Opinion: The Young Red Machine Time to Compete

Reds Spring Training
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The Cincinnati Reds finished third in the NL Central last season, winning 82 games and losing 80, finishing ten games behind the division champion Milwaukee Brewers. Many fans have mentioned what if…What if we brought up the young kids sooner? Below is last year’s opening day starting lineup: no Elly De La Cruz, Matt Mclain, or Andrew Abbott. I will say this about the opening day Roster last year: Elly not making the roster to start the season was more about controlling the ability to win the division. I believe the Reds figured they were middle of the pack and keeping control of service time rather than trying to start the year off to win the division. They had Jose Berrao and Kevin Newman, who they figured could provide adequate production from the shortstop position. Matt Mclain would’ve been brought up to sit on the bench behind India Vosler was holding Votto’s spot for him and Steer was playing third already. Andrew Abbott was in contention for the 4th or 5th starting rotation spot but ended up losing out to Luis Cessa and Connor Overton, which was another service time decision. Management had to juggle the service time control of this young nucleus the best they could, which lately in the MLB seems to be a huge “fan” debate across the league with highly touted prospects. The strangest move from last year was carrying three Catchers on the opening-day roster: Tyler Stephenson, Luke Maile, and Curt Casali. Yes, Stephenson can play first and DH, but De la Cruz could’ve played DH or even played in the field with more production potential than Casali or Maile; but would he have had everyday at-bats? That is something we can only debate about now.

Reds Opening Day Lineup vs. Pirates

  1. Jonathan India, 2B
  2. TJ Friedl, CF
  3. Jake Fraley, DH
  4. Tyler Stephenson, C
  5. Jason Vosler, 1B
  6. Wil Myers, RF
  7. Spencer Steer, 3B
  8. Will Benson, LF
  9. Jose Barrero, SS

2024

I mentioned everything above because, believe it or not, the Reds face a similar situation this coming season with a plethora of infield talent and high hopes for the season, so will Noelvi Matre or will it be Christian Encarnacion Strand be this year’s Reds prospect we are debating about being brought up sooner or being wasted on the bench too long? Below is the projected starting lineup as of now for the Reds courtesy of Fangraphs and Roster’s resource.

With the addition of Jeimer Candelario, who essentially is taking the spot of Joey Votto, who currently remains a free agent, the team still has a log jam of talent and provides manager David Bell with plenty of options depending on righty-lefty matchups this season. Below is the depth chart by position.

I want to see this; I want to see this young core from start to finish. Marte, De La Cruz, McLain, and Candelario offensively provide a very good infield. The Outfield with Steer, Fairchild, and Benson is fine. The right upgrade would make sense, but it is unnecessary; it would have to be the right addition for the right cost, and I prefer to see it as a platoon with Benson in case he struggles out of the gate. I have mentioned previously the likes of Adam Duvall, who, with his right-hand power back, could fit nicely with this young core. Last year, this team was ranked fifth in runs scored out of 15 teams in the national league and still lost 80 games; how many more runs can we expect from this club? What’s realistic for them to blow everyone out and provide the number-one-ranked offense? Will that be enough run support for the pitching staff?

Pitching staff:

The Reds have young talent in the lineup, and their rotation includes Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcroft, Andrew Abbott, Nick Lodolo, and Brandon Williamson. If the team rolls into the start of the year with these five, they will be fine, but adding a number 2 starter would elevate the rest, although to do so via trade would most likely mean one of them would go. As talented as this group was last season, the pitcher with the most wins on the team also led the team in Saves. Alexis Diaz was 9-6 with 37 saves last year. For this team to take it to the next level, they need to start getting wins from their starters. The most wins from a starter last year came from Andrew Abbott, with eight wins in 21 games started. By the numbers, Abbott was the best pitcher the team had last year. Starting 21 games, going 8-6 with a 3.87 era, over 109.1 innings pitched, 120 strikeouts, 44 walks, and a WHIP of 1.317. Brandon Williamson was the only other starter with a better WHIP than Abbott, with a 1.282 WHIP over 23 starts and 117 innings pitched, going 5-5. Seeing Alexis Diaz with nine wins, six losses, and 37 saves gives you a glimpse at how tight some of the contests were for the Reds last season. Besides Diaz’s six losses out of the pen, the rest of the bullpen was on record for 22 losses, giving the bullpen a combined 28 games lost. The other 52 were recorded to the starting pitchers. Last year’s pitching staff ranked 13th out of 15 National League teams in ERA 4.83 as a team. If this does not improve, this team will be right where it was last year in the middle of the pack; yes, I know Lodolo missed time, and Greene missed time, but still, as a team, giving up close to five runs a game is tough for an offense to cover each night.

How to Improve the Rotation

****FRANKIE MONTAS SIGNED FOR 16$ MILLION ACCORDING TO Jon Heyman**** Montas pitched just a single inning last year in September following a shoulder injury at the end of the 2022 season. In 2021 won 13 games and pitched 187 innings with 207 Strikeouts and a 3.37 ERA. In 2022, he won five games, pitched 144 innings, struck out 142 batters, and had a 4.05 ERA below the Reds team average last year. If Frankie can stay healthy, he definitely has the potential for a solid season and is a key contributor to the Reds rotation.

The team could go out and trade for the likes of Dylan Cease or Shane Bieber, but I would instead go after a guy who has team control and adds to the young core so we can see this team flourish this season and seasons to come with team-controlled players. Adding pieces where it makes sense here and there. I do not think the team should go after Jordan Montgomery or Shota Imagana, but Marcus Stroman could make some sense on the right deal. None of these guys are the dream addition in my eyes, though; my dream candidate would provide team control through 2028 and has already proven to be able to win games and handle a heavy workload for his current team. My top dream trade candidate is Seattle’s Logan Gilbert. The 6 foot 6 right-hander is only 26 years old and has had an era under four the past two seasons.

Gilbert, being this young and with the team, control will be costly, but if you look at the numbers, our pitching is holding us back, not so much because of the lack of offensive production. The trade below is a lot, but any trade, including Gilbert, will cost the Reds a top prospect, that being Noelvi Marte. Yes, I know he is the starting third baseman and top prospect, but Logan Gilbert would be the Ace of the future, allowing Hunter Greene to slide in as the number two and everyone else to shift down after that.

Who plays third then??

If this trade did happen and Marte was, in fact, part of this deal, then you see Canderlario or Steer shift to Third. Most likely, Candelario is moving Indai to First base and keeping Steer in Left. Yes, you lose Marte, but production-wise, offensively, how much do you really lose? You already ranked fifth out of the 15 National League teams last year; the question is, how much better does Marte make this offense versus Gilbert making the rotation? Gilbert would make a more significant impact and push this team over the top, pushing for not just the division title but, perhaps, a deep playoff run if the rest of the staff stays healthy. Remember, there could be a way for Marte to remain with the team; it would mean one additional prospect and, most likely, Jonathan India, who truly doesn’t have a solid offensive second-base option, being moved to Seattle. This trade is my solution to the pitching staff issues from a year ago. Prospects and potential are excellent, but Gilbert was a highly touted prospect himself not long ago and has proven his talent over the last two years. Gilbert, in my opinion, has the potential to contend for a Cy Young Award within the next three years, whether with the Reds or with the Mariners.

Conclusion

I will admit the addition of Frankie Montas while writing this article excites me about his potential, but again, he fits the same idea as Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. He has to stay healthy and have everything go right to make a significant impact. The Reds have talent/potential in the field and the rotation, but in order to make the push to a deep playoff run on a year-to-year basis, this move puts the Reds in a great position to do just that. Suppose the team can keep up or slightly improve the offensive numbers from last season, and the pitching staff with Gilbert can lower the team ERA and get a couple of starters to ten-plus wins. This team might surprise people this year, especially those already crowning the Dodgers World Series Champs!!

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