Let’s cut to the chase: The Reds aren’t good, and we all want them to get better. Now.
So let’s look at the ways the Reds can get better internally and then talk a bit about what they need to be looking at externally. They’re really bad mostly because of their outfield and starting pitching and a little bit because of their infield defense—here are the easiest fixes.
Call Up Senzel
Nick Senzel is back and healthy and performing well at Louisville. No one has any idea if the vertigo will ever recur, so there’s no point in worrying about it. Bring him up and start him at second base, where he’ll be a very good defender. With his defense, you can—if you’re over Peraza—get by with a solid but flawed defender at short. Someone like Alex Blandino, for instance. I’m not quite ready to call it a day on Peraza, personally, but having Senzel at second makes you a lot more flexible. And yes, I’ve seen Senzel play second at Louisville. He’s good.
Fear not, I haven’t forgotten about everyone’s favorite Cincy native. Scooter Gennett has shown he can hit. Whether his age and service time making him a good candidate to extend is another matter, but he needs to be in the lineup. It’s just that he shouldn’t play second, where he is objectively awful. Fortunately, the Reds have an outfield that’s been hitting like a middle infield from the 1980s, so there’s somewhere else he can go. Defense matters a lot less at corner outfield spots, and that’s where Gennett should play.
But whose plate appearances should he take? That’s pretty easy. Since July 1 of last year, Adam Duvall is hitting .199/.269/.388. It’s time for him to sit. Jesse Winker should play close to every day since he’s the youngest of the bunch and figures to be a part of the next good Reds team. Scott Schebler and Billy Hamilton can share center depending on the size of the outfield the Reds are playing in that day, with Schebler also getting semi-frequent corner starts.
Now imagine, if you will, the following regular lineup:
You don’t even have to squint—that’s a lineup that will score runs.
Ah, but the starting pitching. It’s really not been good. Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo have had some great starts and some not great starts, but they’re young and you gotta let it ride there. Anthony DeSclafani is back, and that should be a good thing (I think we can all excuse some rust in that first start). That’s it for people you really feel comfortable with.
Matt Harvey shouldn’t be in the rotation much longer, either because he gets traded or pitches his way out, and it feels like one way or another the Homer Bailey era is coming to an end. There’s still hope with Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, and Brandon Finnegan, and I can’t figure out for the life of me why they haven’t given Amir Garrett another look as a starter. But for the rest of this season, Reds fans are mostly going to have to hope the young guys develop.
Filling the Gaps
The Reds have real need at centerfield and in the rotation, and you can also make a case for a new shortstop. Fortunately, they have a deep system featuring approximately 7,000 players who could play second or third on a lot of teams. It’s time to start trading some of these prospects for pieces that fill current needs. This offseason, it’s also probably going to be time to hit the free agent market with abandon. They’re going to need to pay for one free agent starter (at least) and probably a hitter. I will say that I’d like to see what Taylor Trammell does at double-A (he’s currently crushing high-A pitching along with a fabulous walk rate) before the Reds go shopping for a center fielder. But then, if they found a good one, someone could always slide to a corner spot.
The main point in all of this is that, though it’s been a rough year, there are things the Reds could do right now to put a better product on the field. I’d like to see them do it. Now.
Jason Linden is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, Redleg Nation, and The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLinden.