There's now less than a month to go before Reds pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 13. As anticipation builds, let's dive into another edition of the Inbox.
When the Reds had the rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake, Cincinnati had some great seasons of pitching. With the Reds' new staff and new prospects, how close are they to getting back to a staff as good as the past?
-- Louie S., Cincinnati
That's very hard to predict, but remember this: Cueto, Bailey and Leake didn't come to the big leagues as finished products. Cueto was 20-25 with a 4.61 ERA in his first two seasons in 2008-09, and he gradually morphed into an ace. Bailey had a 4.89 ERA, along with injuries and demotions to Triple-A, from 2007-11 before he cranked out his first 200-inning season in '12. Leake went straight from college to the Majors in 2010, but he went through some struggles and needed a brief stop in Triple-A in '11.
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For the current Reds, Anthony DeSclafani is the most known quantity, but Dan Straily certainly showed he's capable of 200 innings after a really nice first season in Cincinnati. Brandon Finnegan showed he can pitch a whole season, and now he needs to show he can navigate deep into a game. Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson had struggles and disappointments last season, while Amir Garrett arrives in camp with a shot at a spot and a lot of promise. But Garrett may struggle, too. After that, there are pitchers like Sal Romano, Nick Travieso and others. For an organization that has rarely developed its own pitchers in the past few decades, the prospect talent is deep. But that doesn't mean they will all succeed in the Majors.
What will the Reds do with Eugenio Suarez when Nick Senzel is ready? Because at the rate he's going, it won't be long.
That's an issue that likely won't come to a head in 2017. The Reds know Senzel, the No. 2 overall pick in '16 and a third baseman like Suarez, won't likely be in the big leagues this season. Senzel will likely begin at Class A Advanced or Double-A, and general manager Dick Williams said during the Winter Meetings it was unlikely he would be expected to contribute this season.
As for 2018? We'll have to wait and see. A lot can change in a year.
Who do you see manning right field this year for the Reds? Is Jesse Winker ready? Or could perhaps Senzel play third base, moving Suarez to right field? He has a great arm and glove and is developing into a very good hitter.
-- Mike S., Nashville, Tenn.
Right now, the right-field job is Scott Schebler's to lose after the way he played the final two months last season. If Winker did come up and earn a big league roster spot, I could see him playing left field and Adam Duvall shifting to right. As for the Senzel part, I don't see Suarez moving to right field.
Why does ownership always label Cincinnati a small-market team as a problem with attracting talent and building a strong roster these days? St. Louis has a whopping 20,000 more area population and is rated as a small-market team, too, but they seem to put a competitive team on the field every year.
-- Greg B., Connersville, Ind.
According to Nielsen, the St. Louis television market is ranked 21st nationally and has more than 350,000 TV homes than Cincinnati, which is ranked 36th. The Cardinals have also drawn more than three million fans in 17 out of the last 18 seasons. This has enabled the Cardinals to be ninth in Opening Day payroll, all of which means they are not a small-market club. The Reds have never drawn three million but have gotten two million or more fans in 11 of the past 14 seasons. They were 25th in payroll entering last season.
The Reds simply can't try to outbid teams on premier free agents in order to spend their way to a championship. Many bigger market clubs have tried, unsuccessfully. Cincinnati is wisely trying to build a winner through Draft and development of prospects while also expanding its budget internationally on players in Latin America. The Reds are trying to use the trades of their pricier veterans to stockpile talent -- some of the deals have brought the likes of DeSclafani, Suarez and Jose Peraza. It takes time to build this way, but there is a path to success and it takes patience.
I realize it's way early, but who could possibly be traded come the Trade Deadline this summer?
Certainly Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips come to mind, if they are not dealt before Opening Day. If Drew Storen, signed to a reasonable one-year contract worth $3 million, can rebuild his value in the bullpen with a good first half, he could be a candidate. I'm sure teams will be calling about players like DeSclafani, Straily and Billy Hamilton, if they are having a good season. It's always good to listen, but the haul would probably have to be huge for Williams to take it.