CINCINNATI -- Based largely on the Reds' on-field improvement and better record during the second half, the front office decided that the best way to keep moving forward was with Bryan Price as manager. It was announced Friday that Price would return to the club with a one-year contract through 2017, with an option for the 2018 season.
In addition, the entire coaching staff was also invited to come back next season.
"We've been talking about it since the last homestand, trying to talk about the vision and where we're going," Price said. "There's a mutual desire to stay connected. For me, it's been an unbelievable opportunity with a storied franchise. I really enjoy my coaches and my team. Then just trying to work out the terms of the contract took some time."
Price, 54, entered the final weekend of the season with a 207-276 record as manager since he replaced Dusty Baker after the 2013 campaign upon his promotion after four years as pitching coach. However, much of Price's tenure has come amid a rebuilding program, when several core players were traded for prospects.
It was a rough start to 2016, as the Reds had a 32-57 record at the All-Star break. Even though the team is at the bottom of the National League Central standings, it has posted a .500 record in the second half at 35-35.
"We feel that Bryan has done a really good job with this club under not the most ideal situation," Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said. "We have a lot of young players. We traded off some of our top veteran players, and we've had a lot of injuries. And Bryan has continued to work forward without any complaints and has had this club playing hard and playing as well as it [could]. I think his leadership has shown through. The players, we felt, enjoy playing for him and play hard for him. That's a big part of his job."
Much of that improvement stemmed from the return of injured players, such as Anthony DeSclafani to the rotation and Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen to the bullpen. In the lineup, players such as Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton caught fire offensively, Eugenio Suárez showed development as the new third baseman, and left fielder Adam Duvall had a breakout 30-homer, 30-double and 100-RBI All-Star season.
"When you talk about evaluating a manager and the coaching staff, it's about looking for the improvements," Price said. "If you have the same team intact, you want to see the improvements from the beginning of the year to the backside of the season. I think we saw that improvement -- not just in win-loss, but if you look at the performances of the players, if you look at what we've done defensively, offensively and a pitching perspective, there have been great improvements. That's really a tribute to the players, it really is.
"I know the managerial position is polarizing one. I think people are going to want to see our team show real significant signs of improvement. I think the second half is the first stage of that improvement with our club, and I'm happy to be here."
This season, the Reds played without injured catcher Devin Mesoraco, and right fielder Jay Bruce was traded on Aug. 1. During the previous offseason, closer Aroldis Chapman and third baseman Todd Frazier were traded.
Challenges remain, of course, as the Reds' pitching staff set a new single-season record for home runs allowed this year (253 entering Friday), and the starting rotation has logged the lowest number of innings in the league. The bullpen also owned a homers-allowed record while leading the league in walks issued.
"I don't know if he's necessarily gotten a fair shake so far, but I think the team as a whole, he hasn't lost any of the guys in the clubhouse, anything like that," catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "But I'm more than happy that he's back as well as the staff, and hopefully we can start winning some more games here moving forward."
Price acknowledged that some fans that have grown disgruntled with losing will not receive his return as well as others.
"We have a team here that in my tenure as manager has been toward the bottom of the division from a win-loss perspective," Price said. "The challenges, I think, were different than the previous four, five or six years. But I do see the optics of it. ... It's painful to go through. It's very typical of people to look directly at the on-field leadership as being accountable to that win-loss record. I do feel accountable to it. However, I do think the environment we're in would challenge us at this point in time to win a championship with this bunch. But we do feel like we're turning the corner and working our way back in that direction."
Price's future had appeared to be in doubt, especially since he was coming to the end of his initial three-year contract. Also, there will be a transition in the front office, as Jocketty will step aside into an advisory role after this season, with general manager Dick Williams taking full control.
Continuity will be maintained with Price's return.
"That's good. I like him," Suarez said. "He's a good leader, and the most important thing is he knows how to work with us and how to talk with us. I feel happy he's my manager, and it's great he's coming back again."
Votto also likes playing for Price, and expected him to be back.
"Hopefully good things in the future," said Votto, who is signed through 2023. "Hopefully he gets the team he deserves."