These questions face Reds in the new year
This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon's Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
CINCINNATI -- I hope everybody has been enjoying the holidays and getting quality time with family and friends.
Just before Christmas, the Reds signed outfielder/first baseman Wil Myers and backup catcher Curt Casali to one-year contracts on Dec. 22. Until then, it was one of the quieter Reds offseasons in recent memory.
Myers, who signed for a guaranteed $7.5 million, helped address some of the questions about the offense.
There are still other questions still facing the Reds ahead of Spring Training.
1. Can a veteran join a very young rotation?
The Reds have their top three starters set for now in Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft, while Luis Cessa, Connor Overton, Justin Dunn and prospect Brandon Williamson will be among those vying for the other two spots. Except for Cessa, who turns 31 in April, that’s a young group of pitchers.
On Dec. 15, my MLB.com colleague Jon Morosi tweeted that the Reds and former ace Johnny Cueto had been in contact about a reunion. Any veteran that joins the club would need to be an innings eater and provide a positive presence to help the younger pitchers.
There probably won’t be room in the budget. General manager Nick Krall implied as much when talking after the Wil Myers and Curt Casali signings.
“I think we've got to be creative moving forward,” Krall said. “I think we'll figure out what the rest of the offseason brings, and if there's something we can maneuver through this offseason, I think we're going to just have to figure out how to take advantage of that and be creative.”
Reading between the lines, that means salary would have to be subtracted to make room for another signing. The only big contract left on the roster belongs to Joey Votto as he heads into the final year of his deal. And Votto isn’t going anywhere.
It looks like the Reds’ payroll will be in the neighborhood of $80 million for 2023.
2. What is happening in the outfield?
Myers will slot into right field and can move to first base on days Votto doesn’t play. But the other two outfield spots are somewhat in flux.
Center fielder Nick Senzel was still using a scooter to get around at Redsfest. His foot remained in a boot because of complications from a broken left big toe, and he hadn’t walked in months. Among Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl, Stuart Fairchild and Michael Siani, none are firmly established in the Major Leagues. Nick Solak and Matt Reynolds are infielders who can play in the outfield. There are no top outfield prospects who will be ready to debut in 2023.
Fraley would appear to be a good bet for left field while Senzel and Friedl could share center field.
3. What’s the shortstop situation?
Jose Barrero and trade acquisition Kevin Newman are the leading candidates for the shortstop job. Barrero, once a prized prospect, has struggled mightily to hit in the big leagues and is playing winter ball in Puerto Rico in an effort to improve.
The Reds have poured water on the idea that No. 1 prospect Elly De La Cruz could win the job because he has played in fewer than 50 games at the Double-A level. But what if De La Cruz -- who has impressed at every level so far -- has a monster camp at his first big league Spring Training? Would the Reds take a shot and put him on the Opening Day roster? Before replying, “No,” remember that they haven’t been afraid to push prospects in recent years, namely Jonathan India in 2021 and Greene last year.