After four consecutive seasons of 68 wins or less, the 2019 Cincinnati Reds put together a season which should have fans feeling hopeful about the direction of the organization. Cautiously hopeful, but hopeful nonetheless.
The Reds finished their 150th anniversary season with a 75-87 record and 4th place finish in the NL Central. The 2019 season was obviously not what fans were longing for when the Reds added names like Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray last offseason, but, realistically, this was the type of season we expected. And even though this team wasn’t a legitimate Wild Card contender long after the All-Star Break, at least this season offered more excitement than the past four or five years.
Reds fans witnessed the resurgence of a starting pitching staff that went from historically bad in years prior to one of the best in the MLB. The drastic turnaround was led by All-Stars Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, both of whom were still seeking to prove their worth in 2019. Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Mahle, and a platoon of Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Trevor Bauer were serviceable in the Reds rotation as well.
Additionally, Reds fans witnessed the emergence of young prospects like Nick Senzel, Josh VanMeter, and, of course Aristides Aquino (AKA The Punisher), who hit 19 home runs and drove in 47 runs in 56 games.
While the 2019 season was entertaining, the Reds still aren’t where they want to be as an organization. They will now look to the future and hopefully continue building a team that can be competitive in the NL Central. The Reds have already been active this offseason with the acquisitions of Travis Jankowski (OF), Nick Martini (OF), Jose De Leon (RHP), and Justin Shafer (RHP). These additions will certainly add depth to the Reds organization, but these are not the deals that will make Reds competitive next year.
The Reds missed out on a few of the more prestigious names in free agency and on the trading block already this offseason, but they made headlines yesterday when they agreed to a 4-year, $64 million deal with Mike Moustakas. This is the type of deal the Reds need in order to compete. However, it can’t stop with Moustakas. So, let’s take a look at what else needs to be done in order for the Reds to have a realistic shot at the playoffs in 2020.
Add Offensive Firepower
This is priority number one for the Reds. It’s no secret that this team struggled offensively last season. Ideally, the Reds would add a good bat in the outfield, middle infield, and at catcher. Moustakas will likely take over as the starting second baseman since he offers more offensive firepower than any other option the Reds have in the middle infield right now. As the roster sits today, Freddy Galvis would likely be the Reds starting shortstop. Galvis has the ability to fill the offensive void at shortstop, but that’s not a sure bet. The Reds could still consider adding a bigger name at shortstop, such as Didi Gregorius.
Rumors have been swirling for a while now about the Reds signing Marcell Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanosto add another bat in the outfield. In regards to catcher, the most realistic options for the Reds are signing Robinson Chirinos of the Houston Astros or trading for Omar Narvaez of the Seattle Mariners. They’ve already lost out on Yasmani Grandal and Travis d’Arnaud, so it would be wise for the Reds to add a catcher soon unless they plan to fill this void from within the organization.
(For more about the Reds options at catcher, read this article from fellow Diamond Digest writer Noah Gayhart)
Add Bullpen Support
The pitching staff as a whole was solid for the Reds in 2019. The bullpen started off hot but cooled off in the second half of the year. Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett are all reliable arms in the bullpen, and Raisel Iglesias is, whether Reds fan like it or not, probably the best option at closer. Iglesias was terribly inconsistent last year, but is an excellent closer when his stuff is working. The Reds have many other pitchers who could potentially comprise the remainder of the bullpen (Cody Reed, Matt Bowman, Lucas Sims, Tony Santillan, Sal Romano, Joel Kuhnel, etc.), but these pitchers are mostly unproven. The Reds did add some depth with Jose de Leon and Justin Shafer, but will that be enough?
Add Another Starting Pitcher
The Reds arguably have one of the best starting rotations in the MLB with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, and Anthony Desclafani. The Reds could go with Tyler Mahle as their number five once again in 2020, but they could strengthen their rotation even more with the addition of a proven starter. The dream scenario would be to add a name like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but that’s highly unlikely. The best option at this point would be adding Zack Wheeler, which is not a bad alternative to Cole or Strasburg by any means. Wheeler has been solid for the New York Mets, especially the past two years. The Reds have already shown interest in Wheeler, so maybe he will be the next big acquisition for the organization.