An optimist can look at the Reds roster and see plenty of improvement. Tucker Barnhart, Billy Hamilton and Eugenio Suarez can all improve. Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, Dilson Herrera and Scott Schebler are all in the scrum for playing time. Joey Votto is still, thank goodness, Joey Votto. And all those young righties! Surely something will work out.
A pessimist would look at all of this and say, it can't come fast enough. The Brewers have arguably the best minor leagues in baseball and the other three teams in the Central are just freaking light years ahead of the Reds right now. John Jaso would have been second on the Reds in OBP and nobody in Pittsburgh even likes him.
So Cincinnati needs changes. Those changes come from getting new players. Just how much fat can be trimmed off the 40-man?
The roster currently sits at 35, 20 pitchers and 15 batters. That number is only going to get lower, though.
Here's the list of 40-man'd pitchers, with people worth a cut in italics.
Tim Adleman, Homer Bailey, Tony Cingrani, Rookie Davis, Anthony DeSclafani, Jumbo Diaz, Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, Ariel Hernandez, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Ross Ohlendorf, Wandy Peralta, Cody Reed, Sal Romano, Keyvius Sampson, Alfredo Simon, Robert Stephenson, Dan Straily, Blake Wood.
Wandy Peralta could probably go, too, if it wasn't for the fact that better stick with the lefty with a live arm you know rather than the lefty with a live arm you don't. The same, sadly, could go for Cingrani.
As for the batters? Same process, different names:
C: Tucker Barnhart, Ramon Cabrera, Devin Mesoraco; IF: Arismendy Alcantara, Zack Cozart, Dilson Herrera, Brandon Phillips, Tony Renda, Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto; OF: Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, Steve Selsky
Simply put, it does not help the Reds to be making all these cuts yet. It isn't like they're going to pick up 10 guys in the Rule V draft or any such Out of the Park-style madness. What they must do, however, is add the following guys (according to xtreme good dude Doug Dirt):
Jermaine Curtis – IF
Mr. Dirt may be a bit on the optimistic side himself. The only protection 28-year-old Jermaine Curtis is getting this offseason is coming to come from a flu shot. But let's see how much space we can get for the rest of 'em.
If the cuts above occur, there's 14 open spaces on the 40-man. That makes it easy for the following shoo-ins:
Jesse Winker, Nick Travieso, Philip Ervin, Aristides Aquino, Jackson Stephens
Chad Wallach can easily take Ramon Cabrera's spot as the third catcher. He'll start at AAA and some ~30-year-old catcher filler could come in and squat behind Barnhart if Mesoraco can't go. That could even be Ramon Cabrera himself!
For the rest of them – and here I'm including guys like Zack Weiss who would be a lock in 2015 but now I'm not even sure if he has a literal right arm – there's a balance: are they any better than what's already on the roster?
Is Calten Daal, who went .310/.365/.379 in Pensacola, going to be any better than Tony Renda? Is Nick Travieso going to be healthy enough to ever impress more than Blake Wood? Is Angelo Gumbs even real?
It's tempting to be all for a youth movement in spite of everything else, but this may be overstating the importance of the Reds' own youngsters. Every team has a AA shortstop who might never hit. Every team has a control-specialist starter who has a fastball at 88, or a big lug who looks like Jason Schimdt, age 30 but pitches like Jason Schmidt, age 25. Why should the Reds' youngsters be protected if nobody else finds them particularly special?
Cincinnati is not a piece or two away from competition. More like, five. Maybe six. It's true that some of those could come from inside the system, but they could also come from bizarre Brandon Phillips in 2006-y trades or from Eugenio Suarez putting several tools together. Both of which are as likely as Nick Routt throwing 50 MLB innings.
Could the Reds go full Youth Movement? Sure. It might even be fun. But it won't necessarily mean they'll win anything when that youth grows up.