CINCINNATI -- The recent cost-cutting by the Reds' front office hasn’t cut into manager David Bell’s positivity about his club heading into 2021.
Pending additional moves, Cincinnati will be without its best starting pitcher from 2020 in Trevor Bauer (free agent), closer Raisel Iglesias (traded), catcher Curt Casali (non-tendered) and reliever Archie Bradley (non-tendered). The Iglesias deal to the Angels for reliever Noé Ramirez saved over $9 million, for example.
“Oh no, no, absolutely not,” Bell said on Monday when asked if he was less optimistic for the upcoming season. “I choose to look at the guys we do have, and we have the core of our team that, really, we had a great experience with last season. Guys coming together, a team coming together. A lot of success that we can build on. There have been a few changes, but the core remains the same.”
Without the annual Winter Meetings session for Major League managers and reporters, Bell spoke over Zoom to media members for over 35 minutes about myriad topics.
How will the Reds replace Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, should he sign elsewhere?
“Obviously, Trevor being a free agent, that has to play out, but we still see our rotation as a strength of our team,” Bell said. “We had Michael Lorenzen show what he could do as a starter at the end of the year. We know he can do that. We know he can be a reliever; he can do whatever he puts his mind to. If it turns out that it’s best for the team that he’s a starter, he may be able to step in and be one of our starters. All in all, other than Trevor, we’re still in a good place with our rotation.”
Cincinnati’s rotation includes Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Wade Miley and Tyler Mahle. Gray has figured into recent trade rumors that general manager Nick Krall has downplayed.
Who will be the closer without Iglesias?
Bell didn’t name a specific closer, but he mentioned Tejay Antone, Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims and Sal Romano.
“We really believe in the formula that we have in place to have a successful bullpen,” Bell said. “Even though the personnel may be a little bit different, we’re very confident moving forward.”
Who will play shortstop? Will the Reds look at prospect Jose Garcia, who skipped two levels and debuted in the Majors in 2020 with mixed results?
“When he struggled offensively, the way he handled it and the way he handled the pressure of it and the way he mentally was able to stay with it, that showed me a lot,” Bell said. “That gave me a lot of confidence that we can look at that experience and know that it was a good one for him, even though the results may not have been there for him. Having that experience last season really leads me to believe that he's really close. Would it be good to get him more time in the Minors? Maybe. That might be the case.”
In recent interviews, Krall has identified adding a shortstop as an offseason priority.
What about the offense?
The Reds finished the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with a 31-29 record and made the postseason by winning 11 of their final 14 regular-season games and taking the last five regular-season series, too. But the offense was a glaring issue, as it finished last in the Majors in several categories, including a .212 team average.
Disappointment came with a two-game sweep against the Braves in the NL Wild Card Series, in which the Reds offense was held scoreless over 22 innings.
“If that season would’ve kept going and would’ve been a typical six-month season, the way guys were picking it up, the stats would’ve been completely different,” Bell said. “The way I see it is our offense came through and got us to the postseason, which was Step 1 of winning the championship. If anything, and this is probably true for a lot of offensive players throughout the league, at times maybe you try to do too much, try to make up for six months in the span of a two-month season. But anyone who has been around this game, it’s really tough to evaluate an individual performance or stats over a two-month season.”
The offseason has been slow moving in terms of transactions. While it’s possible the Reds could subtract more, Bell wasn’t fretting about the weeks and months ahead.
“I understand and respect that there’s still some unknowns, and we’re still early in the offseason,” Bell said. “I truly choose to focus on the guys that we do have, because there’s just no way of knowing.”