Reds have addressed some needs but offseason moves still available
The Reds went into this offseason with some clear objectives: find a left fielder, shore up the middle portion of the bullpen and figure out how to deal with a starting rotation that featured four pitchers heading into the final year of their contracts.
So, how ready are the Reds to go to Goodyear and begin spring training?
From the standpoint of fulfilling their offseason objectives, pretty close. The Reds may not have wowed anyone with their moves so far, but if you’re paying closer attention they’ve done a good job of providing potential solutions to the problems they face.
They were able to trade starting pitchers Alfredo Simon (to Detroit) and Mat Latos (to Miami) for four prospects who not only bolster the farm system but in the cases of infielder Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Anthony DeSclafani can help the Reds this season.
The Reds got their left fielder on New Year’s Eve when then traded minor league pitching prospect Ben Lively to Philadelphia in exchange for Marlon Byrd. That’s not a name that was talked about much as a potential answer but Byrd, 37, is coming off of consecutive seasons in which he’s produced 49 home runs, 173 RBI and scored 146 runs. His strikeout rate was 24.9 percent in 2013 with the Mets and Pirates, and then increased to 29 percent with the Phillies last season but he had slugging percentages of .511 and .445 the last two seasons.
Ryan Ludwick was the primary left fielder last season for the Reds, playing in 112 games total. He had nine home runs with 45 RBI and a slugging percentage of .375.
"We looked at all of possibilities, a number of guys we identified as the type of player we were looking for on our club, to provide the run production and leadership," said general manager Walt Jocketty on a conference call when the Byrd trade was announced. "The one thing that kept coming back about Marlon Byrd was how he played the game and how goes about his business, his work ethic and what type of teammate he is. It was something we take a lot of stock in guys like that who can provide a lot of different intangibles to the club, plus you look at his numbers and he’s produced a lot of numbers."
The Reds’ main hope for rebounding from last season’s 76-86 record is the return to health and form of first baseman Joey Votto, right fielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Brandon Phillips. All three missed significant playing time in 2014 — in the case of Votto (62) and Phillips (121) it was the fewest games they’ve played in a full season with the Reds — and none were consistent threats as they posted the worst offensive seasons of their careers in Cincinnati.
The Reds led Major League Baseball with 38 one-run losses last season.
By trading Simon and Latos the Reds lessened their number of arbitration-eligible players to five: shortstop Zack Cozart, third baseman Todd Frazier, catcher Devin Mesoraco and pitchers Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman. They also opened up a lot of competition for the two rotation spots behind Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Leake, as well as spots in the bullpen for pitchers trying to get the ball to Chapman.
The 40-man roster is filled after the Reds claimed right-handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson on waivers from San Diego on Thursday.
The team announced this week that pitchers and catchers will report to Goodyear on Feb. 18. Position players are to report on Feb. 23 and the first full squad workout is set for Feb. 24. They begin Cactus League play on March 3 against Cleveland and will have just one off day until they break camp on April 2.
Jocketty has six weeks to continue addressing needs and tweaking the roster before reporting begins. If the team is to come to a long-term contract extension with Cueto — and that would seem to be a longshot given the money and length of the deal it would take to sign the Cy Young runner-up — it’s going to have to happen before spring training begins. That’s the deadline Cueto’s agent has put on any negotiations. Other than that, the bullpen and bench depth are still targets for the Reds.