By Hal McCoy
The rumors keep surfacing, not from the halls of the Cincinnati Reds front office, but from other teams all over the map.
The Reds are listening to offers for Sonny Gray. They are listening to offers for Luis Castillo. They are listening to offers for Eugenio Suarez. They are listening to offers for Mike Moustakas.
They are listening to offers for everybody but the batboy.
And another rumor is that general manager Nick Krall is under pressure to carve at least $25 million off last season’s payroll.
If that’s true, one wonders if that is the reason that Dick Williams vacated the president of baseball operations position after he worked so hard to bring Gray, Moustakas, Archie Bradley, Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama to Cincinnati. The silence from the Reds, as they say, is deafening. And, as they also say, where there is smoke there usually is fire.
What is curious about all this is that the rumors/talk involves starting pitchers and infielders, the two strongest parts of the Reds’ roster.
The team has a glut of outfielders, but so far no rumors have surfaced about Castellanos or Jesse Winker or Nick Senzel or Akiyama or Aristides Aquino.
It was thought late last season that the universal designated hitter rule used by both leagues during the truncated pandemic season would carry over to 2021. That would alleviate some of the challenge for Reds manager David Bell to find playing time for his overabundance of outfielders.
But that may not be the case.
MLB recently sent a memo to all teams to assume that the DH won’t be used in the National League, although MLB and the players union still could reach an agreement to use the DH before the season begins.
“Those discussions are ongoing and last year created an opportunity to try out some new things,” said Bell. “The big question is what do the fans enjoy.”
National League traditionalists do not favor or like the designated hitter, not even a little bit.
Bell said as a National League lifer he was always against the DH, but having used it last year he has wavered.
“I’ve been part of the National League for so long and I enjoy the National League game,” he said. “But going through a season with the DH I can absolutely see that it can have a place in the game. We’ll adjust to it, whichever way we go. With our situation, we’re set up to go either way.”
So how do things set up in the outfield?
“Jesse Winker served in the DH role last year and did a good job,” said Bell. “It wasn’t easy stepping in to be a DH when you’ve never done it before. I also know he really wants to play the outfield.
“We’ll have to make a decision based on what’s best for our team and I know Jesse has worked hard to become a better outfielder. And he wants that opportunity and I’d like to see him get that.
“We’ll see how it plays out and if there is not a DH we’ll have to navigate that,” he added. “That’s one more decision we’ll have to make each night.
“We have both Nicks (Senzel, Castellanos) out there and Jesse and obviously Shogo,” Bell added. “We have a strong outfield, a strength of our team. We’ll have to figure out each day who is in the starting lineup.”
It would seem the best scenario would be Castellanos in right, Senzel in center and Akiyama in left. Senzel, though, has difficulty avoiding the trainer’s room, forcing the Reds to use Akiyama in center and Winker in left.
And Bell did not mention Aquino.
“The key for Nick, of course, is to be healthy and stay healthy,” said Bell. “And he is. He finished last season healthy. Having some extra time off in the off-season he’ll have time to really strengthen his shoulder. He did finish the season strong.
“We know what he can do. If he can stay healthy, that’s the key,” Bell added. “In the time that he has played he has shown that he can play in this league and be a really good player. He is very talented and has done a really good job when he is out there.”
When he is out there.
“His luck is going to turn around and we’ll get to see him and see what he is capable of doing for a full season.”
And Shogo, the first Japanese-born player to wear a Reds uniform?
“You look at the season he had, look what he had to do,” said Bell. “He came in at spring training and had to adapt. We got shut down for a few months and he had to come back.
“He deserves a ton of credit because he is extremely professional, worked really hard to learn the league, learn his teammates. In the end, you saw it pay off because he was playing really well, especially toward the end of the season when we were playing better as a team,” said Bell. “It was an extremely successful year for Shogo and I think it will be better for him next year because of the way he handled last season. We’re excited to see him in a full season.”