Homer Bailey has been signed long-term. Bronson Arroyo and Shin-Soo Choo have waved goodbye to the Queen City in favor of greener free agent pastures. Ryan Hanigan set sail for the warm gulf waters of the Tampa Bay Rays and a new 3-year contract.
Some things have changed, but most have stayed the same.
As the Reds open their first full day with every expected player in camp, there are a pair of unknowns, several unprovens, and quite a few redemption stories filling the bill. Despite the abrupt ending to the 2013 season, there wasn't a ton done to overhaul the team between then and the dawn of the 2014 season, but that's likely a good thing. There's stability across the roster, and rather than a series of position battles, we should be set for an optimistic appeal for rebounds from a few key players.
That was the M.O. for the offseason whether we liked it or not.
What We Know
From what we can surmise, the starting infield is set, the starting outfield is set, and the starting rotation is set. From 2 to 9 on your scorecards, you'll rarely be surprised with a big-game lineup card featuring anyone other than C Devin Mesoraco, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, 3B Todd Frazier, SS Zack Cozart, LF Ryan Ludwick, CF Billy Hamilton, and RF Jay Bruce. There are a few bench players that will feature more prominently than others (or, rather, there are a few that should feature more prominently than others), but there's not really a single position out there that legitimately has a battle set to play out this Spring.
Given Bryan Price's initial lineup comments, it seems that there's an existing plan in place that - barring injury - will feature nothing but predictables on a daily basis.
As for the rotation, there are spots occupied by the newly extended Homer Bailey, the should-be healthy Mat Latos, the beshaven Mike Leake, the lat-strain-free Johnny Cueto, and Tony Cingrani & his pitch-face. That's five, it's a potentially dominant five, and there's no real competition in place that's set to derail that.
Aroldis Chapman will be the "closer." Sam LeCure and Cornelius will be counted on in high-leverage situations. Corky Miller will be the man among boys.
These are the things we know.
What We Don't Know
The downside of having the key cogs defined is that the only real competitions are relegated to the back-end of the bench.
It's likely that there will only be two true positions up for grabs in Goodyear, and those will be for the 24th and 25th spots on the active roster. Whether or not Ramon Santiago can earn his way onto the 25 man as the spitting image of Cesar Izturis, Wilson Valdez, Edgar Renteria, and Orlando Cabrera is yet to be seen, but it appears he's got the inside track on the position. In theory, the only way he won't make the squad is if Bryan Price decides that some combination of Todd Frazier, Jack Hannahan, and/or Billy Hamilton can cover as backup SS, but there seems to be an organizational decree that will dictate otherwise. Agents of glove-first, bunt-second mid-30's shortstops just adore Walt Jocketty, and all signs point to the former Detroit Tigers middle infielder breaking camp with the Reds.
Aside from that, the back of the bullpen is home to the only other position battle in sight. Chapman will anchor the pen, and healthy locks to support him include LeCure, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra, Sean Marshall, and J.J. Hoover. The only real question is in the health of Jonathan Broxton and whether or not he, if healthy, is a better option than the already-under-contract Logan Ondrusek. Broxton is rumored to still be hurt, and if that's the case, it seems reasonable to expect the lanky Ondrusek to be the final member of the bullpen to break camp with the big league club. Aside from those two, it appears that Nick Christiani and Curtis Partch are the only two real options to make the team.
What May Surprise Us
Bryan Price may see something - either positive, or negative - that may disrupt the way he chooses his lineup. Devin Mesoraco may mash like Johnny Bench, or Billy Hamilton may go full-Taveras, in which case a shakeup could be in order. Jack Hannahan may hit .800 and flash a mean glove, and that may prompt Price to avoid keeping Santiago on the roster in favor of, say, a Ryan LaMarre who hit .450 in Goodyear.
Donald Lutz could hit everything 500 feet and force an issue. Yorman Rodriguez could, too, which would excite the hell out of seven of us and set the rest of the Reds blogholosphere on fire. Chris Heisey may seize the everyday CF role, Skip Schumaker may stake claim to being the everyday LF, and BK may report to camp at 6'4".
There are always surprises, and while this particular camp doesn't feature any notable ones, there is still time for some odd occurrence to make us surprised. Count on it.