Reds Try to Win Now Without Breaking the Bank

For many years around here we’ve been told to be patient, and now, seemingly out of nowhere, this team is no longer patient. This team is going to win — this year and next. After that, Joey Votto’s gone and who knows what happens.

click to enlarge New Reds starter Mat Latos
New Reds starter Mat Latos

The Reds offseason would have been considered a success even if they did nothing, thanks to the losses of the division’s top teams. The Cardinals lost Albert Pujols (although they’ll have Adam Wainwright back from injury) and it appears the Brewers will start the season without Prince Fielder and with Ryan Braun suspended. But Walt Jocketty didn’t do nothing — instead he built the best team he could, without going all Steinbrenner and breaking the bank.

The moves have been debated enough already — Jocketty gave up the farm for Mat Latos, traded a young, left-handed starter for an older left-handed reliever (Sean Marshall) and spent money on a promising closer (Ryan Madson) and another right-handed bat in the outfield (Ryan Ludwick).

For many years around here we’ve been told to be patient, and now, seemingly out of nowhere, this team is no longer patient. This team is going to win — this year and next. After that, Joey Votto’s gone and who knows what happens.

The new rotation is solid, with Johnny Cueto as your Opening Day starter, followed by Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. The back of the bullpen is led by Madson, with Marshall and Nick Masset as the top set-up men and Bill Bray available to give some flexibility as the second lefty. 

This, however, brings up the Aroldis Chapman question. Jocketty has steadfastly held that Chapman will begin the season as a starter. If that’s the case, it’s probably in Louisville. At this point, I find it difficult to believe he can pitch five innings or more every five days. He’s an exciting talent, but he may be best as a reliever and groomed as a closer for next season when, if all goes right, Madson is back on the open market looking for his long-term pay day and the Reds wish him well, allowing someone else to overpay for a closer.

As far as the lineup, it stays similar to how it was last season when the Reds were second in the National League in runs scored. If Brandon Phillips really does change his approach as a leadoff hitter (as he appeared to in his 38 starts leading off, when he hit for a .350 average, .417 on base percentage and .573 slugging percentage), the team has at least an opportunity to reach such heights again. Although lineup construction is discussed much more than it actually matters, getting a hitter of Phillips’ caliber the most at-bats isn’t a bad thing, even if it’s unlikely a batter with a .322 career on-base percentage will get on base four out of 10 times just because he’s moved into a different lineup spot.

Then there’s the future — maybe Neftali Soto is the answer to the long-term first base question — but it’s not as if the team sold out its future when it still has the likes of Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Zack Cozart, Leake, Cueto, Bailey and Chapman entering the season 26 or younger.

Thinking Out Loud 

The only downside I can see to the Bengals moving training camp to Paul Brown Stadium from Georgetown, Ky., is that my friend Joe Reedy of the The Cincinnati Enquirer loses out on some Marriott points. Other than that, it’ll be good for fans to have access to training camp right here in town. Of course, I do wonder about parking — because I always wonder about parking when it comes to sporting events. … Yeah, I know, another baseball column. With a Boston-New York Super Bowl, I’m already checked out of caring one iotta about the NFL. … So, Chad Ochocinco has a chance to get what he’s said he’s always wanted (a Super Bowl ring), without what he’s repeatedly displayed that he’s really wanted (attention). Chad will get some cameras at media day, but not nearly the crowd that will be around Tom Brady, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. … What’s more impressive is try to name anyone other than Brady who has been around for this entire run of Patriot dominance? Give up? Kevin Faulk and Matt Light. ... While I’ve never heard a bad word about Ravens coach and Miami University grad John Harbaugh (well, from people who actually know him, not fans), I’m so relieved by the Patriots-Giants matchup that we won’t have two weeks of brother vs. brother talk. I know I’m part of the media, but jeez, sometimes this stuff is just run into the ground. … Speaking of — Tim Tebow. Not sure if you missed it, but there’s apparently some rule that no sports column can go without a mention of Tebow. God bless. … And Eli Manning playing in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis? I’m already sick of that storyline and I haven’t heard it anywhere but my head yet. Thank god for the MLB Network. ... Any rule that takes nearly a minute for the referee to explain before overtime starts is probably a bad one. I saw nothing wrong with the old NFL overtime rule — don’t want the other team to win? Play defense.

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