Christmas is over. And that means that teams and agents are back on the phones and trying to get things done. When it comes to big league deals, the Cincinnati Reds have only made two moves. Early this month they agreed to a 4-year deal with Mike Moustakas in the largest free agent deal in franchise history. Two weeks later the organization signed left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley to a 2-year deal. Both deals include an option year.
While anything can happen, as things sit right now, it feels like the Reds are out of the market when it comes to true starting pitchers. Their rotation, assuming that everyone is healthy, is set. And then there’s Tyler Mahle beyond that, too. So let’s work with the idea that when it comes to free agency, Cincinnati isn’t going to be looking at starting pitchers and will be focusing elsewhere.
When looking at the Top 50 players in free agency this offseason according to MLB Trade Rumors that remain unsigned, and are also non-starting pitchers, there are only 14 players left on the list. The outfielders are a group that largely the Reds have been linked to. Nicholas Castellanos has been on the teams radar, Japanese export Shogo Akiyama, as have both Marcell Ozuna and Corey Dickerson. We’ve covered all of those guys in the past and why they could help the Cincinnati offense.
When looking at other offensive players, let’s look at the outfielders that haven’t been talked much about. There is only one player on the list that fit the description here – Yasiel Puig. If you’re reading words here at Redleg Nation, then you are probably familiar with former Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig. In Cincinnati he was a little below-average on offense, posting a 95 OPS+. After being traded to Cleveland his walk rate nearly doubled and he was an above-average hitter, posting a 109 OPS+.
Puig for his career, except his stint with the Reds, would provide an offensive upgrade. For some reason, though, there just hasn’t been much talk about his services. In the last 48 hours the White Sox have sort of been mentioned as having some interest in bringing him in, but other than the rumor that the Marlins met with Puig earlier in December – that’s it. Not a lot of talk swirling around Puig.
In terms of a utility guy who can play the outfielder (as well as some spots on the infield), is Brock Holt. He’s coming off of a season in which he hit .297/.369/.402 for the Red Sox. He’s a platoon guy, who hits right-handed pitching well, but has historically struggled against lefties (at least recent history).
Behind the plate is another area where we’ve heard the Reds have been interested. They reportedly were heavy on Yasmani Grandal, but came up short in negotiations for one reason or another. There are only two catchers remaining that were in the top 50 who are still unsigned. The Reds have been linked to one, Robinson Chirinos, and not so much to the other – Jason Castro. It’s been about a month since there was much talk about Cincinnati and Chirinos. We discussed how he brings a bit of good and also has a few question marks with his game at the end of November.
Jason Castro doesn’t really bring much of an upgrade behind the plate. He hit .232/.332/.435 last season with Minnesota. That was a 101 OPS+, essentially league average. That’s a lot better than the 32-year-old has done since his All-Star season in 2013. From 2014-2018 he posted a .667 OPS and an 84 OPS+. The Marcel projection system projects him to provide the exact same OPS as Tucker Barnhart in 2020. Curt Casali projects to outhit them both.
The only other position player in the top 50 is a third baseman. And while Josh Donaldson projects well, it’s tough to see where he fits on Cincinnati’s roster as it’s currently constructed.
That brings us to the relievers. Among that top 50 list there are only five of them remaining. Some of them are better than others. At the top of the list is Will Harris. He’s not young – he’s 35-years-old – but he’s really good, too. Last season with Houston he posted a 1.50 ERA in 60.0 innings. His ERA+ was an absurd 309. Over the last five seasons he’s posted a 2.36 ERA in 297.0 innings with just 72 walks and he has struck out 315 batters. At a projected 2-years and $18M, he’s got the largest projected contract among all of the relievers that are left on the market.
Daniel Hudson is the next guy on the list. He split his 2019 with Toronto and Washington, helping the Nationals win the World Series last year. During the regular season he posted a 3.00 ERA while in Toronto in the first half. After joining Washington his ERA dropped to 1.44 in 25.0 innings. Overall he’s coming off of a 2.47 ERA campaign in which he threw 73.0 innings with 71 strikeouts and 27 walks.
The Reds have been linked to showing some interest in Craig Stammen, which we wrote about two weeks ago here. The 35-year-old is coming off of a season where he had a 3.29 ERA in 82.0 innings with 15 walks and 73 strikeouts for the Padres.
Behind Stammen on the list is Steve Cishek. The right-handed reliever has been dominant over the last four seasons. In that span his ERA has never been higher than the 2.95 mark that he posted last season with the Cubs. MLB Trade Rumors predicts both Cisehk and Stammen to go with 2-year, $10M deals this offseason.
The last guy on the list is Pedro Strop, who like Cishek, spent the year with the Cubs. From 2014-2018 he posted a 2.61 ERA in 296.1 innings with Chicago, striking out 334 batters. But in 2019 his ERA jumped up to 4.97 in just 41.2 innings and his control took a turn for the worst as he walked 20 batters with 49 strikeouts. He’ll turn 35 next season.
The Predicted Contracts
Everyone mentioned above is listed in the chart below showing what MLB Trade Rumors predicts that they will get in free agency.
|Player||Position||Est. Years||Est. Price|
Who Fits the Best for the Cincinnati Reds?
It’s not my money, so it’s a lot easier to spend. But if we assume that the prices above are correct, with what the team seems to need the most, I’d look at Castellanos for the outfield, where his bat would be a difference maker in a lineup that needs another one. And then I’d look at some of the bullpen arms and see what makes the most sense. Where do you sit? There are some good options still there if Cincinnati can get the deals done.