It’s unclear what direction the Reds are going in. They’ve expressed interest in acquiring big name starting pitchers in Dallas Keuchel and Sonny Gray, but they also are trying to trade away pieces such as second baseman Scooter Gennett. For now, under new manager David Bell, Cincinnati is still in a rebuilding phase.
Current State: Rebuilding
Reds Hire David Bell as Manager
Speaking of Bell, the Reds recently hired the 46-year-old to be their new manager. Bell was in the Giants front office as their farm director last year, but before that was the Cardinals bench coach from 2015-2017. He played in the majors for 12 seasons, from 1995 to 2006. Bell is similar to AJ Hinch of the Astros, in that he’s a former player coming from another front office. Apparently, he was high on the Blue Jays’ wishlist and would likely have been the Giants manager after Bruce Bochy if he stayed, so he definitely was in high demand. Bell’s experience with analytics, player development, and as a former player makes him a solid hire in this day in age. He seems like one of the best choices for a team that looks to be coming close to ending their rebuild and needs their young players to take the next step.
Reds Acquire SP Tanner Roark in Exchange For RP Tanner Rainey
As they look to bolster their rotation, the Reds have acquired starting pitcher Tanner Roark from the Nationals in exchange for reliever Tanner Rainey. Roark, 32, had one of his worst years as a pro. He had a 4.34 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and a 4.27 FIP. Despite being a sinker ball pitcher, his ground ball rate was much lower than usual at 40%, and his HR/9 was also high at 1.2. Considering he’s going to play in a notorious hitters park at Great American Ball Park, these two rates are concerning. Rainey was already 26 and had a 24.43 ERA in limited action last year, but the cost for Roark is his salary, which is projected to be just short of $10 million. For a starter who’s posted back to back seasons with an ERA north of 4 and will likely struggle in his new stadium, that’s an absurd amount. Reds fans may not be pleased with the output they get from Roark this season, who will likely be asked to do more than he can. In other words, he’ll be expected to match his salary, which will almost certainly not happen.
Reds Acquire OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp, SP Alex Wood, and C Kyle Farmer in Exchange For SP Homer Bailey, SS Jeter Downs, and RHP Josiah Gray
In a blockbuster, the Reds have acquired outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, starting pitcher Alex wood, and catcher Kyle Farmer in exchange for starting pitcher Homer Bailey, shortstop prospect Jeter Downs, and right-handed pitching prospect Josiah Gray. Puig, 28, had an OPS of .820 last season and a 2.7 WAR. He and Kemp, who had a .818 OPS and a 1.1 WAR, should thrive hitting in Great American Ballpark.. However, Cincinnati also acquired two more corner outfielders. They seemed to set with Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler in left and right field, but needed someone to replace Billy Hamilton in center. So naturally, they traded for a corner outfielder in Puig and a defensive liability in Kemp, who has totaled negative defensive runs saved in every season starting in 2013. Puig and Kemp add power to the Reds lineup, but don’t improve the team significantly. Plus, both are in their final years making north of $10 million, with Kemp making north of $20 million. That’s too much for a small market team to spend on two marginal upgrades, if they even are upgrades, despite them getting rid of Homer Bailey’s huge contract. Wood, 27, may actually be the headline of the deal. The left hander had a 3.68 ERA last season, with a 1.20 WHIP and a 3.53 FIP. The year before, he had a 2.72 ERA and was an All Star. His ground ball percentage remains around 50%, so he may be able to overcome playing in a hitters friendly stadium. If Wood can go back to his ways of inducing soft contact and stays healthy, he can be at the front of the Reds rotation. However, he only has one year left of control, and acquiring three players with one year until free agency who are making north of $40 million is too much. Farmer, 28, still has six years left of control, but he may be nothing more than a backup catcher with his career .639 OPS in limited action to go along with the fact that he has never been a high prospect and is already 28 years old. So in other words, the Reds are paying around $20 million in total to acquire three players in their final seasons and a backup catcher, while also giving up two prospects, included a pitching prospect in a farm system that lacks quality pitching outside of Hunter Greene. This team is still not in position to contend, and won’t be able to make the moves necessary to become a contender with limited financial flexibility and less prospects to trade. This trade seems like a waste.
Reds Acquire SP Sonny Gray and LHP Reiver Sanmartin From Yankees In Exchange For 2B Shed Long and a Competitive Balance Pick and Also Extend Gray
In another win-now move, the Reds have acquired starting pitcher Sonny Gray and minor league pitcher Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a Competitive Balance Pick. Gray, 29, struggled to the tune of a 4.90 ERA with the Yankees last season, also posting an unimpressive 4.17 FIP and a 1.50 WHIP. However, there still is a lot of intrigue with him, considering he finished third in the AL CY Young voting in 2015. While he was awful pitching in Yankee Stadium (6.98 ERA), he actually was an above pitcher on the road this season (3.17 ERA). His second half (3.63) was also much better than his first half (5.46 ERA), meaning that there’s an excellent chance that he bounces back this season. The Reds are trusting him to be at the front of their rotation, a risk considering Great American Ballpark was actually more hitters friendly than Yankee Stadium last year. However, their home stadium tends to cost them from landing any free agent pitchers, so it’s understandable that they moved quickly to extend him. As far as the money, Gray received a contract similar to what Lance Lynn got earlier this offseason, and is easily the superior pitcher despite last year’s struggle. I’m not a fan in giving up two potential long-term pieces for him in Long and the pick, but it definitely looks like a better move now that they extended him. New York turned him into a two pitch pitcher, so hopefully he’ll go back to utilizing all his pitches now that he’s reunited with his college pitching coach Derek Johnson. Sanmartin has also had success in the minors so far, posting an incredible 14.5 strikeeout-to walk ration last season and reaching Double-A. The 22-year-old is definitely someone to keep an eye given his track record for success in the minor leagues so far. I still don’t like this win-now direction that the Reds are trying to go, but that doesn’t stop me from acknowledging this acquisition as a solid move nonetheless.
Reds Sign RP Zach Duke
The Reds have signed reliever Zach Duke to a one year, $2 million contract. Duke, 35, had a mediocre season last year. He was strong with the Twins, posting a 3.62 ERA, but posted just a 5.62 ERA once traded to Mariners. Overall, he posted a 4.15 ERA with a 3.01 FIP and a 3.74 xFIP in 52 innings pitched. Looking at his FIP, it’s clear to see Duke was a better pitcher than his ERA would indicate. Furthermore, his BABIP allowed jumped to .348, despite the fact his hard contact rate allowed decreased to just 29%. He also continued to induce ground balls at an impressive rate (59.4%), and is a perfect fit for the Reds’ small ballpark. This move gives Cincinnati a second reliable lefty in the bullpen to go along with Amir Garrett, and another useful veteran asset at a very cheap price. Assuming Duke’s luck improves this season, he’ll be well worth the $2 million that the Reds are paying.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Reds Make
Stats Courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Savant