With Spring Training almost here, MLB.com is rolling out a preview series. Today's topic: What is the vision?CINCINNATI -- Plenty of teams say they will make roster moves in the offseason to improve and then often underwhelm. No one could say that this winter about the Reds, who were arguably
With Spring Training almost here, MLB.com is rolling out a preview series. Today's topic: What is the vision?
CINCINNATI -- Plenty of teams say they will make roster moves in the offseason to improve and then often underwhelm. No one could say that this winter about the Reds, who were arguably the busiest team during the Hot Stove season.
President of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall want to change the culture of the team. No more rebuilding and being complacent. The 2019 season will be about competing in the National League Central.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Needing a better rotation, the Reds didn't just add a starting pitcher. They acquired three of them via trades for Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark. The Wood deal also included the arrivals of dynamic outfielder Yasiel Puig and veteran outfielder Matt Kemp. The bullpen also was boosted with the pending free-agent signing of lefty Zach Duke. Krall and Williams have also reportedly been engaged in talks with the Indians about ace Corey Kluber and were in pursuit of a trade for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto before the Marlins dealt him to the Phillies.
And don't forget about the first set of moves made shortly after the 2018 season, the Reds' fourth in a row with 94 or more losses. Following an exhaustive search that included a dozen candidates, a new manager was hired in David Bell, after he was wooed by multiple teams. Bell then assembled a virtually all-new coaching staff, plucking well-respected pitching coach Derek Johnson from the Brewers and hitting coach Turner Ward from the Dodgers.
All the maneuvers were done without the Reds having to trade away prized talent in the player-development system like Nick Senzel, ranked No. 1 in the organization by MLB Pipeline, Taylor Trammell (No. 2) and Hunter Greene (No. 3). Teams certainly inquired about those prospects, but the club resisted moving them.
That's because the big-picture plan is to keep competing and start winning titles beyond this season.
"That's why I feel like we've been threading the needle here, in terms of holding on to that prospect value while giving fans something to be excited about by adding to the team and building," Williams said last month. "But we don't feel like we cashed it all in for this year. We still very much feel like that this can be part of a progression."
• Here's your guide to Reds Spring Training
The Reds' payroll is expected to be their highest ever, well north of $100 million. But they also have flexibility. Wood, Roark, Puig and Kemp can be free agents after the season, as can second baseman Scooter Gennett. That gives Williams and Krall room to maneuver if trade partners arise during the season, and those contracts all come off the books after 2019. They already pulled a coup in jettisoning struggling starter Homer Bailey in the trade with the Dodgers when he was owed $28 million for the final year of his contract plus his option buyout. Among the newbies, only Gray is guaranteed to remain, because the Reds signed him to a three-year, $30.5 million extension as part of their trade with the Yankees.
Gray, Wood and Roark will join holdover Luis Castillo to form the top four in the Reds' rotation, with Anthony DeSclafani a leading candidate for the fifth spot. Puig could be the right fielder and possibly play in center field. Kemp could be a corner outfielder and fit in a platoon or as a bench player. Senzel, an infielder, has been working out all offseason in the outfield and is a candidate for the center-field job as well.
The new hitters join a lineup that already features Joey Votto, Eugenio Suárez and Gennett. If the Reds can both pitch and hit, they could be very interesting this season.
"You can always improve your club, but I think we have a group of guys who can hold their own with anybody in this division," Williams said. "They played great last year for a long stretch in the middle of the year when we had everybody healthy. We've added to that team. I know our guys feel a sense of confidence, I definitely heard it from the guys who came in for the caravan. We've got high expectations for 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 and listen to his podcast.