Nearly every Reds fan will say that the team must re-sign Shin-Soo Choo in order to have a successful offseason. However, that move won't be in this blueprint.
Bryan Price has taken over as manager for Dusty Baker, so Reds fans are wondering what kind of changes are in store for the team.
This will be an interesting offseason for the organization. It has the players in place to get back to the playoffs for the third straight season, but now the team has to find a way to get past the first round.
Let's check out what the Reds have to do in order to have a successful offseason.
Come up with a Plan for Billy Hamilton
This ties into what the club will do in regard to Choo. One way or the other, the team needs to decide what it is going to do with Billy Hamilton. It can go after Choo and let Hamilton develop for another couple of months in the minors, or it can give the center field job to the speedster.
That being said, the plan could change even if the Reds go after Choo. If the veteran decides to sign elsewhere, that could change everything.
Hamilton hit .256/.308/.343 with 18 doubles, four triples and five home runs in Louisville last season. The center fielder got off to a slow start but hit much better as the year went on. He stole 75 bases in 90 attempts and has stolen 395 bases in the minors in five seasons.
When he came up in September, he electrified the team. He started his career by stealing 13 bases, including four in his first start, before finally getting caught in the final week of the season. The speedster hit .368 in limited action.
Center field is the only spot in the lineup that is up for grabs. With the uncertainty surrounding Choo, the Reds need to come up with a plan for Hamilton and stick to it.
Lock up Pitchers
Some of the team's key pitchers are nearing the end of their current deals, so locking them up with extensions should be a priority.
Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos are all nearing the end of their current contracts. Bailey's contract is up after next season, and Chapman has a $5 million player option for the 2015 season. Latos is under team control for two more years, and Cueto has a $10 million club contract for the 2015 season.
There are a lot of decisions to be made with the pitching staff this offseason. With Bailey and Chapman entering what could be their final year of their contracts, trying to sign them to extensions should be the top priority.
Bailey's earned run average has dropped in five consecutive seasons to a career-best 3.49 this past season. He has two no-hitters in his career, and he has a 1.00 ERA in two postseason appearances. The 27-year-old has learned how to mix up his pitches and continues to improve his numbers every year.
Chapman has a 2.40 ERA, 324 strikeouts and 77 saves in 198.2 innings through four seasons with the club. The southpaw has a very cheap player option for 2015, so the team can't count on him exercising it. He is one of the most dominating closers ever to play the game, which means locking him up could be tough. Also, the team could once again explore the idea of making him a starter.
Extensions for Latos and Cueto aren't as pressing.
Latos has become the ace that the Reds had hoped for when they traded for him. The 25-year-old is 28-11 in two seasons with the club, but his record would be much better had it not been for multiple blown saves. He is a workhorse who has overpowering stuff.
Cueto is still signed for two years, if the club exercises his 2015 option. Cincinnati may want to wait to talk about an extension with Cueto to see if he can stay healthy and to see what happens with Bailey. The 27-year-old has battled injuries the last few seasons, so an extension at this point could be a risky move.
Getting Bailey and Chapman to commit long-term would be a huge success for the club. If it can get Latos to sign an extension, that would also be a good deal.
Pitching wins championships, and Cincinnati could set itself up for the future by locking up its pitchers this offseason.
Make Sure Johnny Cueto is Healthy
Cueto has been great when healthy the last three seasons. The problem is that he hasn't been able to take the ball every fifth day.
The right-hander made every start during the 2012 regular season, but he has been dealing with injuries in his side starting with the 2012 NLDS. He lasted only eight pitches in Game 1, and the Reds have had to replace him a few times.
He made two extended trips to the disabled list in 2013. He worked his way back to make pair of starts in September and looked good. When Latos became unavailable, Cueto's final starts were good enough for him to get the nod for the one-game playoff against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In the last three seasons, Cueto has been unreal. He has posted earned run averages, starting in 2011, of 2.31, 2.78 and 2.82. That comes out to a 2.61 ERA in 68 starts in three years.
Cueto is great when he takes the mound, so the team needs to do whatever it can to ensure that he is ready to go on Opening Day. The team may not have the same starting pitch depth if Bronson Arroyo leaves in free agency, which means staying healthy will be crucial.
The pitcher has already tweaked his delivery to not twist all the way back. That may be all that needs to be done, but this offseason has to be about making sure Cueto is pain-free.
*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com
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