Opinion: Reds’ moves put them in the playoff hunt

Photo courtesy of Getty Images | Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was acquired by the Reds in a trade in December. “Puig Mania” and company have many Reds fans hopeful for the upcoming season, wanting to galvanize the team.

It’s been a long few years for fans of the Cincinnati Reds, as the team has the worst record in baseball since the 2014 season.

They haven’t won more than 70 games since that 2014 season, winning 64 games in 2015, 68 in both 2016 and 2017 and 67 last season. They are also the only team to average fewer than 70 wins since 2014.

After this offseason, however, there is little reason to believe 2019 will hold the same fate.

The Reds have been very aggressive this winter, more so than any other team in baseball.

The biggest trade of their offseason came on Dec. 21, when they offloaded one of the worst contracts in Major League Baseball in starting pitcher Homer Bailey, along with two prospects, for three potential impact players.

In return for Homer Bailey, Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, the Reds got back outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, starting pitcher Alex Wood and catcher Kyle Farmer. Puig, Kemp and Wood are all projected to be upgrades.

Puig brings a new energy to the team — he’s been active in the community and shown nothing but excitement about being a part of the Reds. His abilities as a player don’t hurt either. He brings additional power and strong defense in the outfield.

Kemp was an All-Star last season, but he’ll be 35 by the end of the season and it’s reasonable to expect he will take a step back this year.

However, Kemp will still be a player who can make an impact, whether he starts or comes off the bench, and will be able to act as a mentor for the younger players with his veteran presence.

Wood brings a steady presence to a rotation that has been among the worst in baseball history throughout the last two seasons.

Wood’s stats from last season are better than the Reds’ rotation as a whole in nearly every category, so he will bolster the pitching staff.

Before the Dodgers trade, the Reds also made a smaller move in trading pitcher Tanner Rainey to the Nationals for Tanner Roark.

Roark improved last season from his 2017 campaign. Despite a lower win-loss record, he improved in nearly every other area. He is also a rotation upgrade who can bring a veteran presence. Roark has pitched in majors for six seasons.

The biggest wildcard of the Reds’ trade acquisitions is former New York Yankee and Oakland Athletic starting pitcher Sonny Gray.

The Reds acquired him in their final deal (so far) of the offseason in exchange for Shed Long and a draft pick.

They also received minor league relief pitcher Reiver Sanmartin in the trade and agreed to a contract extension with Gray to make the trade final.

On the surface, Gray had a bad season last year. He had a 4.90 ERA and pitched just 130.1 innings. However, a closer look reveals Gray really only struggled at home and was very good on the road.

His ERA at home, in 59.1 innings, was 6.98, while his ERA on the road, in 71.0 innings, was only 3.17.

This is not to say Gray will suddenly be an ace-level pitcher but rather that people shouldn’t expect him to be as bad as he was last season.

The Reds also have Nick Senzel, the sixth-ranked prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He will probably play center field and is a likely contender for NL Rookie of the Year.

The Reds were just 11-29 in one-run games last season. If that record were to be flipped to 29-11, they would have been only two games out of a postseason spot.

Though the NL Central is projected to be the closest division since 1994, according to fangraphs.com, the Reds were right to be aggressive this offseason.

The team was not as far away from contending as the record made it seem, and by making these moves and getting this talent, this team will likely be in the playoff hunt for most of the season.

By: Donnie Menke | Staff Writer