My latest for Cincinnati Magazine:

Hey, the Reds are good again. This is fun! They’re finally playing like the team I told you to expect. Go ahead and start printing those playoff tickets, am I right?

OK, maybe we should pump the brakes on that talk, but Cincinnati’s recent stretch of good play (24-19 over the last six weeks) has given us reason for optimism, if nothing else. These days it isn’t quite so difficult to imagine a 2019 Reds team that is vastly improved, and even in the mix for a playoff spot.

Last week, I laid out my blueprint for precisely how the Reds could get back to being competitive by next April. One of my seven easy steps to success was this one:

Find a shortstop and/or a center fielder before Opening Day 2019. If (Nick) Senzel or (Eugenio) Suarez can’t play shortstop, the Reds really need to seek trades for either an everyday CF or SS. Cincinnati simply needs more production out of one or both of those positions than they’re currently getting. If Suarez/Senzel can handle short, perhaps the Reds can live with (Billy) Hamilton (or even (Jose) Peraza) in center field until (Taylor) Trammell is ready to take over. And the club needs to give Trammell every opportunity to prove he can be a big league center fielder sooner rather than later.

One whole week later, I still believe this is true. But what if the Reds don’t need to go out and find a center fielder? What if they already have one here in Cincinnati, right under our collective noses?

Read the entire piece here and let me know what you think!

33 Responses

  1. redsfan06

    Lorenzen? Has a cannon for an arm.

    • KDJ

      Give him time in CF this season and let’s see how he does at the MLB level at that spot. The Reds are not utilizing his athleticism.

      • roger garrett

        I agree and it is simple.Jut see what he can do.

  2. Davy13

    Like a floral arrangement with an array of beautiful flowers forming a stunning centerpiece, so the Reds must have more than one “beautifully” talented player to make their centerpiece. Suarez is definitely one, Machado could be the other, and hopefully, one of the young players in the pipeline. Votto is in this arrangement, but not for long.

  3. Bill

    Preferably the Reds would find a CF, at least for the next couple of years, and have Schebler in RF. However if the solution is to move one of the 2B options to the OF then go with Schebler in CF. He is better than Choo defensively and his bat plays well in CF. That would leave more resources available to fix the starting pitching

    • Indy Red Man

      Scheber can’t throw….that’s hurts more in RF! Votto booted that ball in Atlanta and Freeman took 2nd right in front of Schebler. No respect at all for his arm! He can run and he could turn into atleast an average CF’er defensively. I like him at leadoff too! Winker/Duvall platoon would work so that just leaves one spot available. Possibly Senzel or trade for a solid RH bat?

      • Shchi Cossack

        Schebler is already an average CF. He will never be a great CF, but he might an above average CF. Two years ago, Schebler was a bad CF, but that has changed with a little experience and work in CF.

      • greenmtred

        Cossack: I like Schebler, but he doesn’t look to me to be an average outfielder, never mind an average centerfielder. This is not to say that he couldn’t become one.

      • Shchi Cossack

        I agree that he doesn’t look like an average OF. He doesn’t have that flash and style we are used to seeing but his speed allows him to make the plays necessary as an average OF. He will never be recognized for his defense and will very rarely, if ever, make the highlight reel, but by the same token he will never be ridiculed as a bumbling oaf for his lack of defense.

      • Bill

        He has the speed and the ability to play an average CF, so it is not a bad option. I think it all really depends on the solution to the 2B situation. If he is in CF then you need someone on the bench to back up CF. If Schebler is in RF he can always move over to CF when needed, leaving Duvall as the 4th OF. This is all of course assuming Billy is gone and no one is moving to the OF. If someone else is in RF then Schebler is the guy in CF.

  4. Shchi Cossack

    The analysis is spot on to support the move of Schebler to CF. In fact, the move of Schebler to CF may fill out the roster for defensive position players for 2019 with no external moves necessary. That’s the goal, right? Draft and develop players internally to avoid signing over-priced FA to risky contracts then fill the holes via trades. Schebler and Suarez were acquired via trades but not as future centerpieces. Sometime a team just has to get lucky and the Reds have certainly had their share of good luck lately (Gennett, Suarez, Schebler, etc.). Shoot Peraza may even work out as a positive addition.

    Looking short-term, the Reds appear to have the pieces in place with the starting pitching still in flux.

    C Barnhart
    1B Votto
    2B Gennett or Herrera
    3B Suarez
    SS Peraza
    LF Winker
    CF Schebler
    RF Senzel

    Peraza will have the rest of the season to prove he’s actually turned a corner in his plate approach and can be an effective offensive weapon while playing SS. If he does, there are no black holes in that lineup and enough offense to win with even average starting pitching. If he reverts back to his dinking plate approach, the Reds can look for another SS option during the off season.

    Looking long-term, the Reds have a flotilla of prospects working their way through the minor league system to back fill beginning with the 2020 season, so the remaining Votto years are starting to look much more positive. The trade deadline and off season are developing as the important final cog with an emphasis on acquiring starting pitching and more prospects. DW & NK have to get the trade deadline and off season right. If they do, then not even Bailey’s contract will serve as an impediment and the Reds may be able to avoid a bad FA contract just as they are getting out from under Bailey’s contract.

    We’re not even considering the implication of the Lorenzen wildcard. The Reds really need to decide on how they can best use his right arm, 5-6 inning starter or 2-3 inning reliever. Once that determination is made, the additional factor of his bat comes into play.

    The bench even looks promising: Dixon, Duvall, Casali, Blandino, Hamilton, etc. Some of those players may be moved before the trade deadline or during the off season and a LH thumper would be a nice addition to the bench.

    The 2019 season can be used to compete and decide what payers make up a long-term core and need to be extended. I like that sound of that word…COMPETE!

  5. WVRedlegs

    A big comp for the Astros OF prospect Kyle Tucker is Christian Yelich. I’d trade Iglesias +1 For Tucker and ?? in a NY heartbeat. That should be the Reds CF for the next 2-3 years and then can move over to a corner spot when one of the young CF’s in A ball are ready. And Tucker may end up being better than Yelich. I’d go all-in on obtaining Tucker from the Astros, whatever it would take. The Reds might not get such a chance again in the future.
    Tucker and Senzel added to this offense could make the Reds a juggernaut to rival the Cubs offense and Brewers offense. And the Reds would hopefully have the better pitching by Opening Day 2019.

    • Streamer88

      If Iglesias + BHam could get us Tucker, please baseball Gods allow it to happen. Kyle Tucker is the answer to our problems. Well, one of our problems. Future All-star.

      I suspect it will take Iggy+something like Bham+Siri which I would absolutely do very rapidly.

    • big5ed

      Well, you’d think that if the Astros thought that Tucker was Christian Yelich, then they would be playing him in centerfield, instead of Jake Marisnick, the poor man’s Billy Hamilton. (Or RF, moving Springer to center.)

      • WVRedlegs

        They don’t claim him to be Yelich now. But that he has that potential to be a Yelich. That might have something to do with it. He has a swing similar to Yelich. He is as tall as Yelich and weighs about the same. He is a CF that can play all 3 OF spots like Yelich. Stats are about the same.
        Maybe the Astros are currently in need of an Iglesias much, much more than they are in need of a future CF. Got to trade something valuable to get something valuable in return.
        Maybe the Astros are willing to trade a future CF to be able to try for back-to-back World Series championships. It has been quite difficult for teams to repeat lately. It hasn’t been done since the 1998, 1999 and 2000 NY Yankees.
        And the Astros will have to compete with the 2018 NY Yankees and their huge bullpen.
        That is a couple of reasons the Astros could/might part with OF Kyle Tucker.

  6. eric3287

    All of these moves are predicated on the Reds realizing they must move on from Duvall/Hamilton as every day starting OFs. By August, Scooter needs to not be playing 2B in a Reds uniform, and the “4 man rotation” needs to be eliminated in favor of either a Scooter/Winker/Schebler OF or Schebler/Winker/Duvall depending on what the Reds do with Scooter. Duvall and Billy can be used as late inning defensive replacements; that’s fine and probably where Billy would provide maximum value. Winker walks in the 7th inning of a tie game/1 run game/etc, go ahead and let Billy run for him and stay in the game for defense. But I will be highly disappointed if the Reds just maintain the status quo into August.

    • Streamer88

      True though I contend that we should always be in the mode of acquiring more WAR for less WAR. And if they want to take Iggy++ and give us Tucker or Whitley, even if we are at excess of OFers, we kindly take the deal, pack the bus full, and keep moving.

      Sure superstars help win pennants. But over 162 games I’ll take depth over stars anyday. You insulate from injury with depth. You trade from depth. You encourage competition amongst players with depth.

    • MrRed

      Thing is, Billy is getting too expensive to just be a late inning defensive replacement/pinch runner. They’ll be paying him well north of $5MM next year. If he’s not in the Reds’ plans as the starting CF (and that’s not really clear at this point that he isn’t), then he needs to be jettisoned by trade or release before next year.

      • Michael E

        Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, one of Duvall or Hamiltion will be around next year and It think that is a bad use of limited resources which also robs better players of a few dozen starts.

  7. Bill

    The Reds have acquired Billy Hamilton’s replacement. Lorenzo Cedrola was acquired for international bonus pool money.

    “He’s hitting .318/.350/427 through 229 plate appearances in his second run through that level, and while he hasn’t homered, he’s hit 17 doubles and three triples along the way. Cedrola has minimal power but has swiped 65 bases (in 91 tries) through 262 minor league games.”

    • Scott Carter

      He’s still in A ball. Another “speed” guy with no plate discipline.

    • WVRedlegs

      Ahh, the Reds Way.
      “Cedrola rarely walks but has strong contact skills — career 4.3 percent walk rate and 11.9 percent strikeout rate — and BA notes that with his speed and average arm, he has the profile of at least a reserve outfielder.”
      The 65 SB’s in 91 attempts isn’t all that great of a % either.
      Walt Jocketty must still be in charge of the IFA money if this went down. At least they got away from spending millions of $$$ on all glove no hit SS’s, $17MM to be exact. Now they are giving away IFA $$$ for speedy no plate discipline CF’s. Just what the Reds need, another CF at the A level.
      Boston was seeking out the extra funds, so why didn’t the Reds hold out for a pitcher in this deal?

    • misconmicepcion

      65 in 91 isn’t good enough at any level. It just means he runs a lot with no judgement. Anything less than 75% success is wasteful. A lesser rate in A is really suspect.

      • greenmtred

        A lesser rate in A ball might just suggest that he has things to learn, which is why players are in A ball. He sounds like Peraza, whom we spent the first few months of the season running down like a dog. Lately, that criticism seems to be on hold.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Cedrola cost the Reds nothing except opportunity cost and the Reds might have a utility OF at some point down the road. This is the type of prospect, especially international prospect, that the Reds have had a bad habit of grossly overspending to sign. In fact, that’s why they are in the position of being restricted to a maximum of $300K in their international signing bonuses this season and have more pool allotment than they can possibly spend, at least spend intelligently.

  8. David

    The discussion of the line up is always fun, and who we could acquire and use to plug into holes. But the single biggest impediment to the Reds success is Starting Pitching.
    Nothing else matters until we have a real successful 5 man rotation.

    Where that comes from is anybody’s guess. We might or might not have some of the parts here, but 5 good starters can make a good -enough line up into a contender.
    Poor starting pitching can make the 1927 Yankees end up in 4th place. You can’t put out 7 runs every game.
    People think of the Big Red Machine years as being offensive juggernauts, but really, their team ERA was usually no worse than 3rd or 4th in the league.

    • greenmtred

      I agree. The current resurgence coincides with improved starting pitching. Coincidence? I think not. The BRM was also a very good defensive team, and that is overlooked as much as their good pitching is.

    • Shchi Cossack

      No dispute that the starting pitching is the 800# gorilla in the room. The individual starters and the collective starting pitching group represent the single biggest unresolved piece of the puzzle. Any improvement in the starting pitching will make/has made the biggest positive contribution to improved team performance. If/When the starting pitching is resolved, the team will be ready to compete. If the Reds wait until that time before addressing issues in the lineup or bullpen or bench, then they will still be behind the 8 ball so why not be prepared for that moment in time? Being prepared and having all the pieces in place when the last pieces arrive is how teams make the jump from pitiful mediocrity to a powerful juggernaut overnight.

  9. Tom

    So, my understanding is that Senzel is very athletic. As is India. My guess is that that’s the middle infield of the future. But, Senzel might be an option at CF.

  10. musicclown

    Friedl and Trammel has hit every level they’ve played in. Speed up their progress and see what you have. Friedl is in AA now and Trammel has nothing to prove in Daytona so move him up to AA.

  11. Jim t

    Iggy is are most marketable trade commodity. No way am I trading him for a outfielder. We need starting pitching if we are to ever compete for a championship.

  12. Hotto4Votto

    I don’t know about Schebler’s long term viability in CF, but I do know that he’s a heck of a lot better than Choo was out there. The Reds won a lot of games with Choo in CF. To me, that means the Reds should absolutely run him out there until the heir apparent is ready to take over (Trammell, Siri, Friedl).