Here's a little thing I wrote on the Reds offseason if anybody would be interested:
Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training, it is safe to say that baseball's offseason has come to a close.
After a very successful 2012 campaign that ended with them falling one game short of the National League Championship Series, the Reds dropped off seven games and barely made the playoffs, managing to lock a berth in the Wild Card game, where they ripped out, tore apart, and stomped on the hearts of their fans.
The silver lining to this story is that the Pittsburgh Pirates, twenty-one years removed from their most recent postseason appearance, were the victors in this Wild Card game and advanced to the Division Series.
Immediately following the loss, Reds fans called for the departure of sixth-year manager Dusty Baker. This outrage was indicative of the fans displeasure in Cincinnati's third first round departure in four years.
Baker, who made it as far as the World Series in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants, turned the Reds from a National League Central cellar dweller to one of the top teams in baseball in a matter of only a few years. 2010 was the first Reds team to make the playoffs since the 1995 team. However, he failed to get the team over the proverbial hump, and top management responded by giving him the can and promoting player-friendly pitching coach Bryan Price to manager.
This was a popular move with the Reds fan base, and excitement began to build for the 2014 season. Then the front office decided to hibernate for the winter. Skip Schumaker, a .263 batter during the 2013 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was added to the team on a two year deal.
They also added catcher Brayan Peña to replace departing Ryan Hanigan, and invited pitcher Chien-Ming Wang to Spring Training. Other than that, the team lost Shin-Soo Choo, the walk-machine centerfielder who got on base more frequently than anybody else in the big leagues in 2013, and Bronson Arroyo, who had been a part of the starting rotation since 2006.
The loss of Choo was expected, but hurt, nonetheless. Choo's agent Scott Boras is known for bringing in big money for players, especially for those with as much talent as Choo. He was eventually swept up by the Texas Rangers for $130 million.
Billy Hamilton, a rising star who made appearances in 13 games for the Reds at the end of the 2013 season, is expected to earn Choo's former job in centerfield for the 2014 season. Hamilton is known as one of baseball's fastest players, owning the minor league stolen bases record with 155 in 2012.
Although Hamilton can fly around the basepaths, he has been known to struggle at the plate. In 2013, while still in the minors, he batted only .256. Despite this lowly number, he was called up during the playoff hunt at the end of the season, and immediately made an impact. In his 13 games, he had 13 stolen bases, and made it around to home plate nine times, including a game winner in only his fourth game.
Even more important was his sudden prowess in the batter's box. In 19 plate appearances, Hamilton collected nine hits and drew two walks, finishing the season with an on-base percentage of .429, six points higher than his predecessor Choo.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that Hamilton will be a superstar. The other four outfielders with major league experience currently on the roster are Chris Heisey, Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick and Donald Lutz. Bruce is a lock in right field and Ludwick will most likely hold down left field, while Heisey and Lutz will most likely be used as bench players. Heisey has traditionally been used as a corner outfielder, while Lutz, in his minimal time in the big leagues, was primarily played in left field.
Additionally, the biggest hole in the lineup, the two spot, has not been addressed. The spot is usually reserved for a player who is able to move over the leadoff hitter, in this case Hamilton. Joey Votto is the best contact hitter on the team, batting for .305 in 2013. No regular player still on the team came within even 40 points of him, so it would seem this duty would fall on him. But he is also the best overall hitter on the team, which would put him in the three spot. This means that Zack Cozart will probably bat second in the lineup, despite his .254 average in 2013.
To sum up Cincinnati's offseason, let's look at the following:
Key Gains: Bryan Price, Brayan Peña
Key Departures: Shin-Soo Choo, Bronson Arroyo, Dusty Baker
Arroyo is leaving his rotation to second year pitcher Tony Cingrani, who proved his worth in 2013. However, former number one in the rotation Johnny Cueto has pitched over 200 innings in his career only once and is very prone to injury, leaving a possible gaping hole in the rotation.
Chien-Ming Wang, who has the potential to fill any pitching holes in the roster, made it barely a month into his stint with the Toronto Blue Jays last season before being opted back to Triple-A. The leadoff spot is being left to a rookie that has a total of 13 games on his resume, and the two spot is left to a player who got on base 28% of the time last season.
They have four reliable starting pitchers and will have seven reliable starters in the lineup every game. If the game wasn't played with a five man rotation and nine players in the lineup, the Reds could be the best team in the league.
But it is. There are holes to fill and not much time to fill them.
Let's hope that Bryan Price is a good manager.