Breathe in, hold for five seconds, and…release. Woosah.

What a wild first half for the Reds. After starting the year 3-18 (kind of hard to believe, right?) they battled back and finished the first half 43-53. The Reds saw a manager get fired, the Opening Day starter get injured, the offense turn from joke to juggernaut, and the arrival of “Da Wink”. We saw the Reds’ best starting pitching come from a guy that wasn’t even on the roster to start the year (because he’s the hero Cincinnati deserves, but not the one it needs right now), and we saw Scooter Gennett continue to prove that he’s good. The first half brought us MVP like numbers from Eugenio Suarez and a continued wait for top prospect Nick Senzel.

And that’s only scratching the surface. Admit it…despite the wins and losses, the first half of the season was kind of fun. The Reds are starting to reap the fruits of their labor when it comes to the rebuild and it looks like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The first 96 games brought us more story lines than we could have imagined.

Without further ado, let’s look at the top 5 story lines for the second half of the season:

1. Trades

This is an obvious one. The Reds are going to make some trades, it’s just a matter of when and who. What will be captivating is who the Reds trade and what they trade for. They could move current MLB assets like Matt Harvey, Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall, or Scooter Gennett to get pieces for the future or they could really make a splash and move top prospects like Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, or Taylor Trammell to try and fill a positional need for years to come. The Reds are in a weird position where they really don’t have to be buyers or sellers. That being said, I would be absolutely shocked if they didn’t make any moves before the trade deadline.

2. Homer Bailey’s Role

Is there a more polarizing player on the Reds roster right now than Homer Bailey? It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for him. He’s currently signed through the 2019 season. There have already been rumblings that he’s going to return to the rotation when healthy, but with the emergence of so many good, young pitchers it’s hard to justify him getting his spot back in the starting rotation. Will the Reds put him back into the rotation, put him in the bullpen, or straight up release him?

3. Jim Riggleman’s Future

Jim Riggleman saw his number called when Bryan Price was fired a couple months ago and has filled in admirably as interim manager ever since. He has guided the Reds to a 40-38 record since their miserable 3-15 start and has yielded support from players and media members. Although there are many other factors that play into the Reds turnaround, bunting aside, you can’t ignore the job that Riggleman has done. I think it speaks to his work when a guy like Joey Votto says: “He’s on top of us. He expects us to play a certain way. He challenges us. I think he brings a good energy to us during the game, after the game. He listens well. He’s really done a very good job.”

I’ll be curious to see if the Reds conduct a full managerial search at the end of the year or if they offer Riggleman an extension. It’ll also be interesting to see if Riggleman is courted by other teams, especially with a club like the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly expressing interest in him for their full time managerial job.

4. Eugenio Suarez: Batting Title, MVP, Triple Crown

Did anyone have a better first half of baseball that no one is talking about than Eugenio Suarez? He is currently 5th in the NL in batting average, 8th in home runs, and 2nd in RBIs…and that’s all while missing 16 games due to a fractured thumb. It’s not out of the question that Suarez could make a run at a batting title in the second half of the year. It’s also a real possibility that he could be considered for MVP if he continues to put up the numbers he did in the first half of the season. Let’s also not overlook the outside chance of his pursuit of the Triple Crown. I truly believe he will be near the top of the NL in average and RBI by the end of the year; it’s only a matter of if he can continue to make up for lost time when it comes to home runs. He is currently 5 behind the league leader.

5. The Starting Rotation

You could argue that the biggest piece holding this Reds team back from being good to great is the starting rotation. Although the rotation has improved from last year to this year, there is still room for growth. Things to keep an eye on in the second half of the season include the durability and effectiveness of Anthony Desclafani, the inevitable call up of Robert Stephenson, the continued improvement of Tyler Mahle (is this his ceiling?), and what happens with Sal Romano (bullpen or starter?). Luis Castillo’s effectiveness will also be something worth paying attention to in the second half. His ERA has inflated by almost two runs this season. That’s a concern for a guy that many thought could be a legitimate top of the rotation starter.

There you have it – my top 5 story lines for the second half. What are your top 5 story lines for the second half of the season, Nation?

42 Responses

  1. TomN

    Good 5 story lines. Hard to argue with. A few more possibilities:

    1) Peraza. Will the real Jose Peraza stand up? Seriously, a solid first half. Is he our future SS? The 2nd half may tell.

    2) Winker: Just how good is this guy offensively? After a mid 1st-half slump, he seems to have busted out. OBP and RBIs going way up. Starting to show some power. Is he our future LFer? Or a sweet trade chip?

    3) Pitching pieces: Iglesias? Will he stay or will he go? Lorenzen: RP? SP? Slugging OF? What’s his future? BobSteve: Can he ever stick here?

    • Colorado Red

      I think he has earned the 2nd half, before we trade for a SS.
      The offseason is still a possibility.

    • eric3287

      Jesse Winker:
      August 2017: .310/.403/.534
      September/October 2017: .298/.327/.574
      March/April 2018: .305/.414/.390
      May 2018; .174/.278/.246
      June 2018: .308/.432/.513
      July 2018: .459/.545/.676

      I think we know about Jesse Winker. At least those of us paying attention, which oddly enough seems to rule out much of management and the front office. Frankly, there isn’t another team in baseball that, if given the Reds 4 OFs, wouldn’t play Jesse Winker every single day except for our Cincinnati Reds.

      • Dewey Roberts

        Eric, I had no idea Winker was batting .459 in July. He has had exactly one bad month since he has been up but he still warms the bench too much. Only the Reds.

  2. cfd3000

    Lots to think about. And yes, amazingly, the first half actually was fun. Here are my thoughts on your 5, plus a couple more.

    1) Trades is actually several story lines. Matt Harvey must go. If the Reds want Harvey they need to sign him as a free agent in the offseason. Right now he must be flipped for best return. Scooter Gennett must go. He’ll never be worth more, and the Reds have really good options to fill his shoes. Is anyone bummed now that Todd Frazier is gone and Eugenio Suarez man’s third base? I didn’t think so. Several other Reds should go, now or in the offseason: Iglesias, Hernandez (I’d keep Hughes but that’s just me), Duvall and Hamilton. And the Reds should be willing to package all prospects not named Senzel, Greene, Trammell or India to upgrade SP, SS, and CF if and when opportunity knocks.

    2) The Bailey question is huge. He must improve, or leave. How that evolves will be big for the Reds in 2019. I predict he’ll end up benched or gone, but it could get ugly before that gets resolved.

    3) Riggleman is not a second half story, but he and the manager’s slot will be a big offseason story.

    4) Suarez will hit but there’s no mystery there. Not a story unless you count the question of when the rest of the baseball world will really notice him. I think the much bigger question is whether Votto turns it up a gear or continues to be good but not great. And that’s an even bigger question for 2019.

    5) Starting rotation. Huge second half story. See also item 1). Not nearly enough space here to consider all the possibilities.

    6) The future of Hamilton, Duvall, Winker and Schebler. The first two need to be traded or eased into supporting roles. The last two need to play, and hit and hit and hit. Whether the Reds get this right or not will be big for the long term success of the offense.

    7) Middle infield. I agree that Peraza has done enough to earn further playing time, but he needs to get better or worse. Right now he’s just good enough to keep the Reds from finding an even better option, and just bad enough to represent missed opportunity on both sides of the ball. And the Gennett / Senzel / Herrera saga has to get resolved. Hopefully without Gennett. He’s at peak value now but the Reds have other needs and plenty of firepower to replace him.

    8) A long shot but… the push for .500, and maybe even for the playoffs. If the Reds could somehow get to .500 and still make the right moves for next year and beyond, what a success this year will have been. But if they squander opportunities to improve for the future in pursuit of unlikely and limited success in 2018 it will be another wasted season. That’s the biggest one of all.

    • Mike Adams

      They would have to go 38-28 to reach .500 for the season.
      THIS team, I don’t think they can.
      If I am wrong and they do get to .500 then it will be improved starting pitching that gets them there.
      If the roster changes by more than a player or two, then only God knows how the final team will end up. IMHO

      • Mike Adams

        When I said, “If the roster changes by more than a player or two…” I meant by trades, not call-ups.

  3. Bill

    I think 1 and 2 play a big part 5. It is looking likely that only Harvey is traded and Bailey takes his rotation spot. Without other trades and pitching improvement will have to come from trades or improvements to the current group. That current group includes Bailey, who has pitched better in AAA. If Bailey can regain some form and be an average pitcher it would answer some questions, however if he repeats this years previous performance it creates the unfortunate situation where the Reds have to decide if they pay the $25 million and wish him luck on future endeavors or keep taking the beatings. Beyond that improvement from Mahle, Castillo, Romano, and Stephenson would help to figure out the rotation.

    • Alex

      He has pitched better in AAA in the context of how awful he was in the majors but his AAA line right now is a 4.78 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. he isn’t good and won’t be. He will absolutely be mercilessly shelled against real competition. The reds aren’t going to recoup his contract. They won’t it is a sunk cost. He isn’t going to pitch better, hes taking starts from young guys and on top of that he is bringing his piss poor attitude with him into a locker room of young guys feeling positive. This is a disasterly stupid move that has opportunity cost that I think far out weigh the money they are paying him.

      • David

        Yes. That is absolutely right about Bailey. A sunk cost. He can retire a millionaire, poor kid. Feel real sorry for him

      • Bill

        I’m not saying he is going to be successful, but after a horrible start at AAA he has improved. He may very well get destroyed by MLB hitters upon his return. It’s already been decided he will start again so all I can do is watch.

  4. Bill J

    Already miss 1 trade possibility with Cleveland, how many more to come.

    • Cartel

      Yes Cleveland gave up a ton. I am very jealous.

      • Sabr Chris

        That does put a high price tag on Iggy if we do move him.

  5. Matt WI

    2) Re: Homer and the “emergence of so many good young pitchers”… unfortunately, they have many, but not necessarily good or “emerged.” Nobody has pitched quite well enough to have shut the door on Bailey returning to the rotation, unless the organization really swallows its pride and sticks with their plan to put him in the bullpen for the sake of someone like Bob Steve. I’m guessing he’s going to get as much rope as he needs to make the decision for them with his performance after his reaction the first time around to the idea of being demoted. They gave him his “injury” time. It’s on him now, we’ll see how it goes.

    • Jeff Gangloff

      Robert Stephenson should be starting big league games over Homer Bailey. You could even argue that Cody Reed maybe a better option at this point.

      • big5ed

        You are correct, but as a practical matter, the Reds are going to give Bailey one more chance. It’s a sunk cost, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do if it is your (i.e., Castillini’s) money.

        It’s kind of like finding a bottle of excellent, but aging, beer in the back of the fridge. You gotta at least take a sip to see if by chance it’s still OK. It’s just too painful to pour down the drain, if there is even a remote chance.

      • Hotto4Votto

        If Bailey is starting over Stephenson or Romano it’s not because of a baseball decision. It’s a money or sentimental decision. I’m ready for the Reds to start making baseball decisions for their baseball club, but that probably starts with telling Big Bob to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to baseball operations.

  6. David

    Simple solutions for complex problems.

    Designate Homer for Assignment, and eat the rest of his contract.

    Trade Matt Harvey. If the interest is there, sign him to a contract in the off -season. The Reds could do much worse.

    Trade Scooter Gennett ( I luv you man!)

    Trade Hughes and trade Hernandez. They are good guys doing a good job, but we can shop for another couple free agent relievers next winter to do this too. These guys will likely just get us some mid-level minor league prospects.

    Sorry, but Duvall and Hamilton have about zero trade value, unless they are bundled with a player that somebody else wants.

    The above trades (Gennett / Harvey) need to get an AA or AAA pitcher that is not far from the Bigs that is as close to “can’t miss” as you can get. Nobody in mid-season is going to part with a good starting pitcher.

    Maybe get a good CF, especially if Billy gets into one of the trade packages, and we need to replace him immediately. Billy is a good player, but will not be worth what the Reds will have to pay to keep him after arbitration this winter. Tooooooo much!

    I am not worried about SS in the near future. Peraza is fine for now. I have an inkling that India will be the SS of the future, if he can handle it.

    My personal opinion: Keep Iglesias, unless the Reds absolutely get something terrific for him.

    Bring up Phil Ervin/Gabrielle Guerrero to platoon with Billy in CF
    (and move Taylor Trammell up to AA like right now – the CF of the future)

    Bring up Bob Steve to replace Harvey in the rotation. Keury Mella is not far away now. Maybe he gets a chance to start in the Bigs in 2019 sometime.

    Mike Lorenzen stays in the bullpen. But maybe he plays a little outfield and gets some regular AB’s. Mike is a great athlete, but as a starting pitcher I think he will break down a lot. He is a “maximum” effort guy and puts too much into every pitch.

    If Anthony Desclafani finishes the season as a starter (a big if), I would seriously think about trading him. He is an injury prone pitcher, and his reliability is such that he could make a big hole in the starting rotation in 2019 if he does get injured again.

    For the record, if the Reds make the right moves, they could actually be contenders in 2019. Starting pitching, again.

    Many of us picked the Reds to finish around 0,500 this year, and the disastrous start threw a lot of us off the trail. But the Reds themselves didn’t quit and still are playing hard. Finishing “close” to 0.500 this year is a pretty big victory for this team. The optimism could carry forward into next year.

    Riggleman: Today on the Reds homepage, he says the Reds will “make some noise” in the NL Central the 2nd half (well, 66 games remaining, so not exactly a half season).
    That either portends a stand pat strategy by the Reds front office, or it’s all just hot air. Play hard, boys.

    Please Cincinnati, please do a real Manager search in the offseason. There are good guys out there that will not be bunt happy head bangers to manage the team. A strong finish by the Reds may usher in the Riggleman era. Oh well.

    • Nick Carrington

      Lorenzen will likely never start another game as a Red, but this idea that he’s a max out pitcher is just untrue, at least this year. He told the Enquirer early in the year that he was learning that he didn’t have to throw as hard as he can to get guys out.

      In July, he’s averaging under 95 MPH on his fastball because he’s throwing softer early in the count and add velocity with two strikes (like Tyler Mahle does). His cutter is 3 MPH softer than it was two years and that appears to be by design. Even while throwing softer this month, he has a 28.1% K% and 6.3% BB%, both excellent numbers (small sample alert).

      He’s learning to locate at the expense of some velocity. He’s not maxing out at all.

      • Indy Red Man

        This might not be the perfect analogy but I’ll run with it. Stanley Kubrick was filming Full Metal Jacket and the military advisor Lee Ermey was pulling off the part of a Marines drill instructor (because he’d been one) then the actor that Kubrick originally hired. The late Mr. Ermey got the part and went on to give an unforgettable performance!

        The Reds have a young guy right in front of them In Lorenzen that has a live arm and more talent then most. He keeps the ball in the park and he’s a great hitter/athlete with an obvious work ethic! The goal is to get more from guys like that and less from guys with less talent. Case closed….its really not that complicated? They’re not trying to squeeze in someone on the Astros rotation? If he flopped then go back to the bullpen….or CF:)

      • doofus

        It sounds like the Gunny found out what Lorenzen’s major malfunction was and got it fixed. I wonder if he can help Finnegan and Reed?

      • Ken

        Well… he died a month or so ago, so I’d say no. 😉

      • David

        Nick, that is a good point that I was not aware of. Mike has always been such a maximum effort guy, that my belief was that he would break down as a starter. He is learning – good for him.
        Players don’t do much in Winter League anymore, but that would be interesting for him to go down to one of the Winter Leagues and get a chance to start.

      • Nick Carrington

        The only reason I know it is because I did an article on him a week ago or so and I noticed it. I tracked it through his last couple of appearances. You are right: based on what we know now, he was probably maxing out too much previously.

      • big5ed

        You could probably say that about every young pitcher on the staff, other than Mahle and maybe Castillo. Reed does it. Romano does it but is getting better. Garrett does it when he is out of whack. Tanner Rainey becomes Serena Williams and does it like a mother. Finnegan has worn his arm out doing it.

        Even Bailey does it, trying to prove he can still throw hard. He’d be a lot better off throwing 2-seamers instead of 4-seamers, but his ego won’t let him throw a 90-mph fastball, even if he gets more action on it.

    • greenmtred

      Votto’s opinion of Riggleman is interesting, or should be. The Reds are playing well for him, and it’s hard to ignore that. A real managerial search, yes, but he shouldn’t be out of fthe running, even though we, who know so much more about baseball than he or the FO do,don’t like his strategic moves.

  7. Jeff Reed

    I think the top level of the front office, meaning Bob C., will be hesitant to break up a winning combination for the remaining 66 games of the season so that, with the exception of Harvey, most of the trading will occur in the off-season.

    • roger garrett

      Yep I could see that happen and most likely it will.What’s sad is that a few tweeks to the roster from within or via trade could put them in the hunt next year and provide some money to purchase the rest.We don’t need a closer right now,we don’t need to have anybody blocking anybody that is major league ready and we don’t need to dismiss anybody that hasn’t been given a chance.When I say put them in the hunt next year I don’t mean winning the division because the teams that are better then we are right now will go out and get better so we will always be playing catch up until we stop this nonsense of thinking we are good enough and stand pat.

  8. SF Reds Fan

    I just read on ESPN that the Cubs could put a package together of 2 out of these 3 (Happ, Russell, Mike Montgomery) plus a minor league prospect of some level and manage to land deGrom and his 2 1/2 years of control.

    That made me wonder, could Winker, Sal, and Bob Steve (along with any prospect from 10-25) get a deal like this done for us? Edit the package however you like. I would love to see us try to get one lockdown ace instead of 8-10 guys in AAA/majors that are back of the rotation talent.


    • Old-school

      Hunter Greene Sal Romano Shed Long and Jeter downs would get him. They will want an elite pitching prospect.

      The rumors with Mets and reds have been more Zach Wheeler who would be a 1 year rental in 2019.

    • Indy Red Man

      I commented for a couple years on here that the Reds should go out and atleast try to find a decent swingman like Montgomery. They got him for nothing. He’s pretty decent, but I don’t think Happ, Russell, and MM pull that off? The Reds could offer much better then that though? Why not? I’d love DeGrom, but lefty Steven Matz would be nice too and he’s younger. He’s like another #3 though.

  9. Old-school

    Great article . Ctrent has another .

    I don’t think the Reds are trading established players for low level prospects- other than Harvey. I expect everyone to stay and then an active off-season. Castelliini is going for it in 2019.

    Does gennett get an extension or simply stays to play out his 2019 final arbitration year?

    Where does Nick Senzel play?

    Williams has said the Reds are adding and have a strong farm system. Jocketty is still involved in decision making. I expect a huge trade in December for a starting pitcher.

    • Sabr Chris

      If Uncle Walt is still involved, I expect long term extensions for Scooter and maybe even Hamilton and trades of our better/even best prospects for veteran pitchers close to or already in their decline years.

  10. Sabr Chris

    What I hope happens:
    Trade Gennet, Harvey, Herendez, Hughes, Hamilton, and Duvall.

    Return controllable power arms for the bullpen, short term outfielder, single A lottery ticket types.

    Use some of those gained assets, maybe Gennet, and our current prospect depth to add an stud controllable starter. A Fuller, Strome, etc.

    Winkler to Left
    Schebler to Center/Right
    New Outfielder to Center/Right
    Herrera to 2B
    Big Sal to the Pen
    Reed to the Pen
    Bob Steve to rotation
    Homer to the rotation…when Homer Fails ang gets DLed or DFAed the 5th spot becomes a bullpen day with all the Kids who can go multiple innings

    Off season
    If Herrera is legit, Senzel goes to winter ball to play Right, likely pushing new outfielder to the bench
    Sign top end starter

    Winkler LF
    Senzel RF
    Votto 1B
    Suarez 3B
    Schebler CF
    Herrera 2B
    Barnhart C
    Pereza SS

    New Outfielder
    2nd Utility infielder

    Traded Pitcher
    Signed Pitcher

    6 power arms with options to be cycled back and forth with Louisville based on performance and usage

    I expect Bob Steve to get traded at some point and Homer to get DFAed and released

    A new manager who will not bunt, bat the best hitters high in the lineup, and use the best relievers in high leverage spots for multiple innings. No designated closer.

    • Sabr Chris

      Forgot Romano as a 2019 pen option or trade bait.

  11. Frog 'em

    With respect to Riggleman, I love his decisiveness and insistence on taking care of the details. And, then you see that the clubhouse still seems to have plenty of fun. This tells me what an outstanding option he would be as permanent manager.

    • cartel

      interesting that the Cardinal’s are considering Riggleman. Maybe he has real talent despite a life time losing record or perhaps St Loui is playing Jedi mind tricks with our front office and causing us to rush into another bad decision…

  12. DB

    In perhaps the biggest news of the past few days for the Reds, over on FanGraphs, there are 2 Baseball Operations positions now hiring in the organization: Data Scientist, & Baseball Analytics Developer.

    Steve, I love reading your stuff but it sounds like you now have another calling 😉

    • Remdog

      DB is right Steve – apply for these positions and save our beloved Reds!

  13. Old-school

    The biggest storyline of the second half could be lost momentum.

    -Matt Harvey- a huge part of the resurgence will not be starting every 5 th day.

    -Homer Bailey will be starting every 5th Day.

    -Minimal trade activity at the deadline.

    – The reds in June had a chance to win every day with a solid run of starts. Can Disco be the rotation leader? Can the young pitchers find consistency? Can Bailey keep his team in the game?

    They must win the Pittsburgh series and the first homestand. It starts with SP.