What are the chances of landing Betts?
-- Mark H., on Facebook
At the moment, I would say slim. That doesn’t mean the Reds won’t make the effort to inquire about Betts with Boston, but it’s still not clear that he’s even available for trade. Red Sox management told reporters last month they would like to get under the luxury-tax threshold of a $208 million payroll, but it wasn’t a a fire-sale edict. Also, in his Red Sox Inbox on Monday, my longtime good pal Ian Browne noted the team wouldn’t deal Betts “unless you completely commit to taking a step back as a team in 2020.”
For many reasons, Betts would be attractive to the Reds and a big boost to their lineup. He will certainly get a raise from the $20 million he earned this season when he goes through the arbitration process for the third and final time before he can be a free agent after the 2020 season. That means it’s not a long-term commitment for Cincinnati, but it would certainly mean giving up a lot in return for that limited time.
Are the Reds going to be assertive in acquiring more power hitting, or do they think the players they currently have are capable of increasing their power output? They seem to be woefully short on power hitting at most positions with the exception of left field (assuming Jesse Winker can finish a season), right field and third base.
-- Dustin H, on Facebook.
I believe the Reds will have the same dogged and creative approach to addressing the offseason as president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall showed last winter in overhauling the rotation. Despite setting a club home run record in 2019 -- something several teams also accomplished -- they scored only five more runs from a season ago. Despite having Winker and Aristides Aquino for the corner-outfield spots, I think they will look at upgrading offensively in the outfield in some fashion. And depending on where Nick Senzel winds up -- there could be an opening to add a bat for either center field or second base.
A lot of people think the Reds need to get a new catcher, but I feel Barnhart does fine. He hit better once he came back from injury, is one of the better defensive catchers in the game and calls games good behind the plate. Do you feel catching is a position that needs to change, or should they go with Barnhart since he is under control and at a good price?
-- Kevin D., on Facebook
Between Barnhart and Curt Casali, the Reds have a solid catching tandem. I think trying to add an offense-minded catcher will be less of a priority compared to the outfield, middle infield and bullpen upgrades that are needed. Assuming his mutual option with the Brewers for 2020 isn’t exercised, former Reds' first-round pick Yasmani Grandal will be a big prize on the free-agent market.
As MLB.com’s Matt Kelly pointed out in an analysis story about Grandal on Sunday, offensive production for catchers league-wide has plummeted the last five seasons. Grandal is one of the few who has bucked that trend, but is also going to be a rare commodity on the open market -- which means he could cost a lot. Cincinnati plans on a payroll bump, but I’m not sure this is where I’d first direct those resources.
Will Nick Lodolo get a look with the big league club in Spring Training next year?
-- @DKBThinks, on Twitter
I believe the Reds' 2019 first-round selection will be a non-roster invite to camp. Lodolo, who turns 22 on Feb. 5, has already impressed the organization over his first eight professional starts as he posted a 2.45 ERA combined with Billings and Dayton. There appears to be a belief that the left-hander wouldn’t need much time in the Minor Leagues because his stuff and mental makeup are good enough to move up quickly.
What are your thoughts on Alex Wood? I was really excited about trading for him, and of course injuries basically took away his season. I can't imagine him -- after missing an entire year -- commanding much in free agency.
-- James T., on Facebook.
The back injury that limited Wood, 28, to seven starts this season has likely cost him millions of dollars. It’s unfortunate that it happened in his walk-year ahead of free agency. I don’t rule out completely a return to the Reds, but I’d guess it would be with a Minor League deal and camp invite. If another club is willing to take the risk, Wood could still get a big league contract but maybe not for the number of years he originally thought possible.
With Nike set to take over as the jersey supplier in 2020, will the Reds switch to new looking uniforms similar to what the NBA and NFL did?
-- Adler I., on Facebook
There has been no word of a uniform overhaul coming for the Reds next season. Most of the time, there is about a year of lead time for such things, and I’ve heard nothing about it behind the scenes. After the 15 throwback uniforms were such a hit while celebrating the Reds’ 150th anniversary season, I could envision possibly one or two of those uniforms becoming an alternate look.