market that were begging to be signed. And, frankly, Jose Peraza hit a lot better last year than Davey Concepcion did at the same age, so I’m not giving up yet. Not to mention the visible changes he made to his plate approach last year, as Chad and I talked about in the last podcast.
So to be honest, the only place I could see the Reds improving offensively more than they could by promoting/playing the in-house options of Senzel and Winker is in center, where Christian Yelich was the only really good option. And, as we’ve seen, the price for him was astronomically high.
I do think the Reds could probably stand to trade an outfielder and a second baseman, but only for a semi-decent return (maybe an actual backup shortstop). Otherwise, I don’t have a problem with them going to war with this. As long – and this is important – as Winker and Senzel both play nearly every day.
I do not believe for a second that Homer, Finnegan, and Disco are all going to pitch full seasons. Nor, I suspect, do the Reds. I also believe that Romano and Mahle both deserve full shots in the MLB rotation. Stephenson and Garrett might also, if they can show they’ve dealt with their specific issue.
And again, there isn’t much out there. I’d be happy to have the Reds sign Yu Darvish, but there’s no one else I’d rather they have. They aren’t in the market for a high-end reliever and there are still 8-10 starting pitching candidates depending on who you count.
And here’s the crazy thing for you: The starting rotation in the last two months of the season – when there was some actual stability there – was slightly above average. Reds starters produced 3.8 WAR from August 1 until the end of the season. If they produced at that rate for a full year, they would finish with 11.4 WAR, which would have been 14th in MLB last year (again, this is starting pitchers only). Since the end of the year, I’d been defaulting to “the pitching was terrible” whenever I thought about 2017. But, for the last third of the year, it wasn’t. And that last third is when the pitchers we expect to see this year were consistently on the mound.
How to Assess
I am aware that I’m often the voice of optimism around here. But like all of you, I’ve grown tired of rough seasons. 2018 is the year I expect to see real progress. And it’s the final year I’m willing to concede that standing pat may be the best course of action.
Here’s what I need to consider 2018 a success:
- Jesse Winker plays everyday and hits leadoff. Billy needs to bat in the bottom third of the order as long as he’s on the team and that’s just all there is to it.
- Nick Senzel is up sooner rather than later and plays every day.
- The starting rotation is finally sorted. With the exception of Mahle, the prospect crew has all reached the age at which it’s time to get things squared away. Those who can start become part of the rotation permanently and those who can’t move to relief pitching. But no dithering from the Reds.
- A .500 record. This should be attainable with normal development of the roster. Homer Bailey and Joey Votto should be the only regular players over 30. Young teams like the Reds tend to get better as time passes (see Astros, Houston).
- At the end of the season, the Reds identify and plug any remaining holes. Maybe they do need a shortstop or a centerfielder. Maybe they need another pitcher or two. Okay, spend the money and bring them in.