Cincinnati Reds Season Preview: Rare Spending Spree Puts Playoffs in Sight

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Editor's note: Welcome to SI's MLB preview. Click here to view every team's outlook in 2020, including predictions, projections and, yes, a preview of the 2030 preview. Click here to read the Reds fantasy preview.

For the second straight offseason, the Reds made aggressive moves to improve. They signed a pair of power hitters to four-year, $64 million contracts—Mike Moustakas, who will take over at second base, and outfielder Nick Castellanos—while acquiring veteran lefty Wade Miley to bolster the rotation and Pedro Strop to reinforce the bullpen. They even went outside the country, signing Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million deal.

The question, though, is whether all that talent fits together. Akiyama has primarily played centerfield, but he turns 32 in April, and reports from Japan are that his defense has slipped. Moustakas, a veteran third baseman, manned second last season in Milwaukee for the first time in his nine-year career. Nick Senzel, the team’s top prospect who debuted last season, started only in the outfield but has experience at second and third. Cincinnati has improved what was a terrible offense (fifth-fewest runs scored in MLB last year), but in doing so created a potentially terrible defense.

Adding pitching coach Derek Johnson a year ago led to a big improvement in the Reds’ strikeout rate and ERA, and he’ll work with the best trio of starters the team has had since the early 1990s. Rejuvenated righty Sonny Gray (2.87 ERA, 1.084 WHIP) and All-Star Luis Castillo (226 K’s) are up top, followed by Trevor Bauer, a Johnson disciple who struggled last year after a brilliant 2018 when he finished tied for sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting.

For most of their years in Great American Ball Park, the Reds have been bats-forward. Now their pitching is better than their hitting, even after two signings that represent their biggest splash ever in free agency. Cincinnati will definitely be better, which is more than you can say for any other team in the division. — Joe Sheehan

Projected Record: 85-77, 2nd in NL Central

The Reds already had a formidable rotation, and they went on a major spending spree to round out their roster. The payoff could be their first playoff berth since ’13.

Key Question: Do Formidable Pitching and Offense Compensate for Dreadful Defense?

The Reds signed third baseman Mike Moustakas to play second base because he’s a really good hitter. They added Nicholas Castellanos because he destroys lefthanded pitching and can also hit righties, but he’s one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. As is Jesse Winker, who is expected to platoon against righthanders. Avert your eyes. — Matt Martell

Player Spotlight

Moving Up: Michael Lorenzen, RP/OF

He doesn’t get the publicity of Shohei Ohtani, but last year he threw 83 1/3 innings (2.92 ERA) and made six starts in center.

Moving Down: Joey Votto, 1B

The six-time All-Star nearly won the MVP in 2017; in ’19, he put together his worst season (.411 SLG). At 36, Votto’s best days are behind him.

Watchability Ranking: You Could Do Worse

“Fun” is relative. So, sure, the Reds’ baseline here is tied to the fact that they have not had a winning season since 2013, but after beefing up their lineup this winter—Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama—they just might be “fun” in absolute terms, rather than relative ones. — Emma Baccellieri 

Preview of the 2030 Preview

Hunter Greene, OF: The SI coverboy (May 1, 2017) was the No. 2 pick in ’17 as a triple-digit flamethrower who also had the potential to become a power-hitting shortstop. Injuries beset Greene early—he had Tommy John surgery in ’19—causing him to ditch pitching in favor of hitting. Greene’s route to the bigs might have been unorthodox, but his routes in the outfield are anything but: That athleticism shines on the grass, and his swing provides plenty of punch—when he makes contact. — Craig Goldstein