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Reds hint at more moves as caravan underway

@m_sheldon
January 16, 2020

CINCINNATI -- The Reds always try to send a positive message to the fans they visit while on their winter caravan. But when you’ve spent around $100 million on free-agent acquisitions like Cincinnati’s front office has this winter, there’s something more tangible to prompt enthusiasm for the 2020 season. An

CINCINNATI -- The Reds always try to send a positive message to the fans they visit while on their winter caravan. But when you’ve spent around $100 million on free-agent acquisitions like Cincinnati’s front office has this winter, there’s something more tangible to prompt enthusiasm for the 2020 season.

An annual tradition, Reds Caravan had its send-off on Thursday at the AC Marriott Hotel across from Great American Ball Park. Not only can president of baseball operations Dick Williams point to moves already made, but he also noted the club isn’t done.

“First of all, going on the caravan is always fun because the fans feel the energy about what’s going on with the team. It certainly helps to have an offseason like we’ve had this year,” Williams said. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there and hearing the feedback from the fans.

“I think it’s very possible that we’ll either see additional free-agent signings or, potentially, trades. I’m pretty sure there’ll be changes between now and camp.”

Coming off a 75-win 2019 season, their sixth straight losing year, the Reds placed their highest priority on making lineup upgrades. On Dec. 5, Mike Moustakas signed a four-year, $64 million contract -- the largest free-agent deal in club history -- to be the new second baseman. On Jan. 6, outfielder Shogo Akiyama signed a three-year, $21 million contract and will become the first Japanese player to play for Cincinnati in the big leagues.

An already solid rotation has a chance to be exceptional after the Dec. 18 signing of lefty Wade Miley to a two-year, $15 million contract.

“We added to what we already had, so it will be an exciting year for us. I can feel that things will be turning around for us,” said reliever Amir Garrett, who is part of the western leg of the caravan. “It means the front office is doing what they need to do. We’re obviously trying to win all the time, but it’s time to win now. You can really tell by the pieces that we’ve added. We’re trying to make a push for something.”

The 2020 Reds Caravan has four different tours that are scheduled to cover five states over three days. The combined 3,500-mile tour will make stops in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Besides Garrett, featured Reds participants include Moustakas, manager David Bell, outfielder Aristides Aquino, utility player Josh VanMeter and reliever Lucas Sims. Pitcher Sonny Gray and outfielder Jesse Winker are slated to take part one day each at select stops.

“I think it's easier because there's a lot of excitement about our team,” Bell said. “I think that grew a little bit over the course of last year, and I don't want to fool anyone into thinking that that's what we set out to do with the results, but I think we built some excitement and some momentum. Making the additions that we did, the work that the front office has done, it's easier to look at our team and realistically see that we should have the highest of expectations.”

Moustakas was thrilled by the additions that followed his signing.

“You can tell that this team and organization is wanting to win right now,” said Moustakas, who is with Bell on the northern tour. “You go out and get Wade, it’s awesome. I played with him in Milwaukee. We’re going to have a good time.”

During the 2019 caravan, Williams was working the phone while on the bus as he and general manager Nick Krall negotiated the trade that brought Gray from the Yankees. With the Reds not quite done trying to improve -- bullpen help and possibly a shortstop are needed -- Williams could be busy again.

“I will definitely pick my seat on the bus in such a way that I’ll have privacy in case discussions should occur,” Williams said. “I’ve done everything from [sitting in] the bathroom to having the bus pull over to having them turn up the music. Anything to get a little privacy when I need to. I’m sure I’ll be on the phone at some point over the next few days.”

For the other participants, Reds Caravan is a business trip, too. Besides the public fan stops each evening, there are visits scheduled at Reds radio affiliates, schools, businesses and hospitals. Fans can get autographs and have an opportunity to share their thoughts about the team during question-and-answer sessions.

“Obviously, it’s a great chance to get out there and meet the fans in their home cities and go see them. They come see us a lot. It will be a good role reversal to get out there and enjoy the fans in their hometowns,” Moustakas said. “You’re fortunate in this game to be able to go out and play baseball as a profession and job. We can’t do this without the support of the fans coming out every single day. To be able to go out there and see them in their cities, it means a lot to us as well as them.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.