Williams on Reds' season, thoughts on 2021

October 2nd, 2020

CINCINNATI -- A day after the Reds were knocked out of the postseason by the Braves, the feeling of disappointment still lingered for president of baseball operations Dick Williams.

“Oh, man. I would say it’s hard not to wake up this morning feeling bitter disappointment,” Williams said Friday afternoon. “It feels that way for all of us. There’s no joy in Mudville today. But I will say mixed in with that bitter disappointment is, I think for the players and staff, there is pride, and there should be for what they accomplished this year. For all of us, it was an unprecedented year.”

The Reds went 11-3 over their final 14 games to finish with a winning record at 31-29 and make the playoffs -- the first time both had been done by the club since 2013.

But Cincinnati was swept in two games by Atlanta in the National League Wild Card Series while being held scoreless for 22 innings, a new Major League postseason record.

Manager David Bell has one year remaining on his contract. Williams expected Bell and his coaching staff to return in 2021.

“I foresee this staff coming back, I do,” Williams said. “What we went through as a group and the way they stepped up and prepared these guys, I think they deserve every chance to come back. We just ended the season yesterday. Of course, I have to sit down with [chief executive officer] Bob [Castellini] and some of the other guys and sit down with David, but this was a year they should be proud of. I think, right now, we see that group coming back.”

While not making excuses, Williams pointed out some of the difficulties the Reds -- and all teams -- had to work through just to have a season amid the COVID-19 pandemic that shut the game down for 3 1/2 months and forced a truncated 60-game season.

“It’s worth looking back at the gauntlet that these players had to run this year,” Williams said. “No preparation like they’d ever done before for a season to have Spring Training shut down and then reopened on short notice in their home market.

“The constant state of anxiety that they were forced to live in for the majority of the season with the testing and unknowns about the coronavirus. The massive changes to our daily protocols and daily routines. The way those guys were deprived of access to their family and friends for a long period of time.

“I just think people that look at this short season and oversimplify it by saying, ‘Oh, they expanded the playoffs, of course it was easy to get in,’ are completely missing the point here. The reason they were expanded was because the season was so short that it’s hard for the best teams to rise to the top in a shorter period of time. I truly believe the longer the season went, the more we would have distanced ourselves from a lot of the other teams around us.”

After investing much of the $166 million spent on free agents during the offseason into the offense -- by signing Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos -- the team batted a Major League-worst .212 in the regular season.

Cincinnati scored a Major League leading 61.1 percent of its runs via home runs. It tied with Atlanta for first in the NL in walks (239) and ranked sixth in strikeouts (534). Should there be a change to what’s become known in the industry as the three true outcomes approach?

“We definitely will have the coaching staff looking, re-evaluating their messaging to the players, their approach to the players,” Williams said. “Because at the end of the day, we want those guys to get more hits. We do need to figure out how to get those guys where they are, and we’ve seen it in their past and in their track record. Definitely, it will be a focus.”

Other issues worth noting
• Shortstop prospect José Garcia and catching prospect Tyler Stephenson “belong on a big league field,” Williams said after their rookie seasons. Stephenson will have a chance to compete for regular catching duties. Tucker Barnhart is under contract for next season and Curt Casali is under club control and arbitration eligible.

• If pending free-agent starting pitchers Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are not re-signed, the Reds could look outside or give opportunities for Tejay Antone, Tyler Mahle, Michael Lorenzen and José De León to make the rotation.

• Castellanos has an opt-out clause in a four-year, $64 million contract, and based on conversations with him, Williams expected him to not exercise it.

“I think he really likes it here, I think he really liked his teammates. I think he feels like there’s unfinished business,” Williams said.

• Williams could not answer the question, yet, on whether payroll would be increased, decreased or status quo.

“It’s really hard to know exactly where we’ll stack up from an economic perspective without having a little more visibility on those things,” Williams said. “That being said, I know Bob is committed to giving us as many resources as he can to try to keep building on what we accomplished this year.”

• Unlike several clubs in the league, Williams said there would be no reductions in the Reds' pro and amateur scouting department. Some player development positions were eliminated, however, with the anticipation that the organization will drop two Minor League affiliates going into 2021.