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What the Cincinnati Reds still “need,” and what’s “available”

A roster rundown on the eve of Cactus League play.

Cincinnati Reds v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Washington Nationals/Getty Images

Let’s be real here - the 2022 Cincinnati Reds aren’t going to buy their way to anything. They weren’t even willing to spend what it cost to be what they were.

The payroll cull has seen Nick Castellanos, Tucker Barnhart, Wade Miley, Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, and Amir Garrett tossed aside in varying transactions, the Gold Gloves, All Star appearances, Cy Young votes, and Pirate fights too numerous among them to truly count. In their stead, at least in terms of those players expected to make an impact at the big league level this year, are the likes of Justin Dunn, Jake Fraley, Mike Minor, and perhaps Brandon Williamson.

That’s hardly a one-for-one, though thankfully the Reds do at least have some in-house talent that’s ready to take on larger roles to help fill those voids. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Barrero, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft appear to be chief among those already around looking to carve out the first real slices of big league playing time at some point this season.

Add-in the surprise $4.5 million guarantee to Donovan Solano, and the Reds have some pieces to arrange, even if they don’t look anywhere as potent on-paper as they did five months ago.

The idea of simply cutting checks to up the talent around Goodyear and GABP isn’t one we’re going to explore here. They aren’t going to chase Castellanos despite having roughly 0.4 actual outfielders on the roster. Michael Conforto seems equally unlikely despite still sitting out there on the market, as both will require the kinds of dough the Reds simply aren’t willing to spend.

Still, it does appear that the front office knows they need some help to even approach likely competence, hence the moves to add Solano and Minor in the midst of an otherwise obvious fire sale. Buck Farmer, Jake Bauers, and potentially Colin Moran are the kinds of fringey bargain-bin depth adds that we’ll likely see more of before Opening Day. Here’s a closer look at where the Reds could still stand to hit the lotto with a cheap pickup, and a few names that fit the bill for that kind of shopping.

Catcher

In-house: Tyler Stephenson, Andrew Knapp, Mark Kolozsvary

Shopping Status: Likely set

In Stephenson, the Reds have their catcher of both the present and future, with Barnhart now out the door. That there’s a Designated Hitter now in the National League may even allow him to get more PA, and it’s that scenario that could prompt the Reds to explore adding even more proven catching depth.

Knapp, though, has 309 big league games under his belt at a level of performance that let him come into camp on a minor-league deal, meaning he’ll be a cheap addition as a backup. With Kolozsvary as depth in AAA, that’s probably all we’ll see from the Reds.

Infield

In-house: Joey Votto, Jonathan India, Kyle Farmer, Mike Moustakas, Donovan Solano, Jose Barrero (?), Nick Senzel (?), Max Schrock, Jake Bauers, Colin Moran (?)

Shopping Status: Likely set

Even with Eugenio Suarez out the door, Moose looks poised to man the hot corner when healthy, at least against RHP. Solano should serve as yin to his yang there against LHP, and the rest of that unit looks largely set - especially if Barrero and Senzel get looks as infielders like they once did.

Outfield

In-house: Tyler Naquin, Jake Fraley, Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Aristides Aquino, TJ Friedl, Jake Bauers

Shopping Status: Dear lord please

0.3, 0.3, 1.3, 0.2, 0.4, 0.1, 0.0. Those might look like random numbers, but they’re actually the Steamer projections for WAR for each of the outfielders listed above.

The Reds need outfield help in the worst possible way, which is unfortunate since beyond Castellanos and Conforto there aren’t a ton of feasible, cheap options available.

34 year old Tommy Pham holds a 2.2 WAR projection from Steamer, and is probably the best bat still out there who fits the mold, even if he’ll probably cost enough to be the 3rd or 4th highest paid player on this club. Jorge Soler is out there, too, though he’s hoping his World Series heroics with Atlanta land him the kind of long-term deal that I don’t see the Reds striking (his 1.6 WAR Steamer projection still looking like gold compared to what’s left among his free agent peers).

Beyond that, there’s...Corey Dickerson? He of the 0.7 WAR projection?

It’s the kind of free agent market nadir that makes you wonder if the Reds would be willing to make a big splash via trade, though that would require chucking prospects off the farm right after they began what appears to be a thorough rebuild. Would they chase the four years of team control that each of Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays have? Would they fuel Oakland’s parallel rebuilding project by going after Ramon Laureano? Or would they pursue some kind of bad contract old-guy swap with, say, the Rockies for Charlie Blackmon (if it meant getting Moose off the books)?

I can’t imagine they’re just going to sit tight here, though they’ve repeatedly done the unimaginable to us for years.

Starting Pitching

In-house: Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Mike Minor, Vlad Gutierrez, Reiver Sanmartin, Justin Dunn, Riley O’Brien, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Ben Lively, Graham Ashcraft, Brandon Williamson

Shopping Status: Always listening

You can never have too much pitching, and I suspect the Reds will continue to monitor the market for veteran hurlers who can soak up innings so that the young bucks don’t have to overexert themselves in what will indubitably be a non-playoff season. The Johnny Cueto rumors, for instance, could make some sense at a low fee, even though the Reds do have a good bit of talent still around (now that Nick Krall has repeated that they don’t expect to move either of Castillo or Mahle).

The question now becomes whether they’ll look to try some of the rookies in bullpen roles to get their big league feet wet, or if they’ll keep them in AAA to get stretched out...

Bullpen

In-house: Lucas Sims, Luis Cessa, Art Warren, Justin Wilson, Jeff Hoffman, Dauri Moreta, Ryan Hendrix, Tony Santillan

Shopping Status: Dear lord please

Amir Garrett is gone, as are Mychal Givens, Mike Lorenzen, and Tejay Antone from prominent spots from last year, with Tejay’s second Tommy John surgery unfortunately rendering him out for the season. As a result, the Reds have roughly five spots in what should be an eight-man bullpen with really, really unproven arms the clear frontrunners for innings.

That was much the case last year around this time, too, when all the Reds did was pick up Sean Doolittle on a low-cost deal after letting Raisel Iglesias and Archie Bradley walk. I’d anticipate the Reds shopping at that level of the market once again, while also trying to wait out some legitimate, veteran arms as Opening Day nears and try to get them into camp on minor league deals for maximum roster flexibility at the last minute.

This unit needs help, though. They need lots of help.

Skip Schumakers

In-house: No Skip Schumakers

Shopping Status: Seeking Skip Schumakers

The Reds currently have no Skip Schumaker on their roster, in their dugout, or in a coaching box. As long as Walt Jocketty still has the ear of Bob Castellini, though, I can guarantee you they’ll be seeking his services sooner or later.