If you’re looking for a train wreck, the Queen City is a good place to start. Not only did the Reds lose quite a bit of talent through trades since last July, but they arguably weren’t able to get rid of enough as both Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce had deals fall through after it seemed they were destined for Washington and Toronto. If you thought the 2015 Reds were bad, this team will be a lot like that one, only without the distraction of the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby champion Todd Frazier.
Depth Chart (as of 3/7)
C: Devin Mesoraco
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Brandon Phillips
SS: Zach Cozart
3B: Eugenio Suarez
LF: Adam Duvall
CF: Billy Hamilton
RF: Jay Bruce
SP: Homer Bailey
SP: Anthony DeSclafani
SP: Raisel Iglesias
SP: Mike Lorenzen
SP: Tony Cingrani
CL: J.J. Hoover
Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, Caleb Cotham, Blake Wood, Jordan Pacheco
For the sake of keeping this short, we’ll only look at those who finished the season in Cincinnati. Aroldis Chapman was traded to New York for four minor leaguers and Todd Frazier to the White Sox for three minor leaguers (from the Dodgers). Manny Parra (CHC) and Skip Schumacher (SD) left through free agency.
Left field looks like it could be a mess for the Reds, as Adam Duvall of the .204/.268/.409 batting line through 55 major league games is slated as the starter with Rule 5 pick Jake Cave, who has only played 7 games in AAA, listed behind him.
Another position of contention is the pitching staff, as after Bailey, DeSclafani, and Iglesias there is very little to choose from for the rotation and after Hoover in the bullpen, there’s little experience there. The Reds haven’t selected a closer yet to replace Chapman, and while they could go with Hoover, that leaves the question as to who will pitch the innings before the ninth. At the moment, there are no good answers.
Of those veterans still with the Reds, almost all could be considered high injury risks. Mesoraco missed almost all of 2015 and Bailey pitched just 11.1 last year and won’t be back until mid-May after his 2015 Tommy John surgery. Considering that the Reds will be relying on these two to be their best battery combination, there’s plenty to be scared about.
It depends on what you mean, but considering they don’t expect to win, it’s probably Votto. He is the only veteran who the Reds didn’t try to trade this off-season and he’s guaranteed money through 2023. Votto is the only player who has a promotional item based on him for the Reds this year because they likely had no clue who would still be with the team when they made the schedule. For the sake of maintaining some interest in the team, another MVP quality season by Votto would be huge in Cincinnati.
In the business sense, after missing all but 53 games in 2015, Cozart could be the Reds best asset to trade this year. His value has never been lower, but if he can play well during the first half, he can be a solid defender with more pop than the average shortstop. Suarez did a great job covering short in his absence last year and would be able to do so again if Cozart is moved. Since he is under team control through the end of 2017, he could bring in a decent return for a team desperate for a shortstop.
Leading up to the next three topics, will the Reds lose 100 games this year?
Best Case Scenario
If Bruce plays more like he did from 2010 through 2013 and less like he has the last two years, if Phillips can hold off old age one more year, and if Votto can post another MVP type season, the Reds could score a few runs. There’s no way to believe that they will prevent them, however. This is particularly true since the defense will likely take a step back without Frazier and with the aging Votto and Phillips on the right side. Fangraphs has them projected for 73 wins and a fourth place finish ahead of Milwaukee and that seems to be a very positive, if everything goes right type of number.
A more reasonable best case scenario is that the Reds are able to deal off the rest of their short term assets for near MLB ready prospects, grab a high draft pick in 2017 and try to compete again from 2018 on.
Worst Case Scenario
Coming back to reality, there’s no reason to believe Bruce will go back in time or that Phillips will be able to repeat 2015. If the worst (a season ending Votto injury) really happens, this team won’t be able to score or prevent runs and they could make the 2015 Phillies look like an All-Star team. Even so, there should be enough talent available to keep the team well under the Tigers 119 loss mark from 2003. If the best case scenario is a fourth place finish, there isn’t far to go for the worst and the Reds could definitely finish in fifth with about 60 wins this year.
Reality should be somewhere between the extremes, but don’t forget that the Reds will play 57 games against the Pirates, Cubs, and Cardinals this year. While 19 against the Brewers could help, it won’t be enough to boost Cincinnati significantly. I expect the Reds to finish with between 65 and 68 wins. This is what a team in full rebuild mode looks like.