In my first Redleg Nation post during spring training, I posed the question  “Is a better tomorrow for the Reds here yet?”.  The answer clearly has been no. But have the Reds at least taken steps forward in answering the questions about a building better tomorrow which confronted them this spring? What new questions do they face heading into the off season?  Let’s take a look back and ahead.

This spring the Reds were seen as relatively settled at the corner infield and outfield positions; and, the performances of the corner position players during 2017 have generally met and often exceeded expectations. Accordingly while there are still some issues to be addressed at corners, we will follow the baseball adage that winning teams are built “up the middle of the field” and focus on the middle of the diamond.

Catching

The Reds catching was seen as a significant question mark in spring training. The dominant issue was the status of Devin Mesoraco who was coming off two seasons missed with hip and shoulder surgeries. Could he return to the 4.8 bWAR form he flashed in 2014 to earn his current contract? What would the Reds do if Mesoraco was a bust for the third straight season? Unfortunately for Mesoraco and the Reds, once again in 2017 he has had trouble staying on the field and understandably he has never quite found his offensive mojo in limited playing time this season.

However, all is not on the downside for the Reds where catching is concerned. Thrust into the full time starter’s role by necessity yet again, Tucker Barnhart has matured into a legitimate everyday catcher. He currently stands at 2.3 bWAR for 2017 after earning only 1 net bWAR for his career prior to this season.

The catching questions looking forward start with what role Mesoraco will fill in 2018, the final year of his contract. Will Mesoraco be capable of working in a tandem arrangement with Barnhart; or, should the Reds look to acquire someone else for that task? And where does Stuart Turner, free of Rule 5 limitations and now optionable, fit in if at all?

Middle Infield

How soon Zack Cozart would be traded was the first in a series of cascading questions for the Reds middle infield during the spring.  It was presumed that when (not if) Cozart was traded, Jose Peraza would be installed at shortstop for an extended trial; but, who would  play 2B, Dilson Herrera? Then Scooter Gennett happened; the Reds never got around to trading Cozart; and, shortly after mid season Peraza was benched. At AAA, Herrera’s suspect shoulder required season ending surgery.

Zack Cozart is eligible for free agency. The Reds control Scooter Gennett through the 2019 season if they are willing to pay the arbitration piper. Jose Peraza’s offense and defense, at SS at least, are both questionable. Middle infield is still more of a question mark than a work in progress.

Centerfield

We wondered about Billy Hamilton’s health this spring following offseason shoulder surgery. Also, would BHam continue the surge in offensive production he experienced in the second half of 2016 as evidenced by his .369 OBP for that period compared to his career .297 OBP? The good news is that Hamilton has stayed healthy and on the field this season. The less favorable news is his offense has regressed. His current 2017 OPB is back at his career level, .297. His oRAR (offensive Runs Above Replacement) rate has fallen from 13 in 2016 to just 1 so far in 2017. His bWAR has also taken a big hit, dropping from 2.8 in 2016 to 0.1 to date in 2017.  Two years into arbitration, BHam is becoming expensive.  Is he the Reds centerfielder for 2018 and beyond?

Starting Pitching

Then there is the pitching. At the beginning of spring training, the  question was which young Reds prospects might pitch their way into a projected rotation comprised of Anthony Desclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman, and by early May at the latest, Homer Bailey. Before spring training ended, Desclafani and Bailey were out with arm woes; and, less than a month into the season, Finnegan joined them. The chaos which ensued, beyond detailing here, persisted most of the season. While Bailey returned in late June; Disclafani and Finnegan remain sidelined. Feldman joined them in August. Only in the last month has a semblance of order appeared to emerge with the Reds rotation.

Can the Reds sustain and grow the rotation progress of the last month into 2018 and beyond relying only on arms already in the organization; or, should the team spend resources, be that talent, money or both  to bring in one or two established middle of the rotation starting pitchers for 2018?  How the Reds proceed here may be the canary in the coal mine indicating the organizational view of the 2018 season, a time to be competitive or yet another sorting season?

Bullpen

The Reds bullpen core seemed set in spring training. The belief was that  one or two players falling out of the starting rotation competition would fill out the staff; and, hopefully the woes of 2017 would be forgotten. Things didn’t work out that way. Raisel Iglesias has been all one could hope for. Wandy Peralta and Michael Lorenzen have been brilliant at times and struggled at times. Drew Storen has remained on relatively even keel. Otherwise the bullpen has not performed well as a myriad of want to be and never quite were guys endlessly cycled through.

The top two bullpen questions for the Reds in the offseason involve Iglesias and Lorenzen. Is Iglesias’ greatest value to the Reds pitching in their 2108 bullpen or as a trade piece who could bring significant top talent in return?  Should Lorenzen be given another shot at the rotation? Given the full stable of young potential starting pitcher prospects the Reds have, finding arms to fill the gaps might not be all that difficult.

Final Thoughts

Back in the spring I concluded the Reds lacked enough quality players to be competitive in 2017. Sadly, that turned out to be correct. Of more concern to me now is that while the corner positions, both infield and outfield have performed well this season and are good enough for a competitive team, the progress up the middle of the diamond has been erratic and minimal. Even where players have done well, i.e. Tucker Barnhart and Zack Cozart, depth remains a serious issue, especially if Cozart leaves as a free agent. Despite the recent upturn in the rotation, the future pitching is still unsettled due to injuries and performance issues.

Given the recent news that Bryan Price will return as manager in 2018, I suspect the Reds share my opinions and see next year as more of the same as this year although with enough improvement and stability in the pitching to post a marked step forward in their record. However, the tomorrow I hoped for is still likely further into the future.


Data and stats courtesy of Baseball Reference

 

 

 

17 Responses

  1. sandman

    I agree in that bringing Price back is a clear cut message from the Reds FO that next year is gonna be, rebuild…status quo (ad nauseam). This is disappointing bcuz if we had had a good, stable starting rotation (maybe even BP) then we could’ve been competitive this year in spite of Price.

  2. David

    I personally, wouldn’t get too worked up over Blandino. And with regards to Dilson Herrera, I would just counsel “wait and see”.
    But I think the starting rotation will be MUCH better in 2018, and actually think that the bullpen will be better, too.
    I saw Jimmy Herget pitch yesterday, and see him as a middle-innings right handed specialist (what is a right hand version of a “loogie”?). He’s a side armer/ threequarter pitcher, who would be tough on righties, debatable on lefties.
    Ismail Guillon looked awful, no control.

    I think Finnegan will be in the bullpen in 2018, based on his injuries in 2017. That would give the bullpen another left -handed power arm (to replace Cingrani). He could close/set-up in tandem with Iglesias.
    Bullpen 2018: Iglesias, Finnegan, Lorenzen (yes, in the pen), Peralta, and some combination of Wojo, Shackleford, Ariel Hernandez, Herget, Luke Farrell, Chacin and maybe Adelman as long man/swing starter.
    Rotation in 2018: Bailey, Mahle, Romano,Castillo and then choose the best from Stephenson, Desclafani (if healthy), Reed (if his head is OK) and Garrett. Romano or Mahle may end up in AAA, and Stephenson may have actually turned the corner. I also think that Garrett is out of options, so they may HAVE to keep him on the 25 man roster. If he doesn’t start, maybe he is a long reliever/spot starter instead of Adelman.
    And maybe a free agent pitcher they can sign that is actually good (not Feldman or somebody like that, please).

  3. Nick Carrington

    Dick Williams stated in the Enquirer that the Reds would go after the best possible starter they could get, someone of higher quality than Feldman. I don’t think they can afford much more than that through free agency, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a big trade this summer.

    That could involve some of the young starters, which could bring some clarity to their plans. I expect a competition for at least two rotation spots involving a number of people even if there is a trade.

  4. sultanofswaff

    My offseason would involve 3 things.
    1. Trading 3-4 surplus prospects for a controllable starter.
    2. Deciding on whether Suarez is your SS. If yes, don’t trade Hamilton. If no, trade Billy and use his arbitration raise money to re-sign Cozy to a 2 year deal. Can’t have both he and Peraza in the lineup.
    3. Extend Tucker and Eugenio.

    • Nick Carrington

      I’ve done the research on deals for young, controllable starters (post coming Friday!), and the Reds would probably need to include at least one of Mahle and Trammell and possibly both plus other pieces. I’m assuming that they won’t give up Castillo, Greene, or Senzel.

      I’m not saying they shouldn’t make such a trade. I hope they explore the possibility. But, it’s going to take a lot. Actually, this might help my post on Friday: who are controllable pitchers who might be had in a trade?

      The only two I’ve identified thus far that are youngish and have at least three years of control are Marcus Stroman and Michael Fulmer. Both the Blue Jays and Tigers are probably rebuilding soon and getting multiple pieces for one might entice them.

      • IndyRedMan

        Man…I would hate to give up Mahle or Romano. A rotation headlined by Stroman and Castillo sounds pretty spectacular though? You might add Jose Urena to that as well? Obv he’s not accomplished yet like Stroman, but the talent is there and the Derek Jeter group will be doing some wheeling/dealing with Miami!

        I just ask that they have enough and stay healthy enough to void out Price’s excuses! 2 men on/1 out the other night and Stuart Turner swings on 3-0 and hits into a double play. The guy is hitting .150?? Cmon?? Price doesn’t get it and next year will be no exception!

      • Nick Carrington

        I’d trade Mahle or Romano in the right deal, but I think the Reds would rather have either of those guys than Urena (wouldn’t you?). From DW’s comments, it seems they want someone more established that can provide some surety, if such a thing exists with pitchers.

      • da bear

        The only thing sure about pitching nowadays is you need more than 5 over the course of the season. You need several pitchers, at least 7 or 8. The Dodgers have awesome pitching. They have had to use at least 8 or 9, all of them fairly solid. Kershaw, Wood, Hill, Ryu, Maeda, etc.etc. all have spent time on the Disabled List. It is foolish in this day and age to try to rely on 5 as the Reds did in 2012 – that was a fluke. It’s better not to trade away the young talent but to use the numbers, the depth as a strength for the 2018 rotation. Castillo, Mahle, Romano, Stephenson and DeSclafani might be a good starting point.

        One, two, three may incur injuries or struggle and that’s where Finnegan, Bailey, Reed, Davis, etc. come in as spot starters/replacement starters/long relief. Given the tendency for some of these young starters to go 5 or 6 strong innings before tiring, it may be desireable to have 3 or 4 guys in the ‘bullpen’ who can pump out 3 or 4 innings, like having backup starters. The San Diego Padres manager at the outset of 2017 talked of having games where there would be three pitchers scheduled to throw 3 innings each. He didn’t followed thru with that concept but it’s a good idea for some modified version of such.

        Having 7 guys in the bullpen limited to 2 innings, often less, and one long relief guy feels like an old school methodology that leads to numerous arm injuries. As good as it worked a couple years for the Kansas City Royals, many of their one inning stints used 70 times a year resulted in surgeries and a lost year for their relievers.

      • Ryan

        Nick – Stroman or Fulmer would be great! A young SP is definitely going to cost quite a bit. I’m not sure if this next season is the right time for such a deal or not. I’d hate to trade Mahle. Here are some other starting pitchers to consider though from the Angels and Mets:

        Alex Meyer
        Andrew Heany
        Tyler Skaggs
        Garrett Richards

        Jacob deGrom
        Steven Matz

        Maybe the Reds could trade a second baseman to the Angels for Richards? 2 years of Gennett for 2 years of Richards? Or the Reds could trade Shed Long or Dilson Herrera. I’d love to have deGrom if the Mets considered rebuilding and depending on the price. There’s always Chris Archer as well, who would cost quite a bit too.

      • Nick Carrington

        Ryan, I’m very torn on whether they should make such a deal this offseason or not as well. It seems they could still learn a lot about their pieces next season by just handing the reigns over to the young guys. But getting a Stroman or Fulmer (especially Stroman) could make a big difference too. I don’t know what to think.

  5. Nick Carrington

    I like Santillian, but he would likely have to be the third piece in a deal, second at best. Controllable starters usually take two top 100 prospects or three of a teams top 10. Santillian isn’t even in the top ten of some outlets. The Reds could trade a Major League piece instead of a prospect, but I’d imagine prospects would need to be involved.

    Anyway, I think Santillian is a great bargaining chip, but if history means anything, he won’t headline such a deal.

  6. Nick Carrington

    The Enquirer article state that “Williams signaled that the team is ready to start looking for major-league pieces that can help the Reds transition into their competitive window, as opposed to additions intended only to help an uncompetitive squad make it through a full season.”

    I just don’t see two years of Roark or 1-2 years of Santana fitting into that category, but maybe the Reds do.

    And DW said “I think we’d be open to moving an asset of value if it were the right under-control pitching asset to strengthen us.”

    I sense they are looking for a younger, longer term solution if they can get it. which is hard to do.

  7. Scott Carter

    The biggest problem that I see is with Cosart gone will Hamilton and Peraza bat 1 and 2 in the order.

    • David

      That would be Bryan Price all over. It should be Winker and Suarez.
      Hamilton should bat 8th or 9th, if he is even starting. I would have Scott Schebler start in CF, and have Billy on for a late inning defensive replacement. A lot of other commenters here have said the same thing. It’s just me saying….Me TOO!

    • sandman

      Scott, I hope we don’t lose Cozart bcuz I don’t trust Peraza. I would hate to see 2B or SS turned over to him or even Herrera. But if Cozy does not come back to us next yrs then I would hope that Senzel would be brought up so that our infield is Senzel, Saurez, Gennett & (of course) Votto. Would feel a lot better about Senzel starting a full year than Peraza. Senzel just has a higher ceiling. But if Nick isn’t ready to start a full year in the bigs then bring Cozy back.

  8. bouwills

    Have no problem with the Reds signing Jamie Garcia( lhp with lots of ground balls)What they really need is a quality lefty reliever with a “rubber arm”.

  9. IndyRedMan

    What a collection of scrubs? Or if they’re halfway decent, then the cost is outrageous. Alex Cobb has been on the D/L 5x this year. Nada….no thanks! Don’t call us….we’ll call you!