• HaroldHecuba: Mike Mussina is EASTERN EUROPEAN, not Italian....

This is one of a series of posts in which we eviscerate each team’s lambastable offseason blunders and laud their miraculous hot-stove coups.

Despite a team loaded with power and home run threats, the 2007 Reds scored 783 runs but gave up 853 — a differential of 70 runs.

Bronson ArroyoSo how will the 2008 Reds be different? Well, they’ve got a brand new expensive closer. The Reds signed Milwaukee CL Francisco Cordero to a four-year, $46 million contract. That should help sure up a Reds bullpen that owned an NL-high 5.13 ERA and NL-low 34 saves in 2007, while Reds opponents scored more runs in the eighth (123) than any other. Signing Cordero will allow David Weathers to move into a setup role. This is a major improvement.

The Reds spent most of the offseason trying to acquire Baltimore ace Erik Bedard, but ultimately refused to part with top OF prospect Jay Bruce and lost out on Bedard, who ultimately got shipped to the Mariners. Bummer.

The Reds did land SP Edinson Volquez, which could prove to be a savvy acquisition, but figures to be more of a long term investment. Cincinnati traded OF Josh Hamilton to the Rangers for Volquez, a 24-year-old right-hander who was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts for the Rangers last season and was considered one of their top pitching prospects. In 26 minor league starts, Volquez went 14-6 with a 3.67 ERA, holding batters to a .190 average. The Reds needed another pitcher to fill out a rotation headed by Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, so trading for Volquez made sense. But it’s unclear if 2007 will be the year that Volquez blossoms, or just germinates.

The Reds lineup will most likely look similar this year to last. Hamilton is gone and Bruce and Ryan Freel will battle it out to start in CF. Griffey and Dunn have the corner outfield spots locked down. The infield will remain unchanged, with the possible exception of 1B, where Joey Votto will fight to unseat Scott “Moneyball” Hatteberg, who could be relegated to a bench role.

The Reds were third from the bottom in defensive efficiency in 2007, despite the fact that they have an elite defensive shortstop. And they didn’t really do much to improve that this offseason.

So let’s review: Cincinnati gave up 70 more runs than they scored last season. This year, things will be different because they have a new closer and a new rookie starting pitcher, and the team might be starting rookies in CF and at 1B.

But will things be 70 runs different? It’s hard to imagine.

Oh, wait — I forgot one thing. Cincinnati has a new manager. Dusty Baker is ready to roll. And he’s been talking about brining Kenny Lofton on board, so that the team can avoid clogging up the bases. Yikes.

Jay BruceC – Dave Ross

1B – Joey Votto/Scott Hatteberg

2B – Brandon Phillips

SS – Alex Gonzalez

3B – Edwin Encarnacion

LF – Adam Dunn

CF – Ryan Freel/Norris Hopper/Jay Bruce

RF – Ken Griffey Jr.

SP – Aaron Harang

SP – Bronson Arroyo

SP – Matt Belisle

SP – Homer Bailey

SP – Edinson Volquez/Johnny Cueto

Setup – David Weathers

Closer – Francisco Cordero

Grade: C+

Cincinnati wants to win now and for good reason. The team stands to lose two of its big sluggers, Griffey and Dunn, after this season. On the other hand, the Reds have a handful of young talent in Votto, Volquez, Bailey and Bruce, players who probably won’t hit their stride until 2009 at the earliest. So winning now seems like a stretch.

-Hot Offseason Action Index-

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