Monday, 2 April 2012

2012 Previews: Cincinnati Reds


The Majors
This is a pretty good time to be a Reds fan.  Walt Jocketty is going to do all he can to convince both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to stick around, and that involves going out and trading for young pitching studs like Mat Latos.

The offense, led by Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, shouldn't be a problem.  They scored 735 runs last season, even with uninspiring performances from Scott Rolen and the SS combo of Edgar Renteria and Paul Janish.  The latter should be tempered with the emergence of rookie Zack Cozart, though I don't really know what to say about Rolen.

As mentioned, the rotation will get a severe boost with the addition of Mat Latos, and the subtraction of Edinson Volquez.  Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto will round out a pretty decent rotation, and if everyone stays healthy, the historically terrible Bronson Arroyo won't throw 200 innings again.  This rotation is pretty thin though, so if someone gets hurt and misses a significant amount of time, it could be curtains.

The signing of Ryan Madson made this bullpen look outrageously strong, but he's now going to miss the season.  As result, "outrageously" changes to "pretty".  Sean Marshall should get the bulk of the save opportunities, and Aroldis Chapman will likely be the setup man.  Nick Masset and Bill Bray will also provide some solid relief innings.

All in all, this is a good team, and is my pick to win the sort-of-strong NL Central.  They should have been better than they were last year (and would have been if not for disappointments from Volquez and Rolen, plus injuries in the rotation which forced them to give Bronson Arroyo too many innings), and they definitely improved over the winter.  May as well make a push while Votto is here.

The Minors
I fully expect Walt Jocketty to sell out his farm system this summer.  They could use another arm in the rotation to move the virtually untradeable Arroyo to the bullpen (he has $15MM deferred in his contract, but trading him voids the deferral and that money needs to be paid upfront), and maybe find another 3B if Rolen continues to disappoint.  The problem is that they moved a lot of good prospects in the Latos deal, and now have a fairly modest system.  There are still parts there, but most of their big pieces are now in San Diego.  I can see Jocketty going after Matt Garza at some point this summer, but I'm not quite sure if he's got the pieces to get the deal done if there are other suitors.

The Verdict
When you combine the removal of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder from the division with the improvement that this team has made over the winter, I think this is the best team in the NL Central.  If Phillips walks after this season, or if Votto walks after 2013 (Votto is obviously the less replaceable of the two), I can see some big problems going forward.  This team was bad for quite a while before winning the division two years ago; it would be nice if they could hang around for at least a little while.  Instead, it looks like they're going to have a rough time keeping both guys around, and with such a mediocre farm system, I struggle to see any success past 2013 without Votto.  The Reds should be all-in for these next two seasons, and then it might be back to the drawing board.

[Update: I'll just leave this here.]

Projection: 91-71, 1st in the NL Central

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