The Cincinnati Reds made another decently significant roster move on Monday morning, as they chose to release veteran bat Ryan Raburn. The 35 year old had shown some decent power during the spring, but it seems the team made the determination that the skillset he brings to the table at this point in his career would be covered by other projected members of the team’s bench.
The Reds have released Ryan Raburn— Zach Buchanan (@ZachENQ) March 27, 2017
The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan added an important nugget to the team's thinking, suggesting that they might well opt to go with a four-man bench that features a lot of versatility, which goes hand in hand with their decision to release the defensively limited Raburn. And if you read the tea leaves, that gives a pretty good indication of which guys in camp might have the inside track to make the team.
You can probably go ahead and concede that Desmond Jennings will likely make the squad as the de-facto 4th outfielder, given that he's shown he's mostly healthy again and has the tools and track record to back-up all three outfield positions. Beyond him, it seems that Arismendy Alcantara's versatility around the diamond will also land him a bench role. After that, however, if the team is interested in versatile players who also have options - meaning they can be rotated through bench roles and AAA Louisville as players get healthy - that pretty much leaves Tony Renda, Hernan Iribarren, and Patrick Kivlehan fighting for one spot and one spot only, since the backup catcher will fill the other role.
If Cactus League play is any indication for which player they'll take, Kivlehan stands out particularly. He's had the fourth most ABs in camp to date - which is a good indication that the team has wanted to take a very close look at him - and he's responded by hitting .408/.444/.694 in 49 of them. Given that he's seen time in all three OF positions as well as both 3B and 1B in his 5 year professional career, and it's obvious he's got the versatility hinted at, as well. Renda has hit well this spring, too, though it remains to be seen how his recent forearm issue will impact the team's decision on him. As for Iribarren, the feelgood story of camp has hit .318 in camp with little pop, but brings both versatility and the kind of experience only being a 32 year old grinder can provide - though his defense for much of the spring has looked rough, to be polite.
With just one week until Opening Day and Cincinnati breaking their Arizona camp on Wednesday, these position battles should be sorted soon.