Looking for an assessment on José Peraza. Why did the Reds get down on him so fast after a terrific 2018, and what is your best guess about his 2020 role if any?
-- Bob C., on Facebook.
That’s a good question but José Peraza did seem to fall out of favor. A poor start to the season didn’t help after his move from shortstop to second base to make way for José Iglesias. Then he was outplayed at various times by Derek Dietrich and Josh VanMeter with Scooter Gennett coming back from injury as well.
Despite the fact he doesn’t strike out much and makes contact quite a bit, Peraza’s on-base percentage dipped back to .285 in 2019 while he batted just .239. He is also not a home run hitter. All of that doesn’t fit the mold of what analytic departments generally want in terms of production. The answer to what happens next season remains fluid and could depend on the outcome of Iglesias, who will be a free agent after the World Series. Peraza is a possible non-tender candidate, but I could see that being a tough decision. He’s still only 25, a hard worker, good in the clubhouse and always trying to improve his defense. It would be a risk to let him get away for nothing.
Big ask. What do the Reds need to do to build a dynasty like Houston? Is that even feasible?
-- Jeff G., on Facebook
To some degree, the Reds have followed a formula similar to what Houston did by trying to draft and develop homegrown players. But Cincinnati never did a full teardown to the studs like the Astros, which endured five consecutive losing seasons from 2010-14 -- including three-straight with over 100 losses. Much like the Rays of the previous decade, that gave the Astros a chance to accumulate a lot of high draft picks.
That included George Springer (11th overall, 2011), Carlos Correa (1st, ’12), Alex Bregman (2nd, ’15) and Kyle Tucker (5th, ’15). They also signed Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez as teenagers out of Venezuela and Cuba, respectively. That and some shrewd trades that brought Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and signing free agent Michael Brantley have opened a window of extended excellence.
Over the years, the Reds have made some decent trades -- like adding Eugenio Suarez, Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani. They had some homegrown players like Joey Votto, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Amir Garrett and Tucker Barnhart among the current roster. Senzel was taken second overall in 2016 and had a very respectable -- but not a breakout -- rookie season.
The organization still needs to do better at developing its own talent -- especially pitching. It was pretty telling that there wasn’t a ton of depth coming from the upper levels of the system the last couple of seasons and save for Tyler Mahle, who still has yet to establish himself, the rotation has no homegrown starters. Other than Joel Kuhnel and veterans like Matt Bowman and Lucas Sims, there wasn't much younger depth to come up when the bullpen began to falter.
The Reds need a lefty starting pitcher. Is Madison Bumgarner an option? Any others?
-- Matt M., on Twitter
I don’t think the Reds necessarily need a left-handed starter, but it also wouldn’t hurt. Madison Bumgarner is likely to be one of the top free agent pitchers available -- with right-hander Cole expected to be the top of the heap. With four strong starters expected back in Castillo, Gray, DeSclafani and Trevor Bauer, I don’t know if spending big money on Bumgarner or someone like Dallas Keuchel is the move for the Reds this winter. Cincinnati appears to have more money to spend, sure, but offense is where the big need is. I’d expect the club to allocate its resources towards adding one or two bats.
Any possibility of signing Yasiel Puig back as a free agent, or should I go ahead and take No. 66 off my Reds jersey and put a 7 on there (for Suarez)?
-- Will A., on Facebook
I would be stunned if Yasiel Puig is brought back, especially on a multi-year contract of any kind. If you don’t want to radically alter your jersey, perhaps keep on riding with the 66 and switch it with the last name of reliever Kuhnel, who was given that number when he was called up.
Who will the Reds sign to play center field and shortstop?
-- Max H., on Facebook
Both spots are conditional on other factors. For shortstop, if they can’t bring back Iglesias, the Reds would almost certainly have Freddy Galvis move over from second base. In center field, Senzel appears to still be their guy. Although the question has been asked about moving him to second base after he recovers from right shoulder surgery, the club hasn’t signaled a switch is coming. I wouldn’t rule out the idea that he plays both positions in 2020, depending on the daily lineup and matchups.