There are a few common threads between the player pool consisting of Phillip Ervin, Jose Peraza, Alex Blandino, Curt Casali, Kyle Farmer, and Michael Lorenzen. For one, they’re all part of the Cincinnati Reds active roster at the moment, and while each managed to chip-in with various contributions during the 2019 season, none of them profile as full-time regulars as the club points towards the 2020 season.
That sixsome, at this very moment, pretty well profiles as the current go-to bench for the Reds before the Hot Stove season begins, given the state of the roster at the moment. Jose Iglesias is a free agent (for now), Freddy Galvis likely gets his option picked up to take SS (for now), and that would leave Josh VanMeter as the most likely option to get regular reps at 2B (for now). And while that list of Reds bench options certainly looks better on paper than some of the brutal benches of seasons past, one thing in particular stands out about that group that might well be an issue the Reds will have to deal with this winter.
They all hit right-handed.
As the Reds seek upgrades to their offense all across the board, there are still endless scenarios that could help immediately alleviate that conundrum. Picking up a big bat for the OF - or a competent, everyday CF that would allow Nick Senzel to move back to 2B - would probably send VanMeter into more of a utility role, thereby giving the Reds at least one lefty bat to turn to mid-game. In a similar vein, if the Reds do splash cash on catcher Yasmani Grandal, that could mean Tucker Barnhart would end up on the bench more often than not, bringing his lefty bat into the pinch-hit equation (especially if Farmer’s versatility is still on the roster).
Still, that does serve to highlight a pair of current Reds who went on complete roller coasters during the 2019 season, both of whom pretty well making this entire post pop into my head in the first place.
Derek Dietrich is under team control for the 2020 season, and his track record, relatively low overall price, and versatility both on the infield and in the outfield should make him profile as the ideal bench bat, one whose lefty swing brings enough pop to change games the way he did on Opening Day 2019. That said, his shoulder woes contributed to a miserable slide over the latter 2/3rds of the 2019 season, and that comes on the heels of him having been non-tendered last winter, too. While he’s more expensive than most of the rest of the previously mentioned bench-bat options - MLB Trade Rumors estimates his 2020 salary at some $3.1 million - he does appear to be more of a need at the moment than we might otherwise think. In other words, how healthy he is when the time comes to tender contracts could be one of the more important decisions the Reds get to make all winter.
It was a somewhat similar ride for Scott Schebler in 2019.
Schebler took walks like a boss all spring in Goodyear, in the process helping the Reds sell the story that Nick Senzel wasn’t yet ready to be the team’s everyday CF. Schebler then stumbled out of the gate to start the MLB season in brutal fashion, and shoulder issues of his own helped the former 30 dinger socker sink to Brandon Finnegan level depths of the franchise by season’s end. Now recovering from shoulder surgery, the one-time RF of the future for the Reds now looks like a potential non-tender candidate, too. That’s quite the bummer, since if he could show he was at all healthy again, his kind of OF versatility and pop could make him an ideal lefty bench bat, as well.
Obviously, banking on either Dietrich or Schebler at this juncture is virtually impossible, with the roster spots of both also potentially needed for the players who’ll need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft later this winter (more on that next week). And while it’s never a team’s main priority heading into a winter of this magnitude, how the Reds will manage to address the righty-heavy nature of their projected bench is at least one angle that will play a part, unless they’re completely sold on the ability of Brian O’Grady to pick up all that slack.