This is my first blog post so if it's a little crappy and disjointed that explains why. The MLB offseason has been fairly quiet but the team this article is about has been inadvertently making moves for a couple years now to prepare for competition in the NL Central. That's right the Cincinnati Reds.
When I say the Reds inadvertently made these moves I mean that Reds management is terrible and they have been lucky to get who they have on this roster which is surprisingly ready for contention in the Central.
First off there is the line-up. By moving Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn last season the Reds freed up cap space and opened up roster spots for rising stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. I'll admit that both Votto and Bruce, after fast starts cooled down considerably. Now that they've been through a season of major league baseball they should be more conditioned for a whole season. Young guys like Bruce and Votto will be able to adapt to a new league quickly and are ready to be productive members of an already potent line-up.
But lets no forget about the rest of Reds line-up. Players like Brandon Phillips (who's only 27) and Edwin Encarnacion (25) are going to bolster Dusty Baker's line-up card, while coming into their prime as hitters. Jeff Keppinger, a healthy Ryan Freel, and Chris Dickerson give the Reds a speedy and slick fielding base to complement the stars on their team. If the team can re-sign Javier Valentin they should be set at catcher but if not they will need to look to other free agents or
You can't talk about the Reds without bringing up some caveats however. Their minor league system is pretty dry after calling up Bruce and Votto and their bench isn't deep or experienced enough to play better than replacement level. Cincinnati will be looking for talent during spring training to bolster their bench. If the team can re-sign Javier Valentin they should be set at catcher but if not they will need to look to other free agents because Wilkin Castillo and all their other options aren't ready for full time major league work.
Enough with the line-up, though what everyone wants to know about is whether or not the Reds can pitch. In a hitter's park like Great American Ballpark, which accents the Reds' stars Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, it is essential that pitching is nearly perfect. The pitching is definitely getting there. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are the veteran leadership that the Reds so desperately need, but both of them really had off years last year. If Harang plays better and drops his ERA half a point he could've had six more wins and six less losses. Arroyo really isn't more than a third starter but he got a lot more run support than Harang. He just needs to pitch better too.
What really excites me about the Reds though is the rest of their rotation. Edison Volquez is a stud plain and simple. He played out of his mind all year so I expect a bit of a drop off but he'll be able to put up good numbers all year. Jonny Cueto is crazy too. All of his stuff moves. Hopefully he'll be able to harnish some of it and dominate. The Reds can then take their pick between the veteran Micah Owings and the youthful Ramon A. Ramirez., which will probably be decided during spring training.
The Bullpen is another story though. Francisco Cordero is going to be a solid closer all year as long as he stays healthy. Jared Burton, Gary Majewski, and Billy Bray will anchor the 'pen but thats about as deep as it goes. Plus you never know if any of these guys is going to get pasted or get injured thus crippling the effectiveness of getting to the end of the game without giving up exorbitant amounts of runs. With the exception of Bray and Cordero the Reds' bullpen is very generic with few power guys or pitchers who will be able to trick hitters.
Overall the Reds are a solid, though not very deep team. Their line-up is stacked with good hitters and fielders, but they don't have a very deep bench. Likewise, the starters will get though six or seven innings well but may end up losing games due to the fact that the bullpen is pretty shallow and may be liable to giving up runs. If things break however this is the kind of team that will be able to score enough runs to not have to worry about it. The NL is a weaker division especially if players like Manny Ramirez and C.C. Sabathia end up playing for AL teams so the Reds should be able to contend and have a good chance at the Wild Card spot for the NL.