After a sweep at the hand of the Padres from June 14-16 in which the Reds lost every game in extra-innings, the team made another trade to try to beef up the back-end of its bullpen. Mychal Givens was on the block in Baltimore, and he was having a good-not-great season which made him slightly easier to acquire.
The team dealt two prospects: first baseman Bren Spillane and shortstop Ivan Johnson for Givens and prospect and Xavier grad Zac Lowther, who would miss the season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Raisel Iglesias was struggling, so he got moved into a setup role as Givens slotted in as the new closer.
The Reds were 43-43 and in second place in the NL Central to start July. July wasn’t necessarily kind, as the team went 1-9 in the month at the All-Star break, but somehow still only 2.5 games back from the NL Central lead.
The Reds lost the first nine games of the month, which were a part of a brutal 11-game losing streak. The team had two all-stars in Anthony DeScalafini and Eugenio Suarez.
The two trades also hadn’t helped the cause, as both Givens and Drew Smyly were, in a word, awful. Givens got removed from the closer role after allowing two or more runs in three straight appearances and was replaced by Cody Reed, while Smyly was on the verge of losing his rotation spot.
On July 31, the team stood at 48-61 (5-18 in July) and six games back in the NL Central hunt. At that point, the team decided to make the tough decision to sell. Derek Dietrich had an expiring contract that cost more than he was probably worth in the offseason given his first-half numbers (.294/.417/.580 with 19 home runs).
There was a desire to get a legitimate prospect for Dietrich, so the team got creative and packaged Dietrich with Tyler Mahle (who was in AAA) and Aristides Aquino (who was barely playing off the bench) for four prospects from the Dodgers, including Keibert Ruiz and former first-round pick Jeren Kendall. Trevor Bauer was also on an expiring contract, and while he had solid strikeout numbers, his 4.66 ERA wasn’t too hot and the odds of resigning him in the offseason were pretty low.
The Nationals were in the market for another starter after losing Stephen Strasburg for the season, so they flipped Bauer to the Nationals for four prospects, including Drew Mendoza, Yasel Antuna, and former first-round pick Seth Romero.
Finally, the Reds flipped Luis Avilan to the White Sox for Zach Burdi, a 25-year-old reliever who has a lot of potential.
Something clicked in August though, and the Reds went 18-10 and somehow climbed within 1.5 games of the division by the beginning of September.
However, eight of the 18 wins in the month came against the 56-81 Brewers in two separate four-game sweeps.
The September call-ups were Tres Barrera, one of the prospects acquired from the Nats who’s an elite defensive catcher, and also reliever Justin Shafer, who was having a solid season for Louisville.
Unsurprisingly, the Reds couldn’t climb into first place, and finished the season 79-83, two games out of first place as the Cardinals won the NL Central at 80-82, the first time in MLB history a team won their division under .500.
The Padres went 11-2 in the postseason, including a five-game series win over the Yankees to win the World Series. Some notable stats for the Reds included Sonny Gray striking out 225 batters, but he struggled with an 11-13 record and 4.90 ERA. Mike Moustakas hit .242/.300/.503 with 42 homers and 118 RBIs, while Nick Castellanos hit .266/.317/.482 with 27 home runs and 106 RBIs.
The team finished fifth in the NL in runs scored with 772, but pitching sunk the ship, as they allowed 806 runs with starter’s combining for a 4.93 ERA.
Despite the rather mediocre season, the 2020 Reds still somehow almost managed to make the playoffs, which can be considered an improvement over where they’ve been the last few seasons.