With 2016’s 68-94 record behind them, the Cincinnati Reds are looking to fill some holes in their roster in preparation for the upcoming 2017 season. While the team’s major and minor league systems include a wide variety of young players, there are still some improvements that the team would like to make this offseason.
“I’d say the priorities are to supplement the pitching, and the bench is obviously an area we can improve. The day-to-day position players, we’re in pretty good shape,” Reds General Manager Dick Williams told media sources on October 2.
Many of the young players new to the organization have come to Cincinnati in the various trades the team has made during the past couple of years during its rebuilding phase. A combination of the young players, offseason acquisitions, and a few veterans should compose the 2017 roster.
On the pitching front, the team has accumulated a wealth of young arms, many of which have reached the big leagues this past year. Hurlers such as Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed performed poorly and were later sent down to the minors after rough first appearances in the majors, but could be challengers for a rotation spot this spring. Rotation locks include right-handers Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, and the surprising Dan Straily, who led the team in wins after being claimed off waivers in April.
While there were bright spots in the rotation, many feel that the Reds’ bullpen was one of the worst aspects of the team last season. The Reds relievers compiled some of the worst bullpen stats in the team’s history in 2016, logging an extremely high earned run average and allowing over 100 home runs throughout the course of the season.
However, Williams has said that the bullpen is one of the key areas that he wishes to build on this offseason. In addition, he will have some relief pitchers available from which to build on, including Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen, who both performed well as relievers after coming off the disabled list midseason. Right-hander Jumbo Diaz and lefty Tony Cingrani should also be back for 2017 after their relatively good late-inning work last season.
The Reds experienced many pleasant surprises in the outfield during the 2016 season. Speedster Billy Hamilton augmented his base running and defensive prowess with an improved contact ability at the plate while logging 58 stolen bases. He is slated for the 2017 center field duties.
Power-hitting left-fielder Adam Duvall was another bright spot for the Reds last season. He displayed impressive power numbers, slamming 33 home runs while earning a spot on the All-Star Team. For all of these reasons, he seems to be a lock for left field.
Finally, Scott Schebler will likely handle right field after the departure of Jay Bruce to the Mets at the trade deadline. While Schebler does not have as many Major League plate appearances as Hamilton or Duvall, he did post strong numbers after being called up from the minors at the beginning of August.
Prospects such as Jesse Winker and Phil Ervin could also challenge for positions on the big-league roster come spring training.
The infield situation is a bit of a convoluted one for the Reds, as emerging young position players are somewhat blocked by veterans at the big league level. Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera are arguably the most big-league ready of the team’s young infield talent. However, with veterans Zack Cozart at shortstop and Brandon Phillips at second base, their playing time could be limited. For this reason, rumors involving a trade of Cozart or Phillips have been prevalent this offseason.
The veteran Joey Votto and his productive bat will man first base this year, while Eugenio Suarez is slated at the third base position after a full year of experience during 2016.
Behind the plate, veteran backstop Devin Mesoraco will likely be eased back into catching duties after shoulder and hip surgeries prematurely ended his season in 2016. Sharing the workload with him will be Tucker Barnhart, who is known for his strong arm and ability to throw out potential base-stealers.
Other young players will likely be available to shore up positions on the bench, such as waiver-claim Arismendy Alcantara, infielder Tony Renda, and outfielder Steve Selsky. Williams has mentioned looking at acquisitions for the bench during the offseason as well.
After compiling the second-worst record in Major League Baseball during the 2016 season, Reds fans still have some concerns about the readiness of the team for the 2017 season.
“While the team has acquired quality prospects in recent years, there are few that are ready to fill the gaping holes the Reds have and make an All-Star level impact on the game,” said sophomore Vinny Ramundo.
Junior Sam Veeneman agreed. “I think their bullpen and amount of inexperienced players will hold them back,” he said.
English teacher Julie Muething expressed the challenges of building a roster with so many new faces.
“I think with all of the new people it’s sometimes hard for [the Reds] to work as a team, so…in the offseason and spring training it will be important to get the old guys and the new guys to work together,” she said.
Even with all of the team’s faults, fans did express hope for a better 2017 season.
“It will be 2017, one step further away from the 2016 Reds,” Ramundo said.
“Still, go support the Reds because they’re our team. You can still have a good time even when they’re not so good,” Muething added.