To most Cincinnati Reds fans out there, the quiet offseason was uneventful and disappointing. The departures of Shin Soo-Choo and Bronson Arroyo were key losses of two contributors who have played important roles in the success of the Reds; Choo last season and Arroyo for the past seven. Billy Hamilton and Tony Cingrani, the respective replacements for Choo and Arroyo, will have big shoes to fill this season and it will be hard to live up to the hype.
The pitching staff’s only real major change from the off season is the departure of Arroyo. His replacement will be in house, with Tony Cingrani most likely taking the fifth spot in the rotation. Health could be an issue for the rotation this year, as Cingrani had some health issues last season, and Johnny Cueto had three stints on the disabled list last year. Mat Latos had surgery in the offseason to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow, but he seems to be rehabbing smoothly from that and has no other major health issues. The health of this rotation will be vital to a successful season because defense has been the backbone of this club for the past few seasons, and it all starts from the starting pitching on the mound.
The Reds were clearly a team that struggled on offense last year. Their lack of offensive production is what pushed them out of the playoffs early in their wild card loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their lack of aggressiveness in trying to sign a big bat that could take the place of Choo in center field or trading Brandon Phillips for a big bat was concerning for some. Phillips’ production may be decreasing as he ages, but it’s tough to replace the defense he brings to the field at second base. He makes dazzling plays all the time and it may not have been worth it to get rid of a run-saver for a run-producer.
Billy Hamilton coming in and taking over for Choo in center field is kind of nerve wracking. He only played in 13 games in September when he got called up, and has only played one season in Triple-A ball. He has not proved that he can bring the offensive production and spark that Choo did to the team, but he should not be expected to. However, if he gets on base, it is almost a guaranteed run for the Reds if the hitters behind him can get him around the bases. Hamilton’s speed alone will allow him to steal often and with just a single, hitters will be able to drive him in from second.
Yes, the Reds did have a questionable offseason with no big moves that excited anyone for the upcoming season. With a new manager and new hitting coach, hopefully a new approach offensively will give this team’s bats the spark they need to have a great season and another postseason appearance.