The Cincinnati Reds won 90+ games and made the playoffs three times in four seasons from 2010 to 2013, but they enter this season firmly in rebuilding mode. The Reds went 64-98 last season – their worst finish since 1982 – and traded away several big-name players, including Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman.
So, yes, this franchise is clearly in rebuilding mode. Only Joey Votto, who agreed to a $251.5-million contract in 2012, is signed through the 2024 season, at which time he’ll be in his 40s.
This is a concern, no?
“Well, honestly, big, long contracts like that are always a concern, especially for a smaller-market team, but if I’m going to have a big investment in a player, I want it to be in a guy like Joey,” Reds general manager Dick Williams said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He keeps himself in tremendous physical shape, he’s a leader, he leads by example, he came up through our system, he’s our most dominant hitter – and I think if we’re going to rebuild this thing, you’ve got to have one or two pillars that you rebuild around. Joey’s the right guy from an offensive standpoint to be here for the long haul. He’s excited for the challenge.”
It helps that the Reds have payroll flexibility elsewhere. Since the end of the 2014 season, they’ve moved Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon, Mike Leake, Cueto, Frazier and Chapman for Anthony DeSclafani, Eugenio Suarez, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed, among others.
Williams said the Reds are going to rebuild through the farm system – the “old-school way.”
“That’s the right way to do it,” he said. “We’ve already got a good jump on it.”
The Reds also have three of the top 40 or so picks in this year’s draft, including the No. 2 overall pick.
“We’ve got a chance to inject a lot of talent back into the system,” Williams said. “That’s the way it’s going to be in the short term. Maybe in a year or two I’ll be spending in the free-agent market, but that’s probably not happening in the short term.”
Reds fans will likely be patient with the rebuild, especially since the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals all won 97+ games last season.
“You got to take the blinders off and look at where you stand versus your division,” Williams said.
Bryan Price, who has gone 140-184 (.432) in two seasons as Reds manager, will oversee the rebuild. Price became the Reds’ pitching coach in October 2009 and replaced Dusty Baker as manager four years later.
Williams wants to see what Price can do with a young ball club.
“For a first-time manager to be judged before your second season is even over, I think, is a little premature,” Williams said, responding to late-season rumors that Price would be let go. “We all felt very strongly that we wanted Bryan to have the full three-year opportunity that we promised him going in to prove himself. We also felt that this year we were really going to be depending on our young pitching, which is his strength. Last year, we had over 100 games started by rookie pitchers, which had not been done in a long time. We’re counting on a lot of young guys to fill in roles in the bullpen. This wasn’t the time to part with a guy like that whose strength is young pitching. We’ll be judging him this year on how he does with the young team and how the team continues to progress towards our ultimate goal of getting back to the top of the division. It wasn’t that long ago those teams like the Cards and the Cubs were looking up at us. We want to get back there.”