The Reds’ offseason is a month old, and the people of #RedsTwitter have already jumped on every tiny rumor about free agency and trades the Reds might partake in, or just moves that the club will never make. Like, say, signing both Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon.
Some of the louder voices on #RedsTwitter have been trying to change the narrative that the Reds are a small market club. They also believe that the team has bags of money to spend on the biggest free agents. Donnie and I send these kind of tweets back and forth all the time and my main response is usually along the lines of, “Great idea. Who’s buying the team to make that happen?” I don’t enjoy being negative about my team, but there’s been no reason for any rational Reds fan to believe that the club will do anything like a big-market team would.
Dick Williams has said that the club plans to expand their payroll in the offseason. That should happen if the Reds want to compete again in 2020. Let’s be realistic here though, friends: Bob Castellini has not shown a willingness to splash big cash for free agents. Most of the big moves that have happened in his ownership era have come down to trades. Obviously, winning in baseball doesn’t just come down to money. Take the A’s and the Rays, for example. These two analytic-driven clubs have some of the lowest payrolls in baseball and were able to get to the postseason by playing well with guys that aren’t making much. Zach Greinke made more money this year than the entire Rays’ ALDS Game 3 lineup.
The Reds placed 17th in overall payroll ranking this year. Right above them were the Milwaukee Brewers, an NL Wild Card team that was in the hunt for the Central division championship until the last day of the season. Just below the Reds, the Minnesota Twins won 100 games this year and improved upon their 2018 record by 20+ wins. The Atlanta Braves won the NL East by 9 games with a payroll only $9 million larger than the Reds’ payroll. Those teams got to the postseason with incredibly good development and smart acquisitions that worked for them, while the Reds haven’t been able to put it all together yet.
Dick Williams and Nick Krall have shown they want to put a winner on the field by making trades without giving up their biggest prospects. Obviously Taylor Trammell went to San Diego in the Yasiel Puig/Trevor Bauer trade, but the main core of Nick Senzel, Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson and Hunter Greene have stayed in the organization. David Bell has also been instrumental in the club’s progression by actually using analytics and hiring baseball minds that are numbers-driven.
While adding to the pitching staff would be nice, the Reds are in great need of anyone that can provide more offense. As a team, Los Rojos finished 22nd in on-base percentage and OPS, 24th in batting average, 25th in runs per game and 29th in doubles. The pitching staff had a masterful year and will try to recreate the magic next year, but it will be tough to duplicate their stellar output in 2020. The Reds desperately need more offense if they are serious about competing.
Assuming ownership will continue their stance of not giving big money to free agents, there’s still a path for the Reds to make the playoffs with their current wage bill and savvy pickups that fit the Castellini mold. I’m going to break down the Reds’ possible acquisitions by cost, probability and team need by using the Castellini Meter! The Castellini Meter has three settings: Low Bob, Medium Bob and High Bob.
Gerrit Cole – Despite what RedsFan_Brandon said in the tweet above, Gerrit Cole will not be signed by the Reds in the offseason. Cole is the biggest piece of the free agency market and will garner way more than anyone else will before the 2020 season starts. If he goes for less than $250 million, that is an absolute steal for the Yankees, Dodgers or Angels, the only three teams in baseball that can easily pay that amount of money. Needless to say, that’s probably not in the Reds’ price range. Plus, when you have Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer in the rotation, do you need any more firepower?
Anthony Rendon – The season MVP of the Nationals will not be coming to the Queen City in the offseason. The world champs have the funds and already offered him a big contract of 7 years and $215 million. If he decided to not take that deal, Tony Two Bags would be offered even more than Nolan Arenado just got ($260 million) to produce like he did this postseason. Even though Chad Dotson says Rendon would be moved to second, he’s only played one game at that position since 2015. He’s going to play third base and the Reds have a third baseman that just hit 49 bombs last year. It’s not a pass, it’s just that the Reds can’t pull together that much cash for him.
JD Martinez – Martinez is built for the American League. He was a good outfielder with his previous teams, but his bat is his best asset. He’s made two straight All-Star teams as the designated hitter in the AL and had MVP votes last year after his stellar season. He has a player option on the remaining 3 years of his contract which would pay him $66 million. He’s going to probably have another All-Star season as a designated hitter for a team like the Angels that wants to win no matter the cost. If he goes into free agency, the Reds will probably pass.
Francisco Lindor – Lindor has two more years left on his current contract with the Indians. While the Cleveland ownership group has blatantly said that they wouldn’t spend money on players, why would they give him up this early when they can easily compete in their division again with a good rotation and decent lineup? Jon Morosi also recently reported that the Dodgers are also interested in trading for Mr. Smile and signing him long-term. A team with a ton of money that is in complete win-now mode is more likely to get Lindor than the Reds.
Yasiel Puig – Puig is an interesting case for a free agency addition. While he would be a fan favorite still, he wasn’t the same player in Cleveland after the trade as his power numbers went down. He had another good season, but the split between the two teams is interesting.
Puig looks to be on track for a one-year “prove it” deal with a contender that needs a right-handed bat and he could be in range for the Reds. With the rise of Aristides Aquino, though, the team doesn’t need to add a right fielder at the moment and would probably pass.
Didi Gregorius – Gregorius is a former Reds farmhand and would be a welcome addition to the Reds lineup. Sir Didi had a tremendous 2018 before being injured, slashing .268/.335/.494 with 27 bombs and 86 RBI. He returned halfway through 2019 to help the Yankees win the AL East, but his production dropped this year because of said injury, slashing .238/.276/.441 with 16 homers and 61 RBI. He would likely demand a four year deal for $12-16 million per year, which is do-able for the club. The only problem is that Gregorius can be given a $17.8 million qualifying offer by the Yankees, which if he declined he would have a compensatory draft pick attached to him. That hurt the free agency stakes of both Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel this past year and might damage Gregorius’ stock.
Marcell Ozuna – Some #RedsTwitter personalities have pushed pretty hard for Ozuna. It’s not hard to see why – The Big Bear had another good season with the Cardinals this year, picking up an .800 OPS, 29 dingers and 89 RBI. MLB Trade Rumors reported that St. Louis will extend a qualifying offer to Ozuna, but won’t look to extend him long-term because of the amount of outfielders they have ready to play next year. Ozuna has the same fun attitude as Yasiel Puig and his numbers are similar to the Wild Horse.
Both will need a place to play this offseason and will likely require eight figures to acquire. If I had to guess, the Reds’ braintrust will not give big money to either of these corner outfielders.
Mookie Betts – Betts fits the mold that the Reds made in their moves last offseason: players with one year left on their deal that clubs are looking to get rid of. The Red Sox and Betts have disagreed on his future contract and with Chaim Bloom recently being named Chief of Baseball Operations in Boston, the outfielder could be on the move. The 2018 AL MVP would cost the club $20 million in 2020, but the Reds are willing to pay that. The only stopping point is who the Red Sox would want in return. As long as Boston doesn’t want one of the Reds’ top five prospects, Dick Williams will make a deal to bring the Nashville native closer to home. Betts would be a great acquisition, but the Reds might have a different Boston outfielder in their plans for the offseason.
Corey Seager – With the Dodgers’ outward pursuit of Francisco Lindor already starting, Seager may be the odd man out in LA. Although he might be involved in the return package for Lindor, Seager is 25 and has already broken out in LA, winning Rookie of the Year unanimously in 2016 and making two All-Star games as well. Fun fact: he led the NL in doubles this season. Seager would be an easy fit for the Reds at shortstop and if he can keep hitting for a .272 AVG, .817 OPS and 87 RBI like he did in 2019, he would be in line for a long-term extension. If the club were to acquire Seager, that would probably mean Jonathan India’s departure from the organization. If Dick Williams is truly in win-now mode, though, they will give up whoever they can to win.
Starling Marte – The Pirates cleaned house in October and will probably not be ready to win for another few years as they look to replace their manager, president and GM. It would lead fans to believe that Marte, a long-tenured star center fielder in Pittsburgh, is most likely on the trading block this offseason. He has two more team option years left on his deal totaling $24 million and would provide a big boost in both defense and offense. The Reds also need a center fielder when they move Nick Senzel back to second base. Sounds good, right? The problem lies with the club he currently plays for. The Reds may not be interested in giving prospects to a divison rival. Baseball Reference that the Reds haven’t made a trade inside the Central since 2014, when they traded Jonathan Broxton to the Brewers at the trade deadline. If Marte’s asking price is not high, they’d be crazy to not take it. You can live with those prospects you send there becoming successful if Marte were to help you to a division or league title.
Yasmani Grandal – The former Red farm hand was already linked to the club a day after his Brewers fell in the NL Wild Card game. Catcher has definitely been a weak spot in the Reds’ lineup ever since Johnny Bench retired and while Grandal is not on that level, he would be a welcome offensive boost to a lineup that could have used his .848 OPS and 28 long balls last season. Grandal seems cut and dry for the Reds to bring in, but the only point of contention is where his priorities lie in this offseason. After receiving a qualifying offer from the Dodgers in 2018, the Brewers signed him for 2019 and instantly reaped the benefits. The Reds would love to sign him for a one year bridge deal and give Tyler Stephenson one more season to become major league ready, but Grandal might want a longer deal for more money after doing two consecutive short-term deals.
Jackie Bradley Jr. – The current Red Sox center fielder looks to be out of favor in Boston and would also step right into the Reds’ biggest need for 2020. Bradley is known more for his glove than his bat, but did hit 21 homers last season and would probably benefit from playing at Great American Ball Park 81 games a year. Bradley has one more year left on his deal for $11 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021. The Gold Glove center fielder was the ALCS MVP for the 2018 World Series Champions and he would play a big role on a contending team with the Reds next year. The best part of Bradley? He likely won’t cost much for the Reds to pick him up. He’s expendable for Boston and would likely only require the Reds to send a lower-tier prospect or a small player there in order to get Bradley. If we can’t have native son Andrew Benitendi back home, we need another Junior roaming center field in Cincinnati. It just makes sense.
This offseason is huge for the Cincinnati Reds. (Well, duh.) Fans want the best players to play for the Reds and to get the Big Red Machine running again. Dick Williams has also said that they want to spend more in free agency because of the amount of trades they made this past year. His moves have been made with the future of the club in mind, but more importantly, he and David Bell want to win. Any player that comes up in conversation has to make sense for the Reds’ needs, though, and the Reds are not really in need of a third baseman or another right-handed starter that would cost them way too much money. I don’t want to douse the fire on the hot stove, I just want to be realistic about any additions the Reds look to do. They need to make smart decisions that will help the club produce more offense and add to the stellar pitching staff they’ve already built. There’s less than 150 days until Opening Day where we’ll see these new guys play for the first time in a Reds uniform.
In Dick Williams, we trust.