Over the past couple seasons, General Manager Dick Williams has purged some key players off the Reds roster with the hopes of getting the team younger. Just prior to last season, the Reds traded star closer Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees, then dealt outfielder Jay Bruce to the New York Mets. Just a week ago, the Reds traded longtime fan favorite Brandon Phillips to the Atlanta Braves. The goal of these type of moves are usually to stockpile a barren farm system. Unfortunately, the Reds have not brought back the talent that other teams have when making these type of deals. They dealt right handed pitcher Mike Leake in 2015 to get outfielder Adam Duvall, whom along with second baseman Dilson Herrera (obtained from the Mets for Bruce) provide the only expected impact young players the Reds are banking on at this moment. And outside of trading Votto, which is near impossible considering the 7 years and $172 million remaining on his current contract, the Reds currently hold onto few assets that could be cashed in for more younger, talented players.
The Reds made the decision to retain manager Bryan Price after a 68-94 season. Cincinnati is 70 games under .500 since Price took over the team in 2014. His job is clearly not easy, in fact, I respect the fact that the Reds understand the difficulties they are going through as an organization and have identified Price as the one to lead them through these struggles. This roster as it currently sits is very weak but it did manage to play baseball competitive enough that they were just four games under .500 from July on in 2016.
The Reds decided to take chances on a couple pitchers coming off of dismal seasons. Right handed reliever Drew Storen still seemed to pitch with the hangover of losing his closer's job in Washington. His numbers improved a little bit once he was traded from Toronto to Seattle, and he does have the kind of stuff that can make the small investment the Reds made ($3 million for 2017) look good. The Reds also signed journeyman right handed pitcher Scott Feldman, himself coming off a rough season which saw him lose a spot in the Houston Astros rotation and then, like Storen, be traded to the Blue Jays. He pitched to an ERA of over 8.00 in Toronto, leaving many to believe whether he has a future pitching in the game. He might have to do it as a starter. He will get that chance in Cincinnati and because of that, Feldman has a chance to reestablish his career.
Anthony DeSclafani is far and away the best pitcher the Reds have, though he was limited to just 20 starts in 2016. Dan Straily (14-8, 3.76, 31 starts, just 191 IP) takes his talents to Miami after being traded for right handed pitching prospect Luis Castillo. Brandon Finngean (10-11, 3.98, 31, 172) should be the Reds second starter behind DeSclafani. Feldman, former Independent League pitcher Tim Adelman and former top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson should round out the rotation. Former Reds ace and owner of two career no hitters Homer Bailey is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and is hoping to be back on the mound sometime in April of this season, Bronson Arroyo is back hoping to return to the place he enjoyed his most major league success.
Storen joins a series of good arms in the Reds bullpen. Right hand pitcher Raisel Iglesias should be the team's closer, though left hander Tony Cingrani led the team with 17 saves last season. Right hander Blake Wood looks to have finally found himself after a lot of hope and expectation in Kansas City. Former starter Michael Lorenzen is another young Reds pitcher who has seemed to found a home in the bullpen, joining Iglesias and Cingrani.
The Reds lineup, of course will center around Votto and questions could remain over where he should hit in the order. Votto is a typical three hitter, but he may be better suited to bat second just to get him to the plate more often. Perhaps, if the case is to get him to the plate more often, the Reds could decide to bat him leadoff. How can one argue if the player is coming off a .434 on base percentage season and has a .425 OBP for his career?The Reds next series of important offensive players are outfielders Duvall (.241, 33, 103) and Billy Hamilton (.260, 58 stolen bases) as well as shortstop Zack Cozart (.252, 16, 50). The latter was rumored in trade discussion this summer, which should continue into this season. The third baseman will be Eugenio Suarez, coming off a season where he hit 21 home runs and switch hitting catcher Tucker Barnhart looks like he has finally earned the every day job. Former 25 home run hitting catcher Devin Mesoraco is still around, but he has gotten into just 39 games over the past two seasons. Veteran utility player Ryan Raburn should get a good chance to showcase himself.
There is some intrigue over the Reds projected second baseman Herrera as well as former Braves prospect Jose Peraza. Peraza hit .324 last season after his recall and would fit in pretty good in right field. The Reds lineup I would go with includes Peraza RF, Votto 1B, Suarez 3B, Cozart SS, Duvall LF, Herrera 2B, Barnhart C, pitcher, Hamilton CF.
2016 second overall pick Nick Senzel has instantly become the Reds top prospect, which speaks to the struggles of minor league player development the Reds have had. Left hand pitcher Amir Garrett should have an impact this season, as should Castillo, the right hander who came over from the Marlins.
The Reds are probably looking at another down season, but this one should be more productive that last year. Herrera and Peraza give them a couple of pieces to build around and who knows, maybe they can turn Cozart and Duvall into some younger, more hopeful pieces than they have in the minor leagues. Their pitching will be improved if Homer and Bronson join the rotation and hope is that Stephenson can do what other top pitching prospects in Iglesias, Cingrani and Lorenzen could not do, succeed as a starting pitcher. Las Vegas has the Reds at 73.5 and I do think that is a little bit of a reach. To me, that is a perfect world scenario and the Reds are far from being in that position. I have the Reds at 68-94, last place in the National League Central division.