Offseason In Review: Cincinnati Reds


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The Reds had another slow offseason, their second straight winter defined mostly by inactivity. It’s a rebuild in Cincinnati, with the upcoming season again more about evaluating the future than winning in the short term.

Major League Signings

2023 spending: $11.675MM
Total spending: $13.925MM

Option Decisions

Trades and Claims

Notable Minor League Signings


  • None

Notable Losses

The Reds stripped things down over the 2021-22 offseason, dismantling a team that had finished a few games off a Wild Card appearance. Payroll constraints led to a reboot of the roster, with a number of veterans shipped out for young talent either last winter or at the summer deadline. That teardown paired with brutal injury luck resulted in the second 100-loss season in franchise history.

It’s an organization now clearly amidst a rebuild. There was never much expectation for the Reds to do a whole lot this offseason, and general manager Nick Krall essentially confirmed as much before the winter got underway.

Unlike last winter, when the likes of Luis CastilloTyler MahleJesse Winker and Sonny Gray were on the roster, Cincinnati didn’t go into this offseason with many obvious trade chips. The most apparent candidate was shortstop Kyle Farmer, who was headed into his second-to-last season of arbitration control. Farmer is a low-end regular at shortstop or high-quality utility piece who’d have modest appeal to a contender. Cincinnati indeed cashed him in for young talent.

It was a one-for-one swap with the Twins that brought back Double-A swingman Casey Legumina. The Gonzaga product had just been added to the Minnesota 40-man roster to keep him out of the Rule 5 draft. He’ll start the season in the upper minors but could factor into the MLB mix later in the year.

Hours after trading away Farmer, Cincinnati backfilled at shortstop with another stopgap veteran. The Reds and division-rival Pirates aligned on a deal that brought in Kevin Newman for middle reliever Dauri Moreta. Newman is also in his penultimate arbitration season and broadly brings a similar profile to the departed Farmer: a contact-oriented offensive approach at the bottom of a lineup and solid glovework. Newman is a little more affordable and could be a midseason trade chip.

He steps into an infield that has a handful of players vying for reps. It’s unknown if Joey Votto will be ready for Opening Day after last summer’s rotator cuff surgery; once healthy, the former MVP will be back at first base. Jonathan India is looking for a bounceback year at second base.

Newman is the presumptive starting shortstop. Jose Barrero could also get one more look to see if he can piece things together offensively. Barrero was a fairly recent top prospect based on his power and defense. He’s coming off an atrocious season in both Triple-A and the big leagues, though, and the clock could be ticking for him to carve out a role. Elly De La Cruz has now firmly emerged as the likely shortstop of the future; he’ll start the year in the upper minors but could make his MLB debut at some point in 2023.

Third base also features a few talented but unproven players trying to cement themselves. Spencer Steer, acquired from the Twins in last summer’s Mahle trade, made his debut last September. He struggled in his first 28 outings but had an excellent age-24 season in Triple-A. He’ll get the first crack at the hot corner, though there was plenty of buzz in Cincinnati camp regarding corner infield prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand.

Also part of the Mahle trade package, Encarnacion-Strand mashed between High-A and Double-A last season. The Oklahoma State product tore the cover off the ball in Spring Training. Cincinnati reassigned him to minor league camp yesterday, taking him out of the running for an Opening Day roster spot, but he could push Steer for reps before long. That’s also true of Noelvi Marte, a power-hitting infield prospect brought back from the Mariners in the Castillo deal.

The Reds made a firm commitment to the infield youth movement when they released Mike Moustakas in early January. The three-time All-Star was headed into the final season of an ill-advised four-year, $64MM free agent deal. Moustakas had hit only .216/.300/.383 in just 654 plate appearances as a Red. His 2022 campaign was diminished by both underperformance and foot injuries. With little hope of another team taking any notable portion of the $22MM he was due this season, the Reds acknowledged the sunk cost and opened a clearer path to reps for younger players like Steer and Encarnacion-Strand.

Cincinnati should also have room on the bench for a non-roster Spring Training invitee or two. The Reds had arguably the best minor league signing of last winter with Brandon Drury, and they again leveraged their lack of certainty on the roster to bring in a swath of veterans on non-roster pacts. Chad PinderHenry Ramos and Jason Vosler are among the position players in camp, while Cincinnati brought in over 10 relievers with some level of MLB experience on minor league deals.

As with the left side of the infield, the outfield is up in the air for players to seize a job. Jake Fraley probably has the leg up on a corner spot after a solid second half. The Reds have maintained they’re going to give former top prospect Nick Senzel another crack in center field. He won’t be ready for Opening Day, so the likes of TJ Friedl and Stuart Fairchild could get on the roster.

The Reds rolled the dice on a pair of former top prospects to add to that mix. Their first move of the offseason was to bring in Nick Solak from the Rangers for cash. It was a no-risk flier on a player who has hit well in the upper minors but struggled to carry that over against MLB pitching. Solak doesn’t have a great positional fit — he struggled mightily at second base and is a fringy corner outfielder as well — but he’s a former second-round draftee who has a .293/.370/.510 line in parts of three Triple-A seasons.

While the Reds didn’t give up anything for Solak, they parted with last year’s second-rounder Justin Boyd to take a shot on 24-year-old Will Benson from the Guardians. A first-round pick in 2016, the 6’5″ Benson has moved extremely slowly up the minor league ranks thanks to huge strikeout totals. He’s shown as patient an approach as anyone in affiliated ball, however, and he clearly has raw power potential. While he’s taken some time to climb the ladder, he’s consistently fared better in his second crack at a level than during his first. That was particularly true last season in Triple-A, when Benson sliced his strikeout rate to a personal-best 22.7% en route to a .278/.426/.522 line.

In addition to those fliers on upside plays, the Reds added to the corner outfield in their biggest free agent move of the winter. Cincinnati guaranteed $7.5MM to Wil Myers on a one-year deal, giving him a chance to rebuild his stock in a hitter-friendly home ballpark. Myers had an up-and-down tenure in San Diego, hitting for power but struggling to make enough contact to be a middle-of-the-order caliber hitter. At age 32, he’s not a long-term core piece for Cincinnati. He’s a perfectly reasonable veteran addition to a young team, one who’d surely be in trade conversations this summer if he’s performing.

Myers is likely to see the bulk of his playing time in right field. That’s in large part because the club is planning to give young catcher Tyler Stephenson more time at designated hitter. The 26-year-old went on the injured list three times last season, all of which were related to incidents behind the plate. He was concussed in a collision with Luke Voit and both fractured his thumb and clavicle on foul tips. Those injuries were all fluky in nature, although there’s little doubt Stephenson will have a better chance of sticking in the lineup if he’s not donning the tools of ignorance as often.

Skipper David Bell told reporters at the start of Spring Training the Reds were aiming for Stephenson to play around 65 games at catcher and 80+ contests at first base/DH (link via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer). With that in mind, Cincinnati added a pair of veteran backstops to take some of the workload. Northern Kentucky native Luke Maile signed a one-year, $1.175MM pact in November. He was joined by power-hitting veteran Curt Casali, who received $3.25MM in January to return to the Reds for a second stint.

The Reds didn’t do as much to augment the pitching staff, even on lower-cost pickups of the Maile/Casali ilk. The only such addition was right-hander Luke Weaver, who signed for $2MM after being non-tendered by the Mariners. Weaver is another former top prospect who showed some early-career success but has fallen on hard times of late. Great American Ball Park isn’t an ideal venue for a pitcher to try to rebuild value. That said, the Reds are likely to afford the 29-year-old another shot to get the ball every fifth day and take a crack at developing a breaking pitch he feels comfortable using regularly.

Weaver will step into the fourth spot in the season-opening rotation. The top three will go to second-year hurlers Hunter GreeneNick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft. All three have a chance to be core pieces of the next competitive Cincinnati team, with Greene and Lodolo former top ten picks and consensus top prospects. The final rotation spot is up for grabs this spring. Justin Dunn is out of the immediate mix thanks to shoulder issues. The likes of Connor OvertonLuis Cessa and minor league signee Chase Anderson are battling for the job. Prospects Brandon Williamson and Levi Stoudt could join the group over the summer.

Open competition is also the story of the bullpen. Cincinnati didn’t add any MLB veterans to a relief corps that was among the league’s worst. The only acquisitions were Legumina and waiver claim Bennett Sousa, both of whom could start the year in the minors. Cincinnati should welcome back Lucas Sims from an injury-plagued season. They’d hoped for the same with Tejay Antone but he suffered a forearm strain while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and will start the year on the injured list.

Cincinnati has breakout reliever Alexis Díaz ticketed for ninth-inning work. One of the few bright spots of the 2022 campaign, the hard-throwing righty reportedly drew some trade interest over the winter which Cincinnati rebuffed. Sims and Buck Farmer should have high-leverage work and could be trade candidates this summer. The middle relief corps is wide open, with the likes of Silvino BrachoDaniel NorrisDerek LawAlex Young and Hunter Strickland trying to earn jobs in Spring Training.

Broadly speaking, the 2023 campaign will be about evaluating players for the future and identifying what veterans could be shipped off in the coming months. It’s hard to envision this team finishing higher than fourth in the National League Central. The Reds are near the lowest period of the rebuild, with most of the veteran players shipped away. They’ll continue to incorporate young talent as they look ahead to next offseason, one which could see a relative spike in activity.

Cincinnati doesn’t have a single player under guaranteed contract for 2024, with option buyouts for Votto, Moustakas, Myers and Casali representing the only firm commitments. The slate is almost clean for the front office to chart a new path back to contention. In the interim, the fanbase is in for another losing season.

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