My latest for Cincinnati Magazine, written before the Reds figured out how to win every baseball game. In this column, I laid out a specific plan that would lead the Reds on the path to being a competitive team by Opening Day 2019:

Yes, it’s true. If the Cincinnati Reds were to win all their remaining games in the 2018 season, they would finish 117-45, which would surely be enough to secure at least the second Wild Card slot in the playoffs. Plus, they’d be on a 92-game winning streak, which has to be close to the all-time National League record.

Which got me thinking about best-case scenarios. Certainly, that big winning streak, combined with a four-game sweep of the Mariners in the World Series … that’s the actual best-case scenario for the 2018 Reds. But let’s get realistic here, and maybe frame the question in a different way: What’s the best-case scenario for the Reds over the next 10 months, between now and Opening Day 2019? What moves can the Reds make in order to best position themselves to be more competitive beginning next season?

I have seven specific recommendations, but they’re all based on the assumption that a competitive club is within this team’s grasp, if management decides to go for it. Not a World Series winner in 2019 perhaps, but a team that’s significantly improved and poised to be competitive in the following seasons as well.

Give it a read and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Also, see if you can spot nine album titles by one of my favorite bands sprinkled throughout the column.

10 Responses

  1. bouwills

    Plucking prospects from our minor league system to trade for established players only guarantees another 4-5 years of 90+ losses a few years down the road. Reds must resist another Latos deal at all costs. As for only starting young pitchers, Stephenson, Reed, & Finnegan are not ready. Harvey is doing a credible job & should remain in the rotation. His (& DeSclafani’s) recent contribution has taken pressure off the entire team & promotes better overall play. As for Duvall (1.4 WAR for 2018) & Hamilton (0.5 WAR for 2018), they are part of a somewhat effective outfield (with Scott Schebler (2.1 WAR for 2018). Of course Winker pulls that down some (-0.7 WAR for 2018). Both Adam & Billy got off to a horrible start but are hitting better lately. They are certainly not “throw-aways”. As for Scooter, everyone was sure he would regress. He has not. His performance has not only improved but is sustainable. Reds should not force the issue either way with Scooter, but let the market dictate whether or not to make a trade. I see some merit in possibly 3, maybe 4 of your easy steps. The Reds may yet enjoy some success in the 2nd half, maybe even next year. In spite of their (& your) blueprint for success.

    • Sliotar

      Not sure where you pulled 1.4 WAR for Duvall. He is .4 according to FanGraphs.
      And, Winker is not negative, he is .1

      Duvall and Hamilton are who they are…guys who would not start for true World Series contenders. Duvall is too old, too many K’s at the plate, and Hamilton already makes a fair amount for a “late inning runner/defensive specialist.”

      $8M or so next season projected for Hamilton? Even the Dodgers won’t pay for that.

      The Cubs whole starting lineup most nights is younger than several of the Reds starters.

      The Brewers jumped up the win curve in 2017, then spent prospects to get Yelich and cash for Lorenzo Cain.

      At some point, the Reds will need to get out the checkbook and fill holes, too. The development of SPs and Senzel are a necessity…free agency might do the rest, if they will spend.

      • bouwills

        Both Baseball Reference & MLB @ ESPN list the same WAR figures for the Reds outfielders. Even using Fangraphs numbers, I still believe .4 is greater than .1, right? You are correct about Hamilton. He’s getting up there in age for a speed type player & will be costly going forward. Duvall is still inexpensive, in his prime, & continues to be a leader in HR, RBI, XBH, & defense. I’m not against the Reds “getting out the checkbook and fill holes too”, but a la Barnhart, Suarez, Hughes, & Hernandez. Another Bailey, or even Votto contract we don’t need.

  2. Davy13

    “Alternatively, owner Bob Castellini—who famously promised not to rest until we are happy—could break the bank to sign Manny Machado to a free agent contract and install him at shortstop for the next few years.”

    Chad, I believe this is the best idea in the blueprint among all the good ideas. Good job!

    • davy13

      If it means to have Machado in the fold, then toughen up…I mean that respectfully, of course.

  3. cfd3000

    I know there are dissenters but your seven steps are, essentially, the RLN blueprint right now. The Reds are very good in several areas right now. Someone posted recently that when you have the league leaders in AVG, OBP and RBI, and that’s three different hitters – that’s good. Suarez, Votto, Gennett and Schebler are an excellent core for the offense. And to get a .350 OBP from a gold glove catcher is solid. Add Senzel and give Winker enough at bats and that’s a great offense. So much so that a downgrade (if it is one) swapping Senzel for Gennett is more than justified by the upgrade that moving Scooter might bring. Because while the Reds are loaded at 2B, they have real holes too. The bullpen is good. Starting pitching is still a problem. The glove in CF is good, the bat not so much. And while we keep saying “We can live with Peraza (especially the flashes of improvement we’ve seen this week) if the rest of the lineup hits”, we could really live with a SS that also hits. Maybe that’s Peraza and maybe the next three months will tell us that. But all his recent surge has done is move SS down the to do list. It’s still on the list.

    So… let’s implement those seven steps, starting with trading Gennett (and Iglesias). They are players the Reds simply don’t need right now, and can replace easily. If not with a 100% substitution, then near enough. But if the Reds can upgrade CF, SS, and an SP or two they go from decent and occasionally fun to watch, to contending and really fun to watch. The starting pitching has been strong for two weeks. Not lights out, but pretty good. And pretty good has won a lot of games. Imagine what this team could do if that was sustainable!

    • davy13

      Agree that Iglesias is “easily replaceable,” but I am not sure about Gennett. How many 2B in MLB or in the Reds Farm system can easily replace a .336 BA, .53 RBI, .909 OPS, 144 OPS+, and 3.1 WAR?

      I’m not saying that it is bad idea to trade him, but he is not easily replaceable now. Biggest problem with the team has been starting pitching (coupled with a dormant offense at the start of the season). Since May 1st, the team is 27-24. If that is more of an accurate indication of the team’s quality, then it is on the right, upward track to contend next season with a few more key pieces. Scooter looks like it can be one of those pieces that helps to contend for the next 3 seasons (he’s young enough).

      The team needs to sign another young cornerstone player in FA (Machado), to sign another or trade for another front-line SP, and hope to plug in a couple young pieces from the Farm system (Senzel, India, etc.). The rebuilding has gone on too long!

  4. roger garrett

    We play 81 games in GABP which is known for the front row cheap home run.Our staff young or old will always give up a bunch and in order to counter that we must hit more then the visitor.The holes we have on offense,which by the way produced big time in the win yesterday,handicap this offense from the get go.The fix on offense will need help via a trade or two from positions of strength to acquire positions of need.Finding a trading partner is the thing as I see it.We should not just trade to be trading and if we don’t then we have to be willing to try guys at other positions because the 8 best players need to be on the field and in my opinion we have to find places for guys to play that can hit.To say we have guys blocking other guys shouldn’t even matter when you have lost the way we have lost the last 5 years.In fact that’s just goofy to allow that type of thinking in any organization unless you are competing for titles year after year and we aren’t.A middle of the pack pitching staff with a top 5 offense(we play in GABP so why not) should insure success for years to come.

  5. Mason Red

    This team should be buyers and not sellers this “trading season”. Keep Scooter and Iggie unless they can get proven players in return.

  6. SF Reds Fan

    Chad, I would be interested in a post on RLN about how the Reds could leverage the fact that a couple of teams who are desperate to win in 2018 are constrained by staying under the 2018 Luxury Tax (Giants and Dodgers come to mind). I think it would be interesting to see how much “additional prospect value” the Reds could extract by both providing key pieces for the other team and helping the team stay under the salary cap. Mrs. SF Reds Fan is a die hard Giants fan and we happen to be season ticket holders. I will give you an SF trade example.

    The Giants top 3 needs are LF/CF, reliever, and an upgrade for back of the rotation. A package of Harvey ($0 salary impact) and Billy (~$2.3M for rest of year) could bring back a couple of interesting players that are currently getting playing time for the Giants (pick 2 of Suarez, D Rodriguez (I REALLY like this kid’s stuff), Austin Slater, Alen Hanson). They could also shoot for the Giant’s CF prospect (currently in AAA) Steven Duggar. All of these guys have many years of team control left (pre-arb), but are not likely going to be critical to this year’s Giants run. To make it work, the Reds could take back some of the players that are out of favor in SF (Austin Jackson (2 yr $3M contract) and Cory Gearin ($1.625M).

    The Giants would help two of their key positions (you could swap in Duval if they prefer) while not going over the luxury tax. The Reds get two MLB contributors, a short-term replacement for Billy in Jackson, and whatever they can salvage from Gearin at the expense of Harvey and Billy (two guys that are unlikely to be on the team next year). You could also swap Billy with Hernandez or Hughes to help the Giant’s pen.

    If the Reds can trade Iggy to Houston/Cleveland/Boston for a stud OF, SS, pitcher, then picking up some of these mid-level but MLB ready talent for Billy/Harvey would create a really interesting 2019 team. As an aside, the Reds should tell Harvey that they want to make a run at signing him this offseason (at hopefully a manageable price/length).