[This post was written by Warren Leeman, who comments under the name Shchi Cossack. Thanks, Warren!]

In his recent piece, Matt Habel made the Old Cossack take a more obtuse look at Zack Cozart’s performance from 2017 and the Editors provided some thought-provoking questions regarding what the off season should entail for the Reds. We know Joey Votto put up 6.6 WAR and Cozart contributed a 5.0 WAR for 2017, but Matt pointed out that Cozart produced more WAR/Games played than Votto. Matt is absolutely correct, so I did a little more digging…

0.0410 => Cozart
0.0407 => Votto
0.0263 => Suarez
0.0170 => Gennett
0.0165 => Barnhart
0.0128 => Winker
0.0115 => Duvall
0.0099 => Schebler
0.0086 => Hamilton
0.0071 => Mesoraco

A total of 2.0 WAR over 162 games played results in 0.0123 WAR/Gm. The Reds had 6 position
players produce better than 0.0123 WAR/Gm. Nick Senzel will almost certainly be MLB ready
sometime during the 2018 season and I think any reasonable person expects Senzel to also
produce more than 0.0123 WAR/Gm. Senzel would make the seventh player producing more than 0.0123 WAR/Gm and the Reds need to find a position for Senzel that will not displace any of the other 6 players who also produced more than that amount.

That means fitting Senzel with a bigger glove and directing him towards the green OF pasture with Winker.

During the off season, the Reds should find a way to re-sign Cozart for 3 years and $30MM-$40MM – or die trying – then set out to find a center field replacement that can also produce more than 0.0123 WAR/GM without breaking the bank. The free agent contract for a 32-year old Lorenzo Cain is disqualified under the breaking-the-bank classification. All of the other free agent options in center field are also on the wrong side of 30.

That leaves trade options and the only viable (read: possibly available) trade option comes down to Miami’s 26-year old Christian Yelich at 0.0288 WAR/Gm and his VERY team-friendly contract. Reds general manager Dick Williams and crew need to find a way to put a wishbone-C on Yelich’s cap.

CF Yelich (.369 OBP / .807 OPS) – age 26 w/ team control through 2022
3B Suarez (.367 OBP / .828 OPS) – age 26 w/ team control through 2020
1B Votto (.454 OBP / 1.032 OPS) – age 34 w/ team control through 2024
SS Cozart (.385 OBP / .933 OPS) – age 32, FA after 2017 – sign to 3-year contract
LF Winker (.375 OBP / .904 OPS) *a* – age 24 w/ team control through 2023
RF Senzel (.391 OBP / .905 OPS) *b* – age 23 w/ team control through 2024
2B Gennett (.342 OBP / .874 OPS) – age 28 w/ team control through 2019
C Barnhart (.347 OBP / .750 OPS) – age 27 w/ team control through 2022
*a* 137 PA in 2017 @ MLB level
*b* 2017 @ A+/AA in pitcher friendly FSL; SL

Take a good look at that starting lineup and recognize what Cozart and Yelich provide in
rounding out the lineup! Winker gets legitimately pushed down to the 5 hole, but there are no holes in the lineup, not even a hint of a hole…NONE! The trade cost to obtain Yelich will be steep and will probably come with some degree of pain, but Yelich puts the finishing
touch on a scary-good lineup. There are plus defenders at catcher, shortstop, and center field with an average defender at first base, left field, and right field. The only defensive liability is at second base. The lineup also has staying power with periodic updates as team control wanes and prospects mature to become MLB ready.

After cementing the roster and lineup for 2018, the next off season move involves a meeting of minds, so to speak. Dick Williams, along with Nick Krall and Sam Grossman, should ‘invite’ Bryan Price and Jim Riggleman to a private dinner out in Arizona. Noticeably and deliberately absent (by design) from the meeting are CEO Bob Castellini and Executive Assistant to the CEO Walt Jocketty. There is a change in operations heading into the 2018 season and all decisions regarding baseball operations, sans budget, now rests in the Office of the President of Baseball Operations.

A clear, targeted message should be delivered clear during the meeting. Price has the keys to the Reds’ exquisite but delicate and temperamental sports roadster and he has caretaker responsibilities. Price should be instructed as follows:

(A) Price will strictly platoon Scooter Gennett at 2B.
(B) Cozart will play no more than 3 out of every 4 days, including scheduled off days, from the beginning of the season.
(C) Cozart and Gennett will not be out of the starting lineup at the same time. Since Gennett’s platoon starts against every right-handed starting pitcher, Cozart must start against every lefty starting pitchers, along with about half of the RH starters.
(D) Jose Peraza starts at SS whenever Cozart does not start. The competition for a
platoon partner at 2B will be worked out between Peraza and Dilson Herrera during spring training and the early 2018 season.
(E) Tucker Barnhart starts against every RH starting pitcher with Devin Mesoraco starting
against every lefty. Either catcher not in the starting lineup becomes a late-inning,
pinch-hitting option.
(F) No hitter with an OBP among the worst two in the starting lineup will hit among the first 5 hitters in the lineup, regardless of how fast they are.
(G) Any sacrifice bunt ordered by the dugout will be questioned and must be justified after every game. Repeated inability to validly justify a sacrifice bunt, successful or not, ordered the dugout will be subject to accountability from the Office of the President of Baseball Operations. Ditto with any and all double-switches made during the game.
(H) The young starting pitchers on the 25-man roster will be provided every opportunity to succeed or fail on the mound as appropriate. Veteran starters (Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan) will start every fifth game if healthy (or, if placed on
the disabled list, will be replaced in the starting rotation by a young pitcher.
(I) Strict closer rules and limits will not be utilized. The best relief pitchers will be utilized in the highest-leverage situations whenever possible. The goal regarding
the pitching staff is to identify the five best starters and the seven best relievers by the end of the 2018 regular season and have those twelve pitchers available at the end of the season.
(J) All starters will be extended to six innings or more as appropriate. Any starting pitcher subject to an innings limitation will have starts curtailed and be replaced in the starting rotation rather than limiting their innings during a start. Starters removed from the starting rotation due to potential innings limitations will be moved to the bullpen or optioned to AAA to limit their innings pitched and keep them available at the end of the 2018 season.
(K) The manager is accountable for all decisions made by the base coaches. Aggressive baseball will be the goal, but senselessly giving away precious outs on the bases will not be tolerated.
(L) Price and Riggleman are expected to move into the the modern world and embrace the concept of maximizing a player’s contribution to the team and maximizing the team’s ability to succeed. All decisions within the dugout should embrace those concepts. Initiative and justifiable experiments toward that goal are encouraged and expected. Strict adherence to antiquated thinking and decisions without justification, other than that’s how it was done in the past, will be subject to accountability from the Office of the President of Baseball Operations.

What are your thoughts?

30 Responses

  1. cfd3000

    Most of this is solid Cossack and if you can implement it all then the rest of us can conspire to help Dick Williams take a modest but unplanned mid-winter vacation so you can step in briefly and get it done. You do look exactly like him, right? Think Kevin Kline in “Dave.”

    Humor aside, my version of this might only change three things. First, As much as I like Gennett’s numbers from 2017 I doubt they are repeatable and would rather take a risk and trade high on him, so he’s available in the Yelich deal. Yes, Herrera would be a step back at 2nd base, but Duvall and/or Schebler as corner outfielders with proper rest for Duvall and then Senzel at 2nd would not. Second, I’d push harder on the sacrifice bunting. No sacrifice bunting is allowed by anyone other than a pitcher unless it increases run expectancy, and it’s a tie game, and it’s the 8th inning or later. Third, I would not permit more than two of the three veterans in the five man rotation at any time even if all are healthy (though that last detail probably takes care of itself). There are too many young starters that will not only be the future of the Reds rotation, but could all prove better than one or all of Bailey, Disco and Finnegan. I’m looking at Stephenson, Castillo, Romano, Mahle, Reed, and Lorenzen right now, and several behind them in coming years. If all three veterans are healthy that just doesn’t leave enough slots to fully evaluate the prospects. But we would be quibbling over details. I love the lineup you’ve proposed, or the adjusted version I’m suggesting. Now about that “Dave ” thing…

    • cfd3000

      I didn’t quite say what I meant on the bunting. I have no problem bunting at any time if it increases run expectancy. For the late inning tie situation I meant to say it must increase likelihood of at least one run.

  2. Jason Linden

    I think assuming Cozart can duplicate his 2017 season is a dodgy proposition. Same with Gennett. I’d bet on both of them to SERIOUSLY regress. In fact, I’d lay odds right now that Schebler has a better OPS than either of them next year. Also, the Cozart money should probably go to a pitcher. The Reds desperately need someone they can count on to eat innings in a quality fashion.

    The Marlins, supposedly aren’t shopping Yelich, but that probably just means they have to be knocked over with an offer to trade him. But if the Reds CAN get him, then they’ll have a pretty formidable lineup as long as they make sure to player Winker and Senzel. There’s going to be a hole a short, though. Either offensively or defensively. That’s inevitable for now, it seems.

    • Matthew Habel

      Agreed. I am also assuming a hole at shortstop for next year. If they spend the money on a pitcher and the younger guys develop and get on the right track, then go find a shortstop for 2019.

      I like the Yelich idea but I assume anyone that gets him will have to take on some of their salary dumps as well, so that’s probably not in the Reds game plan.

      If Hamilton bats 8th or 9th, I don’t mind a Schebler, Hamilton, Winker outfield. I think slotting Senzel in second and Scooter as a bench bat makes more sense, but that’s just me.

    • Matthew Habel

      Yep, agree to disagree. I said this yesterday on a thread too, but if I am the Reds, I would rather regret not signing Cozart and see him have another few good years elsewhere, then regret signing him and see him get hurt or decline quickly. I just feel with the current position the org. is in, the first option is easier to recover from, in my opinion.

  3. Kap

    I honestly don’t think the Reds are even considering a run at Yelich. They’ll continue to have false hope for Hamilton. I would rather use the large haul of prospects and get a frontline starter next offseason.

    • Reaganspad

      Rule 27

      If Hamilton is on the roster, he is a platoon, late innings replacement

      Rule 28

      Hamilton can no longer switch hit

      Rule 29

      Hamilton can’t bunt (which I understand is redundant but is a rule anyway)

    • TR

      I also do not think the Reds will make a concerted effort to acquire Yelich, and if he is traded he’ll probably go to St. Louis. As long as Price is in the manager’s office, Hamilton will get top billing. Since the Reds offense came forward this past season, I would also like to see the acquisition of a top flight starting pitcher to solidify the rotation.

  4. Redleggingfordayz

    Most likely half of these players won’t be here after the off-season (Scooter, Cozart, Duvall). The Reds will not and should not sign Cozart unless it is a ridiculous team friendly contract (Also, like Jason said, he is going to regress). There is also almost no possible way Scooter replicates any of his numbers either(walk rate somehow actually went down last year???). And finally, but most importantly, the fact that you still believe Brian Price is going to change almost any of the things on your long list. This is just flat out mind-boggling to me. How many post-game comments are going to have to be written on this site to show that Brian Price is not going to change the way he does business? How many at bats did Billy Hamilton take from the leadoff position this year?

  5. sultanofswaff

    I like the rules.

    Moving Senzel to OF makes a ton of sense to me as well. However, I’d put him in LF to ease him in.

    I agree that short of a trade for a SS, a 2-3 year deal for Cozart makes a ton of sense. Peraza has no business getting a promotion after the year he had. Same for Hamilton—he needs to be packaged with Duvall and a prospect to acquire an upgrade in CF. IMO we don’t need to shoot for the moon (Yelich), just a 3 win type guy.

    I’d also be hyper aggressive in the trade market for relievers. It’s an area of need and the it’s a buyer’s market. We have some solid minor league depth that can help facilitate some deals.

    There’s just too much starting pitching depth for me to think that we can’t assemble a league average pitching staff. Crazy as it sounds, I’d stand pat there. Of course, the reds brass will probably sign a retread who will just muddy the waters.

    • reaganspad

      agree Sultan, I stand pat on starters as well. Add a lefty for the pen and sort the rest of the staff (since that did not occur in 2017 when we did add the pitcher).

      I do not see us needing a starter in the first half of 2018 as it turned out that we did in 2017 with all the injuries. We have 7 starters, maybe 8. I do not see adding a starter as a positive use for the money.

      that money is better spent on donkeys for our all star short stop at this point

  6. Kap

    Just thought of this…. How about a trade of Adam Duvall to the Indians for Tyler Naquin and possibly another prospect? Zimmer is blocking Naquin from getting reps and Cleveland might want a right handed hitting outfielder, even though they picked up Brantley’s option

    • Scott Carter

      I like that. Naquin had over 300 MLB PAs with Cleveland in 2016 and had a 296/372 BA/OBP as a CF

    • Kap

      Per MLB pipeline, Cleveland has 2 shortstop prospects above Advanced A ball with Lindor entrenched at short in the majors. Perhaps one of those prospects would be nice to acquire with Naquin

  7. cfd3000

    There is clear consensus (including myself) at RLN that upgrades are needed at SS and CF, recognizing that some believe the SS upgrade could consist of resigning Cozart. So it’s distressing to me that all the news I read from the Reds FO indicates a focus on acquiring more pitching. Given that budget restrictions won’t allow pursuing an Arrieta or Darvish quality starter this seems misguided at best. I don’t see any way that Lance Lynn (or, substitute comparable name here) is an upgrade over the best of the six or seven promising young starters already in the system and ready to blossom in Cincinnati. Here’s hoping it’s all misdirection and the FO can focus on SS and CF now, and use 2018 to finish sorting the starters and bullpen. Then final upgrades can be made to the staff (if necessary) or the offense (most likely in response to injuries). But I’m not holding my breath.

    • scottya

      I hope we don’t sign lance lynn. I’ve been sold on the idea that signing pitchers is relegated to the 2018 offseason = longer control during our likely potential winning seasons.

  8. Sliotar


    You know I enjoy your thoughts, a Top 10 below the line commenter on RLN, to be sure.

    But, this is a lot of work to try and force the Reds into a contention position in 2018, when there is a window coming, starting in 2019 or 2020, as the Mesoraco/Bailey contracts go away, combined with blossoming of Senzel/Winker/Enter Young Pitcher’s Name(s).

    I prefer that Dick Williams spend this off-season and 2018 targeting his true managerial pick, one that he can better guide/control and be ready to hire for the Reds version of “The Great Leap Forward” after next season.

  9. JB WV

    Love Zach, but time to move on. His chronic injuries aren’t going to vanish with age, and his range at short will regress. Money wasted. Peraza needs a shot there. Disagree about Senzel. Reds have outfielders, and if Peraza isn’t the answer at short move Senzel there. If Peraza blossoms, Senzel takes 2nd. Would love to see Hamilton moved.

  10. scottya

    Good article. I agree with most. Except I think were better off trading Scooter, inserting Senzel at 2b when he’s ready (mid season) and staying with Schebler in RF.

    I can see Scooter continuing to hit +800 ops, but his defensive metrics show him to be a liability at 2b. So he has to crush the ball to be close to 2.5 war.

    I’m really excited about the options for Senzel including the outfield, just think 2b is best based on the Roster and prospects. I also hope Herrera can prove himself to be better than Scooter at 2b in the first half.

  11. IndyRedMan

    Yeah…the guy had a .930 ops vs righties last year. He’s worthless! Seriously…some guys just get it. Daniel Murphy wasn’t always what he is now! Give him a chance! Dilson Herrera? The guy can’t play 2 days in a row plus he couldn’t put up .930 in the PCL 3 years ago. Peraza? Please?

  12. Kap

    To me, the perfect trade partner for Scooter would be the Angels. Need a 2nd baseman and another lefty in their lineup. Perhaps the Reds can pry Bedrosian away from them in the deal

  13. IndyRedMan

    Subtract Cozart and Scooter and/or Duvall while keeping Billy and Peraza (and Price). Just pencil in 90 losses again like clockwork!

    I’d move Suarez to SS. Senzel spends 12 days at Lville or whatever (Kris Bryant rule) and then immediately moves to 3B. Scooter/Blandino platoon 2nd. Trade Billy or maybe move him to the bench and trade him before the deadline. He could be useful if the team had competitive pitching and played more tight games! Find a CF somewhere. I’d lean towards Duvall or Schebler just because he’s right-handed and better defensively. Winker in LF/Duvall in RF would be my preference w/Ervin as backup. They do need help in the pen, but I wouldn’t trade cheap offense for it. They’ll have Cozart’s $! Free agents starters aren’t worth it either? Try to find a lefty like Blake Snell or someone undervalued like Castillo was! Add depth over some big investment on a 30 something free agent. They can’t afford another Bailey! If the pitching improved enough that that team would be pretty competitive! Just subtracting Billy/Peraza and adding Winker/Senzel…prob go from 14th in runs scored to top 10!

  14. KDJ

    Would Scooter be a corner OF possibility?

    • Michael

      Scooters bat is not worth much in a corner outfield assuming some regression in 2018.

  15. KDJ

    BTW, really like the lineup . . . assuming Springer and Altuve are not available.

  16. big5ed

    I don’t get the obsession some here have with Christian Yelich. He’s a fine player, and one I’d love to have. But why on earth would the Marlins want to trade him? He just finished his age 25 season and is signed for $43mm through 2021, with a reasonable option for 2022. Why would the Marlins want out of that contract? The whole point/aim/intent of running a team is to get that kind of contract for a reliable player through age 29 or 30.

    If Derek Jeter’s Marlins are inclined to trade everything to rebuild their farm system, a la the Astros, then the more likely spot for Yelich would be a big market team with a deep farm system, such as the Cubs. I don’t see why the Reds, who at long last have a viable farm system deep in outfielders, would cede it all for four years of Yelich.

    • IndyRedMan

      I’d give them whatever they want for Ozuna. We already struggle vs lefties and Yelich doesn’t help there!

  17. reaganspad

    Schebler is my keeper.

    Billy has to go: He cannot play next year for the Reds the way he has played the past few years. Platoon, late inning replacement. He is my first trade candidate. Duvall also cannot be used the same way, he needs to platoon and play less. I would rather trade Billy and keep Duvall and Schebler. One start and the other is a big bat on the bench. I am even OK with Schebler in CF and just work on solving SS this year.

    Sign Zack and buy 2 years.

    I agree that we do not trade Senzel, Greene or any of our starting pitchers from last year as we are selling them low.

    Ziegler is a great suggestion WV. I like the idea that we find value contracts instead of always talking about paying half of someone’s salary to trade them

  18. Gonzo Reds

    Can we elect Cossack to the Reds front office?

    Nice work, yes, I can see how that lineup would work although I’m convinced Winker can be a #2 and Suarez should be a #5.

    I had to laugh at all the conditions laid out for the pitching but Price clearly has no clue (and thus should have no job) so maybe this is the only way he’d be an effective manager!