It took almost exactly 100 days for Major League Baseball to unlock itself after its owners and commissioner Rob Manfred shut the sport down completely. Mercifully, that lockout ended today, and despite some condensed prepping in spring training that will look haphazard and rushed, the full 162 game regular season is set to be played in 2022.
You may recall that the Cincinnati Reds went into that transaction freeze 100 days ago in a frugal mood. They set a self-imposed deadline of trading Tucker Barnhart at all costs before having to make a call on his option, effectively giving him to a Detroit Tigers club that was more than willing to pay him his worth. A similar story was told with Wade Miley, who was simply waived and given to the Chicago Cubs before the Reds had to fork over a million bucks to save 9 million more, cost-cutting moves that signaled this franchise is going for broke in the least enjoyable sense of the word.
At least they’ve got some in-house options for behind the plate and on the mound. Tyler Stephenson will anchor the battery, while the likes of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Reiver Sanmartin, and Tony Santillan are on the SP depth chart with loads of promise.
What the Reds do not have, however, is anything close to a complete outfield.
Jesse Winker will presumably man LF, though with the universal DH now in play and his history of injuries, he’s incredibly well-suited to DH (despite the presence of numerous other old, hobbled, or lumbering bats on the roster at the moment, too). Aside from Winker, there’s a pretty incredible outfield-sized hole on the roster.
It’s hard to call the signing of Shogo Akiyama anything other than a disaster at this point. Nick Senzel, like Winker, has been hurt more often than not, and simply cannot be written in pen on any lineup card until he proves otherwise. Aristides Aquino is still around as a giant enigma, and that, folks, concludes the list of ‘proven’ outfield options.
Nick Castellanos hit free agency after opting-out, and will be perhaps the most sought-after bat on the market as the transaction freeze ends tonight. TJ Friedl got a cup of coffee last year, and probably deserves a top-off of that cup in 2022, but hardly looks the part of everyday starter. Jose Barrero, meanwhile, is the best shortstop on the team, which in the parlance of the Reds developmental process has him deemed more likely than not to be an outfielder, but that doesn’t do anything to erase the fact that he’s never really ever been an outfielder anywhere before.
So, the Reds need an outfielder, with a big boppin’ bat in RF the ideal acquisition. Of course, acquisitions usually require money outlays, and it remains to be seen whether that’s something the Reds are willing to do at all between now and the April 7th Opening Day.
Clock’s now ticking, and the sale has officially begun.