Reds reimagine roster with Gray, Puig, others

The Cincinnati Reds haven’t been competitive over the last decade, and it’s clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Cincinnati’s front office played a part in two of the biggest deals that went down during this last offseason.

In the first trade, the Reds worked with the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners on a deal that sent (among others) James Paxton to the Big Apple, Shed Long to the Emerald City, and Sonny Gray to the Queen City. By acquiring Gray, Cincinnati is hoping that he’ll look more like the pitcher he was in Oakland than he was in his one full season with the Yankees. There are legitimate concerns about Gray’s performance over two out of the last three seasons — in ’16 he earned a slashline of 5.69/4.67/4.13, while he did 4.90/4.17/4.10 last season.

As part of the trade, Cincinnati had to ink the 29-year old starter to a three-year ($30.5 million) extension that will keep him in town through the average athletic prime. General manager Nick Krall is banking on Gray recovering from his past injuries and being able to use his old arm slot to help improve on a pitching staff that was downright atrocious last season.

Cincinnati’s starting staff gave up far too many home runs last year while walking a high rate of batters. As a result, they pitched 5.02/4.88/4.26 while only being worth 4.5 wins during the course of the season. The Reds gave up an astonishing 4.57 runs per game, good for seventh worst in the league. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism that this group of pitchers will improve all that much heading into 2019.

Former Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey left after a decent season with the Reds, which leaves Luis Castillo as the only starter on the roster who resembled anything near effective during the previous year. Yes, Cincinnati brought in 32-year old Tanner Roark to add more depth to the starting rotation; but the veteran’s performance has clearly been declining over the last few years and he does not seem like a likely bounceback candidate.

In the other big trade Cincinnati pulled off they acquired Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. The veteran outfielder hit surprisingly well last season with the Dodgers, his wRC+ of 122 was his best in four years, and he’s coming into a ballpark that’s known for being friendly to hitters. With the slight resurgence in his power numbers, there is reason to be optimistic that Kemp could produce at a similar level to last year and provide tremendous value to a Reds offense that did carried the roster to 67-wins.

The concern with Kemp is the decrease in his defensive prowess as he has aged and slowed. Outfield defense was another area that Cincinnati was surprisingly decent at (despite the poor record) and bringing the aging outfielder in could cause issues.

Which is why it was important for Cincinnati to also land Puig in the trade, even though he had a bad defensive season last year, he is a marked improvement over the current crop of outfielders already on the roster. The 28-year old will also be an upgrade over the rest of the outfield as well as his wRC+ of 123 would be the second highest in the outfield…of qualified batters.

Cincinnati made a lot of moves this offseason to attempt and fill holes on its roster; and they’ve made some good offensive improvements. But the lack of depth and consistency in the pitching staff is a major concern and it’s hard to see how this squad will be able to overcome that.

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