The Cincinnati Reds have never been much of a player in the free agent market. They really haven’t been once baseball teams began to spend real money on players in the mid-to-late 90’s. That’s not to say they didn’t pick-and-choose players to spend money on. They spent big on Ken Griffey Jr., Joey Votto, and Homer Bailey. But one was via a trade, then extension, and the other two were just extensions. They have never had to compete, one-for-one on dollars with even mid-tier free agents in that timeframe.

It seems that this offseason may be different. The Cincinnati Reds have been reportedly interested in pitchers at the top of the market. While it’s one thing to say you’re interested and an entirely different thing to actually go out and get someone, the Reds have never really been linked as being interested in these types of guys before. It was always out of their price range. On the surface, at least, things are different.

If we are going to believe the reports that the Cincinnati Reds have about $30M to spend this offseason in free agency, they should be able to acquire some quality players. I’ve written about how much guys are expected to get on the market a few times (here and here). Today I wanted to look at what I would try to do if I were the Reds.

Let’s preface this by stating that this is being approached as if trades are off of the table because the prices are too much in terms of prospects. And we’re approaching it from November 19th. The first move that I would make would be to non-tender Billy Hamilton for 2019. While I would try to trade him first, and it’s possible, for the purposes of not trying to figure out who to trade him to and for what, he’s just going to be non-tendered. That will open up $6M to add to the $30M.

That gives me, the Cincinnati Reds czar of player moves, $36M to work with on the market for 2019. But, let’s also note that they should be clearing another $20-25M of salary after 2019. That’s important to note because it’s going to have an effect on how the team should approach things. And it let’s them, at least potentially, be creative.

It’s likely going to be tough to get quality pitchers to come to Cincinnati. First, the ballpark has a reputation. When guys have options, they will want to choose the one of least resistance. Two, the Reds haven’t exactly been winning in recent years, and good pitchers aren’t going to want to come into bad situations if there are other options. So you’re probably going to have to pay them a little bit more over what other teams are offering.

With that said, I’m willing to do that in some cases. My first signee would be J.A. Happ. The average contract projection for him between Fangraphs, Jon Heyman and his “expert”, and MLB Trade Rumors was 2-years and $14M. That won’t get him to Cincinnati. So I’m offering him 2-years (he seems to only want two years) and $33M. But, we are going to make it so he gets $13M in 2019, and $20M in 2020. Essentially, after the 2019 season he simply takes over the Homer Bailey contract space.

The next player I would sign would be Trevor Cahill. He’s not the sexiest free agent out there. And he only threw 110.0 innings in 2018, but he’s one of the rare guys who can miss bats and has a high groundball rate. The contract projection averages are for 2-years and $7.4M. To get him to Cincinnati we are giving him 2-years and $8.5M a year.

This next one may surprise many of you. I would sign Matt Harvey for 2-years at $9M per season. That’s where his projections are at for his contract. I sell him on the idea that he knows there’s spots open for him here in the rotation that there may not be other places.

That leaves the Cincinnati Reds having spent $30.5M this offseason for the 2019 season. There’s a little wiggle room left from that $36M we started with, but for now we are going to sit on it and see if the market develops well for a reliever signing down the road.

How does this shape out with the roster? Well, here’s how I would head to spring training with everyone penciled in:

I think that, generally, we are mostly in agreement on the position players. You will note that two or three of the bench players are unlisted. Spring training can help sort that out. As will the availability of a guy like Alex Blandino, who may or may not be ready to play in March/April as he recovers from his knee injury. If he’s healthy, pencil him in.

It’s the pitching staff that I would expect plenty of opinions on. Not only on the pitchers I chose to sign and for how much, but how I sorted the pitching staff. As you can see, I only have two starting pitchers listed. That isn’t to say that the rotation will only be two of those guys, and a mixing of the rest. It’s simply saying that there are plenty of options that could be chosen from for starting pitchers 3-5 in the rotation. That includes guys that are not listed, such as Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, and Cody Reed. They weren’t listed because they have options and could be sent to the minors as “starting depth” in a scenario where they don’t make the rotation. That seems less likely for a guy like Anthony DeSclafani, who is simply listed as “pitcher”.

With both Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey, I think you go into the spring with them in the rotation. But if they don’t perform, you can slide either of them into the bullpen. Or, if one of the younger arms looks very good and you need a spot or two, you can slide Cahill or Harvey to the bullpen. I would possibly even approach it as a scenario where they tag-team with a starter and every 5th day, you go into that game with the plan being 5 innings and 4 innings for just those two pitchers.

What the plan is behind the moves, and the roster, is to get somewhat competitive, but also have room to develop. The rotation has options that should keep you in every game – which hasn’t been the case for years in Cincinnati. And there’s room for upside, too. J.A. Happ is a legitimate guy to put at the top of your rotation. He’s not going to be confused with Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander, but he’s pretty good and matches up well on a given day with anyone. Luis Castillo – outside of April 2018, his Major League career he’s made 40 starts, thrown 230.1 innings, and posted a 3.39 ERA. He’s usually going to keep you in every game he takes the mound, and there’s plenty of upside left in there.

With Trevor Cahill, there’s not much upside missing from what he has been with one exception. If he can remain healthy he could provide you more innings. But, he should help stabilize the performance on the mound in whichever role he falls into. Matt Harvey, on the flip side, has some potential upside. Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs/Rotographs believes that he could see plenty of improvement by throwing his slider more. With new pitching coach Derek Johnson being very forward thinking with how he uses analytics in his coaching, perhaps this is something that would be very beneficial to see in action. Harvey already has a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio. Improving it further could get real interesting.

This should improve the pitching. The rotation has options and the team should at least be somewhat competitive. There’s a chance everything goes right for them and then things go from “this is intriguing” to “this is fun” real quick. But, that isn’t as likely to happen. What this plan does, though is keep the Reds relevant, show improvements and most importantly, show them what 2020 needs. There will still be plenty of money to spend after 2019 to fill whatever area(s) of need shows up in next season.

For all contract sourcing purposes, here are the references: Jon Heyman/Expert Projections, Fangraphs Projections, MLB Trade Rumor Projections.

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81 Responses

  1. Ghettotrout1

    I’m okay with those moves. One hundred percent with the Billy Hamilton and Nick Senzel swap. But I think I would opt to go for Dallas over the combo of Harvey/Cahill assuming you could get him with similar money of the combo of those two or maybe a little more with that extra amount you have saved. But at this point I would be overjoyed with any actual legit free agent signing that this team does.

  2. Brad

    I like where your head is at. I am just higher on Mahle than most. Id only bring in 2 SP whether by trade or FA. I like the short contracts. Have a rotation of Castillo, DeScalfani and Mahle plus 2 additions. Gives Reds a lot of options to full those 2 rotation spots with the ~$30M rumored. Could have some space for a multi-position bench piece to go with Ervin, Blandino.

    I still think trading Iglesias when value and contract value is still high is vital.

    • Shawn

      I would trade Iglesias for a couple of Atlanta’s stud pitching prospects.

  3. redleggingfordayz

    Great article Doug. I like Happ at the top, but still being affordable. Cahill and Harvey are both solid additions as well. Maybe trade one of them out for a strong setup guy and see if Johnson can get Mahle\Romano\Stephenson\Reed right. DFA Billy and put Senzel in CF is also spot on the money.

  4. kevinz

    Cannot really argue with the moves here. If anything might add a RP and 2 SP instead of the 3 SP. I like the stat for Castillo as well thanks for that. My eyes kept telling me he is better than what the numbers show. Great Opinion Article Doug.

  5. Tony

    Nice job here Doug! The only thing I’m not on board with is having Robert Stephenson anywhere near a good MLB staff. With his talent could he blossom? Of course but relying on him for any meaningful contribution would be foolish and without options it’s a wasted roster space.

    • Doug Gray

      He’s out of options. So he’s going to be on the roster, or traded. And since I’m not dealing with trades here – he’s locked in. I can’t see the team non-tendering him – he makes league minimum.

      • Tony

        I understand he is out of options but he’s definitely not locked in. This is a performance business and he has performed very poorly at the MLB level and it seems unlikely that will change next year. I wouldn’t non-tender him but if he doesn’t light it up in Arizona you have to try to trade him or outright release him and move on.

    • Alex Reds

      Reds have no reason to non tender Stephenson. He’s a great fit with the new pitching coach. He put up some of the best pitching numbers any Reds prospect has ever put up in AAA in the last several decades. Let’s actually give the guy more than several starts and let him work the jitters out and get settled in. Stephenson could go somewhere else and become a top of the rotation starter, while we sign JA Happ or Keuchel for a big contract and they get hurt or become old and ineffective. Many of the best players in the game struggled their first couple of years at the MLB level. A lot of the Reds rebuild in the next 1-2 year period depends on a combination of Stephenson, Reed, and Garrett, Castillo becoming effective starters than any free agent.

  6. DanD

    As much as I like Scooter I would like to see him traded for pitching, put Senzel at 2b and try to get Ender Inciarte to play CF.

    • Fish

      I think the issue is there’s currently no market for scooter. There at a few quality 2b out there in free agency & why pay prospects when you can pay $$.

  7. redlegs4ever

    I would like to add a third reason it may be tough to get quality pitching to sign in Cincinnati. You just non-tendered one of the best defenders in the game and the only above average defender in the field (though I think Suarez could get back there).

    I’m not here to to say Billy is essential, or is irreplaceable, but with this vitriol in which he must be replaced at all costs sweeping the website it’s getting massively overlooked how valuable he is in the field, and on the bases, and the effect that would have on luring a pitcher to Cincinnati. It’s certainly not gonna be the deciding factor but it’s all the tougher sell to a free agent that not only do you have to pitch with the worst middle infield in the game behind you, we’re replacing the elite CF with a guy that’s never played there before.

    • Justin

      I think the gutsiest move could be to keep him and put him on the bench. Anyone who might have traded for him at the deadline would have used him as a bench baserunner/defensive replacement.

      Those teams would have been contenders.

      We want to be contenders. Hmm.

      • redlegs4ever

        I could see that, definitely in some sort of platoon role. The splits haven’t played out this way recently but there was a time where Billy could actually hit well right handed. Maybe he’s told to give up switch hitting, something I woulda done years ago, and regain his confidence from the right side while being deployed as a platoon in CF, with Senzel sliding to a corner against lefties, and pinch runner/defensive replacement.

    • Muddycleats

      Hello & Dittos? Who’s playing CF w/ BH gone? Luv Happ & Harvey idea, but not so much on Cahill. Happ, Harvey, Disco & Castillo is reasonable cost wise & leaves a spot open for someone fm within 2 win a spot. Then again, it might b hard 2 sign someone like Happ w/out someone else of equal ability

  8. Cguy

    Whatever happened to Lorenzen? I thought he did a pretty good job as a sp last fall. Overall 6 HR in 81 innings is the lowest HR per innings rate for any of the Reds sp in 2018. In my book he’s worth at least 6-8 starts next spring. I see Castillo, DeSclafani, & Lorenzen in the rotation. I’d rather go for a 3 year deal with a quality veteran sp (Gonzalez?) than several 2 year deals. I also advocate giving the new pitching coach some time with the pitchers/prospects we have now than 3 or 4 replacements. I still see the Reds trading position as improving over the course of the 2019 season. Get a good sp, a lefty swingman, & see what gives next July.

    • Reaganspad


      Easier to sign a reliever to let Michael hit every 5 days

      Hope new minds on pitching see the potential

  9. Datdudejs

    This would be the most disappointing way to “get the pitching” and the team would still be atrocious next year. I would be ok with 1 of these three guys if you’re going to make 3 acquisitions, but if those are the three moves you make, that’s a poor offseason.

    No offense, , but it seems to me your love of minor leaguers blinds your decision making skills. There seems to be a large trade pool for high quality starting pitchers this offseason and it’s obvious the Reds need to tap into that if they want any chance to compete.

    • Doug Gray

      You missed the entire point of the article because you either didn’t read this sentence, or you misunderstood it:

      Let’s preface this by stating that this is being approached as if trades are off of the table because the prices are too much in terms of prospects.

      The entire article is based around the idea that for some reason the Reds can’t make trades because teams want too much, so they if we’ve got to go the free agent route, here are my ideas.

      This is not an exact plan for what I would do. This is an article stating how if they can only go to the market with what they’ve got, this is what I would do.

      I’m not sure if that sentence should have been explained better or differently, but I thought it was pretty clear as to what the rest of the article was going to be doing.

      • Doug Gray

        And to add to this, it’s very easy to write an article and say “I’d sign this free agent for this price” because we know that 1, those guys are actually available, 2, there are strong estimates out there for what it would take to acquire them so we’ve got a baseline cost of acquisition, and 3, we can look back in February and see if the deals offered may have worked.

        Adding in trades is a jumbled mess. We have no idea if the players are available you want to trade for, if the other team wants what you offer at all, if your team would even consider trading someone you’re offering – and there’s really not much way of getting any answers to those questions.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m willing to trade anyone in the right deal. Blake Snell is up for grabs? I’m willing to discuss Nick Senzel and Taylor Trammell. Marcus Stroman is on the other line? Don’t even think about asking for a Top 5 guy because I’m going to laugh as I tell you to call me back when you get serious.

        But I just don’t like the idea of creating fake trade offers without any real way to eventually see if the deal would have ever been accepted. In free agency we can do that because guys are going to sign. And the Reds are *probably* going to spend some money and we’ll have a good idea of just how much they will have spent. Heck, even now we’ve at least been given one hint as to how much they have opened up.

      • Doug Gray

        Let me add to this one more time, it wasn’t easy to write this article. I actually spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to spend the money in a good way based on the premise of the thought. And for that to make sense with what I felt was a way to make the Reds the best in the long term, but also not keep them terrible in the short term. I probably looked into about 20 starting pitchers. I had actually written up things about signing Eovaldi, Miley, Morton, and a few different outfield options as bench players before settling on what I ultimately did in this article.

      • Datdudejs

        Ok, fair enough Doug. I did read that but I took it in a different way then it was meant. I understood it as you were taking into account what it would take to acquire those guys that are available in trade and unwilling to part with prospects to get them. I didn’t realize you meant it the way you did

    • Rich H.

      Datdude, did you read the opening of the article? Go back and re-read it. You’re missing why this is written this way.

    • Alex Reds

      There is hardly any trade pool of high quality starting pitchers. The top pitchers aren’t going anywhere. Why would any of those team trade them? There isn’t even enough #1 starts for each team to have one of them. Maybe Madison Bumgarner could be had, if the Giants could consider rebuilding and his injuries to move on.

      You may be referring to that there are plenty of teams willing to trade starters who are league average or below league average for a nice haul of prospects, because that’s a smart decision. Meanwhile, there is extra demand for average and below average pitchers because there aren’t enough of them going around.

      • Doug Gray

        Kluber, Carrasco, Paxton are all said to at least possiblities as trade targets. They are all better than league average starters.

      • Alex Reds

        Kluber has three years of control and would take Hunter Greene AND Senzel / Suarez or something crazy to acquire him. It would take an absolute bounty and destroy the Reds farm significantly. Otherwise, Cleveland wouldn’t be interested in trading a 3 year controllable high quality starter. One player also wouldn’t put the Reds over the top and then we are back to rebuilding again, or rebooting for another 6 years.

        Carrasco and Paxton have two years of control and would still likely take one of Senzel or Suarez, and more. Giving up solid 6 year controllable players for a two year window where the Reds aren’t going anywhere anyways doesn’t seem smart. It seems desparate and likely to fail. Who wants to rebuild again for another 6 years? Even if you could be .500 for two years.

        The Reds have enough hitting but they need like four quality starters to be a winning team, and still a top of the rotation starter to do any real damage in the playoffs. The Reds might have enough of a farm to get two high quality starters if you traded all of the top 5 prospects. Then Suarez could get you a third.

        The downside is now your window is definitely only two years and then you are for sure rebuilding after that unless someone is paying big bucks to keep those players (But then they are 34/35 years old anyways) which the Reds have already demonstrated they aren’t spending another $100M to get the payroll to $200M to do so.

        It would definitely leverage up to go all in for a two year window; but I don’t think the Reds have the pieces in place for it to be too effective short term anyways. Yes, .500 ball for a year or two sounds awfully nice, but then what? If you’re going to go all in, you need a slim shot at a World Series victory not a slim shot at hopefully sneaking into a Wild Card.

        The Reds should wait until the team is fighting for .500 ball first with their prospects breaking through. A lot of the prospects have fallen on their face so far in the first year or two. Let’s wait until some of them start to turn it around first; or wait for the next wave of prospects to come through. Another option is to clear out and save payroll to be able to have a $60-90M free agency boost payroll to a $160M+ in a future year.

        There’s a lot of directions and paths to go and options to be a competing team and World Series team in 2021-23. There’s not many directions to go for in 2019-20 unless you are okay with mortgaging all of your future to go for it; but a guaranteed rebuild in 3 years would be pretty dumb as the Reds are no where even close to sniffing the playoffs now.
        Or, if your owner is okay with spending $100M plus a year out of pocket to make the Reds good with a $200M payroll; that major markets can do without their owners needing to spend their own money. Then if their owner does want to spend money, they can spend like $300M.
        How great and more interesting baseball would be if it had a salary cap.

  10. Alex Reds

    I wonder if a new team strategy to acquire prospects will become to pay a pretty solid in demand starter like $30-50M in year one and about $5-10M in year two. Convince them to play for the Reds (or other rebuilding team) since you will trade them to a team in contention in July of the first year. This puts the player on a competing team when otherwise you don’t know which teams will be in contention and those teams in contention may not have enough salary to sign you.

    The player still has a second year at a cheap price, enabling the team that acquires him to place a tender on him and get a first round pick. Getting the first round pick back makes the trade even more of a bounty in prospects. The Reds could also pay down the salary further to make the acquisition cost in the first year to be almost none for the acquiring team. Assuming the pitcher stays healthy and performs, the return in prospects would be huge. Much higher chance of getting a top 25 overall prospect than spending that same money in the international prospect market, which can no longer be bought out for large amounts of money due to rule changes anyways. So this becomes the new gamble to get prospects by having very in demand tradable assets with low salary for the acquiring team by eating the salary.

  11. B-town Fan

    I like these moves, if you could get Eovaldi in there for the Cahill, Harvey combo for the same cost, that would be geat, but that’s not looking likely since I saw where 9 teams are in on Eovaldi and the Reds aren’t mentioned as one of them. So perhaps Gio Gonzales for Cahill to get another lefty in the lineup with Happ to contend with all the lefty hitters on the Cubs and Brewers. But Cahill works he’s got the same WAR as Gio. The rotation additions of Happ, Cahill, Harvey is pretty solid but the best part of that is the Reds get to keep all there prospects.

  12. Jasonp

    I would love to get J.A. Happ. I think it would be great to have someone with his skill and experience to help the team win and be someone for the younger guys to get advice from.

    I am also good to move on from Hamilton. I think his current skill and talent make him a 4th outfielder. Pitch running in close games and a defensive replacement would help the team out a lot but 6 mil is to much for that. I no longer believe he will ever improve here at the plate. Maybe in a larger stadium you would see him get some more hits but I think he is what he is.

    What I do not want is two free agent starting pitchers unless it is two top end ones. example Happ and Keuchel. I really liked how Reed was pitching last year. I also think if Mahle or Romano will both improve as starters if they are given that chance again. Stevenson and Lorenzen have some potential in starting as well. If we sign 2 free agent pitchers then all of those players we have will only have one spot in the rotation to show if they can get better. I think we need two open spots to see if any of them have a chance to be good.

    Romano is interesting to me if you look at his splits. The first time he faced batters in the game they OPS against him was .714 the second time was .930 but the third time it was .702 (213 average) and the 4th time facing batters it was .500. The third and forth time he faced batters in a game he was better then the first two times. It makes me wonder if he is doing something different the third and fourth time. Like is he pitching his change up more often? If it is something like that then maybe he just needs to do that the whole game. Could be a small change that would make him significantly more successful then he was last year.

    If I was using all or most of the 30-36 mil, after I signed one starter, I would look into relief pitching and maybe even a closer. I wouldn’t mind spending bigger money on a short term older closer and see what kind of prospects we could get trading away Iglesias. I think all closers save games at about the same rate, some just do it in a more dominating way.

  13. DanD

    Doug, if the Reds could sign 2 of these three (Gonzalez, Lynn and Happ) for 23 million a year and Pollock for 13 million a year would you do this?

    I would then look at trading prospects for an ACE if this could be done.


    • Doug Gray

      Honestly, I think I’d just pass on Pollock. Not that I don’t think he’s worth what he’ll get, but I think that I’d rather just look at Senzel in center in the short term, save the money, and if needed, re-address center field later.

      When it comes to trading for an ace, I’m not opposed to it on the surface. But it would need to be someone like Blake Snell with tons of control left. Those guys don’t get moved very often. If I were to trade for a guy like Kluber, for example, because of the money involved, and the price of acquisition (I’d imagine you’d need to give up something like two of Senzel/Greene/Trammell, and then add other solid parts), I would need to know more of the long-term, and even short-term plan for the Reds. Unless you’re going all in in 2019 and 2020, it’s tough for me to say make a trade for an ace like that.

      • spence

        Pollack will be healthier than ever, and play up at GABP. Dude rakes and is much better than has shown. I would take the flier for sure. Think he is primed for a good year

  14. jbonireland

    Doug what a well thought out article. As George Grande is want to say “brilliant”. I totally agree with the Happ assessment. With regard to the other two pitchers, I can see Cahill for a combination starter/reliever and if Harvey truly wants to be here then OK.

    I was wondering about your thoughts on someone like Lance Lynn of the Yankees. Did he not fit the money profile or is he basically a fly ball pitcher in a small ball park. I was wondering if someone could tell us what are his stats at Riverfront pitching for the Cardinals.

    Again …………… keep up the outstanding work.

    • Doug Gray

      Lynn was someone I looked at. I simply didn’t like his very high walk rate as a starter the last two years.

  15. Tom

    I like the approach. Money is available. Add talent for money. Don’t trade young talent for talent – it’s too lateral. This franchise needs an increase in talent immediately.

  16. Cguy

    I just don’t see that adding $50M in payroll for 2019 would put the Reds in the position of having a competitive edge over the Pirates & Cards, let alone the Brewers & Cubs. $30M will mostly be wasted. Add an sp, add a lefty swingman & save half that money for when it will count.

  17. Stock

    Stephenson sucks. I know he is out of options but he either starts in the pen and proves himself, is released or traded. You didn’t include Bailey so why include Stephenson?

    Harvey is over priced. Looking at GB%/K/9/BB/9/swgK%

    Harvey – 42%/7.61/2.15/9.6%
    Disco(A/S) – 44%/8.71/1.89/11.72
    Reed – 61%/8.79/3.14/10.40%
    Cahill – 53%/8.18/3.35/11.70%

    I will take Reed and Disco over Harvey any day. I would take them over Cahill because Cahill averages < 85 IP per year the last 5 years and he is no better. Why pay someone Millions for a part time job.

    I give 2 spots to Castillo and Disco. No question. I give one spot to Reed with the understanding that Stephenson/Sims/Mahle/Wisler/Lorenzen can replace him if he falters. I like the Happ signing. If you have to add via FA then I go with Anibel Sanchez or Charlie Morton. Paxton is a Yankee now so no longer an option

    • Doug Gray

      I think that almost everyone actually expects Homer Bailey to be released next spring unless he just looks completely different than he’s looked at any point in the last three years. I don’t think many people actually expect that with Robert Stephenson.

      • Scottya

        I agree, except based on reports wants to be closer to home NJ or he may elect to stay in Houston. But He’d come with very little risk and a one or two year contract and He would be one huge step forward for 19′. If we traded Hamilton and Hernandez that is 8 million more plus about 13 million left after signing Morton.

        I’m jumping on the trade Iglesias + for a TOR starting pitcher bandwagon.

        1. Thor/Kluber/Carrasco
        2. Morton
        3. Castillo
        4. Desclafani
        5. Cahill

        That’s a playoff rotation!

  18. Wes

    Trade Suarez to SD for will Myers and 2 quality pitching prospects and let’s say 3 mill a season to offset Myers contract a bit but not to much to effect pitching prospects.

    Cut billy to save his money and ship Schebler to abu dabi ala nermal from Garfield.

    Sign pollock, Gio Gonzales, Andrew Miller and harvey and ottavino.

    Put a soft 5 inning cap on all starters and play a heavy reliever pitching game.


    Incredible lineup, incredible bullpen. Win it like royals did.

    (Drop the mic)

    PS. Sorry but I’m not available for hire reds front office

  19. Kong

    Reds and the front office wizard will put the team in the same position they have for 4 straight years. He will talk big then bend over and let every team, all of which are led by legit GMs, take whatever they want from the Reds.

  20. Optimist

    Interested in the comparison of the Paxton trade with the Reds prospects – seems like they gave up quite a bit – #1, and top 10, and top 30. Sounds like Senzel, a AA pitcher/prospect, and a A star variation.

    That said, I agree with Harvey and Cahill, and just wonder who the Haps comparisons are, and, given your explanation/backgrounder to the article, who the other Happ level SPs are that are available via trade.

    • Stock

      Big difference between Senzel and Sheffield. I would say Trammell, Gutierrez and Fairchild would have been a better offer.

  21. cinvenfan

    I’ll say it once again. Let the new pitching coach work with the likes of Stephenson, Reed, Mahle, Romano, Disco, Santillan, even Bailey, before commiting big money/years to a guy not named Eovaldi or Corbin.
    Do not trade the top 3 for a guy with less than 4 years of control and #1 potential.
    My moves: Sign Harvey back, perhaps Gio Gonzales to a 2 year deals top. Or trade Scooter for Gray plus bullpen help/CF.

    • Mark

      I like you moves, 2 good FA pick ups, plus Gennett really should be traded, and Gray is a good target.

      • Colorado Red

        I would prefer John Gray out of Colorado.
        A change of scenery might be good for him.
        I would think a mid level 15 – 25 level prospect would be good enough.
        But I could be wrong.

  22. Ryan S

    I can get behind signing Happ.

    I would also DFA Hamilton and then sign AJ Pollock. Senzel playing centerfield is not a certainty. Plus it gives you a center fielder for the next 3-4 seasons until Trammell debuts, and at that point, you can then decide who plays center and who takes left field.

    I would also take a flyer on an incentive laden deal with Drew Pomeranz. He could pitch out of the bullpen or the rotation if he bounces back to his 2017 season numbers.

    2019 salary:
    Happ – 13 million
    Pollock – 15 million
    Pomeranz – 5 million (offsets DFA of Hamilton)

    This sets up a starting rotation of:
    1. Castillo
    2. Happ
    3. DeSclafani
    4. Mahle
    5. Pomeranz/Reed/Sims

    Batting line up:
    1. Winker – LF
    2. Votto
    3. Gennett
    4. Suarez
    5. Pollock
    6. Senzel – RF
    7. Peraza
    8. Barnhart

  23. Old-school

    The price for James paxton was an elite #1 organizational prospect – lefty SP no less. No thanks .. I’ll take some cost friendly FA as outlined and keep Senzel/Trammell/Santillan Greene and India. If Hamilton and a lesser prospect could net Gray- that’s another possible target

  24. Nep O'Tism

    I think I am off the Happ train. His GB% is a bit low and HR/9 is a bit high

    He was 93rd in GB% and 94th in HR/9 out of 128 starting pitchers (min 100 IP). I don’t know how well that will play in GABP.

    Gio Gonzalez on the other hand was 27th and 49th, respectively, and the pitching coach presumably has a rapport with him already.

    Obviously we’re talking a small sample size, but in 5 starts, Happ has a 7.52 ERA and Gonzalez has a 3.11 at GABP in 6 starts.

  25. Greg


    Do you really think Harvey will get that much? I know you averaged the two ‘experts’. But what do YOU think he is really worth?


    • Doug Gray

      I’m certainly no expert when it comes to predicting free agent prices. But, a “win” on the free agent market costs you about $9M. So, at least in terms of expected provided value, he’s probably worth that and a little more.

  26. Tom

    Gonzalez always under appreciated. To think he could sign for 3 years at 12-16 mil is perfect.

  27. Doc

    Every time I mentioned Harvey in past posts, Doug’s response, when he offered one, was ‘no way’. Suddenly Harvey is a guy to get, says Doug himself. Amazing how much difference a month makes!

    I’ll get excited when the Reds actually start making moves. Until then, I understand, Doug has column inches to fill, and this column has generated a lot of comments.

    $5 per month is a bargain. Best source for minor league information and well worth it. I’m not nearly as into the game as many of these commentors, but I am willing to pay for Doug’s work. I hope others will also have a sense of fair play.

    • Doug Gray

      When the Reds decided to have $30,000,000 to spend, instead of what it seems we mostly assumed was probably half of that, it makes a difference. When he’s option #3 instead of option #1 or #2, it’s a different game.

      • MuddyCleats

        No doubt, Reds need to add more than MH to improve their SP. It seemed like the “avg SP” signed in FA last season was approx in 14M a yr range? If Harvey could be had for less than that over the next 2-3 yrs, I think it would b a steal. He has his injury concerns, but also some upside and w/ a “friendly” contract, a good trade piece later on if needed.

  28. Austin

    So you are going to pay happ 33 mil when he is only projected 14 mil? Seems like a bit much…

    • Nep O'Tism

      Projected for $14m/yr and expected to be a 2yr deal, or $28m.

      The $33m was over the 2 year span, so $16.5m/yr.

      • Austin

        That is not what it reads, but that makes more sense. I hadn’t seen the projection so I was a bit confused there. Lol

        Don’t think happ is worth that, personally.

    • Doug Gray

      He’s projected at $14M A YEAR. Which is $28M total. I’m paying $5M more to entice him to choose Cincinnati over elsewhere.

  29. Mark

    1) CF Senzel
    2) 1B Votto
    3) 3B Suarez
    4) 2B Gennett
    5) LF Winker
    6) RF Markakis ( 2 Year, 16 M) 8 Mill in 19
    7) SS Peraza
    8) C Barnhardt

    2B/SS Blandino
    OF Ervin
    C Casali
    1B/3B ?

    1) Gonzalez ( 2 year, 24 M) 12 Mill in 19
    2) Castillo
    3) DeSclafani
    4) Holland ( 2 year, 15 M) 7.5 Mill in 19
    5) Bullpen Game

    1) Iggy
    2) Miller ( 3 Year, 27 Mill) 9 Mill in 19
    3) Hughes
    4) Hernandez
    5) Garrett Bullpen Gamer
    6) Lorenzen Bullpen Gamer
    I would use Garrett and Lorenzen as both traditional relievers and part of the Bullpen gamers. Where Stephenson Reed, and Sims more than often as apart of the Bullpen game pitching between 2 to 4 innings each, or could be used as long men as needed.
    7) Stephenson Bullpen Gamer
    8) Reed Bullpen Gamer
    9) Sims Bullpen Gamer
    Spending 36.5 Million on FA using MLB trade rumors projected salaries.

  30. Redsvol

    I’d like to see Happ and Lynn in a Reds uniform. Both can be had with shorter (2-3 years) contracts which prevents catastrophe if arm injuries occur. I’d trade or non-tender Billy and bring in Jackson or Maybin to pair with Siri in center field. Denzel is not a center fielder.

    If we don’t get 2 decent free agent pitchers early in process, I’d like to see us pivot and bring in some outfield talent – I think McCutcheon, Markakis, and CarGo can still play. I’m not sold on 1200 at bats of Winker and Schebler at the corners. I would be more comfortable if Scooter or Senzel could play a corner spot.

    • Redsvol

      oh, and go support Doug on Patreon. If you’re a Reds fan he is worth every penny and more.

  31. DoctorBagel

    I think the plan for the Reds has always been to target 2020 or more likely 2021 to contend. The front office had to say they wanted to win to appease the fans, but knew that they had Mesoraco’s and Homer’s contracts to get out from under before they had the cash to do anything that would actually move the needle. So, now that Devin is done with they have a bit more wiggle room, so they can add a decent bit to payroll. A pitcher or two on a 2 year deal makes sense to me. It signifies the end of the rebuild without going too far and locking up too much money. This also bridges the gap to allow a couple of the prospects to join the majors and hopefully work out the early stages of their careers.

    I think next year after Homer’s contract has played itself out, and the young prospects have had a chance to see who is able to play at the big league level, that the team will get serious able building a contending team. 2021 becomes the year that the Reds prospects have matured enough to contribute, and the payroll is flexible enough to add the missing veteran pieces to actually make a push. At this point the 2 year deal of someone Happ will be expiring and there’s more flexibility to address different areas.

  32. Mark

    Staring 8
    01) Peraza SS 1.2 M
    02) Votto 1B 25 M
    03) Suarez 3B 7.29 M
    04) Winker LF .55 M
    05) Markakis RF 8 M (FA)
    06) Schebler CF 1.8 M
    07) Herrera 2B 1 M (FA)
    08) Barnhart C 2.94 M

    09) Blandino .55 M
    10) Ervin .55 M
    11) Casali 1 M ?
    12) Utility 2 M

    13) Kluber 13.2 M (Trade) Iglesias, Senzel, + top 30 Prospect
    14) Gray 7.5 M ? (Trade) J. Downs + top 30 Prospect
    15) Castillo .55 M
    16) DeSclafani 1.2 M ?
    17) Mahle .55 M

    18) Familia 11 M (FA)
    19) A. Miller 9 M (FA)
    20) Hughes 2.3 M
    21) Hernandez 2.5 M
    22) J Chavez 5 M (FA)
    23) Lorenzen 1.8 M
    24) Garrett .55 M
    25) Reed .55 M

    Bailey Contract 23 M
    Total team Payroll 2019 130.41 M

    I cheated a little, I prefer scenarios where trades are involved.

    • Mark

      The Gray trade should have been Gennett for Gray, withs a top 30 prospect coming back our way. Although the Downs scenario would still work, but now we have too many players, and too much money tied up. Gennett for Gray is a good trade, as both would fill a hole on the others team, and both are only controllable for 2019

  33. Kinsm

    Giving a 38 year old a 20M$ dollar contract in 2020 = clear pass. The Reds need younger starters controlled for more than 2 years.

  34. Ronald Couch

    The moves you suggest moves the team to a 4th place, non-contender. Senzel in cf is crazy. What isn’t mentioned is that the extra payroll money is the 50 mill every team got last year, and that will drive the price of free agents up, and it also has to cover arbitration raises. This team and all other “small market” clubs will never have a chance to realistic win until MLB adopts a revenue sharing/salary cap business model like all other pro sports leagues.

  35. abado

    Doug, any chance the Reds sign Yusei Kikuchi (27 yo lefty starter from Japan)? Fangraphs projects him at 4 yrs/$40M.

    JA Happ is intriguing, but he’s also 36. He’s a known commodity, but at his age, his stuff could also fall apart quickly. I’m hesitant.

    My realistic (at least financially anyway) dream scenario is that the Reds sign Kikuchi (~4yr/$48M) and Eovaldi (~3yr/$51M) — overpaying a bit for both but staying within that $30M per year threshold. That gives a starting rotation of Eovaldi, Kikuchi, Castillo, and Disco with Stephenson, Mahle, Reed, Romano, and Sims competing for the last spot/waiting in the wings.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s possible, but I’d be surprised. I’d have to ask, why would you be worried about JA Happ’s stuff falling apart, but not about Kikuchi’s, which actually happened last year when he was dealing with a shoulder injury? I feel there’s far less risk with a guy like Happ than with Kikuchi.

      • abado

        I’m hesitant about Happ because of his age. He has a great track record over the past 4+ years, but he’s still 36. There were only 4 pitchers age 36+ who pitched 100+ innings last year: Bartolo Colon, James Shields, Rich Hill, and CC Sabathia. It’s a mixed bag of performances, but it shows that it’s really unusual to be a healthy starting pitcher at that age.

        Kikuchi carries his own risk as you pointed out (and I didn’t know about the shoulder injury). He is relatively unknown and unproven in the majors. Compared to Happ however, he is much younger, probably cheaper annually, and will most likely sign a longer contract. Plus, it would be great for the Reds to finally sign a Japanese player and make headway in that market.

        Mostly though, my reasoning centers on their ages. Happ is 9 years (!) older and a lot closer to his date with Father Time (retirement). So I’d prefer an investment in a player with the potential for longer term growth/development.

  36. RedsinWashst

    Senzel was voted the top defensive 3rd baseman and the top defensive 2nd baseman in the minor leagues. While that doesn’t mean he will a great outfielder for sure there is a good chance he will be. We do know that he is an athlete. Centerfield is a 1 year stop until Trammell or Siri is ready. I believe one of them will be ready 2020. That way we don’t have to spend money on an outfielder unless one falls in our lap.

  37. Scottya

    Nice article and good idea’s Doug. I enjoy this part of the offseason more than anything and this off-season, things are going to happen.

    Here is another idea:

    1. Trade Raisel Iglesias + Tyler Mahle + Jonathan India for one of the following. Noah Syndergaard or Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco(without Mahle).

    I’ll assume it’s Syndergaard.

    2. Trade Scooter for Sonny Gray + Chad Green (I have no idea… but I like it).

    3. Trade Billy Hamilton & two of our extra bullpen/ unknown value pitchers (R. Stephenson, M. Wisler, C Reed, L Sims, D. Hernandez) for prospects or a bullpen buy with a good track record of below 4.00 era’s & peripherals.

    We would still have 36+ million to spend at this point.
    1. Sign Joakim Soria and let chad green and he be our closer (7 million av, 2 yrs 14 mil)
    2. Sign AJ Pollock to a 3 yr 40 million if he’ll take it (12+13+15).
    3. Sign Tony Barnette to a 2 year 6 million contract.
    4. Sign Trevor Cahill to a two year 15 million (7+8)
    4. Sign Justin Wilson to a two year 14 million (6+8)

    Rotation: Appx 4.00 era
    1. Noah Syndergaard 3.55
    2. Luis Castillo 3.98
    3. Sonny Gray 4.14
    4. Anthony Desclafani 4.23
    5. Trevor Cahill 4.18

    Bullpen: appx 3.80 era
    1. Joakim Soria 3.58
    2. Chad Green 3.33
    3. Justin Wilson 3.60
    4. Tony Barnette 3.87
    5. Matt Bowman 3.84
    6. Amir Garrett 3.89
    7. Jared Hughes 4.09
    8. Reed/Romano/Hernandez/Wisler/Stephenson/Sims, whoever is left

    1. Scott Schebler
    2. AJ Pollock
    3. Joey Votto
    4. Eugenio Suarez
    5. Jesse Winker
    6. Nick Senzel
    7. Tucker Barnhart
    8. Jose Peraza

    Score appx 775 runs and give up appx 685 runs = a 90ish win team and ready to take another step forward in the winter of 19-20.

    And that’s my final answer, until I change my mind tommorrow.

  38. AirborneJayJay

    Free agents to fill the ranks, but they are hardly free.
    The #1 free agent pitcher the Reds should pursue should be RHP Nathan Eovaldi, 4 years / $64M. But if the Reds cannot sign him Gio is the alternative.
    Move #1- is to sign LHP Gio Gonzalez (33), 3 years / $39M.
    Move #2- is to sign RHRP Joe Kelly (31), 2 Years / $12M.
    Move #3- is to sign LHRP Zach Duke, 2 years / $ 7M.
    Move #4- is to sign LHRP Aaron Loup (31), 2 years / $4M.
    Move #5- is to sign CF Jon Jay, 1 year (33), $3M.
    Sign to a minor league contract with ST invite: OF Rafael Ortega,
    Build that bullpen up. Pray like hell that Votto’s and Schebler’s power returns.

    • Doug Gray

      Eovaldi is a guy I’d like to have on a 2-year deal. A 4-year deal is terrifying given his injury history.