It’s the middle of December and the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster is nowhere near full. It’s not surprising that is the case, though – free agency and non-tenders have lowered the number of players on rosters all around baseball. The free agency market over the last few years has been about as fast as your grandma running a marathon, which is to say, it’s been incredibly slow.
The Reds 40-man roster currently sits at 31 players, which leaves them with nine spots to fill up. And realistically, the team could ultimately add 10 players if they’d like – one will just need to wait a while – because one player on the 40-man roster, Jared Solomon, underwent Tommy John surgery this offseason and can be placed on the 45/60 day injured list once that become an option closer to the start of the regular season.
Whether that final number winds up being seven, eight, nine, or ten players – the Cincinnati Reds have a lot of spots to fill on the 40-man roster. Not every spot will necessarily be filled, but it’s tough to imagine a team heading into the regular season with a 40-man roster that has fewer than 38 players on it. It’s just something of a rarity for a team to operate at a number lower than that.
Something that tends to happen near the end of spring training every year is that teams will pick up players on waivers that other teams let go of to make room on their own roster for someone who earned a spot through their spring training performance. It’s hard to project how many of those additions could happen.
With free agency, as noted above, things have been slow. Very slow. Over the last five years we’ve watched Major League teams play the waiting game on free agency, pushing things closer and closer to spring training before even making offers to non-star level players in an effort to try and suppress the market value of player deals. But even if the team were looking for free agent help, the Reds don’t seem to be in position to try and fill out the 40-man roster with those types of moves.
The obvious spots where Cincinnati can use free agency to bolster the number of players on the roster is the pitching staff and the shortstop position. There are currently 17 pitchers on the 40-man roster, including Solomon who won’t be available for most of, if not all of the 2021 season. There are two-and-a-half catchers on the roster, with Tucker Barnhart and Tyler Stephenson counting as the two, and Kyle Farmer counting as the half.
On the infield it feels pretty safe to assume that the Reds are going to add a shortstop. They currently only have six infielders on the 40-man roster, and that includes the previously mentioned Kyle Farmer. It feels safe to assume they won’t carry Jose Garcia on the active roster unless he’s going to be used as a starter. That would leave Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, whoever the starting shortstop happens to be, and Eugenio Suárez as the starting four, and then Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino as potential bench options (both have options remaining).
The outfield is crowded on the big league roster when it comes to starters. Who is the 5th and 6th outfielder between Mark Payton and Aristides Aquino doesn’t matter a whole lot as with the current set up – if everyone is healthy – the 5th option won’t get much playing time.
The rotation, which is missing multiple starters from the 2020 team, could likely use an addition. The bullpen could also some depth added to it, especially given that it’s possible that two of the guys from the 2020 bullpen could wind up in the rotation. Over the last few seasons the Reds, and most other teams, had more pitchers on the 40-man roster than position players. To get back to that ratio, assuming a full roster, the team would need to add four pitchers while also not subtracting any pitchers.
Options for the non-pitchers, and non-starting shortstop seem to be a viable 3rd catcher who could be counted on if Barnhart or Stephenson were to head to the injured list or a “super sub” type of player who can play some infield and outfield.
When it comes to the big league roster, the Reds need to add a few pitchers – whether that’s for the rotation or the bullpen depends on how they feel about rounding out the rotation with internal options – and a starting shortstop at the very least. But the team also has some depth issues on the 40-man roster that they need to take care of. The depth issue is something that likely won’t be addressed soon as the backup market is usually the last to be tackled and tends to happen leading into the weeks before spring training, not the months before spring training.
Nick Krall has his work cut out for him. It seems he’s gotten a directive from ownership that there’s not any money to spend, and it’s led to moves that have been made to save money rather than try to improve the team (teams trying to improve, for example, don’t let go of players like Archie Bradley). He is being tasked with trying to fill out the big league pitching staff and find a starting shortstop, but he’s also going to need to go out and sign a handful of players to provide some depth for injuries that are almost assuredly going to happen in 2021.