Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cincinnati Reds' Off Season Snooze-Fest

After winning the National League Central Division in 2010, the Cincinnati Reds were never a factor in 2011. Pitching woes crippled the team and they could never muster a winning streak. They were below .500 in the first half, below .500 in the second half, below .500 in one-run games and woeful in interleague play. Teams in their division have been active this off season. The Cardinals and Brewers are both expected to lose their big first basemen but have made other moves to stay relevant. The Cubs hired all new leadership. The Pirates have been active. The Reds? The Reds have not had a transaction since October. What gives?

The Cincinnati Reds have one of the most respected general managers in Walt Jocketty.  In this piece, it appears Jocketty has been actively seeking to make deals and says he is frustrated that nothing has happened. There most often trade bait dangled (at least according to rumors) has been Yonder Alonso. But Alonso seems to be a very good young player, so why trade him? In fact, the Reds appear to be in good shape offensively. The loss of one half of their catching duo, Ramon Hernandez, should be more than adequately replaced by good looking young catcher, Devin Mesoraco. Jay Bruce hit 32 homers last year which gives them another weapon (albeit an inconsistent one) and Drew Stubbs showed some flashes of goodness (when he wasn't striking out, which happened an alarming 205 times).

Yes, with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Stubbs, Bruce and Alonso, the Reds should have no trouble scoring runs. Plus they have a good looking young shortstop in Zack Cozart (whose name would be a Scrabble bonanza if you could use proper nouns). The offense looks fine. But what of the pitching? Dontrelle Willis is off to the Phillies, which is probably a good thing for the Reds. But when Mike Leake was their most consistent starter, that is a problem (no offense to Leake who has become quite solid). Johnny Cueto was terrific but again missed thirteen starts. His former phenom partner, Edinson Volquez, had a horrific season last year. But even worse was Bronson Arroyo who frankly hit bottom last year and became a batting practice pitcher. Homer Bailey was somewhat meh. Travis Wood doesn't appear likely to an effective major league starter and does anybody really think that Aroldis Chapman will work out as a starter?

And then you have the bullpen. Last year's closer is gone since the Reds declined to pick up Francisco Cordero. So who is going to close? Nick Masset can be a very good reliever but he was over-exposed last season and cracked in the second half. Jose Arredondo has a big arm, but was inconsistent. And Logan Ondrusek and Bill Bray are useful if not spectacular.

Sam LeCure had some success and that was hopeful, but a lot of the Reds' 2012 season will depend on if Cueto can stay healthy, Volquez can find the magic, Leake can continue to improve and if two other starters can find a way to get people out. Behind them, a bullpen needs to be cobbled together. If the Reds don't pitch better in 2012 than they did in 2011, it will be another lost season.

Fans of the Reds have to be restless. How could they not be when absolutely nothing has happened this off season? This writer hopes for their sake that the team doesn't trade Alonso. But again, Jocketty is a terrific general manager and there is still some time to make some things happen. But it sure has been a snooze fest so far this off season in Cincinnati.

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