By Joe Clark, Sports Page Editor
After a disappointing finish to a once-promising season, the Cincinnati Reds enter the offseason with a handful of important decisions.
Outfielder Nick Castellanos is likely to opt out of the two years and $34 million remaining on his contract, and the Reds are unlikely to re-sign him due to their already-high payroll.
Meanwhile, the Reds will have to find a way to improve a bullpen that was horrendous for the better part of the season. If the Reds want to be a contender, they need to make smart, low-risk moves but also not be afraid to spend a little bit. Here are some moves I think the Reds should make that are in the realm of possibility.
Sign at least two relievers
Right off the bat, two guys stand out as players the Reds should go after: Red Sox reliever Adam Ottavino and Twins reliever Alex Colomé. The Reds need relief pitchers who will be consistent and reliable, and assuming Ottavino and Colomé hit the open market, those two fit the bill perfectly.
Both have some experience closing games and have been remarkably consistent, aside from a poor 2017 season from Ottavino. Neither pitcher is coming off a great season, which is also important because it makes them affordable for the Reds.
Cincinnati could probably get both on identical two-year contracts for $4 million a season. Neither signing would be splashy, but the Reds don’t need splashy.
If the Reds sign Ottavino and Colomé and potentially find a way to re-sign Mychal Givens, then they have a bullpen that, at the very least, would be a pretty significant improvement from last season.
Sign Andrelton Simmons
Reds fans looking at this free agent shortstop class probably have dreams of seeing Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story or Javier Báez manning shortstop at Great American Ballpark for Opening Day 2022.
The problem is, the Reds aren’t going to spend what it’ll take to sign any of those guys. José Barrero struggled in limited action this year, but he was the Reds’ 2021 Minor League Player of the Year. There’s a lot of potential there, so even if the Reds did manage to sign Story, they’re blocking Barrero’s path to the bigs.
Enter Simmons. He’s long been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, but last year the bat didn’t come along with the glove, as Simmons hit a career-worst .223 with a poor.283 on-base percentage.
However, he once again had a fantastic year defensively, which benefits the Reds more than his bat would as it will improve the pitching by default. The Reds won’t be able to replace Castellanos’ production in the lineup if he leaves, so they can try to mitigate it by improving defensively and saving runs.
Last year, Simmons saved 14 runs more than the average shortstop, which is pretty low for him, as his career high was 41 runs saved above average in 2017. The Reds should give Simmons a one-year deal around $7 million with a mutual option for 2023. Barrero and Simmons can split time at shortstop, and Barrero can learn from one of the best defensive shortstops of the 2010s.
Sign Kevin Pillar
If Castellanos leaves (and I’m writing this under the impression he will), then the Reds will need some more outfield depth.
The Reds have Aristides Aquino and Shogo Akiyama who could replace Castellanos in right field, but neither of those guys can get it done for the whole season.
Pillar is another guy coming off a down year, but he can play all three outfield positions, is pretty solid defensively and has historically shown the propensity to get it done with the bat, as he’s a career .260 hitter.
He could end up being a nice, cheap depth signing for the Reds.