Biggest Winners and Losers from the Cincinnati Reds' Offseason
The Cincinnati Reds' offseason has been rather lackluster and has produced a number of winners and losers.
The team had a number of opportunities to improve the roster this offseason but, generally speaking, favored the idea of saving money for upcoming contract extensions for the likes of Homer Bailey and Mat Latos, among others.
Because of that, most of the team's winners and losers—e.g. Tony Cingrani and Joey Votto—have been the product of offseason inactivity. Although the offseason is far from over, the team looks to be content with its current crop of players, and unless something changes within the front office, then these winners and losers will be here to stay through spring training.
With that said, here's a look at the six biggest winners and losers from the Reds' offseason.
Winner: Tony Cingrani
One of the offseason's biggest winners is Tony Cingrani. The 24-year-old made a big impression last season filling in for injured ace Johnny Cueto.
Throughout 23 appearances—18 starts—the young lefty worked to a 2.92 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, while averaging 10.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 6.2 H/9 and 2.79 K/BB over 104.2 innings pitched. In addition to those outstanding big league numbers, Cingrani destroyed Triple-A over six starts last season, allowing a 1.15 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP with ratios of 14.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 4.0 H/9 and 4.45 K/BB.
All-in-all, Cingrani's final stat line looked like this: 29 appearances—24 starts—2.51 ERA, 1.03 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 5.7 H/9 and 3.13 K/BB.
Though his numbers certainly earned him a shot at a spot in the team's 2014 rotation, the departure of Bronson Arroyo certainly helped Cingrani's chances. On top of that, though the team would benefit from adding depth to its starting rotation, they've settled on minor league deals for Jeff Francis and Chien-Ming Wang.
With nobody around to challenge Cingrani for the fifth spot in the rotation, he looks to be one of the biggest winners in Cincinnati.
Winner: Devin Mesoraco
Devin Mesoraco has long been touted as the Reds' catcher of the future. Unfortunately, to this point, the 25-year-old has done little to showcase the potential that had him ranked as Baseball America's No. 16 prospect prior to the 2012 season.
Through 175 career games, Mesoraco owns a .225/.285/.362 slash line with 16 home runs, 24 doubles, 62 RBI, 53 runs scored and a 104:44 K/BB ratio. In just over a full season's worth of games, Mesoraco boasts what would otherwise be respectable numbers for a young catcher, if not for his .225 batting average and .285 on-base percentage.
Over the last two years, Mesoraco has split time behind the plate with Ryan Hanigan; however, that won't be the case in 2014.
The Reds shipped Hanigan to Tampa Bay as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Reds netted themselves left-handed starter David Holmberg, who B/R's Mike Rosenbaum rated as the team's No. 8 prospect in his recent organizational rankings.
Perhaps the bigger story in all of this, though, is the fact that Mesoraco will finally be given the chance to be the team's every-day catcher.
Though his triple slash is rather uninspiring, Mesoraco will likely benefit from the consistency that comes with being the every-day catcher. While Hanigan was out, and in the time immediately following, Mesoraco received consistent playing time and experienced some of the best results of his young career.
In 40 games throughout July and August, Mesoraco slashed .271/.304/.403 with four home runs, five doubles, 17 RBI, 12 runs scored and a 23:7 strike out-to-walk ratio. Those numbers came at a time when Mesoraco received his most consistent playing time to date, and the argument can be made that he just needs additional playing time to reach his once lofty potential.
With Hanigan now out of the picture, Mesoraco is a clear winner this offseason.
Loser: The Front Office
The Reds' front office had a golden opportunity to lock up one of the game's best young pitchers in Homer Bailey. Though they've made some progress in their talks, they've yet to sign the 27-year-old to a long-term deal.
Although the team still has more than a month until the regular season—and then the possibility still remains for an in-season extension—Walt Jocketty and crew have made very few moves worth noting this offseason.
When the team allowed Bronson Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo—who made a combined $13.88 million last season—to walk at season's end, it seemed as though the front office was gearing up to extend Bailey.
Unfortunately, it appears as though that money will go directly toward the increases in salaries of arbitration-eligible players, as well as natural increases in the salaries of players under contract.
The Reds could also be keeping their options open with Bailey.
Rumors swirled early this offseason that Bailey was a potential trade target for teams in need of starting pitching, and with no multi-year contract in sight, it appeared as though the Texas native may have been on his way out of Cincinnati.
Though popular belief was that Bailey didn't want to stick around Cincinnati, the young righty debunked all the theories and rumors when he spoke with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
If I am in the organization’s future, my priorities are that things make sense for me on the business end, that we are a team that continues to be a highly competitive team in the league and a team that plays the game the right way.
It's been reported that Bailey and the Reds were close to either a one-year deal that would avoid arbitration or a multi-year deal that would keep him in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future. Neither such deal came to fruition, though, and the team is set to go to arbitration with Bailey—which Cincinnati hasn't done since 2004.
The team will still have a chance to lock Bailey up—or trade him if that's the route they decide to take. Signing Bailey, though, would have gone a long way toward showing the fanbase additional commitment to keeping the team in a competitive state moving forward.
Winner: Billy Hamilton
Billy Hamilton set the world on fire during his 2013 MLB debut.
Over 13 games, the 23-year-old center fielder worked to a .368/.429/.474 slash line with two doubles, one RBI, nine runs scored, 13 stolen bases and a 4:2 strike out-to-walk ratio. Hamilton proved that his speed will translate to the big league level, and he converted his stolen base attempts at an unreal level—13 steals to just one time caught stealing.
With that said, the jury is still out on whether or not the young outfielder will be able to get on base at a sufficient rate while transitioning to the big league level.
Though you wouldn't know it from looking at his big league stats, Hamilton had considerable difficulties getting on base last season. Throughout 123 games at Triple-A, Hamilton posted a .256/.308/.343 slash line with six home runs, four triples, 18 doubles, 41 RBI, 75 runs scored, 75 stolen bases and a 102:38 strike out-to-walk ratio.
Hamilton was still able to steal an impressive 75 bases last year, but those stolen bases will only translate if he's able to get on base.
The Reds let Choo—their second-biggest on-base threat—go in free agency, and Hamilton will be expected to step in and fill the void his departure left at the top of the order. That pressure could make Hamilton a loser this offseason, given the concern surrounding his offensive skill set transitioning to Cincinnati at this point in his development. The team has no other options in center at this point, though, and the job is Hamilton's to lose.
Winner: Ryan Ludwick
Ryan Ludwick could have been in jeopardy of losing his job after his disappointing 2013 season.
Though the 35-year-old suffered through a nasty shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season, his performance upon his return was lackluster, to put it nicely. In 37 games following his return, Ludwick managed a paltry .240/.283/.326 slash line with two home runs, five doubles, 12 RBI, seven runs scored and a 29:8 strike out-to-walk ratio.
Though it would be easy to write off Ludwick's poor performance as the result of his early-season shoulder injury, there's also some merit to the idea that Ludwick's 2012 season was more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come.
The team chose not to re-sign Choo this offseason. Though he played center last season, he could easily have shifted to left field in order to accommodate top-prospect Billy Hamilton.
Luckily for Ludwick, not only did the team skip out on re-signing Choo, they also skipped out on signing a right-handed power bat to split up Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the team's lineup. With no other legitimate holes in the Reds' lineup, left field would have been the first place the team looked to upgrade if they were serious about adding a power bat.
As it stands though, Ludwick is still the Reds' left fielder, and he is also the most likely candidate to hit fourth in the event that new manager Bryan Price elects to continue splitting up Votto and Bruce.
Loser: Joey Votto
Up to this point in the Reds' offseason, the biggest loser is Joey Votto.
Votto's approach has become a topic for debate this offseason, but Votto does an incredible job with what he's given. The big league average for strikes seen throughout Votto's seven-year career is 62.9 percent. Throughout the past two seasons, just 55 percent of the pitches Votto has seen were strikes.
Despite nearly an eight-point difference between the league average and Votto's percentage of strikes seen, he was able to post an impressive .317/.450/.520 slash line between 2012 and 2013.
Votto's lack of strikes seen stems from a lack of protection around him in the Reds' lineup.
Despite what his 103 RBI in 2013 might have you believe, Brandon Phillips is not very well suited to hold down the four spot in a lineup. Phillips is a marginal source of power, with 18 home runs in each of the last four seasons.
As evidenced by Votto's 135 walks—and more importantly his 20 intentional walks—last season, teams were far more inclined to pitch to Phillips with runners on base than they were to Votto.
Bruce has been a relatively consistent power threat throughout his career, with 30 or more home runs in each of the last three seasons. The 26-year-old, however, is inconsistent at the plate. At this point in his career, he appears unable to provide Votto with the protection he needs in order to get pitches to hit on a more consistent basis.
The Reds could have brought Choo back, which would have at least increased the possibility of runners on base when Votto came to bat, but his price was way out of their capacity to accommodate. The team also could have benefited from adding a revered power hitter, such as Nelson Cruz, but it appears as though they're content with batting either Bruce, Phillips or Ludwick in the lineup's fourth spot.
Ludwick seems like the logical choice, given the team's affinity for splitting up lefties Votto and Bruce, but unless he repeats his 2012 performance, expect to see opposing pitchers pitch around Votto quite often in 2014.
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