4 Moves the Cincinnati Reds Must Make This Offseason
The Cincinnati Reds are wrapping up a disappointing 2014 season, and there are a few things the organization must do this offseason in order to make sure next season goes much better.
Bryan Price's first season as manager didn't go as planned. Fans can put the majority of the blame on injuries, but there is no question that the team could use some help even when its healthy.
All eyes will be on the Reds front office this season to see if it trades away one—or more—of its starting pitchers. Four of the team's current five starters are set to hit the free-agent market after the 2015 season. Trading away a starter could help the club's current payroll and build for the future. However, the team could try to make a run at things next season by keeping all of the pitchers.
There won't be any trades or free-agent signings on this list. Until the front office makes it known what it plans to do with its pitchers, fans won't know if the Reds will be pushing to win next season or go through a bit of a rebuilding phase. That doesn't mean the club can't make some key decisions to improve its team regardless of its strategy.
This offseason will be the most important one Cincinnati has had in years. Keep reading to see what the organization needs to do in order to rebound next season.
Pay $4.5 Million Buyout on Ryan Ludwick's $9 Million Option
Ryan Ludwick had a fantastic 2012 season, but he hasn't been the same since tearing his labrum on Opening Day 2013.
The veteran outfielder hit 26 home runs, 28 doubles and knocked in 80 runs in 2012. He has 11 home runs, 25 doubles and 56 RBI since the beginning of last season. For a guy who was signed to bat in the middle of the order, those numbers are nowhere close to where they need to be.
Price decided early on this season that Ludwick would split time in left field with other players. To his credit, the 36-year-old outfielder handled the situation like a true professional.
However, the time has come for the team to move on from him.
Ludwick's biggest attribute was his power. Now that it looks like he has very limited power, there's not much sense in keeping him around. His lack of speed hurts the team on the bases. He isn't a liability in the field, but he's about an average player with the glove.
It would be a total shock if the Reds picked up their part of Ludwick's $9 million option for next season. They'd be able to save $4.5 million by paying the buyout, and with cash being tight, the team could use every penny it can get.
The two sides could always try to work out a smaller deal to bring the outfielder back next season, but Ludwick doesn't bring anything to the table that the team couldn't find elsewhere.
Fire Hitting Coach Don Long
If former manager Dusty Baker and former hitting coach Brook Jacoby were blamed for the team's failures in the past, someone on this coaching staff needs to take the fall for such a rough season. That man would be hitting coach Don Long.
Cincinnati's pitching staff was strong enough to keep the team in contention into August. However, the hitting finally got bad enough that the team couldn't stay in the race.
It's tough to blame the lack of offense all on Long. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco have all made trips to the disabled list. Mesoraco has been great since returning from the disabled list, but Bruce and Phillips are clearly still being affected by their injuries.
This offense is as bad as any Reds fan has seen in years. The team seems to go hitless through the first three innings of games on a daily basis, and it's a struggle to score more than one or two runs in a game.
Statistician Joel Luckhaupt has routinely provided fans with statistics that put this year's offensive struggles into historical perspective. Fans don't need to compare this offense to past Reds teams to see how bad it is; all they have to do is see how it compares to other teams this year.
|Average with RISP||.245||21st|
The numbers are even worse when you look at the second half of the season.
|Post-All-Star Break||MLB Rank|
Those numbers tell you all you need to know as to why the team is 22-40 since the All-Star break.
Players should be held responsible for what happens on the field. However, whatever Long is teaching them isn't working. The team doesn't work counts consistently, which leads to very few walks. Votto walked 47 times in 62 games. He led the team in that category until Todd Frazier drew his 48th walk of the season on Sunday. Keep in mind that Votto hasn't played since July 5.
It'd be one thing to keep a hitting coach if the team showed any progress throughout the season. That hasn't been the case this season. This team wasn't scoring at the beginning of the season when mostly healthy, and this team isn't scoring entering the final week of the season.
Sure, it's only Long's first season in the position. It may take time to see results, but with an offense this anemic, there has to be a change.
Decline Jack Hannahan's 2015 Option
Cincinnati has a $4 million club option on Jack Hannahan for next season. The smart thing to do would be to save some money and pay the $2 million buyout.
Hannahan missed the majority of the 2014 season after undergoing surgery last offseason to repair a torn labrum. He didn't provide much with the bat for the team last season, and he has provided even less since he returned this year.
The veteran infielder hit .216 with one home run and five doubles in his first season in Cincinnati last year, and he is hitting .163 with three doubles this year. The 34-year-old is known for being a strong—and versatile—defender, but he has played nothing but first base this season.
For a team that needs offense and space on the payroll, paying Hannahan $2 million—with another $2 million guaranteed via buyout—doesn't seem very smart. The team could use that money on its pitching, free agents or even bringing back utility man Ramon Santiago.
Move Alfredo Simon out of the Rotation
There's no denying that Alfredo Simon was a big reason as to why the Reds were able to stay in contention for so long this season. He started the season as just a replacement for Mat Latos, but he pitched well enough to make the National League All-Star team. Now, the team has to figure out what to do with him this offseason.
MLB.com's Manny Randhawa reported earlier this month that Price expects Simon to be a member of the starting rotation next season. That is the last place he should be.
Simon went 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA before the All-Star break, which is why he was an All-Star. Since the break, the right-hander is 3-7 with a 4.34 ERA in 13 starts. His second-half numbers were even worse until he got on a roll his past three starts.
If Simon made the All-Star team as a starter, why should the team remove him from that role?
The most obvious reason is that the bullpen misses him—dearly. Cincinnati's bullpen is tied for 25th in the league with a 4.15 ERA. This is a unit that ranked seventh (3.29 ERA) last season and first (2.65 ERA) in 2012 with Simon in the bullpen both seasons.
Simon could be used out of the bullpen whenever the Reds needed him, as he threw 147.2 innings in two seasons as a reliever with the team. In 2013, he was used in high-leverage situations and pitched well.
With the lack of consistency out of Cincinnati's relievers, Aroldis Chapman is the only reliever Price knows he can rely on going into next season. Jumbo Diaz has been fairly solid since making his major league debut this season, but he has allowed a run in four of his eight outings in September. Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover have done well in key situations in the past, but both struggled this season.
The Reds have pitchers who can take Simon's spot in the rotation. If he can get healthy, Tony Cingrani would be the obvious choice to take over as the No. 5 starter. If Cingrani isn't healthy, the team has Dylan Axelrod, David Holmberg and Daniel Corcino that it could put in the rotation. Outside of Holmberg's first two starts this season, all three of those young pitchers have done well when given starts in the majors this season.
Putting Simon back in the bullpen would give Price a proven arm who can help the Reds hold leads late in games.
Another option would be to trade Simon. The 33-year-old will get a nice raise from the $1.5 million he made this season when he is eligible for arbitration this winter. Given that he is set to be a free agent after next season, the team could look to deal him to try to address other areas on the roster.
Simon wouldn't bring back anything close to what Johnny Cueto, Latos or even Mike Leake would bring back in a trade. However, he could be traded for a decent bat or prospects. Swapping his expiring contract for a player who could help the team in the future would probably be for the best.
There's no telling how Simon would do if he remained in the Reds rotation next season. He posted a 4.96 ERA in 16 starts back in 2011, but other than that, he has not pitched a full season as a starter. The right-hander may pitch well enough to make the All-Star team again next season. Then again, he may fall apart like he did for much of the second half this year.
Moving Simon out of the rotation is a must. The Reds have pitchers who can take his spot, and the bullpen could use his arm. If the team decides to trade some pitchers this offseason, it should seriously consider seeing what it could get for Simon.