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Revisited: The Cincinnati Reds’ Slow Climb Back to Relevancy

Look, I know that my love of the Cincinnati Reds is starting to become obsessive but, since the team has recently turned into everyone’s favorite sleeper team to bet on in 2019, I figured I’d let you know again why this team could seriously make some noise come spring.

The Reds, recently, have been a laughing stock. Long gone are the days of Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, and Homer Bailey being franchise mainstays and leading the team to the playoffs. The team is fresh off of their fourth straight 90 loss season. Yet, despite this, the Reds have quietly emerged as one of the rising teams in the National League. How could this happen? They were horrible last year. Well, a few years of tanking and solid player development, mixed with an influx of silently significant offseason acquisitions, and things don’t look nearly as ugly.

It all started with trading for Tanner Roark.

You see, the Reds starting rotation last season was pitiful. Statistically, they ranked in the bottom 10 in almost every major pitching category. They were brutal. Homer Bailey was this failure epitomized, going an amazingly bad 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA. The Reds knew that pitching should be their primary concern this offseason and they came out and addressed it early on. Roark, 32, was a durable and quality starter during his days in Washington, and seemed to fit the role the Reds were looking for; an innings eater who could anchor a rotation while teaching the young guns how it’s done. I said back when the trade was made that Roark was a step in the right direction for the organization, and they should keep pushing. It turns out they listened.

In one of the biggest swindles in recent memory, the Reds traded Homer Bailey and a pair of prospects for Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and a prospect. While Kemp and Puig were good enough pickups, Alex Wood is the crown jewel of the deal, in my eyes. Although I failed to mention Alex Wood in my initial story about the trade *Whoops* Wood is another guy that the Reds were in desperate need of. When healthy, Wood has proven himself to be a more than capable major league starter. Over the course of his career so far, Wood has a 3.29 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP and almost 8.5 strikeouts per nine. The guy is highly effective when he’s on the mound. Honestly, he could slide in as the teams number 1 starter and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Even though he’s in the last year of his contract, he could easily be locked up and go forward as one of the team’s best starting pitchers. And to think all they had to do was give up Homer goddamn Bailey.

Lastly, the team looked to get themselves a bounceback candidate. Someone who had been so remarkably bad in 2018 that he could be acquired for pennies on the dollar.

Enter Sonny Gray.

I’m on record saying that Sonny Gray is still a good pitcher, he just happened to be a bad Yankees pitcherClearly the Reds thought the same thing as I because they intimidately locked him up to a 4 year, $38 million extension. I think Gray bounces back in a big way in 2019 and beyond and ends up being one of the Reds best rotation arms.

If you’re keeping track at home, in terms of WAR, the Reds picked up near 5 ½ extra wins just by trading for three pitchers. When you add them to a rotation of Anthony Desclafani and Luis Castillo, who are young and bound to improve in 2019, it has discreetly become a half decent pitching staff.   

You may have noticed that I have yet to mention any position players, so far. That’s because the Reds flew way under the radar last year and have a great offensive core. Guys like Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, Tucker Barnhart, Jesse Winker, and Curt Casali had solid seasons last year and are likely to do the same in 2019. With the additions of Kemp and Puig, a tandem that hit 44 home runs last year, and plugging them into a very hitter friendly ballpark, you have a recipe for disaster for opposing pitchers.

But, what really puts the Reds in an ideal position for the future is the fact that help is on the way. The Reds have a top five farm system. They have four top 100 prospects in their system, including Nick Senzel, who is currently the number six prospect in all of baseball. An ultra talented group of young studs will be arriving in the arriving in the big leagues very soon, and will supplement an already deep roster.

Or, if the Reds are serious about competing in 2019, they can simply say “Fuck the young bucks, lets go get us some ball players” and trade those guys away. They are rumored to be the front runners for catcher JT Realmuto (who I personally don’t think they need. Tucker Barnhart is a capable catcher and isn’t much worse than Realmuto), they’ve been in contact with the Indians about Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, and could simply turn around and sign Dallas Keuchel at any time.

The Reds are in the perfect position for the 2019 MLB season. They have a good team, money to spend, and prospects in waiting.

So before the Reds shock the world and everyone starts asking “Where did this team come from?”, Just let them know you’re old friend Owen was on the bandwagon back in September.

I’m a Reds fan this year. Either get on board or get off the tracks.


Photo by Kirk Irwin/ Getty Images

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