There are 15 games remaining in the 2022 Major League Baseball season, and I’m still not sure I’ve learned much of anything about the Cincinnati Reds. They’re rebuilding, and I’ve had the lovely opportunity to witness that (when actually getting around to tuning in), but beyond the obvious I just don’t know that there’s been anything revelatory at all about them.
Joey Votto’s season was lost. Tyler Stephenson’s was, too. Jonathan India’s wasn’t a complete loss, but with just 91 games played and a .714 OPS with hardly any use of his legs sure seems closer to loss than any other word I can muster. Nick Senzel may well have played his way to a non-tender, while Jose Barrero had no business being back in the bigs without a proper minor league rehab and has subsequently floundered.
The pitching...I do suppose I have learned a bit about the pitching. Each of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft have, at times, looked like more than capable big league hurlers. If they can manage to stay healthy - something each has had issues with for long stints during this season - there’s a chance they can begin to ably fill in for the departures of Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, and the likes, forming a formidable trio around which even minuscule additional expenditure could create something worthwhile on the pitching front.
The cold, hard facts remain, however - the 2022 Cincinnati Reds have the 4th worst team wRC+ in baseball (87) and the 2nd worst team FIP in baseball (4.60). Couldn’t hit, couldn’t pitch, and FanGraphs even piles on by rating the team’s overall baserunning as the 2nd worst in the game, something that is dutifully backed up by the eye test, too.
I mention this not to pile on - you have probably already watched too much of this poor performance to really feel like spending more time talking about it after the fact. I mention it because I just don’t know exactly where they go from here, at least not under the same parameters that saw them strip the franchise to its barest of bones all winter and then rub just how poor it was going to be in our faces for show.
The farm system, thank heavens, is in much better shape than it has been in for quite some time. Still, even the idea that Elly De La Cruz can emerge at some point in 2023 despite having still never seen a AAA pitch seems like the lone 2023 beacon, and that’s even farfetched. The reality is that the next wave of potentially impactful players isn’t going to grace Cincinnati with its presence until 2024 (at the earliest), and there all we’ve learned so far in 2022 is that there are far, far more questions needing answers than available answers for what 2023 looks to behold.
The Reds entered the 2022 season as a vehicle who had mostly been stripped and pawned. Copper wiring had been sold, the tires recycled, the leather seats sold to the highest bidder. The 12 inch subwoofer that bumped Biggie and The Roots during the last fun days of the Reds fetched top dollar elsewhere. The plan was, at the time, that they’d spend the 2022 season fixing it back up a bit beyond the bright lights of ‘contending,’ finding the pieces of need at good rates and beginning to put them all in their place again.
I just don’t think we’ve seen that happen this year, though. Even with the few parts that actually showed up, it’s as if the mechanic just, like, didn’t ever show up.
The team leaderboards are effectively Kyle Farmer, who most of us assumed would be replaced by now, followed by three players who were traded months ago and a trio of guys on the 60-day IL. Mike Moustakas is on the 60-day IL, again, which is something I think I overlooked during the last few weeks as my eyes rolled further and further back into my head when thinking about the Reds as a whole. Mike Moustakas, 60-day IL member, and Joey Votto, 60-day IL member, are the only two Reds under actual contract for the 2023 season at the moment.
We’ve reached that odd moment where looking back at the 147 games they’ve played this year feels just about as icky as looking forward to this upcoming offseason. We know they have no money, no wherewithal to spend, but the reality is that even if they did have coin to splash I know not where they’d splash it with much recourse. They need an entire outfield, an entire bullpen, and half an infield. They might actually need 3/4ths of an infield, or half an infield and a catcher if they move Tyler Stephenson off the plate to keep him in the lineup. They have three very talented rookie pitchers in their rotation, perhaps only one of whom will actually clear 100 IP at the big league level this year.
They need arms, bats, gloves, promise, youth, and luck, the latter of which they certainly did not find any of during 2022. How you begin to shop for that, I do not know.