After three days of assessing how the Reds’ attempts to rebuild as successfully as the Cubs have, we came away with as many questions as answers.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of what Cincinnati has done so far.
They are stockpiling arms.
The game has changed many times since those first Cincinnati Red Stockings were barnstorming the country, but one thing remains true: Great pitching beats great hitting. The Reds certainly appear to be all-in when it comes to building a strong rotation. That is evidenced not just by the acquisition of three starters for Johnny Cueto but also in the development of first-rounders Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Nick Travieso. Whoever doesn’t make the starting five is likely to be among the prime candidates when it comes time to try to fix a bullpen that has been a disaster all season.
They drafted a bat.
Nick Senzel is just starting his pro career, but the former Tennessee third baseman could be a major shot in the arm for an organization that has struggled to develop hitting recently. After a brief stop in rookie ball at Billings, he is off to a good start with the Dayton Dragons (low Single-A. He may not project as the next Kris Bryant, but both can boast of being the No. 2 overall pick in their respective drafts after strong college careers. Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora are all position players recently drafted in the top 10 by the Cubs who appear to have bright futures.
They aren’t finished.
Strong seasons by Jay Bruce and Zach Cozart could make them prime trade bait before July is over. Neither is likely to yield a premium return at this point in his career, but a team can never have too many young assets. Moving one or both could also make room for youngsters to get a longer look at the major-league level.
There is still a lack of hitting.
Aside from Adam Duvall’s breakout season, big questions remain about how the Reds are going to score runs – now or in the future. That’s especially true if Cozart and Bruce are traded, moves that would make sense given how far the team is from contending.
Waiting to deal Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman almost certainly lessened the return they got in making those trades. It’s hard to imagine Bruce or Cozart bringing back anything close to what the maximum value of Cueto was.
Perhaps it’s bad luck, but injuries have already held back the Reds’ rebuild. The time catcher Devin Mesoraco has lost the past two seasons is invaluable, and numerous arm troubles pushed back the timetable on assessing several young pitchers this spring and early summer. A concussion also at least temporarily stopped the best stretch of Billy Hamilton’s career as he tries to remind everyone why he was such a hyped prospect just a couple of years ago.
To catch the rest of the division, the Reds need their best players available.
They are still 21 games behind the Cubs as of this writing, and that is no fluke. The second-place Cardinals are 12.5 games ahead of the Reds, too. In one franchise, there is a proven ability to scout and develop talent over the long haul. The other appears to have imported some of baseball’s best minds to do just the same thing.
The Reds’ rebuild will be made even harder by the competition they figure to face…. And we haven’t even mentioned the Pirates franchise that was an afterthought for most of the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s.