The Cincinnati Reds may be the team affected the most by the COVID-19 pandemic that we’re all facing, or so that is the opinion of Baseball Prospectus writer Nick Shaefer. The crew at Baseball Prospectus is running a series that looks at which teams would be affected the most if the season were to be missed rather than just suspended and shortened.
If the season were to be missed in it’s entirety, it would put the Cincinnati Reds into a spot where they missed out on a lot of what they had tried setting up for 2020. In late July of 2019 they moved a top prospect in Taylor Trammell and another solid prospect in Scott Moss (along with Yasiel Puig) to acquire Trevor Bauer. That move was made for 2020, but Bauer is a free agent following the 2020 season and if it’s not played that move will have been made for nothing. The Reds finally, for the first time in the history of the franchise, went out and used free agency as an actual tool to acquire known talent. The team picked up free agent hitters Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, and Shogo Akiyama. Even if Castellanos doesn’t opt out after the year, which feels unlikely, the team is still missing out on the age 28 season of an All-Star caliber hitter, the age 31 season of another All-Star caliber hitter, and the age 32 season of Shogo Akiyama – which in theory should have been the most productive one of his career in the Major Leagues given how hitters age.
That all, of course, is what could be taken away if the season isn’t played. And even in a shortened season, the team wouldn’t be getting the full seasons from any of those guys. Everyone else would also feel that, too, so it is less impactful against just the Reds in this scenario.
But, if there is baseball played this season – and if there is it’s most certainly going to be a shortened season at this point – there could be some beneficial aspects to things for the Cincinnati Reds that come from it. We don’t have any idea what the plan will be for if baseball comes back. We do know, though, about what the plans that have been discussed all look like and there’s one common theme: The National League and American League aren’t going to exist in 2020 and new divisions and possible leagues will take their places for the year.
What is likely to happen in that case is that there will be a universal designated hitter in 2020. Love it or hate it, that is something that would help out the Cincinnati Reds quite a bit. The outfield that the Reds currently have is crowded, and in some lineups, it’s pretty below-average defensively. It’s tough to find a defensive argument that Jesse Winker or Nick Castellanos are good defenders in the corners. But both of those guys can hit the baseball. Having the option to put one of them in the lineup as the designated hitter, while being able to slide Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin, and the other non-DH for the day into the starting three for the outfield does wonders for the defense for David Bell and for the Cincinnati pitching staff. That is where this whole messed up world we live in could giveth to the Cincinnati Reds.
There is still a ton of things that need to be worked out before we can even think about what a 2020 baseball season will actually look like, where it will take place, and how many games we could get. But in a strange, twisted way getting a weird season could be beneficial for the Reds a little bit more than for many other teams around Major League Baseball.