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Reds react to Crew moves at Caravan finale

Price on young pitchers: 'We expect higher performances. That's exciting'
MLB.com @m_sheldon

FLORENCE, Ky. -- For the past four days on the Reds Caravan, the club campaigned with a message that progress will be made in 2018 because it stayed the course with its rebuild. Cincinnati expects its young core of pitchers to combine with healthy veteran starters and an already decent lineup, leading to more wins.

But the Brewers sent a different message Thursday when they traded four prospects to the Marlins for outfielder Christian Yelich and also signed free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain. It was a clear and distinct signal that Milwaukee is aiming for the World Series.

FLORENCE, Ky. -- For the past four days on the Reds Caravan, the club campaigned with a message that progress will be made in 2018 because it stayed the course with its rebuild. Cincinnati expects its young core of pitchers to combine with healthy veteran starters and an already decent lineup, leading to more wins.

But the Brewers sent a different message Thursday when they traded four prospects to the Marlins for outfielder Christian Yelich and also signed free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain. It was a clear and distinct signal that Milwaukee is aiming for the World Series.

Another National League Central rival, the perennially-contending Cardinals, traded for All-Star Marcell Ozuna from Miami in December. The Cubs remain the division favorite, while the Pirates have begun their own rebuild this offseason.

"This whole thing was a rebuild, right? Why not try to finish it?" Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano said Sunday at the Caravan finale stop at Florence Mall. "I feel really confident that we have a lot of guys from last year who had a good opportunity to find themselves in the big leagues. A good amount of us had success in the second half. I'm really looking forward to us putting all the pieces together. Now it's time to win ballgames."

Tweet from @Reds: The #RedsCaravan finale is rolling at Florence Mall! pic.twitter.com/kOJ4K50Yyw

Milwaukee was in rebuilding mode for two seasons and then surprised in 2017 with 86 wins, finishing six games out of first place and one game out of the NL Wild Card. The Brewers felt ready to take the next step by integrating new stars with an existing core.

The Reds -- who began rebuilding in the second half of 2014 -- finished with 94 losses in each of the past two seasons and 98 losses in '15. The final two months of '17 finally brought some optimism, with Cincinnati going 26-31 in that span.

"We're maybe a step or so behind the rebuilding process of the Brewers," catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "They put themselves in a position last year where they won more than maybe they thought they would. It allowed them to make those all-in moves they felt could propel them into the offseason. We're right in that spot.

"If we show ownership and the front office this year with the young group we have that we're ready to win and ready to compete and push to be in the playoffs ... [we will] make those signings that are the ones that will push us over the top and get us to the postseason."

Tweet from @Reds: 🎵 If we show up, we gon' show out 🎵#RedsCaravan pic.twitter.com/irmqECJw1h

A few starting rookie pitchers emerged with success down the stretch in Romano, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Robert Stephenson. Reds manager Bryan Price is counting on the healthy returns of Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan and an injury-free year from Homer Bailey. Other young pitchers that struggled last year, like Amir Garrett, Cody Reed and Jackson Stephens, are being counted on to learn from those experiences and improve.

Video: Bryan Price talks young arms, Reds Caravan

"We control what we can control," Price said. "The arms have started to get to the place where we expect higher performances. That's exciting. There's an understanding we have limitations this year on how much we can spend. We're hoping that circumstances we work under will change and we'll have more to make available for free agents moving forward, or to extend the players we'd really like to keep.

"At this point, we're really buying high on the fact that our young pitching is developing and becoming more prepared to be one of the better pitching staffs. We can't answer if they're there yet."

Overall during the Caravan, the Reds felt that their message was being well-received.

"I'm glad people are staying behind us and staying loyal to the Reds," Romano said. "It was nice to see everyone be optimistic just like we are. They're just as ready as we are to win games now."

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 and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Tucker Barnhart, Sal Romano