After a big week of building for 2013, the Cincinnati Reds have plenty to look forward to in the future.
A disappointing end to the season has fans anxious for next season, but the future is bright in Cincinnati. It would be nice to win it all next season, but this team is built to contend for years to come.
Prospects are on the verge of breaking through, and veterans are ready to lead this team to the next level.
Management has made it clear that this team won't be satisfied by just making the postseason. Moves have been made during the past few offseasons to make a deep run in October, and fans are starting to expect big things.
After being one win away from defeating the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS in 2012, the Reds will be poised for more in the future.
So what can Reds fans expect from this team in the next few seasons?
Jonathan Broxton was re-signed to a multi-year deal this offseason, but Aroldis Chapman will return to the closer's role at some point.
The Reds have a plethora of quality arms to fill the rotation, so common sense tells the team to keep Chapman as the closer. Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey are all coming off of sensational seasons. Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake are capable pitchers at the back of the rotation.
In the minors, Tony Cingrani and Daniel Corcino are close to reaching the big leagues. Once they do, this pitching staff will be loaded.
Arroyo will likely be gone after 2013, so one of the prospects will take his place in 2014. That leaves Chapman, Leake and (most likely) Corcino battling for the final spot in the rotation.
John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported earlier this month that Baker would like to use Chapman as the closer. Who could blame him?
The left-hander had 38 saves in less than a full season in the role. He had nearly 100 more strikeouts than walks (122 K, 23 BB). He was filthy all season and unhittable outside of a couple of appearances.
His presence in the ninth inning has hitters doubting a comeback, and it is the best fit for him. He can come in and shut the door on a nightly basis.
Moving Chapman to the rotation could be one of the best moves made this offseason. It could also end up hurting the team if he fails. At some point in the future, the team will have too many starters to handle and move Chapman back to the bullpen.
Joey Votto has been the star of this team for the past few seasons, but Jay Bruce is about to take over.
The only thing holding Bruce back right now is his average. He was at .252 last season, but he has the ability to turn it around. He had three separate 0-for-19 streaks, which is unlikely to happen again in the future.
Consistency has always been the key for Bruce, but he has yet to put together an all-around performance at the plate.
The left-hander can produce runs. He knocked in 97 and 99 runs the past two seasons; the latter led the team in 2012. His 134 home runs are more than Votto has in his career, even though the first baseman has played in more games.
His home run and RBI totals have each increased in every season since he entered the league.
Once Bruce eliminates his prolonged slumps, he will be one of the best players in baseball.
Fans get frustrated with his slumps, but look at his overall numbers. His power numbers include his cold streaks. Can anyone imagine what his numbers will look like once he puts it all together?
The 25-year-old has made the National League All-Star teams in two straight seasons, and he has been a finalist for a Gold Glove in each of the past few years. His five NL Player of the Week awards tie him for the most in franchise history.
Bruce has already hit the game-winning home runs in two division-clinching games in three seasons for the Reds.
Votto is still recovering from knee surgery, so it will give Bruce some time to shine in the spotlight.
The Reds have not made the postseason in back-to-back seasons in a long time. Now, they have the challenge of avoiding a letdown in 2013. Adding Shin-Soo Choo was a sign that ownership was going for it all next season.
The St. Louis Cardinals will likely be ready to challenge for the NL Central title, but no other team is a legitimate threat to the Reds for the next few years.
Milwaukee has some good pieces, but it can't compete with Cincinnati or St. Louis for 162 games. The Brewers don't have the pitching to keep up.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had promising starts to each of the past two years, but they have not put together a full season. They haven't had a winning season since 1992. The Chicago Cubs are in rebuilding mode right now, so they won't be ready to make a run at things anytime soon.
It looks like the Reds and Cardinals will be battling for the next few years, but the Reds have the superior pitching. St. Louis would be dangerous as a wild card team, but Cincinnati is better built for the regular season.
There is no reason the Reds can't win the NL Central the next couple of seasons. Their young pitching and balanced offense is the perfect formula.
Cincinnati fans should expect nothing less than multiple postseason appearances in the near future.
The Reds have made it to the postseason twice in three years, but they have not advanced past the NLDS in either appearance. That's about to change.
Cincinnati was overmatched against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, but the sweep helped the team prepare for 2012.
Against San Francisco, the Reds came out ready to play. They took the first two games by a combined 14-2 and looked poised to advance to the NLCS. However, the team failed to win a game at home despite three tries.
Had the Reds been able to push across one more run in Game 3, it's a totally different offseason for the team.
The Reds weren't outplayed by the Giants. They outscored San Francisco 22-18 and outhit them 47-32 for the series, but the Giants pulled through in close games. Although there's no shame in losing to the Giants, the Reds let a series slip away.
There has not been a win in Cincinnati by the home team in the playoffs since 1995. In order to advance to the NLCS, they will have to find a way to win a home game. Four attempts at Great American Ball Park have resulted in four losses.
Cincinnati has had to watch the Phillies and Giants both celebrate on their field. That should serve as motivation for a group of hungry players.
With teams piling up superstars, it will be even tougher to win it all. Cincinnati will make a run at the World Series, but the Reds will make it to the NLCS with their current roster at the very least.
Despite the talented arms this organization has had, no pitcher has won a Cy Young award while pitching for the Reds.
With Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey in the rotation, one of them is bound to win the award in the next few seasons.
Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA and finished fourth in the 2012 NL Cy Young voting. In any other year, his performance might have been good enough to win the award.
Latos went 14-4 (13-2 after April) with a 3.48 ERA, and Bailey wasn't far behind with his 3.68 ERA and 13-10 record. The record is misleading for Bailey because he was the victim of low run support and blown saves.
Those numbers are all impressive when fans realize that they pitched at Great American Ball Park for half of their starts. The trio managed to keep the ball down and pitch effectively in the small ballpark.
The trio will begin to gain more respect as the Reds continue to win division titles, and it will result in one of them finally bringing a Cy Young award to Cincinnati.
If one of those starters doesn't win the award, Aroldis Chapman could win the award no matter what his role is. He finished eighth in this year's voting as a closer.
His move to the rotation could lead to him becoming the most dominant starter in baseball and easily capture the Cy Young. He is easily the most recognizable pitcher on this team, so voters will be willing to watch him all season.
If he moves back to the bullpen, he still has the potential to win the award. Eric Gagne won the 2003 NL Cy Young award as a closer, so it is possible for a reliever to win it.
Cincinnati has plenty of options to win the award, so expect one of the team's pitchers to give the organization its first Cy Young.