This column feels much more appropriate that it did at the end of April, something for which I could not be more grateful. The Reds, miraculously, look like a team that can compete. If not for the first month of the season, we would all be VERY excited right now. As it is, we’re all thinking about what the Reds need to do still. It’s trade season and we should all expect pieces besides Dylan Floro to be moved in the next few weeks.
The Reds aren’t pure sellers though. They are more than capable of competing next season if they fill a few needs. So, I ran a poll, as I do.
What do you perceive to be the biggest need for the Reds?
— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) July 10, 2018
I had a guess as to how this would go, and I was right. We pretty much all agree that the top need is a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Indeed, the Reds should probably be talking to the Mets a lot right now. The Mets are, reportedly, about to tear it all down and the Reds are on the rise and have a very deep farm system. I wouldn’t mind seeing what Thor looks like in a Reds uniform.
A distant second in the poll was an outfielder, and that feels right on both levels. As it stands, the Reds should open the 2019 season with at least five well, well above average hitters in the every day lineup. Votto, Suarez, Winker, Schebler, and Senzel are locks at this point (yes, Senzel is a lock, even if he spends two weeks in Louisville to get “acclimated” or whatever nonsense the Reds throw out there). While we’re still waiting to see what the ultimate fate of Gennett will be, if you add Peraza (I’m on record saying that I think he belongs where he is) and Barnhart – who both get on base well enough, but lack power – to the rest of the lineup it’s clear that the Reds are going to hit. In an ideal world, the Reds will add a true centerfielder who can hit and then proceed to destroy all opposing pitchers in 2019.
The bullpen is and will continue to be fine. There have been some hiccups lately and it’s probably been a bit overworked this year, but the rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.
That leaves the rotation. The league ERA in 2018 is 4.11. Among starters in the Reds’ rotation, I’d like to look at their xFIP only because it’s the best predictor we have of performance going forward. Coming in at 3.99 and 4.06, respectively, Castillo and Mahle both register as a tick above average. Castillo, certainly, has been uneven this year, and Mahle has had his bumps, but this just confirms what we all feel – that they belong in the rotation. Romano comes in at 4.59, which is below average, but also very much in line with what you expect from a fourth or fifth stater (important note: Almost no one ever has a rotation where all the pitchers are above average. And “average” major league starter is – by definition – a number three starer). And then there’s Disco, who clicks in at 4.37 but who is also still getting back in the swing of things.
Anyhow, there are options, but there aren’t any options that feel like sure-fire aces. It’s hard to count on Disco to be healthy. Everyone else – to this point – looks to slot some where between second and fifth in a rotation. Reed and Stephenson are having solid years in Louisville, but skepticism is called for.
So yes. The Reds need a pitcher. An ace. That should be their number one priority. If you put an ace at the top of this rotation, no one will want to play them. So go get a pitcher, Reds. Trade real prospects, it’s fine. But get a pitcher. It’s time to win.
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.