We move from the NL West to the Central Division as we head to the Queen City. The Cincinnati Reds had a tough season in 2020 and look to rebound after a disappointing off-season.
Key Additions: Sean Doolittle
Key Subtractions: Trevor Bauer, Raisel Iglesias
The Reds made moves in hopes to compete in 2020. The team’s payroll was above $135 million for the first time in nearly a decade, but success did not follow their efforts. The team signed Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas while a trade for Trevor Bauer in 2019 made people hopeful the team could contend in 2020 and beyond. The poor season along with the economic hit due to the coronavirus made the majority owner, Bob Castellini, quickly change course as the team cut payroll prior to the upcoming season. 2021 will have to be a bounce back season if fans wish to see the team stay in tact.
The team finally had someone win the Cy Young and they promptly left. Reds fans will tell you “Of course Trevor did it in a shortened season and of course he left for the Dodgers”. Bauer figured something out with the Reds and it looks like he could be dominant in L.A.. Despite the success Trevor had, Castellini was unwilling to sign him to a deserving deal and the team only ever offered up a qualifying offer to ensure a draft pick. His loss will hit the team hard as he was penciled in to be their ace.
Losing Iglesias is a major blow as well. Raisel is signed through 2022 and has been constantly above average for the Reds. His 2019 was rough, but he bounced back well in 2020. For his career, Iglesias has logged over 400 innings of work with an ERA+ of 137. Since 2016, he’s had an ERA+ of 150 or higher in four of the five seasons. Cincinnati not only loses a frontline stater, but a consistently great reliever in one off-season.
Despite the departures, the Reds still have a solid pitching staff. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray sit at the top of the rotation while Tyler Mahle figures to the number three. Mahle had a great year last season and the numbers indicate it wasn’t a fluke. He pitched much differently in 2020 compared to years past and it looks like he might’ve turned the corner right when the team needs it most. In the bullpen, Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett will be the two go-to guys in the later innings. Lucas Sims figured something out as did Tejay Antone; they will act as solid middle relief. Sean Doolittle is the biggest acquisition of the off-season for the Reds. He’s struggled the past couple of years and will act as a reclamation project. If there is an organization that can help him revive his career at 34, it would be the Reds. Their coaching/development staff on the pitching side of things is one of the better ones in baseball.
Offensively, things will go much different this season; they have to. The Reds were the worst offensive team in the league last year and they have nowhere to go but up. Cincinnati hasn’t seen such poor production from their lineup in nearly a century. They have too many good hitters for this not to be a solid offense. Guys like Nicholas Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, Jesse Winker, and Eugenio Suárez are too good for this team to be dead last in offensive production two years in a row. Throw in that Shogo Akiyama hit for a .821 OPS in his last 21 games and this team has a chance to be above average.
There are two guys who factor to be a part of the Reds’ lineup every day that worry me. Joey Votto is no longer the Votto everyone in Cincinnati hopes he can be. His slugging percentage has been below .450 three straight seasons now while the average continues to dip and his strikeout rate goes up. Something to note is that his BABIP in 2020 was .110 points lower than his career average. Simply put, he was incredibly unlucky. Even still, he won’t be the MVP-caliber player we saw in 2017 or the decade prior. The other guy I worry about is Nick Senzel. He’s struggled mightily since making it to the big leagues and it is something that no one saw coming. Some of that is due to injury without a doubt, but that’s just the thing. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy since being drafted in 2016 and it’s something that can’t be ignored any longer. If the Reds aren’t able to get proper value out of him in 2021, it may be time to move on.
Amongst all the disheartening things that’s happened for the Reds since the end of last season, not having a shortstop is their biggest issue. The team got the least amount of value at shortstop in the league in 2020 and will certainly be even worse this year. As of right now, the team doesn’t have a shortstop. Their options are Dee Strange-Gordon, Kyler Farmer, Jose Garcia, and Kyle Holder. I don’t need to explain that isn’t good.
The good news for the Reds is that the rebuild they’ve been going through should start to pay off now. Tyler Stephenson made his debut in 2020 and was very impressive. With the departure of Curt Casali, Stephenson figures to open the season with the Major League club and split time with Barnhart behind the plate. Nick Lodolo, the team’s first-rounder in the 2019 draft, should make his debut this year. He’s very polished and displayed excellent stuff in his brief professional debut in 2019. Those two plus Hunter Greene’s ascension should give the people of the Queen City hope.
With Bob Castellini unwilling to spend the money necessary to compete consistently, the outlook for the Reds is bleak if 2021 is a repeat of the truncated 2020 season. Luis Castillo and Eugenio Suárez were rumored to be on the trade block this past off-season and I’m sure they’d likely be dealt if the upcoming year ends up being a bust as well. The Reds have talent and if they perform well enough they may stave off yet another rebuild.