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.

  1. Tucker Barnhart C
  2. Joey Votto 1B
  3. Nick Senzel 2B
  4. Eugenio Suarez 3B
  5. Jose Peraza SS
  6. Jesse Winker OF
  7. Billy Hamilton CF
  8. Scott Schebler OF
  9. Adam Duvall OF
  10. Devin Mesoraco OF
  11. Dilson Herrera 2B
  12. Scooter Gennett Util
  13. Homer Bailey SP
  14. Anthony DeSclafani SP
  15. Brandon Finnegan SP
  16. Luis Castillo SP
  17. Raisel Iglesias RP
  18. Michael Lorenzen RP (almost certainly)
  19. Jared Hughes RP
  20. David Hernandez RP
  21. 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.

The fifth starter spot is probably Sal Romano‘s to lose. But there’s also Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, and Cody Reed to consider there. That’s 23.

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:

Lineup/Bench

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.

Rotation/Bullpen

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Nick Senzel is up sooner rather than later and plays every day.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 120 Comments

  1. I agree with all conclusions about how to measure 2018 a success. It all seems very logical there is only one issue and that is Bryan Price….. I hope DW tells him where the bear sh*ts in the woods and he ends up towing the line. If Billy is leading off and Winker is getting less than 4 to 5 days out of 7 to start I hope they can Price with a quickness.

    Good article.

  2. On your list of things you need to consider 2018 a success:

    1. Agreed – Winker, Votto, Suarez should be batting 1-3. Billy Hamilton should only be starting against right-handed starters and should hit at the bottom of the order.
    2. Agreed – Senzel only played 57 games last year at AA. I’d give him about a month in AAA to make sure he’s ready and delay the service clock. Once he’s up he plays every day.
    3. Agreed – The 9 or 10 candidates for the rotation all need given a shot.
    4. Agreed – At least 75 wins should be attainable and provide a nice springboard to 2019
    5. Agreed and would add that Peraza needs to be starting at SS all season so that we know whether that is a spot to attempt to upgrade for 2019 and beyond.

    • Why do we need to give Peraza a whole year? If he continues to not walk and hit without power (what he’s done previously) for 3 months, I’d rather see just about anyone else in that spot (Suarez, Senzel, Blandino). After all, Peraza aint Ozzie Smith (or even Concepcion) out there, so he’s not generating WAR defensively. I hope I’m wrong, but he seems like a great utility guy, not much more. If that continues, he looks like Hamilton without the great defense, and at least one of them needs to be replaced in the line-up.

  3. Just because 22 spots are filled going into spring training didn’t mean the Reds couldn’t have used a couple of upgrades to he starting 8. Standing pat, besides two minor bullpen upgrades, was foolishness and very short-sighted. They could have picked up a couple of upgrades that would have gone beyond 2018.
    But the Reds front office was content to go with the same ole same ole that got them to a last place NLC finish and 35 games out of 1st place. Pure Ivy League genius at work here.
    FWIW, that final third of the season for starting pitching was anchored by Robert Stephenson, Big Sal Romano and Homer Bailey. Stephenson probably has a leg up on Romano for that 5th starters spot going into spring training. Castillo was shut down on 09/06 and Mahle shut down on 09/13 after only 4 starts. Not much from them in that third of a season.
    Now can Stephenson and Romano bump one of DeSclafani or Finnegan to the bullpen or DL might be something to watch.

    • I agree WV about Stephenson. The pitching in the 3rd/3rd of the season was much better and it was Stephenson who was dealing during that time along with Romano. Stephenson was better to my eye and has better overall stuff.

      He is #5 starter at the beginning of the year.

      I actually think the odd man out (as I think Disco will be lights out again, and Finnegan will be very good and left handed) might be Homer Bailey as funny as that sounds. He will have to be very good this year and I know that he is coming off of surgery and getting back into it.

      But Homer last year was not good. He may be the hardest one to get back to his norm. One good start and one bad one will not cut it in 2018. Homer has to be better than Feldman this year, and last year he was not.

      I do not think that Stephenson will not miss a start in the bigs for the Reds in 2018.

      BP managing Bailey may even be a tougher job for him in 2018 than managing Billy. It does sound like BP is going with the 500 abs per 4 OF’s in 2018. He could be a genius if he uses Billy properly.

      And Homer

    • There isn’t a team in baseball that has the best player at each position. Every team could theoretically upgrade most positions, but it’s a matter of who’s available. As Jason pointed out in his article, there wasn’t much out there. Certainly not anything so eye-poppingly obvious that the Reds were willing to give up on a developing young player to go after.

      Can’t make moves just to make moves.

      • If you are the Toronto GM, would you rather have Randal Grichuk or Scott Schebler in the Blue Jays trade of RHRP Dominic Leone?
        I think Toronto would take Schebler as he has 1 more year of team control and is a little better hitter. That probably gets the Reds a bit better prospect than RHP Conner Greene that St. Louis also received.
        A bullpen stud for the notoriously bad bullpen. And tah-dah, a spot is opened up for Jesse Winker, too.
        That is not making a move just to make moves. It improved the team in 3 respects. Improved bullpen, better hitter in RF, and a leadoff hitter other than Hamilton.
        Check and mate. 🙂

        • Yesss. This kills me, when you see trades of lesser players by other teams that would be a great fit for the Reds. Moving Schebler would have been an ideal plan. Schebler swings a too many bad pitches. Duval has great defense to go along with his 30 HR power. He makes the team not as left handed heavy as well.

        • That’s all well and good until one of Duvall/Hamilton/Winker gets injured. Then what do you do? They’ve all shown injury proneness in the past, as has Schebler, so running into Opening Day with all four of them isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

          Losing that depth for yet another relief pitcher isn’t worth it.

        • What makes you think the Reds get more?
          Trades this year have not produced the haul they have in the past.
          (With the exception of Yelich).

        • Originally you said Duvall, and I disagreed. Schebler however makes it a much harder decision were I Toronto GM. A big part of it is the years of control and Schebler’s age. I don’t know. I think maybe I’d rather have Grichuk but it’s a lot closer and I could see Leone for Schebler has something that may have happened. I don’t know if a better prospect could have come over however. Leone was the “get” in that deal.

  4. Making 81 wins a pre-requisite of a successful season is both unlikely, as well as possibly counter-productive to the long-term goals of the Reds.

    Playing Senzel, Winker, Herrera, Ervin….letting starting pitchers show their worth, once and for all….that means likely suffering through plenty of less than optimal at-bats and starts.

    Also, short of the Marlins, LOLMets and Pirates (who knows?), 8 teams in the National League are in their playoff “window”, the rest are trying to improve (Braves, Phillies, Padres).

    Reds went 13-6 last season vs. PIT. Going to be tough to squeeze out many more wins while still sorting almost everywhere.

    Will Bryan Price really play kids as much as possible, or get caught up in trying to win to hang onto his job, overplaying Duvall again, subjecting us to Havoc! leading off and jerking young SP to get to that veteran bullpen?

    • IMO…Ervin is a 5th outfielder, and his playing time should reflect that. Herrera has only proven he can not stay healthy…He sits the bench behind Scooter, and plays against leftys until Senzel arrives.

    • With a full season of Castillo, Homer and Disco, it is possible.
      If the pitching holds up.
      Else, no close.

  5. Also, it’s off the field, but should not a Suarez extension be a priority?

    There isn’t much nearly-ready MLB talent in the Reds pipeline.

    On this list, the next “ready” talent is Shed Long (only 42 games at AA) and Blandino, who isn’t even projected as a MLB regular.

    https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/top-26-prospects-cincinnati-reds/

    Let Suarez get through this season, he can easily arb his way through the next 2 and leave.

    Unless the plan is to trade him, and give Senzel his spot. But, it sure seems the Reds needs Suarez’s WAR going forward, with light hitters already in abundance in the lineup.

    • Right on…biggest non- story of the off season. DW made a statement a few weeks ago that it takes 2 to extend. Suarez agent is hoping for another 4 war year and then no way he doesn’t go to FA. That makes Suarez a trade candidate next offseason or risk getting nothing.

      Sign Suarez and pay up now.

      • I think it was a popular move to extend Mesoraco when they did, but look at how that turned out. Maybe that played a role in waiting an extra year on Suarez.

        • They haven’t had luck with extensions.
          Extend Votto – got hurt
          Extend Bailey – got hurt
          Extend Marshall – got hurt
          Extend Mez – got hurt
          Extend Phillips – Played good when healthy…but got dinged up, then managers kept playing him when unhealthy.

          At least Votto made it out of the other side of his injury…but they lost 1.5 prime years when the “window” was open

          • Phillips was worth his contract. Votto will be, too. He’s almost there now. You’d be hard pressed to find a MLB player who doesn’t get hurt at some point over a 10 year contract.

          • Everyone gets Hurt once in a while.
            Votto, Well worth it.
            Phillips, a bit high but not bad.
            Mez bust
            Bailey bust.
            So, an extension may be well worth it.

          • The Reds signed a 6-year deal with Jay Bruce (2011-16) covering his team control plus two years of free agency. He produced around 10 WAR over those years, worth about $65 million. The Reds paid him $51 million.

            The Reds signed Johnny Cueto to a 4-year deal (2011-14) plus an option year (2015). That covered his team control plus two years of free agency. He produced about 20 WAR over those years, worth about $130 million. The Reds paid him $37 million.

            Votto’s extension didn’t start until 2014, so he’s only missed a half season (in 2014). Even that year, in 66 games he produced 1.5 WAR while earning $12 million. So he nearly was worth it even that season. If you count 2012 against his extension, he produced 5.8 WAR, or $40 million of value, that season (in 111 games) while he was paid $9.5 million.

            During his extension years (2014-17) Votto has produced about 20.5 WAR worth about $154 million on the open market. The Reds have paid him $68 million over that time.

            Mesoraco’s extension is really just for 2018. The earlier years he would have played for the Reds under arbitration anyhow. So we’ll see if he earns his $13 million this year. That’s about 1.6 WAR. He’d have made less money over that time, but the injury “luck” would have been the same with or without the extension.

            Phillips extension (2013-17) cost the Reds $60 million. Phillips came pretty close to earning that (~$58 million). So I wouldn’t say the Reds were unlucky on that, just dumb.

            Bailey and Marshall were busts due to injury, at least so far in Bailey’s case.

          • @steve – I pretty much agree, even if I’m a little iffy on WAR and $$ values as they represent full-market free-agent values… I diverge a little on the Mes extension. For the record, I thought that was a good extension. Injuries happen and the Reds just ran into bad luck. That said, if he was only arbitration eligible, the Reds had the option of non-tendering him instead of going the arb route. In theory, that could have saved a lot of money starting last year.

  6. As long as Price is Manager, I see Hamilton leading off. As for Senzel, you sure about 2B? MLB Pipeline named him the best defensive third baseman in the minor leagues in 2017. Let’s not forget about Scooter so penciling Senzel in at 2B seems based on hope more than reality.

    • I think Senzel is more likely to replace Scooter than Suarez. It would not be a surprise is Scooter failed to repeat last years performance. If both Gennett and Suarez continue last years performance and Senzel destroys AAA for a month then a decision has to be made. Suarez has already shown he is more than capable of handling 3B while Scooter has not impressed on defense. Senzel could also move to the outfield and it has been reported he will be getting reps there in Spring Training as well as 2B and 3B.

      If Senzel hits, there will be a position for him on the major league roster

    • Can Scooter produce anything even remotely close to his 2017 offensive performance? The odds are stacked against a repeat performance, but I wouldn’t bet the farm against Scooter…except for the Bryan Price factor.

      Scooter has a horrendous platoon split in every season he’s played except 2016 and the 2016 results slightly favored a platoon split in AVG, but a more pronounced platton split in OBP & ISO. For his career, Gennett has a significant platoon split:

      v. RHP => 115 wRC+, 0.176 ISO, 0.337 OBP, 0.809 OPS, 17.1% K%
      v. LHP => 44 wRC+, 0.097 ISO, 0.254 OBP, 0.559 OPS. 28.7% K%

      Failure to play Gennet against RHP is a failure by management, not a failure by Gennett.
      Failur to NOT play Gennett against LHP is simply gross managerial incompetence.

      Price has proven time and again that he is incapable of managing a platoon situation and proved it again last season by repeatedly playing Gennett against his platoon advantage. With a capable manager, the Old Cossack would roll the dice on a bet that Scooter Gennett would once again put up powerful offensive production in 2018.

      That doesn’t do anything about his poor defense, but even his defensive shortcomings at 2B would be cut by 30% in a properly managed platoon situation.

      • I don’t know if this is just a Price thing. The Reds seem very hesitant to institute a LH/RH platoon based on platoon splits and pitching handedness. I don’t understand it. Platoon splits are a real thing across baseball in general. Granted, one or even two years worth of data doesn’t tell you much but over the course of say 1000+ PA, it becomes pretty obvious when someone’s platoon split is greater than the norm. Scooter’s is clearly large but he’ll still start against LHP for the most part.

  7. You know, if what Jason outlines happens and the pitching just regresses back to a mean, I’m feeling ok (in the probably still sub .500 kind of way you can still be ok).

  8. No way Reds should call up Nick Senzel before the Super Two cutoff, around first of June. They aren’t going to contend. They can use the two months to sort out 2B a bit. They should try Dilson Herrera (if healthy).

    • Agreed. No reason to call Senzel up before the cutoff. Play him every day in Louisville at 3B, 2B, COF, and if he can handle it, SS.

      • I do not play him at 3B. I focus on 2B, I think that is a better position.
        Nice issue to have

    • When the bevy of free agents start signing contracts here soon, many of those signing teams will have to remove players from their 40-man rosters to fit in the free agents.
      It might be a good time to try to sneak Herrera through waivers then and still keep him. It also might be a time to find a better backup SS that has 2B experience that can also backup Gennett. A better alternative than Gosselin and/or Herrera could very well be found here.
      It would be a roll of the dice for the Reds to try to sneak Herrera through waivers, but it might be the perfect time to do so with most teams 40-man rosters full now as it is. I don’t think there would be a team to take a chance with a 40-man roster spot at this particular time with Herrera coming off of shoulder surgery and two seasons+ of injuries.

      • That’s a nice point about Herrera. … I was also wondering whether this late free agency for guys like J.D. Martinez and Carlos Gonzalez might be holding up the market for a ‘secondary tier’ that might include Duvall and/or Hamilton. Maybe the Reds are serious about not moving either of them, but that doesn’t mean a decent offer couldn’t change their mind.

        • JD might, I doubt Cargo is? His last year stunk to high heaven.
          I blame Boras.
          The players all have issues, and are not elite, but want to be paid like elite ones.
          The big players are sitting it out. (NYY, LAD, etc) plus NY got there big guy via trade.

      • And lets face it, would anybody be too terribly upset if we lost Herrera to on a waiver claim? He is out of options and clogging up the current roster. His best “ability” is his inability to stay on the field

        • I wouldn’t be terribly upset–baseball doesn’t upset me terribly anymore–but we really have little idea of what Herrera could be. True, he might never be uninjured for long enough to have value, but I can’t assume that. Lots of players get past injuries.

  9. To me 3 guys have rotation spots locked down: Homer, Castillo (Opening Day starter), and DesSclafani. The rest (Mahle, Romano, Stephenson, Garrett, Finnegan, Reed, Brice, and Hernandez) Will have to compete for final spots. Which brings me to my question for everybody:

    Why not a 6-man rotation?

    Homer, DesSclafani, and Finnegan don’t really need a lot of innings right now, and still they probably won’t make all of their starts. This opens up more opportunities for Mahle, Romano, Garrett, and Stephenson to get some innings with the big club. It gives them regular work while keeping innings from getting out of hand. Should someone give up 6 runs in 1 ⅔ innings, then plug in one of the others to be temporary long man. Unless Spring Training proves otherwise, Reed, Brice, and Hernandez are at Louisville.

    I know it’s outside the box, but why not try it.

    • Completely agree. Vets all coming off injuries aren’t going to throw 200 innings, ease up the early season workload. None of the young guys have done 200 before either, Castillo is the only pitcher we have where that might be possible. There are too many pitchers that we need to see get a chance. My fear is that Bailey, Disco, and Finnegan all have OK seasons, just good enough to not get replaced, and we don’t get to see if Mahle and Garrett could be stars.

    • It makes sense, but Price has already said that they won’t be doing a 6- man rotation. It also means less starts for guys that need to build their arms up close to 200 innings so that they can be ready to go 200+ in 2019. They need to build innings on their arms, not reduce them

      • I don’t know if 200 is really the target anymore. Across MLB there were only 15 pitchers who threw more than 200 innings last year. I think the new number is perhaps 180 IP. There were 35 pitchers over the 180 IP threshold across MLB in 2017.

    • Takes 1 more spot from the BP or a Position Player.

  10. I don’t understand the hype around Peraza. At best he projects to be an average hitter. From the reactions I saw and interactions I had on social media when we first got Peraza, everybody was happy to get this kid. Lots of hoopla from fans and the reds brass. I understand that he had good numbers on the minors but the minors don’t mean jack ____ to me. Good numbers down there don’t necessarily translate to the majors. So for the most part I find MiLB numbers/stats unreliable. I just think that the level of excitement surrounding Peraza when we first got him (and maybe even still so) doesn’t line up with his projected career numbers.

    Now that that’s out of the way I wanna say this: If the Reds are gonna trade one of the Outfielders for another Shortstop it shouldn’t be to be a backup. They need to get another SS who’s at least as good as some think Peraza is gonna be for competition…to push Peraza and hopefully overtake him (pushing Peraza to the bench).

    • I don’t remember any hype, I mostly remember people complaining that he was a guy with no power and didn’t walk, which is exactly what he has been so far. I think most of us know Perraza is probably never going to be a star. The problem with trading for either a SS or CF is that it’s going to cost Senzel or Greene plus others to get someone who is both an upgrade and controlled for long term. Which is why we just have to hope Peraza figures it out or sign a FA next year

      • VaRedsFan, I understand that’s how the minors work but it’s minor leaguers playing against minor leaguers (and the occasional big leaguer on rehab assignments). How many times have we seen minor leaguers tear up the minors only to crap out or be mediocre in the majors. Of course there are those who tear it up at every level.

        But this is obviously Peraza’s make or break year. They’re gonna give him a full year of starting/playing every day. They’ve already said that. It is my hope though that if he sputters like he did last year when he started that they’ll sit him at some point and don’t stubbornly keep his struggling bat in the lineup.

        I don’t really care for Hamilton. His weak bat gets on my nerves something fierce. I don’t believe he’s capable of getting better either. Unlike some, I’m not willing to overlook his weak bat bcuz he has speed and can play defense. I’d rather have a CF who can play adequate or decent defense AND who can hit for a decent avg & a little power at least. Not one or the other but a little of both.

        Point is that, although I believe that Peraza can be a better hitter than Hamilton, they’ll still be the 2 weakest hitters in the lineup.

        I don’t like Duvall’s low BA’s but at least he has power. At least he offers SOMETHING offensively. When a power hitter is struggling to get singles, doubles or even triples his power is always gonna be there and is always a threat. When a non-power hitter struggles to get singles, doubles or triples what do they have to fall back on offensively…nothing.

    • If your minor league numbers are bad a A ball, then you don’t make it to AA, If you are at AA, and your numbers are bad, then you don’t make it to AAA. You at least have to have a good pedigree in the minors to advance your way up the system.
      FWIW, I think this is Peraza’s make or break year. He needs to improve, or they should move on.

    • No one wants our COF’s.
      No value in a trade.

    • Bill, I wouldn’t want to give up Senzel or Greene either. But you offered up a way around that problem…sign a FA. Next year’s class of FA’s is supposed to be better than this year’s and DW has already said that they’re targeting 2019 as the return to contention. With the money they’ll hopefully have saved up I hope they go out and sign a better CF & SS.

      • AJ Pollock and CJ Blackmon are #1 and #2. If things are like this offseason, this is a really good idea until Siri, Trammell etc are ready and can play CF.

        • Charlie Blackmon I mean.

          • The Concern with Charlie is his home road splits.
            Over 100 point different.
            I think he would do well in GABP.
            He has an above average glove in Center field.
            I would like to see him in Cincinnati.
            (note, I live about hour south of coors, so I see him on TV a lot)

        • Scottya, I wouldn’t mind having one or both of those guys.

  11. I don’t think there will be see any surprises at all among the hitters. I believe that they will break camp with the guys you’ve listed, except Senzil will be in Louisville for at least 3 weeks, and Phillip Ervin and Alex Blandino will make the team.

    The wild card is Dilson Herrera, of whom we have heard nothing since about July.

    Who knows with pitching. Somebody will get hurt in spring, or fall behind, and somebody will take a giant leap forward. Given their past performances, I’d make Finnegan and Desclafani candidates to be injured this spring, but I expect Bob Steve and Amir Garrett to have nice springs.

    • I would expect Senzel to be in AAA until about June, the super 2 cutoff.
      Gives him a chance to play 2B a bit more

  12. This season is unusual with still a ton of FA unsigned. All those guys will need a spot on some teams 40 man roster & most of those 40 man rosters are better than Cincinnati’s. Reds need to try to sneak 1 or 2 people through waivers (Aquino, Reyes, Rookie Davis, Stephens, Ervin, or Blandino), other than Hererra. Other teams overflow is still better than what we have. May snatch a servicable lefty reliever, ss, or even a better back-up cf.

  13. Jason – thanks for the assessment. I share your optimism.

    Pitching, pitching, pitching! When it comes to pitching, the past 2 years have been abysmal (2016 bullpen was historically horrific & in 2017 the starters were equally disastrous). And the results – a distant 5th place.

    The Reds have a solid defense and a respectable offense with some budding options to make it stronger.

    If we want a competitive Reds team, it begins/ends with pitching.

    In 2018, Coach Price (a former Pitching Coach), has the challenge of molding a contending pitching staff. Does he have the capacity to utilize the strengths of the arms at his disposal? Can he keep them focused and healthy? Can he remain patient with the inevitable bumps the young guys will have? Can he discern if the recovering arms are on pace for full recovery and how they should best be utilized?

    I believe our young rotation has a few horses and I think we might be on the verge of competing if the pitching matures/recovers. But, it will take vision and guidance to mold this staff into a winner!

  14. It will be a crowded outfield and a very tired Barnhart with Mesoraco an outfielder. (hopefully that is a typo above) Seriously, agree with regards to free agents this year. Go big or stay home. To me it’s as likely as not that a current ‘youngster’ will be better next year than this years mid level free agent. Why spend the money there. Be we must must see the youngsters play. (Starts chanting — Let them play! Let them play!)

  15. Jason, since the Reds will stand pat (to my consternation), then you have presented us with the most agreeable barometer for team success in ’18. Though I would like to see Lorenzen get a shot at the starting rotation in spring training.

    Well done,,,hope for progress and rejoice with more than that.

  16. Ok, Winker cannot play outfield. Did you watch any games at all in September.? He looked bad in right field. Senzel does not have the range to play second base.
    I say we package these guys for a pitcher. I can live with scooter at second and our current outfield wit Ervin as a fourth until Siri and Trammel make it to the bigs. Our weak spot throughout the organization is SS. That is why I think it would be smart to develop Greene as a short stop.instead of a pitcher.

    • Actually we have a few somewhat promising SS prospects, but nearly all are 2-3 years away. I think in our top 15 prospects, 3 are SS. We’re not lacking for choices, but may need to bide time with Peraza (this year) and if he does nothing, find a one year bridge.

      Senzel has more than enough range to play 2nd base. Not sure where your getting your data to make such an assumption. He is not slow by any means. That said, I’d rather he man 3rd base and they make a decision on Suarez. This season may be a great time to trade him while his value is high. I just don’t see him being as good as Senzel. If you want a good young pitcher, dangle Suarez and find a way to ship Hamilton’s no hit, no take hiney with him.

      • Too many really good 3B out there.
        Look at what Frazier signed for.
        The FA from KC has not found a home yet.
        No value in a trade at this time.
        Maybe if someone on a contending team gets hurt?
        But now now.

    • Winker can play the outfield, there are plenty of guys in the majors that can’t play defense but make up for it in the bat. We get it you don’t like Winker, but he has proved he can get on base which is what the Reds need. If Scwharber can play the OF for a team that wins the World Series, then Winker will be fine. Senzel was rated the top defensive minor league 3B and played SS in college, so 2B is not a problem for him. Greene is not a SS unless he forgets how to throw 100 mph, and even if he were to switch to SS he wouldn’t be at the majors anytime soon

    • I don’t think Winker looked bad in RF.

      I do think that Scooter does not have great range at 2nd. I’ll bet that Senzel has much more range at any position than Scooter

    • 1) Winker is a C- glove with a A- bat. That guy plays every day in left field in the majors and moves to first late in his career.
      2) Senzel is an very good athlete that clearly has the range to play 2nd (check out his steals totals in college and the minors). Most scouting reports indicate that his athleticism is very undervalued.
      3) Will you be able to “live” the Scooter’s inevitable regression? Or the possibility that Siri doesn’t get his strikeouts under control and never makes the bigs?
      4) Virtually ever scout that looked at Green said he was clearly a pitcher first prospect. His height hurts him at short and he may well have grown out of the position as he matured. Jeter Downs is just as far along at short and has more potential in his bat.

      You, sir, are sorely misinformed regarding the Red’s system.

    • I agree that Winker looked well below average in RF and his metrics show that (small sample size warning). He seems more comfortable in LF and his arm isn’t the strongest from what I remember, so hopefully LF is where he plays most.

      • Having watched Winker a lot, his arm is fine for right. Not great, but not a disaster either. His instincts seem to be the primary issue, but he’s unlikely to ever be a good fielder.

        • Eye test only here but his arm appears superior to Schebler’s by quite a margin. It’s not as good as Duvall’s. It’s probably a little shy of Hamiton’s. It’s not ideal for RF but I think it plays there. Concur?

    • Huh? Have you seen Senzel play at all? I’m willing to bet with enough reps he’s going to be a fair 2B and most certainly better than Scooter defensively. You seem to have this idea that Senzel is a “plodder” or is nonathletic and it’s simply wrong. I’d question his ability to play SS but I think he could handle 2B or a corner OF position with little trouble. He’s a pretty good athlete. Also, have you considered that if for some reason Green struggles as a pitcher or suffers a significant injury as a pitcher, he may be tried at SS or another position? His upside as a SS would be very good but his upside as a P is off the charts. The Reds really need to try him on the mound and see how that works. His velocity comes so easily and at his age he still may add a tick or three.

  17. I am glad the Reds drafted Greene, but man, that MacKenzie Gore is looking like a future stud lefty. Long ways to go for both of them though. We’ll see.

    • Time will tell. Greene is one of the highest rated pitching prospects in years.
      Yes time will tell, and I sure hope he hits his ceiling.

  18. I have been curious about the Reds insistence that Finnegan is not only a starter but a virtual lock for the rotation. They didn’t hesitate to move Lorenzen to the bullpen when they thought his arm couldn’t hold up to starting. If there was ever an arm that didn’t appear that it could hold up to starting, it might be Finnegan. But, I could see him as an extremely valuable piece in the bullpen.

    With the young starters coming and needing innings, I’d love to see Finnegan in a super reliever type role. What am I missing?

    • He threw 172 innings in 2016, I don’t think we can consider him unable to handle the load because he was injured last year. He may one day be a bullpen guy, but I don’t think he is too fragile to throw 200 innings

      • That’s an excellent point. I guess what I’m saying is that they were very quick to move Lorenzen to the pen, so why not handle Finnegan in a similar fashion?

    • You’re not missing anything. This has been my opinion since he went down for a 2nd time last year. He is a max-effort type of thrower. The bullpen would be a great fit for him.

    • Finnegans injury was not to his arm.I dont believe he has ever had,at any level,an arm injury.

      • True. It was two shoulder injuries last year. You can make an argument that shoulder injuries are worse than arm injuries. I guess the good news is that it was muscular rather than structural.

        • The issue with Finnegan is how many walks he give up. People love to ding BobSteve but Finnegan walked 86 in those 172 IP in 2016 while only striking out 145.

        • One of his shoulder injuries was completely unrelated to pitching and was in fact his non-throwing shoulder. I agree however that shoulder injuries are scary. I hear “shoulder” in relation to a pitcher and I cringe.

    • He sure was looking good at the end of 16′ and start of 17′. His changeup was improving it appeared and in 17′ he seemed to have some extra mph on the FB. He is the one that I doubt most is healthy this year.

    • Your curiosity is spot on chap. Until Finnegan proves that he can stay healthy and be a productive starter he may well be a solid bullpen option.

  19. I will be SHOCKED if the REDS win 81 games.

  20. I’m disappointed the Reds have not traded, so far, Hamilton and Gennett although they probably would not have acquired much. And there is not a strong accurate arm for right field at present so the Reds will have to wait for the young outfielders in the minors to mature. I do not like the alternating of four outfielders since this will keep Winker from 500+ at bats which the offense needs. We’ll see how the pitching turns out this last season of the rebuild, but Finnegan in the bullpen could turn out to be another John Franco.

    • Have to disagree with Billy.
      There is no one to be an everyday CF for the Reds currently.
      If Scooter starts to repeat his 2017 season, we will get more for him.
      IF not, a non-tender is a possibility.

  21. Measuring 2018 season success for the Reds is a lot different for me: #1) hitting another home run on the draft. If you look at the current top 100 prospects of the MLB pipeline, of all the signed prospects for 2017 ,Hunter Greene is currently ranked #2 behind Ohtani. For calendar year 2016, Senzel is ranked #1 prospect . Trammel is ranked #15 That includes both the June draft & international player signings. Reds need to do relatively as well with their #5 pick this year. Losing 94 games serves little purpose if you miss on your 1st round pick in the following year’s draft. #2) Evaluating their young pitching. There’s going to be a lot to see here (not all of it good). If the Reds mishandle their pitching talents this year, it could set the rebuild back for several more years. #3) Finding out about Hererra before Senzel arrives. #3A) Determining if Peraza is your ss this season.#4) Giving the ABs & innings to the outfielders who earn it. #5) Last but not least, losing 87+ games to set up another high1st round & early CA pick in the 2019 draft.

  22. Looking forward to the Reds spring training! One week. A good record in 2018 is determined most by 1. Desclafani’s health. 2. Senzel being up with the big club playing. The list could go on; But I think these two have the greatest magnitude. We could be 81-81 ish if both of these things happen.

    Senzel needs to stay in Louisville for a while to fine tune his defense at 2b, RF and SS. The FO has stated it’s intention of trying Senzel at these positions and Louisville is the place to give him time to test this idea and become comfortable in one or two of those positions. Not just because of super 2, I think it would be a mistake to put Senzel out there in a defensive position without sufficient time to be good at it.

  23. A bullpen of Iglesias, Lorenzen, Peralta, Hughes, Hernandez, Crockett, and Shackleford would be an improvement over last year. I am not sure if Hughes and Hernandez are going to be 8th inning types, or high leverage types. They look like more of 7th inning types, or more of a bridge to Lorenzen and Peralta, than being a part of Lorenzen and Peralta.
    I would have also liked to have seen the Reds go get a stud reliever by trade now to add to Lorenzen and Peralta. Or could that be Finnegan?
    But that 7th inning and the bridge to Lorenzen and Peralta was filled with potholes needed a lot of work too. That box is checked.

  24. I wish I had a $1 for every time I’ve read “If” on this forum this offseason. It underlines the sad state of this team.

    • Are there any teams with no “ifs?”

      • With respect, I believe you can answer your own question. Do you think the Cubs, Yankees, Stros, Cards, Brewers and others have less “Ifs” than the Reds? Do you think their FO’s do more to eradicate “Ifs” than the Red’s FO?

        • The teams you name clearly have fewer ifs than do the Reds, but they all have ifs, if only due to the possibility of injury to key players. The Reds have more ifs, in part, because they are rebuilding and ifs come with that territitory.

  25. So – one all-star short stop down from last year’s 94 loss team (on the heels of 2 prior seasons with about the same roster and 94 and 98 losses) – and nothing of note added to the mix – how on earth do you not see another 90 loss season?

    • More losses are certainly possible… but for most of last year, the SP was just absolutely catastrophic. If Castillo, Homer, and Disco make regular starts, and whoever fills in the rotation stabilize even just a little bit, the team has a very good chance at being better. Do you remember how many games starters barely made it through the 4th inning?

    • I don’t understand why some fans only count it as adding if you sign or trade. Senzel and Winker are certainly significant additions, and the pitching figures to be much better as Matt points out.

      • Please this is another 90+ loss team. There is NO quality depth up-the-middle. Pitching is largest question mark on this team…quantity does not equal quality.

        • Yes, Winker and Senzel seem to be upgrades. “Significant” we will see. Here’s some more ‘Ifs.’ If Price starts Winker and if Senzel gets to start when he finally breaks the 25-man roster.

        • In that case, why are we bothering with discussing/watching them? Thepitching was the issue last year and it is indeed a question mark (as it is for all teams). Questions have more than one possible answer.

      • Because a significant trade or signing or two is what has been missing this offseason to make this team better. Signing a bobblehead vendor for Fiona The Hippo replicas does not count.

        • Let me make sure I understand what you are saying. If the Reds spend millions of dollars on a free agent or if the Reds trade for Yelich, and if that player doesn’t get hurt, and if the Reds didn’t have bobble head giveaways; the team would be in contention for the World Series?

          Which two players that if they played at their career averages would push the team to 90 wins?

          It seems like their are a lot of “ifs” in your scenario as well

    • Here’s my take on this. 58 starts between Arroyo (14 starts), Adleman (20), Davis (7)starts, Bonilla (4), Wojechowski (8), Stephens (4) and McGuire (2) and replace with Desclafani, more starts for Castillo, more starts for Romano and you come up with a +10 range in wins. Second the bullpen is going to be better and likely significantly another couple of wins likely. Third the development of Romano, Stephenson, Mahle etc. gives starter 5 – 7 in case of injuries. Fourth, Winker, Senzel and some point in 18 is also an improvement to make up for the loss of Cozart.

      If we lose 90 the rebuild is in neutral.

      • Castillo started 15 games last year and accumulated 1.7 fWAR. He started another 14 in the minors.
        Bronson Arroyo started 14 games last year for the Reds and accumulated -0.8fWAR.
        Assume Castillo now gets those 14 starts that Arroyo had and it’s safe to say he could have an additional 1.6 fWAR from those games.
        His 1.6 instead of Arroyo’s -0.8 is a potential boost of 2.4 wins.

        Tim Adleman accumulated -0.1 fWAR over 20 starts last season.
        In 2016, his last healthy season, DeSclafani started 20 games and accumulated 1.9 fWAR. The projections on Fangraphs show similar numbers for him this season. So it’s reasonable to assume that replacing Adleman’s starts with DeSclafani could net another 2 wins.

        Lets say that Finnegan coming back from injury is only a replacement level pitcher over 14 starts. His 0.0 fWAR would still be a big improvement of the -1.2 fWAR in 14 starts that Amir Garrett gave us last season. So another potential increase of 1.2 wins.

        With just some health and continued development of young pitchers, and the starting rotation could show a very big improvement.

    • Not sending Feldman for 21 starts, Adleman for 20, Arroyo for 14, and individuals like Wojo, Bonilla, Stephens, Mcgquire for 18 more would probably be a good start to avoiding 90 losses. When Bailey, Finnegan, and Disco who were supposed to throw 200 innings only combined for 22 starts combined and the struggles of Reed, Garret, Stephenson and others you can’t expect a winning season. Cozart’s offense will be tough to replace, but scoring runs wasn’t the problem

  26. Good OP and comments to all.

    Reading along I think about the rebuild cycle and where other teams are in their cycle, and how long your cycle takes. If you spend too much time rebuilding you could be stuck in it forever. At some point you have to begin full court pressing for wins or else risk the perpetual rebuild.

    Similarly I wonder what 1/3 to 1/2 of teams rebuilding does to stats like WAR. Presumably it would muddy the stat as teams are playing players who would otherwise not be playing? Thus, wouldn’t it be easier to always be gunning for 85 wins in such a league? Always signing bargain aging veterans and piecing together a wild card team because that’s not what everyone else is doing.

    Put those two thoughts together and consider this: this is what the Brewers are doing. And St. Louis. Why not us? We’re one free agent signing and some health luck from jumping into relevancy.

    Good day all!!

  27. There are several starting pitchers going into the 2018 season facing pitch limitations. A six-man starting rotation is one way to handle pitch limitations for the starters, but Price is on record that he will not utilize a six man rotation. Another (and probably better) option is to utilize the starters as starters and forget about any pitch limitations. If a starter reaches his set pitch limitation, shut him down and next man up.

    Has any team ever utilized the 60-day DL for a starting pitcher who has reached a pitch limit set to physically protect his arm and shoulder? Can a team utilize the 60-day DL to physically protect a starting pitcher’s arm and shoulder from possible injury?

    The point may be moot since injuries and ineffectiveness may come into play, but the starting rotation must be resolved during the 2018 season. This includes identification of pitchers to trade at the deadline or during the 2018/2019 off-season and the pitchers who will step into the starting rotation as their replacements.

    • While I am not an expert, if someone did that, I think MLB would look into it.
      Penalties could be high.

    • I’m pretty certain you can’t use the 60-day dl for that. Anyway, all the pitchers like to be involved have options. You can just send them down to Louisville. Or more, likely, sit them in Cincy because it’s probably time for rosters to expand by the time innings limits are reached.

    • I have in the past been a proponent of a 6-man rotation. Not sure for this year.

      The Reds this year have a screwy start to their schedule. After the first two opening series, they get an off day on April 4, then play 14 days in a row. They get another day off on April 19, then play 13 days in a row, followed by an off day on May 3, and then yet another 13 days in a row. That means that the Reds play 38 games in 40 days, between April 5 and May 20, although there will be some weather issues.

      The point of the early start this season was to allow for more off-days for the teams.

      I’m not sure how this will play, but if the Reds have 5 hot pitchers to start the season, it may work out fine. But that is yet another if.

    • I have posited a 6 man rotation as a solutions for this year before, yet it requires one less bullpen or bench player, so either you need more innings from your starting 6 (ironic given the reason for 6 in the first place) or truly versatile IF/OF bench bats.

      Perhaps the Reds do not have the personnel to pull this off.

  28. June 19th at GABP for a home series against the Tigers and then a weekend home series against the Cubbies. The Old Cossack’s calender is highlighted and circled for the much anticipated arrival of Nick Senzel into the starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds.

    Prior to his promotion to the 25-man roster, the Reds need to utilize Senzel in a regular 12-game, 4-position rotation from SS to 2B to RF to CF, rinse and repeat for the next 12 games with 3 consecutive games at each position. This needs to continue for the two and a half months of games at AAA prior to his promotion. At that time, the Reds and Senzel should have a pretty good gauge for where and how Senzel can have the most positive impact on the major league roster. That covers four of the positions where Senzel could have the most impact and biggest upgrade and gives him time to prove that he has the defensive capability to manage those positions or not.

    I would also have Senzel stamped in the cleanup position of the Bats’ lineup for every game, no exceptions. The instructions to Senzel, the manager and the hitting coach would be for Senzel to concentrate on barreling up every swing, controlling the strike zone and forgetting about hitting home runs. The home runs will come with solid contact, but the goal for hitting cleanup should be getting used to hitting cleanup and making solid contact rather than hitting home runs.

    Of course, if Senzel has not proven ready at AAA, the Reds need to leave him at AAA for more experience and under no circumstances pull another Billy Hamilton and promote him before he proves he is ready at AAA.

    • I was at Homer Bailey’s debut and it was electric. Can’t wait for spring training and the arrival of Senzel. I also think a few guys will be impressing early in March…..Mr. Lorenzen and Mr. Finnegan and …..going out on a limb….Dilson Herrera.

    • Dilson Herrera better lead the team in at bats in Spring Training.

  29. The multiple scheme is not convincing. I think the Red’s already know what Senzel’s positional strengths and capabilities are now. I’m not convinced that the FO will not force a position on him to cover up their inabilities to strengthen CF, SS and 2B.

  30. Mescoraco, OF? Did you mean C?

  31. Holy cow.

    Reds go through with arbitration vs. Suarez…and win it.

    https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/961019911291195392

    Am just guessing that Suarez is a little less likely to consider an extension, seeing how team was not willing to compromise over 450K difference.

    (Actually, just give in and give your 4 WAR 3B the difference, it’s 1% of the $40M replacing 4 WAR would cost on the free agent market)

    Way to make your second-best offensive player, by a mile, feel wanted.

    #RedsWay. Indeed.

  32. Well the Reds have Suarez signed for 2018 after they won their arbitration with Suarez today. Suarez is now under team control through 2020 via arbitration. With only two years of arbitration remaining after the 2018 season and the 2018 contract at just 3.75MM, Suarez will remain affordable through the arbitration process.

    The question becomes can the Reds sign an extention with Suarez to lock up any FA seasons, do the Reds ride out the remaining 3 seasons of arbitration control or do the Reds move Suarez to fill a hole in the roster and move Senzel to 3B?

    The Old Cossack’s preference (and priority) would be to sign Suarez to a contract extention this spring, utilize Senzel to fill a hole in the roster and see how thiongs shake out during the 2018 season.

    • I’m curious as to how the current free agent market will affect players signing extensions through their free agent years. Suarez will be 30 when he becomes a free agent. Would he risk delaying that until he is 32 for the financial certainty of a 5 year contract (buying out 3 years of arbitration and 2 of free agency)?

      If the Reds could get Gleyber Torres from the Yankees in exchange for Suarez would you do it? Torres can play SS which would allow Senzel to stay at 3B.

  33. So, let’s see. You are missing a backup catcher, a starting pitcher, and two relievers, assuming 7 in the bullpen. The backup catcher could come from Devin, provided he gets split between OF and C. But, I haven’t heard him taking any OF practice. I believe he can do it. But, has he done any?

    I’m not too sure the Reds will carry Dilson on the bench to just play 2nd base. One thing with bench players, they need to be versatile. I’m not saying Dilson isn’t versatile. I’m saying the Reds won’t take him for the bench just to play 2nd.

    I’m not too sure about Senzel starting up here without any AAA experience. I do believe we will see him up here this year. But, opening day? I would doubt it. He could do it. But, I don’t believe he will do it.

    The key to the season, just last the last 2, if not more, is the pitching. The bullpen is always a crapshoot, I believe. The youngsters have to produce this season.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

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