SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — The Cincinnati Reds have finished in fifth place in the N.L. Central three consecutive years and have lost at least 94 games each of those seasons.
And so what have they done to improve themselves this offseason?
Well, not literally nothing — they have added seven pitchers from outside the organization: Kyle Crockett, Joe Mantiply, Jared Hughes, Dylan Floro, Vance Worley, Ben Rowen and David Hernandez.
I bet you’ve even heard of a couple of those men: Floro pitched for the Cubs last year and Rowen was briefly on the Cubs’ 25-man roster in July 2015, though he never appeared in a game.
Not one of those pitchers is going to stir fear in the hearts of National League hitters. Neither are the Reds’ projected starters: Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo and Sal Romano.
Yes, Bailey’s going to try it again, returning from various elbow injuries. His 18 starts last year can charitably be called “horrific,” and he hasn’t been anywhere near good since 2014.
The Reds’ bullpen is reasonably good, with converted starter Raisel Iglesias actually becoming a decent closer. The Reds’ starting staff, though, rarely gives him a save opportunity, though he did well when he had them last year: 28 saves, two blown saves.
Cincinnati’s starting position players will be identical to last year’s, except for the departure of shortstop Zack Cozart, who signed as a free agent with the Angels.
Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler make up the Reds outfield; Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza, Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto the infield, and Tucker Barnhart will catch, unless Devin Mesoraco can at last figure out a way to make it through a season healthy. In a seven-year career, he’s played 100+ games twice, and not since 2014.
The Reds can hit. They scored 753 runs last year, about the middle of the N.L. pack, and Votto has Hall of Fame level talent. But the pitching staff allowed 869 runs and 248 home runs, both N.L. worsts. The runs-allowed and homers-allowed totals don’t figure to change much this year, which will likely consign the Reds to last place again.
It will be entertaining to see if manager Bryan Price, back for a fifth (!) season, continues to put Hamilton and his .299 OBP in the leadoff spot, something he did 135 times last year.
The Cubs are 40-17 against the Reds since 2015 and figure to feast on Reds pitching again this season in 19 total games. The teams’ first meeting will be at Great American Ballpark April 2-3. Oddly, the clubs will not play at Wrigley Field until July. Other Reds/Cubs series: May 18-20 at GABP, June 21-24 at GABP, July 6-8 at Wrigley Field, August 23-26 at Wrigley Field and September 14-16 at Wrigley Field.