Bell talks Reds' busy offseason, plans for India in '24

January 24th, 2024

CINCINNATI – With the Reds coming off an 82-win season and falling two games short of reaching the postseason in 2023, the front office has provided manager David Bell with more resources aimed at making Cincinnati a playoff club in 2024.

President of baseball operations Nick Krall has spent over $108 million on free agents, adding depth in both the rotation and bullpen by signing , , and and to the lineup by signing .

"Everyone is working incredibly hard to put the best team on the field that we can," Bell said following a Great American Ball Park event for Reds radio affiliates. "We’re adding to a really great group of guys that have shown they’re talented enough but do other things really well. That adds up to success."

Montas, a 13-game winner with Oakland in 2021 who signed a one-year, $16 million contract with Cincinnati on Jan. 2, is trying to bounce back from 2023 shoulder surgery that limited him to one relief appearance with the Yankees last season. Martinez, a swingman for the Padres the past two seasons, will compete for a rotation spot. Cincinnati also has returning pitchers like Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson and Connor Phillips.

It should make for a robust competition for rotation spots at Spring Training, which opens when pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 13.

"We have a lot of young talent, and it creates depth," Bell said. "Really, the key is for these guys to be healthy. They’ve been working really hard to stay healthy to be able to get through the whole season. Once that happens, we know there’s a ton of potential there. I think it’s good that we added to the mix. It will take a little of the pressure off, but we also have that young core group that’s really deeper than five. They can’t all be on the team, so there will be more depth in the Minor Leagues.”

Bell was also pleased to bring in the 30-year-old Candelario, a corner infielder who signed a three-year, $45 million contract in December. He is joining an infield that includes Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Jonathan India, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer and Noelvi Marte.

Candelario's experience is expected to be a resource.

"There’s some growing pains there," Bell said. "They’re going to need to play, and the more they play, the more they’re going to improve. Adding a guy like Jeimer is going to take some of that pressure off. Between DH, first base, third base -- he’s going to be an everyday player. There’s plenty of playing time to go around there."

Bell acknowledged that he has not yet formulated exactly how he would rotate his six infielders among four positions and designated hitter. Like the rotation battle, it's possible someone will open the season in the Minors.

It could also take creativity, including India playing in unfamiliar spots. Earlier this winter, Krall noted that India could appear at first base or left field.

"He’s established himself and he’s 100 percent on what we have here as a team," Bell said. "I think there’s been even a little more of a shift towards, ‘I am going to do whatever I have to do to be on the field and to help our team win, whatever that takes.'

"He just wants to be on the field and in the lineup as much as possible. Obviously as a second baseman, but depending on how things shake out, to be able to get him on the field as much as he wants to be and as much as I want him to be, there may be other positions that he’ll need to play.”

Entering 2023, the Reds were viewed as a rebuilding club likely to lose 90-100 games after it went 62-100 in '22. Instead, Cincinnati was a surprise contender until the final weekend of the season. An influx of young prospect talent called up to the big league roster accelerated the rebuild at warp speed.

Expect Bell to encourage his club at Spring Training to not get ahead of itself heading into 2024.

"It’s not paying attention to anything that’s external in [terms of] expectations," he said. "We did that last year. It’s a good thing we didn’t listen to anything externally. It’s important to do that same thing this year and take care of the parts that we’re in control of. There’s a lot of power in that. Keep it simple. There’s really no other way to do it.”