By Hal McCoy
DAYTON DAILY NEWS
The season to forget for the Cincinnati Reds is over, something to be hidden in the attic like a Nehru suit or platform shoes.
For the second time in franchise history, the Reds lost 100 games and deservedly so. Management dumped veteran players overboard last off-season and at the trade deadline like pirates raiding a brigantine.
They rid themselves of starting pitchers Sonny Gray, Wade Miley and Luis Castillo. They sent away position players Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Tyler Naquin, Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham.
By trading Suarez, Winker and Castillo to Seattle, they helped the Mariners qualify for post-season play for the first time in 21 years.
So what do the Reds do for 2023, other than stuff a sock in Phil Castellini’s mouth? Do they work toward making the team competitive or do they continue dumping, although there isn’t much quality material left to dump.
Don’t expect much help from within the organization. There was nothing left at Class AAA Louisville to make an impact next season. Most of the deals general manager Nick Krall made brought the team prospects/suspects. But they were all in Class A and Class AA and are not ready for prime time.
It is most likely the never-ending rebuild mode will remain in place for 2023. To construct a competitive team next year, the club would have to deal prospects for major league ready players.
What teams would want much from the Reds’ 2022 roster that was filled mostly with utility and back-up players on most other teams.
After dealing most of their recognizable players, the team spent the year with a parade of auditions, 66 different players, 35 different pitchers not counting position players who pitched in blowouts.
If they want to be competitive next season, and indications are that they don’t, they need to blow up the bullpen. The only keeper probably is Alexis Diaz, who has the stuff to be a closer. There is some hope that Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone come off the injured list and produce.
Productive hitters must be found. The offense was as weak as carnival beer. The bottom of the order was a morass. Shortstop Jose Barrero played day after day after day and displayed no concepts of a major league hitter.
After catcher Tyler Stephenson got hurt, the Reds tried seven different catchers, always batting them ninth. None hit much above .200 and most below .200. Austin Romine and Chuckie Robinson alternated games late in the season and neither contributed much.
To save Stephenson’s health and well-being as perhaps the team’s best hitter, he probably should be moved to first base. That would enable the team to make 40-year-old Joey Votto a permanent designated hitter.
For that to happen, the Reds would have to acquire a solid major league catcher from another team or through free agency (Willson Contreras?) because they obviously have none in their system.
While Kyle Farmer appears to be the team’s Swiss army knife, usable everywhere, he should replace Barrero at shortstop while Barrero tries Triple-A to see of he can find some magic.
As for the infield, the team should dump injury-prone and non-productive Mike Moustakas. That isn’t feasible because they would owe him $18 million for next season and a $4 million buyout for 2024. And it isn’t likely he is tradeable.
Jonathan India played third base in college and it might be useful to move him there. He went through a disastrous defensive year at second base, suffering through a myriad of injuries and perhaps the sophomore jinx after winning the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year.
Nick Senzel is not a natural outfielder. Like India, he played infield in college. The Reds could move Senzel to second base, where he would quit injuring himself by running into walls or rolling in the grass on his shoulders.
The outfield? It’s a mess that needs a complete overhaul. Start with Aristides Aquino, another player given ample opportunity to become a viable component. Instead, like Barrero, he is a strikeout waiting to happen, especially with runners on base.
The Reds need to search the free agent pantry for outfielders who can hit at least a little bit and can be signed for $8 million to $15 million a year.
The strength of next year’s team should be the starting rotation, but even that spot needs some help.
Nick Lodolo is for real. Hunter Greene is for real. Graham Ashcraft looks as if he might be for real. Those three young guns showed they can be strong rotation occupants.
But they still need a couple more. Maybe Luis Cessa. Maybe Connor Overton. Certainly not Mike Minor. There are a few candidates and the club will use spring training to shake that out.
And a fourth and fifth starter shouldn’t be difficult to acquire through free agency or trade. How useful would it be to have Castillo, Gray and Miley filling out the rotation as good veteran pitchers and mentors for Lodolo, Greene and Ashcraft?
The Reds are a long, long way from being competitive after fielding the worst or next-to-worst team in club history. There are far too many gaping holes.
They have neither the money, the pieces to trade or the wherewithal to make a giant step in one year.
And so the rebuild continues.