The offseason hasn’t gone the way that the Cincinnati Reds had hoped it would. The one stated goal of the offseason for the organization was to acquire a shortstop that could be the teams starter in 2021. As of today, a week away from the start of spring training, that mission has been a massive failure. The internal options have a handful of big league starts at the position between the group of them. That could always change if the team goes out and makes a trade to fill that spot, but their failure to address the position reflects in the latest 2021 season projected standings that has the Reds in 4th place in the National League Central.

Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections last week for all of the players. Now they’ve released the PECOTA projected standings, as the teams are built today, for the 2021 season. The division isn’t as close as you’d think, with Milwuakee projected to win the division by four games over the Chicago Cubs. The Reds are projected to finish 79-83, two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and 10 games behind the Brewers.

Looking at the individual PECOTA projections it feels like they may be underselling a few players – Tyler Stephenson, for example, is projected for a .679 OPS this upcoming season. Sonny Gray being projected with an ERA of 4.04 also feels a little bit high and could give Cincinnati’s pitching a bit more wiggle room. But most teams probably have some examples in their projections like that. The fact of the matter is, PECOTA believes the Reds are 10 wins worse than the Brewers, and that is a very significant difference to make up.

It wasn’t just the PECOTA standings that were projecting that Cincinnati would finish in 4th place. Dan Szymborski wrote about the Reds winter being a “disaster” for Fangraphs on Tuesday afternoon after their failure to acquire a shortstop all offseason long. Within the article he shared the ZiPS projected standings for the 2021 National League Central as each team stands today. The order for the division is a bit different than the one from PECOTA, but the Reds projection is nearly the same, finishing in 4th place with a 78-84 record. ZiPS has the Cardinals at the top of the division with 85 wins.

Much like the PECOTA projections, ZiPS does look like there’s some underselling of a few players – Tyler Stephenson once again jumps out as a guy that could look a lot better than his projection of a .670 OPS suggests – but most teams probably have players in their organization that fall along similar lines.

The article from Szymborski sums up how many feel about the Cincinnati Reds offseason. The division was wide open for the taking when the offseason began, and for the most part, the division didn’t do much of anything. Within the last week there have been some moves made within the division, but for the Reds their moves have been rather small with Sean Doolittle’s signing being far-and-away the most significant (on paper).

There’s some upside for the Reds, but once again thanks to the offseason lack of activity, it certainly feels like if Cincinnati is going to make the playoffs that it’s going to be because so many things went right for them along the way rather than things went just as expected. The Reds need their players to remain healthy, and they need more than a few of them to perform much better than they are projected to if they are going to finish above .500, much less contend for a playoff spot.

56 Responses

  1. sixpack

    Unless the hitting improves they may get passed by the pirates. I think the Pitching to good enough to keep that from happening. I know, I know the pirates are rebuilding and are really bad. SS is a problem but the team hitting is a bigger problem. Votto should be benched with Moustakas to first and Senzel to 2nd.

    • LDS

      Lou Piniella or David Bell? Lou led the 1990 World Series champion that swept Oakland. Bell’s team fails to score in the 2020 expanded playoffs. What Reds fan ever thought they’d actually miss Marge Schott’s weird ownership period?

      • TR

        Lou was an ‘eye test’ type manager before advanced stats became prominent. Some of us fans not only miss Marge but also Schottzie.

      • JayTheRed

        If you go back to the early 90’s the Reds had some of the highest payrolls in baseball under Marge Schott. I never had a problem with her besides her unusual and poor taste comments about minorities. That was my only issue. As far as running the team she would go out and get players if it was needed.

        Now to today. You don’t say to your fans we are prioritizing getting a upgrade at SS then go scrap heap shopping to find players that haven’t played the position in about 3 years or more. I am so frustrated with the ownership for putting our team in this position. So here is to a season of Hope. Hope all the hitters return to form and some even get better. Shogo and Winker and Senzel (if he can stay healthy) have potential to be better. Otherwise everyone else better have really good bounce back years.

        I’m pretty sure the pitching will be fine but they will be very frustrated by the fact that this team lives or dies on the home run again.

        A trade can still fix this but I just don’t see this team making a smart move to get a legit SS at this point. Reds Leadership please prove me wrong.

    • Hanawi

      I keep seeing this take but I don’t understand it. Votto had the 3rd highest OPS on the team behind Winker and Casali last year. So people want to give more at bats to worse players?

      • scotly50

        Any stat that is calculated with walks inflates Votto’s worth. I have always discounted any stat that gives equal weight to a walk and a hit.

        In my opinion, the “Stats are everything” pendulum has swung too far and will eventually swing back. Walks are overrated as to production as strikeouts have a greater negative effect than correlated at this time.

        In other words Votto is, and has always been, overrated.

      • Doug Gray

        OPS does not give equal weight to a walk and a hit.

      • Doc

        Saying a guy who has been league MVP once, and finished in the top three another time or two, “…is, and has always been, overrated”, lacks any credibility. How is the league MVP for a full 162 game season overrated at that point in time?

      • 2020ball

        Vottos become the easy target everyone wants to blame, forget actually looking into the stats or even properly understanding how theyre compiled. Votto has obviously declined, but continues to be one of the better players offensively on the team. I’d say its time for everyone to accept this and move on, but I’d be wasting my breath.

    • joshG

      Votto was as good if not better than Moose last year… just sayin

      • Jimbo44CN

        Agree completely, and Joey is not overrated. He’s just aging a bit.

  2. Klugo

    Sounds about right. If we get pleasant surprises from some of our guys, maybe that improves. The potential is there in Castellanos,Moustakas,Votto,Suarez,Shogo,Senzel. We’ll need better than really expected performances from the pitchers too. So, a lot of wishing and hoping. The stars will have to align just perfectly to make the playoffs. Not the way you want to go about business. But, hey, we will forever have the ready-made, small market, no money excuses to fall back on. Who can argue with that?

    • Redhaze

      Anyone have an update on Jose DeLeon this off-season? I heard he was pitching well.

      • Doug Gray

        I spent a lot of time searching for the note that I wrote about him last week….. couldn’t find it for a while. I wasn’t looking in the right place – it was in my latest over at Baseball America. He made six starts in Puerto Rico between the regular season and playoffs, posting a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings, allowed 13 hits, 11 walks, and he struck out 53 batters.

  3. Redhaze

    Everyone including myself has been dejected about shortstop. However, how does everyone feel about climbing out of the 4th place projections with Mahle, Miley, and Antone at the end of the rotation? Remember we swapped Iglesias with Doolittle but we have not replaced Bauer except for internal options. James Paxton is still available but we know that will not happen.

    • JoshG

      I really like Antone as the 4th starter, if Mahle turned the corner and continues what he did last year..
      and then I’d like to see Lorenzen take that last spot and run with it.. he’s definitely got the “stuff” for it,
      sending Miley and Hoffman to the bullpen

    • Doc

      No, not everyone. They made playoffs last year without a top level SS. I have commented previously that SS is not the difference, it is the other 8 positions, lumping pitching all together.

      • Kim Henry

        Agree, agree, agree, agree…………yes, it’s an old cliche’ but a TEAM has nine players on the field; not one. I still say a light hitting defensive shortstop is not the worse thing in the world. The TEAM not meeting their individual potential is much more concerning.

  4. GiantoftheFrost

    BP is saying on the tweeter that he would play SS…I would take that just to see one more butt tag.

  5. Steven Ross

    4th place sounds about right. Optimism is tempered at the moment. Too many subtractions with underwhelming additions.

  6. SultanofSwaff

    One call to the GM of the Rockies would catapult the Reds to the top of the division on paper. I still think there’s a possibility now that the teams in need of a SS have signed their guys. With Arenado getting cut loose, there’s no way Story stays in Denver. If we keep working them, there’s still a chance to win the offseason. They need infielders, especially with 3B now open—offer India and ask for cash.

    That said, this is still a solid team. Aside from SS, there are no glaring holes. The rotation has top end talent AND depth. Had there been a 162 game schedule in 2020 and the veterans reverted to their career norms over the course of a long season, the Reds easily win the division and these projections would look markedly different. Yes, mine is an optimistic take, but it’s just not plausible that there are 3 teams in the division better than Cincinnati…….especially the Cubs.

    • LDS

      Throw in David Bell as a bonus. If Story would agree to a reasonable and affordable extension, as they did with Gray, trade Senzel or Saurez instead of India. If they can’t negotiate an extension, look to Adames with TB, although TB is likely a sharper FO that will clean Cincinnati’s clock.

      • MuddyCleats

        Like they Rocs idea, but don’t forget Brendan Rodgers as an option? I also have hope 4 Jeff Hoffman. At times, Kid pitched well n Coors. Had a live arm – maybe he can recapture his good side again?

    • Westfester

      Agreed. 2020 was such a WEIRD season that it’s gumming up projections for everyone. I still believe the Reds have the best rotation in the division by far. the starters will play more like the back of their baseball card. There’s no way Suarez will struggle to bat .200 this year.

  7. Grand Salami

    Lost ace starter. Catcher is a wash. Lost Galvis with no replacement.

    Even with improvement from some guys it’s hard to argue with a minus 5-6 win projections

    • JoshG

      I won’t be at all Surprised if antone/Lorenzen have at least comparable numbers to Bauer this year (2021).. especially park adjusted numbers

      Bauer has had 1 and a half GREAT years and 5 mediocre to not very good years in his career

      • TheCoastMan

        Yea, and he seems to shine every other year . I really like Bauer and hope he has a good year, but he won’t have driveline right there with him so I think the Dodgers are shelling out a lot of money assuming that he will repeat 2020.

  8. CI3J

    Gosh, you mean PECOTA predicts the Reds are roughly an 80 win team, just like I’ve been saying all offseason?

    Which again begs the question: WHAT’S THE PLAN? Except for a few players, the Reds are all in or past their primes. This is as good as this version of the team is ever going to be, which is pretty much mediocre. So what’s the point of keeping these players?

    SELL! SELL! SELL! Everything that isn’t nailed down, SELL, and try to get some solid pieces to build on for the future.

    The only players who might conceivably still be useful when the Reds are ready to try again in 3-4 years are:

    CF Senzel (who would be 28-29 at that time),
    1B Winker (30-31)
    SS Garcia (25-26),
    C Stephenson (27-28),
    RF Aquino (29-30),

    SP Santillan (26-27),
    SP Sims (29-30)
    SP Mahle (29-30)
    SP Antone (30-31)

    That’s a decent group of players to have in their prime, supplemented by a younger group brought in from trades and from the Reds’ own farm system (Lodolo, Greene and India come to mind).

    There is no point in keeping Castillo or Gray, trade them both and see if you can land a blue chip prospect or two from a team looking to compete now, while their values are high. Trade Geno. See if anyone will take Castellanos, Moose, or Miley. Play a AAAA team for a few years until the kids are ready and Votto’s contract comes off the books. Yes, it will be painful, but it’s really the only way. Because the alternative is the Reds stick with these expensive, aging players who manage a few 70-80 win seasons, after which their value will be gone and the Reds will have nothing to trade to get better.

    Sadly, I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to end up happening. At no point in the last 20 years have I seen this front office try something bold. Ok, that’s not true. They traded Aaron Boone for Brandon Claussen. They traded Kearns, Wagner and Lopez for Bray, Majewski, and Royce Clayton. Oh, and Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez.

    I guess last offseason kind of counts as “bold” since they spent more than they ever have of FAs, but they need to recognize that plan has failed and they need to quickly move on. They have a very small window to set this franchise up for success in the future. Will they do it?

    • DataDumpster

      A reasonable analysis and strategy. By stating that everyone is on the table for trade, it seems like they were open to pursuing this. By not following through, they failed and probably pissed off our best players. Anyway, I was expecting and not totally unhappy with a “show me” season. Are the trades made really that bad, are several players due for a bounce back after an historically bad hitting year (in an odd season) and is David Bell really the man to lead this crew?
      So, a middling year and some clarity that leads to bold adjustment 2022. That’s as good as it gets!

    • Hotto4Votto

      Good question, what is the plan? I don’t think the Reds know, or they’re certainly not acting like it.
      This team needed to add to improve from last season. Yet it’s largely been subtraction. Allegedly they are poor and don’t have the resources to put winning baseball on the field. So they can’t improve and are aging. Yet, instead of recognizing that fact, and making a decision on a direction, they Doolittle.
      I honestly applaud the Pirates for picking a direction. At least their fans know there is a plan. The Reds plan is to hope for a miracle.

      Tear it down. I would hate it because the latest long, bungled, rebuild really never paid off, but I would understand it. Rebuilding at this point is the smart move. Don’t make the same mistakes in waiting too long to cash in on Castillo, Gray, Suarez, and Winker.
      Stop sitting around and make a decision on a direction instead of just stalling.

    • TheCoastMan

      Pecota does nail some teams, but they also miss badly on other teams like the Cubs last year. If memory serves me correctly, they had the them projected for 5th or 6th place. Bottom line is that I am going to take those projections with a grain of salt. IMHO, I think the Cards end up better than the Brewers.

      Seems to me they are plugging in last years Reds offense, which was probably a bit of an aberration. If the Reds offense plays to their career numbers, and Votto can be about 75% of the old Votto, then the offense will be vastly improved and somewhat competitive. Maybe, 85/86 wins? Maybe…..

    • greenmtred

      The plan, it appears, is to spend less money. The players they’ve acquired this off-season have been the guys a talented team would add for AAA depth. We might be surprised, but not all surprises are pleasant.

  9. RedsFan11

    Suarez + whatever prospect required for Story.
    Moose to Third
    Senzel to Second
    Play Ball

    • Gonzo Reds

      I wonder how many HR’s 2019 Suarez would have hit in Coors field…

      We’d probably have to throw Jim Grey into the deal for the Rockies to take Suarez.

      • ClevelandRedsFan

        If by Jim Grey, you mean Jim Day, then no deal for me.

        I would trade ANY PLAYER on this roster for the Reds to actually 100% plan for the future. But Jim Day is the truth. You can’t trade Jim Day, not even for Mike Trout + $400 million in cash.

        Love me some Jim Day.

    • 2020ball

      Why in the world would you trade a controllable star player for a more expensive one year contract….and throw in a prospect?

  10. DataDumpster

    Interesting projections but I always rely on people betting with real money. There, the Cardinals and Braves are nearly even money to win their division while PECOTA has a vastly different outcome. Its player performance metrics cannot project how much the manager will use those players and the value added or subtracted by the manager himself.
    Expect a reversion closer to the mean for hitting but the same uninspired and boring play that has characterized the David Bell era. I’m taking under for 80 wins.

  11. Eric Wormus

    Dan Szymborski makes a larger point that gets overlooked when we debate/argue over this player or that player, and that is a 31-29 team has gotten worse at several positions and has improved at exactly 0 positions. How can anyone expect that team to have a BETTER record than the prior year?

    Regardless of whether Bauer repeats his last year numbers (unlikely), he pitched 73 innings (roughly 15% of the team total) and allowed only 17 runs. That production is simply not going to be replicated. Iglesias pitched 23 innings with a 176 ERA+. That production isn’t likely to be replicated by anyone on the roster.

    Offensively, the Reds got more production from the catcher position than anywhere else on the roster. Why? Because of Curt Casali’s 126 OPS+. He’s gone. Tyler Stephenson is going to have to replicate that, or they are worse at C than last year. The two worst positions were CF and 2B. You hope a healthy Senzel/Moose can improve upon .654/.516 OPS’s, and they really should. But you got a .668 OPS out of SS last year and there is a decent chance that drops this year.

    So what you have is a team that in 2020 relied on an amazing starting rotation/back of the bullpen to get you a measly 31-29 record. The offense was putrid. You have then subtracted from your rotation/bullpen AND subtracted from your terrible offense. How does that team get better?

    • Doug Gray

      To answer the 1st question: Because many people believe that the 31-29 team underperformed almost across the board on offense and that a regression to the norm would be a far better offense. Of course, that also ignores the loss of Bauer and Iglesias (but also ignores that DeSclafani wasn’t good, Miley missed most of the year and wasn’t good when he was out there). I can make the argument that the team, on paper, is about .500 heading into Goodyear despite the losses.

      • west larry

        I also figure the reds at about .500 ball. I would feel even stronger if we fortify the shortstop situation. The pitching is still strong, and some of the hitters will rebound from their terrible 2020 numbers.

      • Eric Wormus

        I think while individuals certainly underperformed in 2020, the total offensive production at certain spots was higher than people would intuitively think. Catcher is the perfect example. I never would have dreamed the Reds got more production out of catcher than any other position. So if you look at swapping Stephenson for Barnhart, it should be a net plus offensively, but what about Casali’s production? I hope I’m wrong, but it’s likely production from the catcher spot drops.

        First base was the 2nd most productive position. Is Votto likely to repeat his 114 wRC+? I wouldn’t be surprised, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that drop a little at 37.

        I guess what I’m saying is, even if individuals perform better than last year, it’s going to still require career bests from Winker/Castellanos/Senzel for the team as a whole to be better offensively. And then, if they improve offensively, have they improved MORE offensively than they got worse defensively? To get there, you probably need Suarez to match or exceed 2018 and Moose back to 2017 form. It seems like to have to catch lightning in a bottle several times to be better than last year.

      • JayTheRed

        This is exactly why I’m waiting til the end of spring training before I make my final decision on if I Watch my 2nd favorite team more this year or If I watch and pay for my 1st favorite team. A trade can still happen maybe just maybe Garcia worked hard over the winter and learned how to hit better, Maybe there is a dark horse that is a late bloomer that gets the SS job. This coming season has so many questions and hopes that it will be pure happiness if this team turns it around and has a winning record.

  12. Sliotar


    With all due respect, the Reds wouldn’t spend or entice a SS in free agency.
    Story has a contract for $17.5M for 2021, then is a free agent. Reds paying that?

    To save face on Arenado trade, Colorado would want a fortune for that one year … the shaky Reds prospect pool would be mostly depleted.

    Plus, Suarez is cost-controlled and the only above-average position the Reds have.

    • RedsFan11

      All valid points. I got nothin. Heres to another 30 years of futility.

  13. JB

    If you go to the dictionary and look up the word “if” , you will find the definition of the Cincinnati Reds. It’s always “if” with this team.

    • RedsFan11

      Do not trust to hope.. it has forsaken these lands.

      • JayTheRed

        +1000 , love it. nice reference.

  14. TR

    I prefer to remain the usual Reds optimist leading up to Opening Day. There’s plenty of time after that for reality to set in.

  15. ClevelandRedsFan

    If the Reds aren’t truly in the hunt around trade deadline time, they should strongly consider selling and prepping for the future. Front office made the mistake around 2014-2017 of holding on to players too long and the returns were bad. Farm system is meh right now. If this year proves that Reds need another rebuild and the front office botches it again, then we’ll have 10-15 years without scoring a run in a playoff game.

    Looking at the roster, the Reds really have strong depth offensively. They should be average to slightly above average everywhere except SS. The problem is that they lack a true difference maker on offense.

    Remember 2013? They had the exact opposite problem then with superstars in Votto/Choo (who I believe were 1 and 2 in OBP). Bruce/Phillips were solid, but everyone else was a black hole. Teams just pitched around Votto every game. Remember when we all complained about batting average with runners in scoring position? We’ll find out this year if a balanced offense is better than one with a couple superstars.

  16. Hotto4Votto

    Well our rotation is worse. Replacing Disco with Mahle is likely an upgrade, but we don’t have anything close to replacing Bauer.
    Bullpen, likewise is taking a step down. Losing Iglesias and Bradley from the back end and only replacing with Doolittle, who we’re hoping bounces back and regains the velocity he’s been losing over three years. If Lorenzen and/or Antone are in the rotation that further takes away from the bullpen, which also lost Stephenson who was good in 2019 (lost year in 2020).
    The offense will likely take a step back as it ages. Votto, Moose, Akiyama, and Barnhart, are all on the wrong side of the aging curve and Suarez is approaching fast. They haven’t added any offense and the SS position actually, somehow, projects worse. The defense will be bad, if not worse especially if Winker players LF and Akiyama CF most days instead of DH and LF respectively.

    Yeah, one can see why we’re projected to finish 4th. In fact, we should thank the Pirates for tanking so hard or we may be projected cellar dwellers.

    • JayTheRed

      Here is the thing. They are not tanking.. They are not building with scrap heap players. The are letting their young guys take the reins and growing pains but they are young and hungry. It will be probably about 4 years or so before they have a legit team but I bet if they keep the path they are showing their fans they are clearly on. They will be a much improved team in about 4 years or so. At least the fans know the direction and plan as someone above stated.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Tanking, not trying to compete, rebuilding…whatever you wanna call it. I do appreciate the Pirates aren’t trying to pull one over on their fans and have been upfront about their plan. Must be refreshing.