Inbox: How will Reds fill open roster spots?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers fan questions

January 7th, 2021

Shortly before the horrifying developments in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, I solicited for questions about the Reds for the first 2021 Inbox. And thank you kindly for responding with several good questions amid a chaotic day for the country.

It’s been a slow-moving offseason to this point and most of the moves have either been subtractions of bigger pieces and smaller additions for depth. I’ll do my best to answer your questions with the understanding that some things remain murky.

Are the current holes in the roster (i.e. shortstop, two open spots in rotation, closer) more likely to be filled internally or externally?
-- Jamie B., on Facebook

I expect that the shortstop spot will be filled from the outside. As I wrote on Tuesday, the top three free-agent shortstops are Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius. Another option disappeared Thursday afternoon when Cleveland sent Francisco Lindor to the Mets in a blockbuster trade. I can say that the Reds were not involved in making any push to acquire Lindor.

Now the question is if the Reds have enough in the budget to add one of the free agent shortstops. Or would another player have to be dealt to open more space?

As for the pitching vacancies, I think they will be filled with internal options. Both Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone are candidates for both the rotation and closer’s role, and I’d expect Tyler Mahle to move into the rotation. Amir Garrett is after the closer’s job as well and he certainly has the stuff and mentality to take on that responsibility. If there is a low-cost reliever on the market, there could be depth added for competition.

With all the Reds' stars named as potential trade names, are we in rebuild mode all of a sudden? Why trade Luis Castillo and or Sonny Gray? They are stars and not overly expensive.
-- @FrankismAdam, on Twitter

First, just because there were trade rumors out there about Castillo, Gray, Eugenio Suárez and others, doesn’t mean they’re getting traded. Think about how many rumors have flown around the industry in the social media age (and before). How many have actually come to fruition? No one ever keeps that score.

Are the Reds in “rebuilding mode” again? Personally, I don’t think so. You don’t spend $166 million in the previous offseason, get bounced out of the first round of the postseason and tear it all down to start over again. That simply makes no sense to me. But did the COVID-19 shutdown and a shortened 2020 season without fans hurt economically? Of course. The team clearly has reduced payroll by trading closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels and with some of the non-tender decisions. All of the other teams in the NL Central have made similarly hard choices based on money.

Earlier this offseason while filling in as co-host on the Reds Hot Stove League radio show, I asked general manager Nick Krall about the Gray rumors and he maintained that he and the front office are willing to listen to any proposal as a matter of policy.

“We’ve had hits on just about every player on our roster,” Krall said. “Some guys have had 15 hits from different clubs and people ask about it. You’re going to ask about it because you want to know, at least, who is available, who is not available and what the landscape of that market looks like.”

Is Tyler Stephenson set to be the everyday starter at catcher?
-- Luke D., on Facebook

No. With Curt Casali being non-tendered and signing with the Giants, I think Stephenson will form the right-handed hitting portion of a catching tandem with lefty hitter Tucker Barnhart. Besides being a two-time NL Gold Glove Award winner (including in 2020), Barnhart has developed a great relationship with his pitchers. Stephenson is certainly on his way to achieving that, but I would expect them to split the duties in some fashion.

What players do you see making their Reds debut in 2021 and what -- if any -- impact do you see them having?
-- @OldmanRedsfan, on Twitter

A harder question to answer than usual given there was no Minor League season in 2020 and almost every player’s development suffered if they weren’t on the big league club or alternate workout site.

I would not be shocked, however, to see MLB Pipeline’s top two Reds prospects -- pitchers Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene -- make their big league debuts. Both benefitted from the alternate site, especially Greene after he was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. With his triple-digit velocity, he could be an asset in the bullpen initially. Cincinnati’s rotation depth will be tested after the free agent departures of Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani, and it might need its top prospects to potentially pick up the slack.

Have the Reds named a full-time replacement for Thom Brennaman next season on the TV?
-- Steve W., on Facebook

Not yet, but I was told that something could be announced this month. I haven’t heard yet about who the candidates are. Jim Day, who filled in last season following Brennaman’s suspension, is not a candidate for the play-by-play job full time. I know Bengals and Bearcats radio voice Dan Hoard has baseball experience and I think he would be very good. If the choice is from outside the Cincinnati market, I think hiring a qualified person of color or a woman would be a fantastic move.