The Cincinnati Reds may be 21 ½ games out of first place at the All-Star break, but does that mean there is no reason to watch them the rest of the way?
Of course not. On one hand, they have a very real shot at making history as the worst team in franchise history.
For those who prefer to look on the bright side, though, here are five ways the club can still make something out of the second half.
1. Get more at-bats for the future
The every-day lineup includes a pair of 25-year-olds in center fielder Billy Hamilton and catcher Tucker Barnhart. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez is 24. At 27, first-time All-Star Adam Duvall might be caught in between prospect and trade chip. Getting them consistent work is good, but more could be done with players in the minors such as Kyle Waldrop, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker. Getting utility man Jose Peraza into the lineup somewhere every day is a must as well.
2. Straighten out those young pitchers
It remains to be seen if changing pitching coaches will help, but the first half of the season was undeniably ugly for some of the Reds prized young arms. John Lamb, Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed – the three players acquired for Johnny Cueto last season – are 5-17 this season. They have allowed 39 home runs in a combined 36 starts. Some bumps in the road are to be expected in breaking in new players, but at some point one has to wonder if any long-term mental damage could be done.
On the bright side, 26-year-old Anthony DeSclafani is 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA since returning from the DL.
3. Find reliable relievers
Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen have provided a lift for the bullpen recently. They are 26 and 24, respectively, and it’s fair to wonder if the season would have been quite so bleak if they were healthy at the beginning. Relievers are notoriously inconsistent from year to year, but the team has to start somewhere in stabilizing this area.
4. Trade Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart
It’s hard to believe these two are 29 and 30, respectively, but they are. That means they aren’t likely to be around by the time this rebuild is over. And they will continue to get more expensive as they age because that’s the way baseball’s economics work. While it’s hard to imagine either bringing back much premium talent in a trade, making room for more of those youngsters mentioned above is imperative.
5. Play smarter baseball
Nobody wins at this level without great talent, but there is a far more respectable brand of ball than the Reds have played for much of this season. Manager Bryan Price admitted as much after an ugly final game of the first half in Miami included multiple miscues by a team that is statistically among the worst in the majors on defense. The last time the Reds turned things around, manager Dusty Baker and veteran third baseman Scott Rolen were credited with setting expectations in the clubhouse that seem to have slipped over the years. Building a winning mindset is a significant part of being a winning team, and the Reds shouldn’t wait until they’re ready to contend again to start doing that.
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