The Reds are really good. They won 97 games in 2012 and made the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
The Reds are managed by Dusty Baker. We all know what that means. Even though the Reds should be the odds-on favorite to win the National League Central for the second year in a row, there's still Dusty.
In any case, the Reds have added former Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to an already-potent offense. Choo is penciled in to play center field, a position he's played just 10 times in his major-league career. Nevertheless, he's athletic enough to be able to handle it, and he'll surely provide better offense at the position than the departed Drew Stubbs, for whom he was traded in a three-way deal involving the Diamondbacks.
The other major change for Cincinnati this season is the planned move of closer Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. Chapman was almost literally unhittable in 2012 -- he faced 276 batters and just 35 of them got hits; his 0.809 WHIP is otherworldly. Can Chapman hold up enough to be a 34-start-a-year pitcher, throwing 200+ innings and facing perhaps four times as many hitters? The Reds want to find out, since they feel Jonathan Broxton can handle closing duties the way he did with the Dodgers.
Todd Frazier, who hit .273/.331/.498 in a solid rookie season, will take over full-time at third base with the absence retirement departure of Scott Rolen. Otherwise the Reds' lineup returns intact (and this year, they'll have a full year of Joey Votto, who missed two months of 2012 with an injury) as does their bench and bullpen. They acquired Jason Donald as a backup infielder in the Choo deal to help their bench.
The Reds were one of the teams that were a key contributor to the Cubs' 101-loss season last year, winning 12 of the 16 games between the two teams, including an 8-2 mark at Wrigley Field. This year, the Cubs will first meet the Reds in Cincinnati for a three-game set April 22-24; the Reds will make a weekend visit to Wrigley May 3-5.
The Cubs haven't had a winning record against the Reds since 2009. They aren't likely to have one this year, either. But, then, there's always Dusty...
Tomorrow, a look at the Cubs' rivals up I-94, the Milwaukee Brewers.