I saw this tweet last week and nearly gasped. We all know things have been difficult and disappointing in Redleg Nation for many years. But my experience as a Reds fan beginning in the early 1970s is so different from the person who posted the tweet above. I asked myself, would I have so fallen in love with both baseball and the Reds if I started following the team in, say, the early 2000s instead of during the Big Red Machine era?

After the 67-94 Reds and 81-79 Pirates bring down the curtain on this fourth-consecutive 90-plus-loss season in the 1:10 p.m. start at Great American Ball Park, a critical off-season will begin for this franchise.

Attendance continues to decline, and who can blame people for not wanting to come and watch a team that has made it clear that winning has not been its top priority for the past four years? The big question that many of us diehards are beginning to have: How many people will show up at GABP when the Reds are once again competitive? How many ardent Reds followers remain after this decades-long stretch of mostly losing baseball?

It’s my belief that the Reds front office and ownership understand that they risk losing the interest of even the most diehard fan if they don’t turn things around. Dick Williams’ statements to the media early last week were a signal of that. Williams let the fan base know, through the media, that

  • The team is prepared to spend substantially more in free agency than at any time in recent years;
  • Interviews have already begun for the manager position, indicating that Jim Riggleman isn’t going to automatically have the interim tag removed from his title;
  • Barry Larkin will not be a candidate to manage the team in 2019, instead retaining his position as a minor league instructor;
  • There will be a sit-down discussion with Homer Bailey to discuss how he can best help the team in 2019

It’s not a coincidence that these topics are the top talking points of Reds fans these days. Williams wanted to let all of you know that the front office is aware of your concerns, and wanted to let you know that they have plans to address them. He was clear that acquiring starting pitching is the top priority.

Yesterday in this space, we reviewed what we’ve learned about the pitching during this season. Luis Castillo was the only Red who performed anywhere close to the major league average for a starter. This team needs at least two established starting pitchers, not prospects, from other organizations. Here’s the list of available free agent starters (from MLB.com, ranked by WAR):

Starting pitchers
Patrick Corbin (29 years old, 5.7 WAR)
Dallas Keuchel (31, 3.4)
Clayton Kershaw (31, 3.2) 
— Can opt out of the two years and $65 million remaining on his contract.
Charlie Morton (35, 2.9)
David Price (33, 2.5) 
— Can opt out of the four years and $127 million remaining on his contract.
J.A. Happ (36, 2.5)
CC Sabathia (38, 2.2)
Lance Lynn (32, 2.2)
Trevor Cahill (31, 2.1)
Derek Holland (32, 1.9)
Clay Buchholz (34, 1.7)
Anibal Sanchez (35, 1.6)
Nathan Eovaldi (29, 1.5)
Gio Gonzalez (33, 1.4)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (32, 1.2)
Matt Harvey (30, 1.1)
Jeremy Hellickson (32, 1.1)
Wade Miley (32, 1.0)
Garrett Richards (32, 1.0)
Tyson Ross (32, 1.0)
Brett Anderson (31, 0.8)
Edwin Jackson (35, 0.8)
Marco Estrada (35, 0.5)
Bartolo Colon (46, 0.2)
Jaime Garcia (32, 0.0)
Adam Wainwright (37, 0.0)
Drew Pomeranz (30, -0.3)
Miguel Gonzalez (35, -0.3)
Francisco Liriano (35, -0.4)
Chris Tillman (31, -0.4)
Hisashi Iwakuma (35, N/A) 
— Hasn’t appeared in the Majors in 2018.

Lefthander Corbin is the prize of this group, but rumors all year long have had him all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Yankees. He’s a native New Yorker and grew up a big Yankees fan. The Reds are not going to win a bidding war with the Yankees.

Righthander Keuchel has a career record of 76-63 and a 3.66 ERA. That’s pretty good, but is it worth $15 to $20 million per year for several years for someone over age 30? If it’s my money, I say not. Some team somewhere will pay that to him.

Reports indicate Morton has been weighing the possibility of retirement. Doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to invest in with the hopes of helping to elevate my pitching staff for the next few years.

Kershaw and Price are probably not going to opt out, based on the way the free agent market developed last off-season. Anyone else on that list, including Harvey, is not worthy of any more than a year or two at $10 to $15 million maximum per year. It’s my belief that one of the at least two new starting pitchers on the staff in 2019 will come from among the Happ through Harvey segment of the list above.

It is more likely that the Reds will acquire that established pitcher with a track record of success via trade. They can use their surpluses at the second base position, catcher, and in the minor league system. I don’t know who the target will be, but it’s likely the Reds will have to overpay for this player, just as they would if they went after one of the top available free agent starters. I believe the management will opt to overpay in terms of on-field talent rather than cash. Just a hunch.

Speaking of management, Jim Riggleman enters his final game today as interim manager. When the team was playing well at mid-season, there was a great vibe going on, and Riggleman was part of it. But as this team has completely fallen apart in the final weeks of the season, it’s clear that Riggleman doesn’t have the special sauce needed to lead this team out of its doldrums.

If Riggleman, who appears to be a favorite of Owner Bob Castellini, is named the permanent manager, there will be a revolt certainly in Redleg Nation and probably beyond. The front office is aware of this, I believe. It is my belief that Castellini has been convinced, at least to a degree, that the fan base has had it with the status quo, and will likely not put up with it any longer. After four years of a rebuild process, the expectation is that there will be some signs of progress. The quality of talent in the minor league system has grown tremendously over the four years, so that part of the plan has worked. But it’s still going to be a few years before that core group is at GABP, and the average fan is done paying top dollar to see a team that is finishing its worst four-year stretch in history.

After year four of their rebuild process, the Cubs opened the pocketbook and signed free agent starting pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey. If the Reds follow that playbook, they would sign two of the top five or six starters from the list above. And we’d probably, as a Nation, feel quite refreshed about this team’s chances. But to do that, the Reds will be forced to overpay, as the Cubs did this year with Yu Darvish, and look how that worked out.

I believe the Reds and Dick Williams will be very aggressive this off-season, in hopes of recapturing the attention of a generation of Cincinnati residents who have no idea what winning baseball looks like or feels like. It will be interesting to watch.

Starting Pitchers

Name IP ERA xFIP K% BB%
Clay Holmes 22.1 7.25 5.48 16.1% 17%
Sal Romano 140.2 5.37 4.65 16.6% 8.3%

Starting Lineups

Pirates Reds
LF Pablo Reyes SS Jose Peraza
CF Starling Marte CF Billy Hamilton
1B Josh Bell 1B Joey Votto
C Francisco Cervelli 3B Eugenio Suarez
3B Colin Moran LF Scott Schebler
RF Jose Osuna RF Phillip Ervin
2B Kevin Kramer 2B Dilson Herrera
SS Kevin Newman C Tim Federowicz
P Clay Holmes P Sal Romano

About The Author

Tom Mitsoff is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, Ohio. He lived a teenage life atypical of most his age by prioritizing following the Reds. At one point in the 1970s and early 1980s, Tom kept complete scorecards on more than 1,000 consecutive Reds games. Now that adult life has forced him to move on from his beloved Southwest Ohio, he follows the Reds daily through MLB.TV and other online media sources, including Redleg Nation.

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45 Responses

  1. Bill

    As long as the Reds don’t overpay for a familiar face in Harvey, I am happy signing one of the Happ through Harvey group. They really need one of the top two, but winning a bidding war is too risky for a 90 loss team. Maybe after Bailey comes off the books they can splurge on a top free agent if 2019 isn’t a complete disaster

    • Sliotar

      Well stated.

      Tom is an excellent writer, but he is overstating the absoluteness of repairing a “lost generation” in one off-season.

      The Reds can be pass on trading away prospects, and wait out the early overbidding of those FAs listed above, and still end up looking aggressive.

      The Brewers did not sign Chacin until Dec. 20 for 2 years, $15 million and he has turned out to be MIL’s best starter.

      The odd of a 68-win team (if they win today) getting up to the 90 wins minimum needed to compete in 2019 are slim. Especially being in the NL Central. No need to make bad long-term decisions.

      • BigRedMike

        Good points. Unless the Reds can get a team controlled SP, not sure now is the time to trade future players for 1 starter. This team is not close to competing in the division.

        Continuing to over value the existing roster does not help.

      • greenmtred

        It seems paarticularly short-sighted to spend much treasure or talent for an older pitcher, since the Reds are unlikely to be competitive next year and 2020 is not close to assured as a turn-around season.

  2. Matt Hendley

    Its already been anounced Price will not opt out. Kershaw, not announced, probably will, but with the intent of signing a dodger for life contract

  3. Sliotar

    Kudos to the regulars commenting at the end of yesterday’s T.S. recap about wishing the Reds to finish 68-94 for the third straight season. Funny stuff.

    I will buy my pennant for MLB Most Consistent, if they are produced.

    Go Redlegs.

  4. Mike Adams

    Tom, second paragraph: “1:10 pm start” I think it is 3:10 pm start.

    • Matt Hendley

      You are correct. Regardless of local starts all games will have a 3:30 eastern start

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Yes, I found that out after the fact. 🙂 When I checked a couple of days ago, I thought it said 1:10 p.m., so either I was mistaken or it was changed.

  5. CI3J

    68-94! Come on, baby!

    ………That’s depressing as hell.

  6. doofus

    Williams and the front office are finally listening to the fans? What about ownership? I wonder if Bob Castellini has finally realized that his meddling is not productive.

    • Colorado Red

      I doubt it, he thinks he helps.
      3 years 283 losses is not good at all.
      Without a significant improvement, look for 1.2 mil fans next year

      • greenmtred

        I wonder what the actual number of fans who attended games really was. Not close to the stated 1.6 million, or whatever it was, based on the view from my tv.

  7. kmartin

    I would love to know Riggleman’s logic for out of the blue hitting Hamilton second.

    • BigRedMike

      It is the Reds way and the blind spot for Hamilton in the organization. Continue to reward inept hitting by a player.

      This is just been a season of poor decisions at all levels of the organization, which is shown by the Reds record and very little hope for future success

  8. Jazzmanbbfan

    I’m one of the fan base that used to go to 25 games a year but haven’t been the past two years and only went to 3 in 2016. I don’t know when, or more likely if, I will be a regular visitor to GABP. I’m now a season ticket holder to FC Cincinnati soccer and have trouble imagining that I would have been nearly as entertained by recent editions of the Reds as I have by FCC. I still read RLN daily and watch or listen regularly but my enthusiasm for Reds baseball has all but disappeared. Sad but true.

    • Sliotar

      Same here, Jazz.

      2018 was the first season in years that I did not purchase a flex pack and did not attend a game.

      My niece and nephew are moving back to Cincinnati and enjoy going to games, so I might get back to going to GABP next season.

      I go to Columbus Crew games and if you like soccer, you see more action in 90 minutes than at an MLB game, plus the fans are generally more active and no TV timeouts. (Or 50 pitching changes).

      If the Reds aren’t concerned about getting the under-35’s to GABP…they should be, IMO.

      • Jazzmanbbfan

        I’m in my 60’s but I have a significant number of friends, acquaintances, and employees who have zero interest in baseball but follow American and European soccer religiously.

    • CI3J

      I’m in the same boat. I used to be a rabid baseball and Reds fan up through my 20s, but now that I’m approaching 40, I find that I’m much more interested in “the footy” than I am in baseball. I watch baseball still out of habit, and out of some kind of nostalgic loyalty to the Reds, but I don’t really get hyped for the games any more, whereas when big matches in the Premiere League are coming up, I’m literally counting down the minutes to kickoff.

      I think it’s great that soccer seems to finally be catching on in America so we can join the global community in that regard. Baseball… Outside of Latin America and a few Asian countries, it just doesn’t have the appeal, and it feels like the game has stagnated for the last decade or so. Not just the Reds, but the whole league. You just don’t see baseball really capturing the casual public’s imagination like it used to. I can’t say if this is reflected in revenue, but I feel like if it isn’t yet, in a few seasons it will be.

  9. Matthew C Hickey

    Friendly correction: Dallas Keuchel is left-handed.

  10. George

    FINALLY, THE LAST GAME OF 2018.
    I LOOKED BACK TO SEE WHAT THE “NATION” WAS THINKING IN 2015. THE POSTING FROM BRANDON (10/3/15) IS A SUMMATION THAT I THOUGHT FITS. MY THOUGHT IS, IF THE LAST 3 YEARS HAVE PROVEN ONE THING, IS THAT THE OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT ARE STILL CLUELESS AND NOTHING THE (FO) SAYS SHOULD EVER BE BELIEVED.

    BRANDON
    10/03/2015 AT 7:52 PM
    The injuries being used as the excuse for what we have seen is a joke put out by a joke, this franchise. Without the injuries, this team is still not as good as the Cards, Pirates, and Cubs. Anyone who thinks the injuries are the reason this team isn’t in the postseason is absolutely kidding themselves.
    The Reds are in last place in this division in the front office and probably the dugout as well. Today we learned this joke of an organization is not making changes when they are in last place with their whole baseball operations staff. It is beyond belief and I am the most frustrated I have ever been as a Reds fan. I will still be a Reds fan, as I probably will be for my whole life, however I refuse to support this crap. Not one dollar of mine will be spent on a ticket next year. I doubt I will watch much either. It is a shame too with the TV contract looming etc…..but this is total crap by an organization that is finding itself left way behind.
    Good luck selling tickets next year. Perhaps they will have good health though and Price can manage them up all the way to 74 wins.
    Sorry for the length for anyone caring to read. This organization has just lost any of my dollars. I know that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but I can’t be the only one.

  11. Bill J

    IMO DW or any other of the Reds FO radio or tv people spout is what they are told to by B.C. thru WJ. When they say they will spend, how much, when they talk about the search for a manager and list Riggleman, it’s already been decided.

  12. Matt Hendley

    I Don’t know about soccer, but September 1 comes around, if the Reds are not competing my main attention is Bengals Football and various College football

    • Jeff Reed

      Big win for the Bengals today over the Falcons. Could this be the year Marvin wins his first playoff game as head coach?

      • Matt Hendley

        Should have been the 2015 game….but i think they will make it yes.

      • seat101

        I am not much of a pro football fan but most of my family and friends are Bengal fans – so I hope for the best

      • Tom Mitsoff

        That defense has to improve immensely for that to happen. But what a win! Love seeing clutch performances in game-deciding situations!

  13. seat101

    Howdy do?Haven’t been around much lately. This weekend my excuse was the Cub-0-Ree. It was a blast. And dry.

    I am of two minds about the off-season: Whom will the Reds hire as the new manager? If it’s Riggleman I will be severely disappointed and much less interested in the Reds next year.

    Here’s hoping for a grand slam

  14. Jeff Reed

    Two-thirds of an inning for Wisler and two homeruns. Not much of a way to wrap up the season.

  15. msanmoore

    As usual, I’ve saved up my final award points for the awesome RLN team and my fellow Nation citizens. Win or lose today, the award is +3,078,250 total points.

    Thanks all for making the year a little more bearable for an old Reds fan.

      • msanmoore

        Didn’t have a lot pf opportunities to dole them out during this wretched season.

  16. CI3J

    ….Are they seriously going to play an extra inning game on the last game of the season, prolonging the torture???

    • jazzmanbbfan

      I’ll bet both teams are just thrilled by this 🤬😳

  17. BigRedMike

    Fitting from Stephens

    Poor defense yet again for the fundamentally sound Reds

  18. CI3J

    A wild pitch, no less.

    And I was so looking forward to the 68-94 record. The Reds can’t even fail properly.

  19. Phil Gasson

    I hope most of the players and coaches i saw in a Reds uniform today are a flop someplace else next year.

  20. Jeff Reed

    Mike Scioscia ended 19 years today as the Angels manager. The Reds front office apparently wants experience in the managerial office, so Scioscia or Farrell, who both have won a WS, could be the next Reds manager.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Buck Showalter may become available from the Orioles, as well.

  21. Bill

    I would say to look in the bright side and talk about the draft pick, but with a worse record they only managed to get the seventh pick

  22. jeffery stroupe

    I think what we will be looking at in the spring is how much the young staff has improved. Its going to be the same group fellas. FO wants to see one more year just to make sure. And besides, what free agent pitcher of any talent would want to come to the Reds.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Your last question is a very good one. The money will have to be an overpay to agree to pitch in GABP.