Offseason Tracker and Analysis: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were a strange team to figure out last season, as they had a positive run differential for most of the season, yet had a losing record for practically the entire season. Nevertheless, as evidenced by the acquisition of starting pitcher Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline, this team is all-in on contending next season, and if they can add some offensive firepower to complement their deep pitching staff, there’s no reason they can’t win the NL Central.

Expected Direction: Doing Whatever It Takes To Win Next Season

Reds Sign 2B Mike MoustakasĀ 

moustakas
Photo Cred: Beyond The Box Score

Contract Details: Four Years, $64 Million

Grade: 7/10

In what has to be one of, if not, the most shocking signings so far, the Reds have signed infielder Mike Moustakas to a four year, $64 million contract. Whether it’s the overall amount of the deal (Moustakas had to settle for one-year contracts the past two seasons), or the fact that he’ll move from third base to second base, this is just an odd deal, though that’s not to discredit Moustakas. The 31-year-old has continuously improved his WAR over the past three seasons, and this season, he had a solid 2.8 WAR and 113 weighted-runs-created plus (wrc+). Plus, he also posted a career-best 9.1% walk rate, and comes with zero signs of regression offensively. Can the “Moose” play second base? That remains to be seen, but in this era of heavy shifts, it’s certainly possible, especially since he rated out as an average defender there in 359.2 innings last season. If he can be an average defender, this will be a great deal for the Reds, as Moustakas’ offense is much more valuable at second base than third base- there are far fewer second basemen than third basemen with his offensive profile. Still, a four-year deal for the 31-year-old is quite the gamble; the Reds are essentially paying for Moustakas’ best-case scenario, thus making this a deal unlikely to pay off, even if it isn’t a terrible deal.

Reds Sign SP Wade Miley

miley
Photo Cred: WCPO.com

Contract Details: Two Years, $15 Million (2021 Club Option Worth $10 Million With $1 Million Buyout)

Grade: 7.5/10

Putting the finishing on a very deep rotation, the Reds have signed Wade Miley to a two-year, $15 million deal. With an ERA in the low 3.00s through August, Miley, 33, was on his way to a career season with the Astros. However, he was terrible in September, and in the end, saw his ERA bloat up to 3.98 with a 4.52 xFIP. On the bright side, Miley’s expected statistics are all promising, as he’s generally been great at suppressing hard contact; his strikeout rate also climbed to 7.53 K/9 last season. With a suboptimal K-BB ratio and only 248 innings pitched over the last two seasons, he’s nothing more than a decent back-end rotation option, but perhaps being reunited with pitching coach Derek Johnson can lead to him realizing his full potential. If not, though, he’s not much of an upgrade over Tyler Mahle, so bringing him in on a two-year contract definitely comes with some risk.

Reds Sign OF Shogo Akiyama

shogo-akiyama-ap-2016
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Contract Details: Three Years, $20 Million

Grade: 8/10

In an intriguing international signing to improve their outfield, the Reds have agreed to terms with Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama on a three-year contract worth $20 million. Akiyama, 31, was coveted by several teams this offseason, as he posted a .321/.399/.497 slash line during an impressive five-year stretch in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. That came with great walk and strikeout rates, which should help his offensive production transfer to the major leagues; he did also hit for much power, but we have no way to know how that’ll translate, or how strong of a defender he’ll be. He’ll likely be a top of the order bat for Cincinnati next season, and will slot into center field, while Nick Senzel moves to a corner outfield spot. Will this pan out for the Reds? Maybe; high on-base center fields are tough to find, after all. Still, like every move they’ve made so far, there’s a decent amount of risk with this deal, and counting on him to an above-average everyday player could prove to be an unwise decision. For now, it’s very difficult to judge this signing, given the lack of data we have to judge the Japanese star on.

Reds Sign OF Nick Castellanos

castellanos
Photo Cred: USA Today

Contract Details: Four Years, $64 Million (Opt-Outs After Years 1 and 2, $20M Mutual Option 2024, Deferrals)

Grade: 6.5/10

The Reds have been very active this offseason, but with plenty of outfield depth, they didn’t appear to be a major player in the market for Nick Castellanos. So naturally, they signed the 27-year-old to a four year, $64 deal, with opt-outs after each of the first two seasons and a $20 million mutual option for 2024. There’s no doubting Castellanos’ ability as a hitter, as he ranked in the 85th and 90th percentile in expected weighted-on base average (xwOBA, .364) and expected slugging percentage (xSLG, .547), and has been extremely consistent. The concern with Castellanos, rather, is with his defense in the outfield; he has always been a well-below average defender. Now, his metrics did improve in that area, but I don’t foresee much more improvement, and with his chase rate eclipsing 40%, I’m worried his offense won’t be elite enough for him to be more than a 2-3 win player. That on its own isn’t worth $16 million per year, but this is also a lengthier deal that I expected after Marcell Ozuna signed a one-year deal, and by giving him opt-outs after the first two years, Castellanos has all the leverage over the Reds. Sure, he’ll help improve an offense that struggled last season, but since their outfield was already strong, it won’t improve it enough to make this a sensible contract; they’re essentially hurting their long-term financial flexibility to receive minimal improvements with their outfield production. This has to be agent Scott Boras’ most impressive contract negotiation of the offseason, which doesn’t void well for the Reds.

Reds Sign RP Pedro Strop

pedrostrop
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Contract Details: One Year, $1.825 Million (w/Incentives That Can Increase Contract Worth To $3.5 Million)

Grade: 9.5/10

The Reds have one of the league’s best starting rotations and have added several position players, but until now, they had neglected their bullpen, which is solid but needed some extra depth. They’ve finally addressed that area of their team, bringing in reliever Pedro Strop in a one-year contract worth $1.825 million, with incentives that can push the value of the deal to $3.5 million. Strop, 34, spent the last six seasons with the division-rival Cubs, and in that time, established himself as one of the most consistent relievers in the MLB. However, his performance has slightly declined in recent years, as his 4.19 xFIP a season ago was the highest it has been in his career. Notably, his fastball velocity (93.6 MPH) went down by 1.5 MPH, but that didn’t seem to affect him, as his strikeout rate (10.58 K/9) was significantly better than the season before. Rather, it was worse control (4.32 BB/9) and much more home runs allowed (1.3 HR/9) that hurt him. There’s hope for Strop, however, as he induced ground balls (52.9%) at a high rate, and didn’t allow much hard contact, so it’s likely that his 18.8% HR-FB rate from last season will come down. Therefore, it’s likely that the longtime Cub gets back on track this season, and if that’s the case, he’ll be a steal for a Reds team that really needed a stable relief option like him.

*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Reds Make

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