It was another disappointing season end for the Cincinnati Reds, and it didn’t come without consequences. After losing in the wild card game to the Pirates, Dusty Baker was fired, and that could be just the first move. The front office was extremely disappointed in this team. It’s never too early to look toward next season….we have been doing that for quite some time here in Cincinnati. Here is the outlook.

The Manager

The only confirmed candidates so far are pitching coach Bryan Price and AAA-Louisville manager Jim Riggleman. I think Price is the frontrunner, and would probably be the best choice (without knowing exactly who all the candidates are). Price has worked wonders for the pitching staff, has the trust of his team, reportedly holds his players accountable, and also reportedly wants Aroldis Chapman to be a starter or at least extend his innings further.

While Riggleman might be able to bring the fire and accountability we want out of the Reds next manager, he would likely be about as old school as Dusty Baker. I found this nugget from Riggleman in 2012:

“A walk, a stolen base, a sac bunt, and a sac fly. You call it small ball, I call it smart ball.” – Riggleman #oldMASNcommercials

— Tim S. (@jorgath) June 22, 2012

I got confirmation from the source that Riggleman actually said that in a commercial. Yikes.

Players Under Control for 2014 (all contract information via Baseball-Reference)

Position Players (money owed in 2014):

Joey Votto ($12 million)
Brandon Phillips ($11 million)
Jay Bruce ($10 million)
Ryan Ludwick ($8.5 million)
Jack Hannahan ($1 million)
Ryan Hanigan (Arbitration 3)
Chris Heisey (Arbitration 2)
Xavier Paul (Arbitration 1)
Zack Cozart (Pre-Arbitration 3)
Todd Frazier (Pre-Arbitration 3)
Devin Mesoraco (Pre-Arbitration 3)

Pitchers (money owed in 2014):

Johnny Cueto ($10 million)
Mat Latos ($7.25 million)
Jonathan Broxton ($7 million)
Sean Marshall ($5.5 million)
Aroldis Chapman ($3 million)
Logan Ondrusek ($1.35 million)
Homer Bailey (Arbitration 3)
Mike Leake (Arbitration 2)
Alfredo Simon (Arbitration 2)
Sam LeCure (Arbitration 1)
J.J. Hoover (Pre-Arbitration 2)

Other players under control in 2014:

Corky Miller
Greg Reynolds
Henry Rodriguez
Tony Cingrani
Nick Christiani
Billy Hamilton
Donald Lutz
Curtis Partch
Derrick Robinson
Neftali Soto

Free Agents

Bronson Arroyo
Shin-Soo Choo
Nick Masset
Manny Parra
Cesar Izturis
Zack Duke

Projected 2014 Lineup (as of right now)

1. Billy Hamilton CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Joey Votto 1B
4. Jay Bruce RF
5. Ryan Ludwick LF
6. Todd Frazier 3B
7. Zack Cozart SS
8. Devin Mesoraco C

Bench: Jack Hannahan, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Derrick Robinson

Organizational Depth Chart

LF – Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Derrick Robinson, Donald Lutz
CF – Billy Hamilton, Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson
RF – Jay Bruce, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Derrick Robinson, Donald Lutz
3B – Todd Frazier, Jack Hannahan, Neftali Soto, Henry Rodriguez
SS – Zack Cozart, Henry Rodriguez
2B – Brandon Phillips, Henry Rodriguez
1B – Joey Votto, Jack Hannahan, Neftali Soto, Donald Lutz
C – Devin Mesoraco, Ryan Hanigan, Corky Miller

Projected 2013 Starting Rotation

(without Chapman)

1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Homer Bailey
4. Mike Leake
5. Tony Cingrani

Depth: Greg Reynolds

(with Chapman)

1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Homer Bailey
4. Aroldis Chapman
5. Mike Leake

Depth: Tony Cingrani, Greg Reynolds

Projected 2013 Bullpen

(with Chapman)

Closer: Aroldis Chapman
Setup: Jonathan Broxton
Setup: Sean Marshall
Middle: Sam LeCure
Middle: J.J. Hoover
Middle: Logan Ondrusek
Long: Alfredo Simon

Depth: Curtis Partch, Nick Christiani, Greg Reynolds

(without Chapman)

Closer: Jonathan Broxton
Setup: Sean Marshall
Setup: Sam LeCure
Middle: J.J. Hoover
Middle: Logan Ondrusek
Middle: Alfredo Simon
Long: Curtis Partch

Depth: Nick Christiani, Greg Reynolds

My Advice

The Reds should do whatever they can to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo. It’s not going to be easy, but the Reds will desperately need his .423 OBP in 2014. Choo was responsible for 31% of the Reds offensive production in 2013 if you believe in offensive WAR (6.3 of the teams 20.1 oWAR). That is a lot of production to lose.

Don’t sign Bronson Arroyo. I love Bronson, absolutely love Bronson. He has been an absolute class act, and a great pitcher for the Reds. He is a sure-fire Reds hall of famer, and he probably deserves a big two-year contract from the Reds. Arroyo was very good in 2013, but you’re playing with fire. Arroyo is 36 years old, and must be close to a major decline.

Move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. Yes, we have been saying this every offseason since 2010, but it has to happen. The Reds have a good bullpen, and if the wild card game proved anything, the Reds need a dominant starter. Plus, assuming the Reds don’t re-sign Arroyo (which I don’t think they will), the Reds have no depth past their five penciled-in starters (Bailey, Latos, Leake, Cingrani, Cueto). Both Cueto and Cingrani have struggled with injuries. It wouldn’t be prudent to bank on those five starters all staying healthy.

Try to trade Brandon Phillips. I’m sure that I just arrived on many Reds fans hate list, but it’s time to part ways. Phillips offensive skills are declining rapidly. Phillips had career lows with the Reds in OBP (.310), SLG (.396), OPS (.706), SB (5). Phillips -0.4 WAA, 1.6 WAR, 1.6 oWAR, 0.4 dWAR, 71 Runs Created, and 92 OPS+ are all his lowest since 2006. If you put stats aside, he has become a distraction with his antics. He embarrassed himself and his team with his actions towards C. Trent, among others. It’s time to part ways.

If the Reds can move Phillips, they could save a lot of money that might allow them to re-sign Choo. His defense would be a loss, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find another second baseman that can put up .261/.310/.396.

Two of the Reds more pressing needs in the offseason will be a back up middle infielder, and a left handed reliever (if they can’t re-sign Parra). The Reds should target an offensive middle infielder, not another Cesar Izturis. The reason for this is that you’re not going to bring in a guy like Izturis as a late-inning defensive replacement because Cozart and Phillips are good defensively. Have a guy you can use to pinch hit.

The Outlook

The Reds will still have a lot of talent in 2014. If their pitching stays healthy, they will certainly be one of the better teams in the NL. The Reds, however, will either need major improvements offensively, or need to add some offense.

The rotation will have a chance to be the absolute best in MLB. If they can get full seasons out of Cueto and Cingrani, in addition to Bailey, Latos, and Leake having similar seasons to 2013…that would be something to watch.

The Reds will need Frazier, Cozart, and Mesoraco to take the next step. All three did show signs of potentially breaking out, but still have work to do. Frazier hit 9 HR the last month and a half of the season, and looked really good in the wild card game. Cozart hit .311/.338/.447 over the last 40 days of the season. Mesoraco had a great stretch to start the second half, had some big hits, and did hit 9 HR in 2013.

Oh, and that Joey Votto guy. He will actually get a chance to work out this offseason (he didn’t last year because of his knee injury). Votto was great in 2013, expect him to be extraordinary in 2014.