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New Year’s Redsolutions - Optimism through the fog

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Looking ahead at what 2022 could unveil.

MLB: JUL 06 Reds at Royals

The Cincinnati Reds gave Tucker Barnhart away. The Cincinnati Reds gave Wade Miley away, too.

It’s obvious to anyone who follows this club that Tyler Stephenson is the future behind the plate, and that the idea of a 35 year old pitcher replicating a career-best season isn’t exactly the most rational one on which to bank. Still, just because you built a new house doesn’t mean you just give away the one you’ve lived in because there’s one month’s mortgage payment due.

That’s the fog under which the Reds entered this winter’s lockout. That’s the mood lighting they gave us after the last decade, two decades, three decades of futility, just days removed from the team’s first ‘winning’ season in damn near a decade.

Not exactly the most inspirational series of transactions, really.

Still, if you can ignore the way they continue to mismanage the periphery of their roster, step back a bit and try to see the forest through the trees, there’s a scenario here that could well be painted into a Bob Ross masterpiece.

This is a rotation fronted by Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle. Fireballing righty Hunter Greene, who rose to be a Top 3 overall prospect by The Athletic’s Keith Law after returning healthy this year, is on the cusp - right next to consensus Top 50 overall prospect Nick Lodolo as rotation options for as early as 2022. That doesn’t even touch on rookie hurlers Vlad Gutierrez, Tony Santillan, and Reiver Sanmartin off the 2021 roster. That’s pitching!

Jonathan India won the damn NL Rookie of the Year Award, and looks poised to be both the keystone and leadoff man for this team for years to come. Had a different series of events presented a slight bit more of an opportunity, Tyler Stephenson could’ve damn well won the award this year, too. A catcher of the future and a leadoff man of the future, and that’s slapped next to Jose Barrero - wherever he ends up on the diamond - whose offense across AA-AAA in 2021 rocketed him into Top 20 overall prospect status.

Joey Votto showed us he no longer wears Mark I armor, but the Mark II he developed might actually be more potent.

A rotation full of controllable All Star veterans with top prospects on the cusp. A burgeoning young set of infielders sitting right next to a Hall of Famer who discovered a second, alt-prime. The outfield, while a bit thin, still features Jesse Winker, a guy who might well be the single best offensive player of the bunch at the moment. All that, I should add, is on about a hundred million dollar payroll.

Can you imagine how many GMs out there would salivate at that kind of starter package?

Jerry Dipoto would trade a guy, splash 40 million to augment things, and smile his ass off watching it go wild. Kenny Williams would, too. I tried to imagine all that AJ Preller would do to build around it and lkajdfoijpefjqklejfqlk,,./ejfpokasdjf86798lkadf fainted on my keyboard.

Despite the fact that the current ownership of this franchise is determined to be as cheap as possible, and despite that overriding premise making it damn near impossible for this front office to operate anywhere close to how a normal club would, there are still good pieces around these parts. There’s still promise up and down the roster, which is why their mismanagement of the periphery - simply giving away useful veterans and not even getting future promise in moving them - becomes so, so irritating.

I’m going to be cynical about the Reds in 2022, because that’s just about all there is to be after witnessing the ineptitude of the last three decades. I promise, though, that I’m going to again try to see some of the potential that’s still around, even if the owners keep pruning it before it ever gets to fully develop.