Two months ago when I wrote up the “What They Need” post for the Cincinnati Reds, I made a claim that they may be my darkhorse team to make the playoffs in 2009. And since I’ve been assigned to write this “Hot Offseason Action” post, I now have to defend myself. Awesome.
For those of you who are men or women of action and just can’t be bothered to read what I had written earlier, here’s a brief summary:
- The Reds offense was unlucky and should have been good enough to score more runs.
- The team has some breakout candidates.
- Their defense needed much upgrading – especially 3B, SS, and LF.
Huh. That was brief. And to think I wasted all those calories typing up the WTN…
Anyhow, the team dared to not listen to me and appear set to go into 2009 with Edwin Encarnacion firmly entrenched at third base instead of left field. I think that this is a mistake. His offensive potential is too good to keep him out of the everyday lineup, but the man is a disaster at the hot corner.
The team’s shortstop defense should be improved quite a bit as Alex Gonzalez returns from a knee injury that wiped out his entire 2008 season. And left field appears to belong to Chris Dickerson who has shown good plate discipline but won’t help you too much with the glove.
And while I wholeheartedly supported their decision to let Corey Patterson go, I must also vehemently protest their decision to replace him with Willy Taveras in center. This is akin to MTV finally ceasing to bombard me with commercials for “The Hills” and instead giving me a suicide-inducing dose of “The City” ads instead.
Things certainly aren’t all bad in Cincinnati. They upgraded the bat out of the catcher’s spot when they acquired Ramon Hernandez in a trade for utilityman Ryan Freel. And while I still think that Dickerson’s numbers in 2008 were a fluke (he’s too old to be a prospect and never showed that much power in the minors), he deserves a shot if they’re keeping Encarnacion at 3rd. Add in a full season of Jay Bruce and the Reds offense is looking solid even without Adam Dunn.
And I remain bullish on this pitching staff. Edinson Volquez is not going to be as successful as he was in 2008, but in turn I suspect that neither Aaron Harang nor Bronson Arroyo will be as bad as they were. Johnny Cueto can already give you league average numbers and Micah Owings should be just fine as a #5.
Add: Willy Taveras, Ramon Hernandez, Arthur Rhodes, Jonny Gomes, Laynce Nix, Aaron Fultz, Ben Davis, Humberto Cota
Lost: Ryan Freel, Corey Patterson, Jeremy Affeldt, Paul Bako, Garey Majewski, Javier Valentin, Matt Belisle, Andy Phillips, Jolbert Cabrera
C: Ramon Hernandez
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Edwin Encarnacion
SS: Alex Gonzalez
LF: Chris Dickerson
CF: Willy Taveras
RF: Jay Bruce
SP1: Aaron Harang
SP2: Edinson Volquez
SP3: Bronson Arroyo
SP4: Johnny Cueto
SP5: Micah Owings
CL: Francisco Cordero
This looks like a team that’s good enough to win at least 82 games. And while I know that the Cubs will trump them for the division crown, it’s not that crazy to think that the Reds will be in the Wild Card hunt come August and September as long as fate doesn’t intervene. Even though I wasn’t impressed by their offseason, that doesn’t dampen my expectations of them come 2009 since I expect the improvements to come from within.
But I also suspect that their defense is going to cost them a couple of games and am always wary of what kind of lineup manager Dusty Baker is going to trot out there as soon as something goes wrong. He and I are just on two different wavelengths as to what ought to be valued in a ballplayer.
Yet, I look forward to hearing more about the Reds in 2009. They’ve got an interesting team this year, which is something I haven’t said in quite some time.