With Opening Day fast approaching, you now have 225 million reasons to go watch the Reds this year. Bob Castellini opened up the checkbook and Walt Jocketty busted out his best persuasive vocabulary and Joey Votto accepted; to the tune of a 10-year, $225 million contract extension — the fourth largest in major league history.
Reds ownership — unlike our dear friend, Mike Brown — has embraced the recent successes of their young nucleus of talented players and has spared no expense to keep the "Little Big Red Machine" well-oiled. Votto joins fellow all-star Jay Bruce, who signed a six-year, $51 million deal after the 2010 season. It’s nice to see a professional sports owner in Cincinnati who actually loves the sport and is in it for the right reasons.
The Reds will have plenty of offensive talent this year, something that really has not been a problem over the past couple of seasons. Any lingering doubt has to relate to the recent injuries that have plagued the bullpen. Ryan Madson is out for the year after Tommy John surgery while Nick Masset will start the season on the DL with shoulder cuff inflammation. This means that Aroldis Chapman will start in the bullpen even though most Reds fans — and manager, Dusty Baker — know his services would be better used as a starter. Sean Marshall will step in to the closer role until the Reds have more depth in the bullpen; he isn’t a bad option and has consistently kept a low ERA in a relief role.
One thing hasn’t changed, the Reds still play in Great American Ballpark and they have an abundance of young, strong bats in the lineup. Between Votto, Bruce, Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey, expect the Reds to be amongst the league-leaders in home runs. Drew Stubbs will hit some too, but if he could take a little constructive criticism to heart: Please, learn to bunt. This will be a key in the Reds venture for success this year.
If Stubbs can get on base, he is going to steal — there are very few players in the majors that have his kind of speed. If the bats behind Stubbs perform up to expectations, the Reds will score more than enough runs to support the pitching staff. And the single most important key to success this year is battling through injuries; if the young guys can step in and compete there is no reason the Reds won’t win the division — after all, we do have the best first baseman, if not player, in the National League.
The Reds will open their season against the Miami Marlins at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday following the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade. For more celebration of Opening Day, check out C. Trent Rosecrans' column from this week's CityBeat here.