The free agency period in Major League Baseball begins today. There’s not likely going to be a whole lot of signings today, or even this week around the league. It’s a long offseason, and typically things don’t begin to heat up until around the winter meetings and those don’t take place until early December. Still, there will be some action this month, and behind the scenes teams are going to be working the phones with agents and players to at the very least gauge the interest between the two parties.
Jim Bowden of The Athletic proposed landing spots for his Top 40 free agents last week and of those 40 players, Cincinnati was among the ideal spot for three of them. Today, Tim Britton and Aaron Gleeman published a similar article at The Athletic. Within it there were six different players who had the Reds listed as among the “best fits”. All six of them were pitchers. Among them were former Reds Sonny Gray and Aroldis Chapman. None of the six pitchers included are projected to get big contracts, or even long contracts – the longest among this group was a 4-year deal at just $70,000,000. That may be “big” in Cincinnati, but only because the franchise has avoided free agency like they’ve avoided advancing in the playoffs over the last three decades.
It would seem that pitching is the Reds biggest area of need, and the national publications tend to agree. Whether that’s adding a veteran starter to help the rotation out or to add some arms to the bullpen – it’s the pitching that’s the focus.
Cincinnati certainly could use some help on the other side of things, too. As things stand today their outfield is quite heavy on left-handed hitters. Spencer Steer, who isn’t an every day outfielder (though he is an every day player), is the only guy in the mix who doesn’t hit from the left side of the plate. TJ Friedl, Will Benson, and Jake Fraley all swing from the left batters box. Adding a righty to the mix could go a long way, especially with how much David Bell likes to play the platoon game with 90% of the roster. The addition of the designated hitter to the National League also helps create additional at-bats for someone that wouldn’t have been there all that long ago.
There are going to be several players posted this offseason from Japan and Korea. The biggest name is Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orin Buffaloes. Love it or hate it, he’s going to be out of the Reds price range if we’re to believe the clubs own words. He’s projected to cost somewhere around the $200,000,000 mark to sign, and that wouldn’t include the posting fee.
It was announced this morning that Jung Hoo Lee would also be posted this offseason, with Jon Morosi of MLB Network noting it should happen later in the month. The recently turned 25-year-old outfielder has played in Korea for seven seasons. He missed about half of the 2024 season, and it wound up being the worst season he’s had in quite a while – he hit .318/.406/.455 while walking 49 times with 23 strikeouts in 86 games. For his career he’s a .340/.407/.491 hitter with 383 walks and 304 strikeouts in 3947 plate appearances (career stats here). While we just talked about how left-handed the Reds outfield is, and Lee is a lefty, too, he could be an interesting addition to the lineup if his contact rate could come remotely close to what he’s been able to do in Korea in his career. And likely a very important factor for the Reds front office – he’s not expected to command a high price tag.