There are two very important peripheral points worth noting before we go any deeper with this topic.
First, and foremost - the current Cincinnati Reds roster is in absolute shambles. He’s hurt, you’re hurt, they’re hurt, they’re all hurt. The current active roster is in no way indicative of what the Reds active roster could be, or should be, in a more perfect world. Life is pain though, folks.
Second, and still pertinent - we have zero idea if the front office and ownership group have any inklings that 2023 should be a year in which trying to win baseball games is at all a priority. With payroll shedding have reached a fervor over the last two offseasons and the payroll stripped down near its bare bones, the opportunity for investment in real players worth real dollars who provide real chances of winning baseball games is very much there, but the financial and motivational wherewithal to do so still, sadly, remains lacking from the powers-that-be, by all accounts.
In other words, this offseason has all the makings of one that will include ‘getting some guys back healthy’ and ‘seeing where we are’ while good-fit free agents sign elsewhere and the
rebuilt reconstructed minor leagues advance another level closer to maybe, maybe winning some baseball games down the road organically. While that’s frustrating on an insane number of levels, it does at least give us a glimpse into what a realistic Opening Day roster might look like, and that allows us to take some stock in the current group of Reds through that lens.
Here’s a link to the current active roster for the Reds.
And here, we parse through it position by position to see what the Reds have now that’s worth having later, too:
Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft
Notes: This trio was well-hyped, and when healthy has often shown glimpses that the hype was very much deserved. Three men does not a full rotation make, obviously, but that’s a very good start for a 2023 rotation that will combine elite talent and the ‘having learned some things’ that the brutal 2022 season provided. Connor Overton is a bit of a wild card here given his small-sample excellence and lengthy injury absence, but the Reds, right now, sure seem like the kind of club that will give him a chance to un-earn a spot all the way into next season. Luis Cessa, meanwhile, has chipped-in admirably as a starter, but I think his future will cycle back to the bullpen.
Alexis Diaz, Luis Cessa, Reiver Sanmartin, Fernando Cruz
Notes: I’m listing Cruz here despite his tiny sample and unlikely path because I am a dreamer and an optimist, and the lack of other proven options allows that to shine through. Keep in mind that the Reds will hopefully have each of Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims, Jeff Hoffman (wheeee), and Tony Santillan back for the 2023 season, so spots dry up for the fringe guys quickly. We’ve seen bright spots and low lows for each of Ian Gibaut and Joel Kuhnel, among many others with options, so I’m not about to reserve them spots just yet.
Notes: Get well soon, Tyler Stephenson. Get very, very well, very soon.
Jonathan India, Kyle Farmer, Spencer Steer
Notes: I have not yet given up on Jose Barrero, but if he’s to be on the active roster of the 2023 Cincinnati Reds, it’s going to be due to his winter and spring performance at this point. He’s looked completely lost and overmatched since being rushed back to the big leagues, but with a full year removed from his hamate injury, I’m hoping beyond hope that his 2023 spring looks more like the breakout star of the 2021 MiLB season. Add-in Joey Votto and whatever the hell they’re forced to lug around in Mike Moustakas, and that clogs the infield tremendously, leaving nebulous spots for the likes of Matt Reynolds and Alejo Lopez, however deserving they might be, respectively. Writing that all felt gross, for the record.
Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl, Aristides Aquino
Notes: Yes, I’ve got Aquino here. No, I didn’t really want to do that to myself, ourselves again. Yes, that’s based on his incredible RF arm and the fact that he’s put up a robust .262/.326/.548 line over his last 24 games, a small sample that I’ll call a small sample but that, for reasons I can only gesture at without fully explaining, I feel will be considering less of a ‘small sample’ and more of him ‘finally figuring it out’ by decision-makers up the chain of command. Also, I’ve got zero faith in the Reds investing in a more proven outfield option to take his place, which makes it less of a decision and more of an inevitability. Fraley belongs because he deserves the hell out of it, while Friedl’s display since his most recent recall paired with his other tools makes him a prototype 4th/5th OF. The collective Reds OF offense has posted an 87 wRC+ so far, which ranks 25th among all MLB teams, for what it’s worth.
That’s 13 players I’ve deemed deserving of active roster spots in 2023. That’s half the current active roster, which is telling. Remember, we’re going to get a steady stream of ‘getting some guys back healthy’ and ‘seeing where we are’ all winter as the transactions you wish you’d get to watch get passed over, too.