Cincinnati Reds: Can the NL Central Champs Repeat?
Did the Reds do enough during the offseason to make one think they have the personnel to win the division for the second straight season?
I think so. They were fairly solid with what they had after the season was over. They led the league in BA, HR, RBI, H, SLG, OPS and OPS+.
They led the league defensively in FLD PCT and fewest errors and were really deficient in a couple positions.
Pitching is an area to be improved upon. They were down on the list in most categories and lost a key reliever when they couldn’t forge a deal with All-star Arthur Rhodes.
Anyone who follows the Reds knew that they would not pick up the option on pitcher Aaron Harang. He made $12 million last season, so those savings made it a no-brainer.
They decided against picking up the option for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Some think the signing of veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria was a mistake. I do not count myself among that crowd. The five-time All-Star has had a very good career and boasts a lifetime average of .287. In 15 seasons in MLB, he has hit over .300 on five occasions.
He was signed to be a reserve to fill in for Paul Janish, who has developed into a decent hitter. He batted .260 last year as a backup for Cabrera. Many think that manager Dusty Baker will use the veteran Renteria as a starter if he has a good spring training.
MVP Joey Votto has matured into the franchise player many predicted. He is as solid as can be at first base, and there is no reason to think this season will not be better than last.
Who do you predict to win the NL Central?
Brandon Phillips returns as a Gold Glove second baseman. His fiery personality makes him a home fan favorite, although he is despised in most other ballparks.
Scott Rolen won another Gold Glove last season and showed very little signs of aging in his first full campaign for the Reds.
Five-year veteran outfielder Fred Lewis was signed because of his speed and ability to perhaps be the leadoff hitter they are looking for. However, he will have a long way to go to steal the job in left field from returning fan pleaser Jonny Gomes.
Gomes was second on the team in RBI last season to Votto, knocking in 86 while batting a respectable .266. He is not nearly as proficient in the field as Lewis but is a clubhouse leader and an inspiration to all of the younger players.
Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce complete the outfield. Stubbs has come along offensively and is more than competent in CF. Bruce just signed a six-year, $51 million deal, which makes for a very happy camper in right field.
Bruce enjoyed his best year offensively in the big leagues, batting .281 with 25 HR and 70 RBI. He is also one of the best, if not the best right fielder in the senior circuit.
Chris Heisey will be contending for a spot also but is most likely to spell any of the three outfielders as often as possible. Todd Frazier will be attending spring training and has high hopes of earning a spot on the squad.
Top prospect catcher Yasmani Grandal will be attending his first spring training. Carrying three catchers is not something Baker is fond of, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on the spring training of all three backstops.
Returning starting pitchers include 17-game winner Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Homer Bailey. They will be joined in the fight for a position in the rotation by Sam LeCure, Matt Maloney and Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman.
Journeyman Dontrelle Willis was signed to a minor league contract and will display his wares in spring training. If he makes the squad, it is likely that he will be used in long to middle relief situations.
Closer Francisco Cordero anchors a bullpen that will include Nick Masset, Bill Bray, Logan Ondrusek, Jordan Smith and Jared Burton.
Cordero is in the final year of his contract and will most certainly be suiting up for the last campaign as a Cincinnati Red.
It is impossible to foresee how it will all pan out, but I can’t imagine the Reds not being considered the front runner in 2011.
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