The Cincinnati Reds are in the worst place to be in all professional sports…the mid-ground. Not good enough to compete with the NL powerhouses like the Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals, and the up and coming Braves, Padres, and now the New York Mets. But the roster would suggest they’re not bad enough to end up in the realm of cellar-dwellers like the Giants, Pirates and Marlins, right? What is wrong with the Reds?
After several off-season and in-season moves which included adding now-Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, Nicholas Castellanos, and Yasiel Puig in the middle of 2019, this team should be ready for a playoff push, especially considering the big league roster with current and former All-Stars in Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suarez, Luis Castillo, Mike Moustakas, and the arrival of new young talent Aristides Aquino and Nick Senzel with a season under their belts. This Reds team looked ready to take the 2020 season by the horns and make a deep run into October. With a shortened 60 game season due to COVID-19, this Reds team was underwhelming. Sure, there were bright spots to look at, first and foremost being having the NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer at the top of your staff. But looking around the rest of the roster, the players you expect to produce, well… they didn’t. And I get it, ‘oh it’s a 60 game season’, sure, but you cannot have the three main bats in your lineup, Suarez, Castellanos, and Moustakas all lack production for 30+ games and still expect to make a run in October. Finishing just above .500 (31-29) was good enough to get a Wild Card appearance, but it leaves the Reds front office looking around like ‘now what?’.
Well, I can sit here and tell you it is time to hit the panic button. You went all in to try to win in 2020, and now with an aging core of veteran players like the homegrown kid Joey Votto (37), Nicholas Castellanos (28), Eugenio Suarez (29), and Mike Moustakas (32), where do you go from here?
Let’s look at the positives first. The roster really played well in the second half of 2020, and made a brief postseason appearance as a Wild Card team. There is some young talent that is ready to produce Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel, Luis Castillo, with the anchors of the bullpen being Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen. You have a good enough roster to make another push into the playoffs with a rotation that features Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The main producers in the lineup still have good seasons ahead, but how open is this window?
Now for the not so pretty. Your farm system was ranked at 22nd in the middle of 2020, for a team that has had a draft pick in the top 15 the past five seasons, and four of them in the top 10, that is ugly to say the least. Let’s take a deeper dive. Three prospects in the MLB top 100, those being Nick Lodolo (51), Hunter Greene (54) and Austin Hendrick (88) (MLB.com). The Reds do not have enough in the pipeline to be competitive in the coming years, as the talent at the major league level ages, and with Trevor Bauer looking more and more likely to leave in free-agency this offseason as well as rumors swirling about trading Sonny Gray, are these the only moves that are going to be made?
I feel like there is only one answer to this, and that is no. If the Reds are n open to trading Sonny Gray, it means that they are realizing exactly what I am realizing, and what Reds fans may be upset to hear, you need to replenish and restart. It is going to be necessary to replenish that farm system in order to electrify the major league club for years to come. I also think that it is fair to say, that since The Big Red Machine, Cincinnati is not a free agent’s top five places to play, heck it may not be in the top 15 currently. Hunter Green looks like the real deal, Luis Castillo is established, you need to lock him up and move some players for prospects. One that comes to mind instantly is Mike Moustakas, an older player yes, but one that has some good years left and can be added to a playoff hopeful. The free agent market this year isn’t great, meaning deep, a couple of players who can really help a team and then some depth players. If I am the Reds, now is the time to sell on some talent at the major league level, you cannot be competitive after losing your Cy Young winner, it is time for a rebuild. But who knows, this is baseball, and the Reds could go either way, which is why they are in the worst spot in professional sports… in the middle.