Playing Pepper 2015: Cincinnati Reds

It’s one of the annual traditions here at C70 At The Bat, our trip around the majors in blog form.  Since 2009, I’ve been asking bloggers from other teams about what’s going to happen with their squad in the coming season.  It’s always fun to see what the opposition is thinking and how optimistic some of their most devoted and intelligent fans are.  This year, the Pepper series is brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 16, coming soon for PC.  Preorder this outstanding baseball simulation today!

Cincinnati Reds
76-86, fourth in the NL Central

For a while there, the Reds/Cardinals rivalry was the new hotness.  Pennant races, brawls, trash talk, it had it all.  While nothing could really compare to what the Cubs meant to St. Louis, Cincinnati was carving their own little niche in that arena.

Then, nothing.  Cincinnati slipped off their perch last year and Pittsburgh slid in to take their place.  While bad feelings still linger for Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto (and for Yadier Molina on the other side), it now seems like one of those fading memories, something that might be renewed in the future, but it’ll take something fairly big to stoke the fire.

To talk about the Reds and whether they can get back in the hunt in 2015, we have Shawn from Cincinnati Reds Blog, a long-time vet of this series (and you’ll find him on Twitter @coweaver) and Brian from Chris Sabo’s Goggles, who has done this a time or two as well.  His Twitter handle is @goggles17.

C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?

CRB: This offseason felt like a step backward, especially the Mat Latos trade. The team partially addressed one weakness, the bullpen, but did little about another, the lack of depth.

CSG: Heh… that’s funny. The Reds’ offseason was all about subtracting salary so they could go crazy in free agency. The problem is they they did nothing in free agency. Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Cueto (and Aroldis Chapman) all have contracts that run out in 2015, and there is zero chance the Reds can afford to sign any of them, let alone all. Getting rid of Alfredo Simon and Latos was a smart idea in theory, but what they did in return (nothing) is clearly the precursor to an all-or-nothing season for the Reds. I fully expect 2015 to be the beginning of yet another prolonged drought of ineffective Reds teams.

C70: Can Johnny Cueto match or exceed his season last year?

CRB: I think that’s about the top of Cueto’s ability. Can’t ask much more than for him to try and match the season.

CSG: I’m a Cueto fan, but every year I’m waiting for the wheels to fall off (pessimism: one of the curses of being a Reds fan). I have no reason to believe that Cueto won’t have another great season (especially if he doesn’t get a new contract during Spring Training). Unfortunately, I believe another team will be reaping the benefits of his services after the All-Star Break.

C70: How much rope does Walt Jocketty have with the ownership?

CRB: Based on Dusty Baker, I’d say Walt’s run is about up if the Reds can’t advance in the playoffs, let alone make the postseason.

CSG: The Reds are a small-market team. Some say mid-market, but I don’t buy it. They’ll never be a big player in free agency, so they’ll mostly have to rely on their farm system (or what’s left of it). Like I said, the writing is on the wall that 2015 is the Reds’ last shot with this core, so it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t make any big free agent moves because they would’ve involved multi-year deals.

I’m no GM, but I will say that I think the Reds should’ve traded Chapman before last season, and Alfredo Simon at last year’s All-Star Break when his value was at its peak. As far as this season is concerned, my guess is that Jocketty will have some freedom to make deadline moves if the team is in contention, but most — if not all — of the moves will be made with 2015 in mind. If the Reds are out of the contention at the break, brace yourself.

C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?

CRB: Billy Hamilton is the guy most likely to improve. And they need him to do so. Also need Votto and Bruce to recover from injury-marred seasons.

CSG: Well, I hope that it’s Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton, and Devin Mesoraco, because they’re the future of the team. But as someone who is hoping to watch some meaningful Reds games this season, if Jay Bruce and Joey Votto don’t make great strides in 2015, then I’ll be turning off the MLB notifications on my phone earlier than usual.

C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?

CRB: I think it looks like a .500 club, but strong seasons from Votto and Bruce could boost them into the playoffs.

CSG: 4th place — 74-88

C70: What do you like best about being a Reds fan?

CRB: The history. Cincinnati is a city in love with the whole of the team’s history. We often focus a lot on the Big Red Machine days, but the team has the best Team Hall of Fame in baseball, and that’s because we value where we’ve been.

CSG: The team’s history. Between being the first professional baseball team, the Big Red Machine, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench — there’s a lot of great stuff in there. Unfortunately, very little of that great stuff has happened post-1990, so hopefully that will change soon.

Really appreciate Shawn and Brian giving of their time to clue us in on what is going on in Cincinnati.  It’s hard to believe that the team that took the Cards to the limit so recently is now coming apart, but that does seem to be the way of baseball, doesn’t it?

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