The Cincinnati Reds' core group of players is capable of winning a World Series title in 2014.
The team possesses a quality starting rotation, a brilliant general manager and two hitters in Joey Votto and Jay Bruce who are amongst the best at their respective positions. While they certainly will need to add a few players in order to complete their lineup, and possibly their bullpen, there are pieces in place for the team to make a serious run next season.
Here are the three biggest reasons why the Reds are capable of winning it all in 2014.
The Starting Rotation
The Reds' starting rotation has gone through a bit of a rejuvenation over the past few years. The team has benefitted from the addition of Mat Latos, contributions from Bronson Arroyo and the further development of former prospects like Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake.
Consider the contributions of these five pitchers over the past two seasons.
The team has benefitted majorly from outstanding performances from their five core starters.
The unit will undergo some changes this offseason though. Most notably, Bronson Arroyo's spot in the rotation will need filling given his departure for free agency.
Because of that, the Reds will turn to second-year big leaguer Tony Cingrani. The 24-year-old was masterful in his rookie season, making 18 starts in place of the oft-injured Johnny Cueto.
Providing he kept up the same pace over a full season of work, Cingrani would have been the Reds' best pitcher in 2013. The young lefty performed admirably, and although he lacks a viable third pitch, he should continue to succeed in 2014.
The rotation, as a whole, was one of the best in all of baseball last season. Take a look at where the Reds starters ranked in comparison to the 29 other MLB teams in 2013.
Aside from K/9, the team consistently ranked within the league's top 5-10. The team will see a slight boost in some of its' metrics as Cingrani takes over full-time starting duties, and the arrival of Robert Stephenson sometime during the 2014 season should help as well.
Providing the team doesn't jump the gun on Homer Bailey and deal him elsewhere, and also that Johnny Cueto can stay healthy over a full season, Cincinnati's starting rotation should again be one of the best in baseball.
Say what you will about Jocketty's recent offseason moves, or lack thereof, the man knows how to build a winning team. Jocketty took over the role of GM in back in 2008, and the team has since compiled a .528 winning percentage over 972 games.
Jocketty has made two signings this offseason. The seventh-year GM brought in veteran backstop Brayan Pena and a savvy middle-infielder in Skip Schumaker.
Neither player is going to get the Reds over the hump, but they could be key pieces for upcoming moves that would put the team square in World Series contention.
The signing of Pena creates a log jam at catcher. With three catchers on the roster—Pena, Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco—the Reds will certainly look to deal either Hanigan or Mesoraco.
According to Ken Rosenthal, Hanigan is as good as gone.
Moving Hanigan would certainly bring the Reds back a decent prospect, but the possibility of moving Mesoraco and his impressive potential could net the Reds an even greater return.
Beyond what the Reds can do with their excess of catchers though, the team has also been heavily involved with trade rumors surrounding All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips.
By most measures, Phillips had a down year in 2013. The 32-year-old slashed .261/.310/.396 with 18 home runs, 103 RBI and 80 runs scored. Phillips' struggles aren't just limited to this season though. In each of the last three years, we've seen drops in all three triple slash components, extra-base hits, ISO, OPS+ and runs created.
Phillips steady decline since the 2011 season has surely damaged his trade value, but he does carry significant value as an above-average offensive second baseman with a well above-average glove.
According to Ken Rosenthal, "Phillips is a goner." Phillips could help bring the Reds a much needed source of right-handed power, to replace Ryan Ludwick, who was injured for most of 2013, and largely ineffective after his return.
Whatever the Reds final decision on Hanigan, Mesoraco, Phillips and others may be, with the group of players they have, and Jocketty's keen eye for talent, the Reds will be in contention in 2014.
Joey Votto and Jay Bruce
That core group of players I just referenced is anchored by first baseman Joey Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce. The duo has been a key part of the Reds roster now for six years years—which includes both of their rookie seasons—and are locked up through 2017 and 2024 respectively.
Over the past six years, Votto and Bruce have combined for some impressive numbers.
Which player will be traded in the 2013-14 offseason?
While the duo of Votto and Bruce alone is not enough to win the Reds a World Series title, it's certainly enough to build around. The two stars have a combined .888 OPS over those six seasons and have contributed a whopping 998 RBI for an average of 95 per-162 games played.
Votto's power was a huge topic of discussion last season, with fans and analysts wondering whether or not his 2012 knee injury was causing some lingering effects. However, for what it's worth, Votto blasted 24 home runs and 30 doubles over his season.
With a full season of play, and another offseason between he and that 2012 injury, Votto should be ready to put up MVP-caliber numbers again in 2014.
With Bruce, it's all about putting his tools together into one complete season. Bruce has immense power, and he has shown the ability to hit for average—.281 in 2010—but he's yet to do both in the same season. Additionally, his strikeout totals have risen substantially over his six seasons, ballooning out to 185 in 2013.
Because of Bruce's inconsistencies, the two will need a player to split them up in the lineup. Although fans bashed Dusty Baker and his aversion to batting Votto and Bruce back to back during his tenure with the club, it's likely that the trend will continue.
Bruce, for all the great things he's done in his career, strikes out too much to protect Votto in a lineup. The team needs a viable bat capable of getting on base at a .330-plus clip to split the two players, and if they find that, the Reds will once again have one of the best 2-3-4, or 3-4-5's in baseball.