New Reds hitting coach Turner Ward has seen firsthand just what kind of an impact the four players Cincinnati acquired in Friday's blockbuster can provide. Ward spent the past three seasons as the Dodgers' hitting coach, foring a bond with outfielder Yasiel Puig and helping a rejuvenated Matt Kemp reach
New Reds hitting coach Turner Ward has seen firsthand just what kind of an impact the four players Cincinnati acquired in Friday's blockbuster can provide. Ward spent the past three seasons as the Dodgers' hitting coach, foring a bond with outfielder Yasiel Puig and helping a rejuvenated Matt Kemp reach the All-Star game last season.
The Reds acquired Puig and Kemp along with left-hander Alex Wood and catcher/infielder James Farmer from the Dodgers, sending right-hander Homer Bailey and infielder Jeter Downs and right-hander Josiah Gray to Los Angeles in a seven-player blockbuster.
"You're looking at a team offensively that can do a lot of damage," Ward said during a conference call Friday. "It just looks like a lineup that can be a force."
"Impact bat" was the phrase Reds general manager Nick Krall used to describe both Kemp and Puig, adding their power to the middle of a lineup that already includes a trio of All-Stars in Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett. Kemp made the All-Star team for the first time since 2012 after hitting 21 home runs with a 121 OPS+, while Puig put together one of his better seasons with 23 home runs and a 120 OPS+. Playing time dwindled for both players toward the end of last season with a glut of outfielders in Los Angeles, but they should find a spot in Cincinnati.
The Reds believe Puig has the athleticism to play center field, but see him more as an everyday right fielder, while Kemp is likely to receive at-bats as part of some sort of platoon. Farmer makes them more athletic and Ward raved about his versatility, a catcher who can also serve as a backup infielder and do so adequately.
The team is still searching for a center fielder, although president of baseball operations Dick Williams named a few internal candidates -- Scott Schebler, Phil Ervin and perhaps even top prospect Nick Senzel -- as potential candidates to begin the season in center.
"We still have a lot of offseason to go," Williams said. "But we feel good about having multiple guys that have the ability to play in center field. … We have options, but I also would say that we'll continue to work throughout the offseason to put the best outfield together."
Wood will join a rotation that should be improved next season thanks in part to the addition of right-hander Tanner Roark, acquired in a trade with Washington last week. Wood posted a 3.68 ERA in 33 games (27 starts) for Los Angeles in 2018, and was an All-Star as recently as 2017. When healthy, he has consistently been an effective pitcher for the Dodgers during the past three seasons. Finding a left-hander had been a priority for Cincy.
"We didn't want to tip our hand and tell everybody that we needed a left-handed starter," Williams said. "But we think it's important to put one in the mix here."
And Williams made it clear the Reds did not expect to be done, especially in the rotation. The Dodgers also sent $7 million to Cincinnati in the deal, so the Reds should have the financial flexibility to add, and Williams made it clear they are willing to part with the prospects in order to improve their club for 2019.
"We're not done yet," Williams said. "We expect to continue to work through this offseason to improve the club. We did trade some good prospects here but we acquired four Major League players that address needs for us and make us better in the short term."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.