2016 was not kind to the Cincinnati Reds. In a season that saw Adam Duvall emerge as a nice power source, the club struggled its way to a last place finish in the NL Central, as they finished the year with a very underwhelming 68-94 record. That was a whopping 35.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs, and also 19 games out from a Wild Card birth.
With the 2017 season now in their sights, the front office has some decisions to make. They currently have a roster with a handful of holes, and they could look quite different coming opening day compared to how they look right now. Will they trade franchise faces Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto? Only time will tell.
Now with the Winter Meetings nearly upon us, let’s take a closer look at where the Reds stand moving forward.
Positions of Need
Catcher: How long will it take before the Reds get fed up with Devin Mesoraco? He is constantly injured, and when he plays he simply is not the guy they have hoped he would develop into. Tucker Barnhart is still young and could develop into a nice play, but for 2017, the Reds need some veteran stability behind the plate for when Mesoraco goes down again.
Third Base: Eugenio Suarez is ideally a shortstop. His 21 home runs do make him a capable third baseman, and I am not saying he should be replaced. But the team could very easily be better off with him at second or short. This is not a primary concern for the team, but if they find the right fit, Suarez could be shifting positions.
Outfield: Adam Duvall broke out last season in the home run department, locking himself into a starting role for the time being. Billy Hamilton’s name has recently surfaced as a possible trade piece, but I am just not seeing it. That leaves one open slot for the club, and one that will likely be filled by a cheaper free agent addition.
Starting Pitching: The club has been decimated by injuries to their starting staff. Homer Bailey should hopefully be a go for Spring Training following a season ending bicep injury. Anthony Desclafani and Dan Straily both pitched well enough to earn slots in 2017. Brandon Finnegan also showed some serious flashes of potential. But each man still has questions surrounding their names, and no one is a bona fide stud. Look for the team to add some depth, in case injuries or underwhelming performances crop up.
Bullpen: The team has a few interesting pieces out in the pen, but some of those guys could also be turned back to the rotation. The team has a plethora of arms, so its pursuit will either come in the rotation or the pen. The pen likely needs the help more, as the team’s closer role is certainly up for grabs. Plenty of questions, even with some interesting names.
Catcher: If the Reds are going to target any catchers, they will be of the cheap, veteran variety, Someone along the lines of Alex Avila, Kurt Suzuki or Chris Iannetta would fit the bill. It is not a position the team must pursue, but if they do, don’t be surprised to see them consider a reunion with Ryan Hanigan.
Third Base: As I mentioned above, third base is not really a true need. But with the possibility of Zack Cozart and/or Brandon Phillips getting dealt, the team may feel they are best off with Suarez in the middle somewhere (if they do not feel either Jose Peraza or Dilson Herrera could handle those roles). Someone like Trevor Plouffe could appear on the clubs radar as a result.
Outfield: The team will likely take a look at the outfield market to fill right field. Rajai Davis is coming off a World Series appearance, and may be a fit. Then there is someone like Desmond Jennings, who could be had on an incentive laden one year deal to prove himself in the hitter friendly confines of Cincy. Cheap options like Nolan Reimold or Franklin Gutierrez could also find their names associated with the Reds during the Winter Meetings.
Starting Pitching: If the Reds add to the rotation, it will likely come in the form of cheap, underwhelming options. Someone who fits that description, Dillon Gee. Someone like Jhoulys Chacin could be towards the higher end of their scale, or maybe Scott Feldman. Jon Niese could be seen as a possibility, or maybe even someone like a returning Alfredo Simon.
Bullpen: There are plenty of bullpen arms out there this winter. Santiago Casilla could provide the team with closer experience. Bud Norris or Yusmeiro Petit would be the type of guys who could take either the pen or starters role when needed. David Hernandez is a guy who has always had the talent, but has not been able to put it all together, and may be the type of guy who can land a closers job in Cincy.
Possible Trade Pieces
Brandon Phillips: The team has some up and coming middle infielders, and it may be the end of the line for Phillips in a Reds uni. Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera are coming for his job, and their presence may force the team to move their long time face of the franchise. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the first team to come to mind in need of a second baseman. Do not count out the Toronto Blue Jays either.
Zack Cozart: The same thing said about Phillips applies to Cozart. Add in the presence of Suarez at third, and Cozart could be squeezed out in a hurry. The Mariners were long rumored to have interest, but they recently pulled the trigger on a Jean Segura deal. That leaves Cozart’s market a bit more up in the air. Some potential landing spots include, the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Joey Votto: Now Votto’s name has not appeared in rumors recently, but he has been considered a trade chip for a while now. Coming off a strong season, and the fact he is not getting any younger, now may be the time for Cincy to pull a deal off. Plenty of teams need a big bat, and Votto is just that. Consider the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers as strong possibilities if he is moved.
One Bold Prediction
My bold prediction is the Cincinnati Reds will leave the Winter Meetings without making a single deal. They will have talks about Votto and Phillips and Cozart, but the markets will not be as strong as the team will want. Any free agents they sign will be on the bottom end of the scale, and that could mean their deals can wait.
And be sure to check out all of our Winter Meetings coverage here at INSC! You can check out more team previews and other MLB Winter Meetings pieces here!
So what do you think? What will the Reds do during the Winter Meetings? Tell us in the comments!