The last time that the Reds made the playoffs, or even finished the season with a winning record was 2013 when they went 90-72. Since then, their highest win total in a season has been just 76 wins. However, this is a team on the rise that has made some significant acquisitions this offseason. Even though they have not been good for a while they will be looking to claim a playoff spot in 2020 and should take no one by surprise.
This article features the Cincinnati Reds with a future article featuring the Pirates coming later.
Additions (position, 2019 fWAR): Mike Moustakas (3B/2B, 2.8), Wade Miley (SP, 2.0), Jose De Leon (RP, 0.0), Justin Shafer (RP, -0.1), Nick Martini (OF, -0.2), Josh D. Smith (RP, 0.1), Travis Jankowski (OF, -0.1), Shogo Akiyama (OF)
Subtractions (position, 2019 fWAR): Jose Peraza (2B/SS, -0.6), Kevin Gausman (SP/RP, 1.6), Jimmy Herget (RP, -0.1), Brian O’Grady (OF, 0.1), Alex Wood (SP/RP, -0.2)*, Derek Dietrich (UTIL, 1.1)*, Jose Iglesias (SS, 1.6)*
The Reds have been one of the more interesting teams this off-season. So far they have added Wade Miley to complement a starting rotation that finished the season 9th in FIP and 5th in xFIP. A rotation of Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley looks really good. The bullpen last season was also solid for the Reds as it finished 12th in FIP and and 8th in xFIP. With the addition of Wade Miley, what was already a strong pitching staff becomes even stronger and could end up forming the backbone of this team. Another way that the Reds have improved their pitching staff is through personnel changes. The team hired Kyle Boddy, the founder of Driveline, to be its director of pitching initiatives and pitching coordinator. Boddy has been at the forefront of pitching development since founding Driveline and is among the game’s brightest minds when it comes to pitching. This kind of a hire is how the team will look to maximize the potential of an already strong pitching staff.
On the hitting side of things, the Reds appear to have significantly improved. Mike Moustakas is a big bat that will be added to the lineup in order to replace Jose Peraza/Derek Dietrich at second base and should provide significantly more offensive production than that combination. As of right now, this gives the Reds a starting infield of Joey Votto Mike Moustakas, Freddy Galvis, and Eugenio Suarez with Tucker Barnhart behind the plate. While there are certainly some possible weak links, such as Votto, Galvis, and Barnhart, it looks to be a solid group overall. Votto’s bat declined sharply last season, dropping from a 130 wRC+ in 2018 to a 101 wRC+ in 2019. If he can rebound next season, then this group will be much better at the plate and he would provide a significant boost as neither Barnhart nor Galvis have posted a wRC+ above 90 in any MLB season.
While the infield looks solid, but unspectacular for the Reds, the outfield is looking strong. Currently, the three starting outfielders are likely to come from the group of Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, and Shogo Akiyama. Winker posted a solid 128 wRC+ in 2018 and another solid 113 wRC+ in 2019 as he looks to be an above average hitter. Senzel, on the other hand raked in the minors, but then tallied just a 90 wRC+ in the big leagues last season. He is likely to be the largest question mark on the team. If he can improve his hitting ability then he will add a couple more wins to what should already be a potential playoff team. Aquino strikes out a lot (28.0% K%), but also hit for a lot of power (.317 ISO) in his rookie season. This led to a 119 wRC+. It remains to be seen if his power can be replicated, but his .266 BABIP at least means that it is likely that his overall production at the plate was not a fluke. Shogo Akiyama is also a bit of an unknown, but he has shown a good amount of power and on-base skills to project as an above average hitter in the MLB. Any combination of these four players gives the Reds three solid lineup options (if Senzel finds his bat) and when paired with Suarez and Moustakas, that is at least five above average hitters. If Votto can have a bounce back season then that is six above average hitters.
The Reds might not be done making significant acquisitions to the roster, however, as they are reportedly among the front-runners to sign Marcell Ozuna. This would create an interestign scenario for the Reds that would give them the chance to move Nick Senzel back to the infield. This is where he is more natural, and if he could replace Freddy Galvis at shortstop, then he could keep a likely below average bat out of the lineup.
While it might be too soon to anoint the Reds as a playoff team, at the very least they will be competitive and should finish with a record firmly above .500. The revival of the Reds gives the Cardinals three other NL Central contenders to worry about and they will be hard pressed to repeat as the champions in 2020.