Putting A Wrap On Reds’ Season; Look Ahead

If you’re a Reds fan, that burn is going to stay with you for quite a while – perhaps until Opening Day.

The Reds not only had the Giants on the brink of elimination in the NLDS, Cincinnati was legitimately a good team this year that had a chance to win the World Series. This was not the 2010 Reds who were just happy to make the playoffs and then played like it against the Phillies in an embarrassing sweep.

The 2012 version was built to win it all. However, they were dealt some bad luck in the playoffs. Even though they were able to win the first two games of the series in San Francisco, they weren’t able to overcome the loss of ace pitcher Johnny Cueto.

And how stunningly ironic is it that the Reds go the entire 162-game regular season (Kind of a lot of games!) without a pitcher missing a start due to injury … and then Cueto gets injured 0.1 innings into the postseason. It cost the Reds dearly because Mike “The Weakest Link” Leake started Game 4 and got rocked. The Reds obviously knew that Leake wasn’t a good choice in the playoffs because he was left off their 25-man roster for the Giants series (until the Cueto injury).

Oh well, it was still a good season and let’s look ahead to 2013 for a moment.

First of all, I don’t mind the re-signing of manager Dusty Baker to a two-year contract. The man has won two division championships in three years and must be given credit for that. The Reds weren’t going to find anyone better. Hell, the Indians already got Terry Francona. Do I disagree with Dusty somewhat often? Absolutely. His completely-inexcusable decision to continue to run the inept Drew Stubbs out there every game (Stubbs started all five games of the playoffs) is the best example. It’s one thing to be a players’ coach. It’s completely different to hurt your team by starting a terrible player every day just out of loyalty.

Centerfield HAS to be addressed this offseason. I love that Billy Hamilton is now being groomed as the CF of the future (he’s playing CF in the Arizona Fall League and will play CF in the minors beginning in 2013) but he won’t be ready to be the Reds’ starter in 2013. He’ll need a full season at the position in the minors in my opinion. Keep in mind Hamilton – who set the all-time professional baseball record with 155 stolen bases this year – is still just 22. There’s no question in my mind he’ll transition well to the outfield and will be the Reds’ CF for years to come. But I think 2014 is when he’ll take over for good, not 2013.

So, what will GM Walt Jocketty do? He won’t have much money to spend given the re-signings of Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips – and you know he’ll be trying to sign left fielder Ryan Ludwick to a two-year deal (or something of the sort) – but he has to address the CF situation. Stubbs is not the answer … unless the question is: Who is a god-awful baseball player?

Maybe the price has gone down on Minnesota Twins CF Denard Span. I’ve always thought he’d be a good fit for the Reds. Or maybe there’s a better (or cheaper) option out there to hold the fort down until Hamilton is ready.

As for the pitching staff, Jocketty has the luxury of standing pat this offseason as it pertains to his starters. There’s no question that Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Leake will again form the rotation. Many are pining for Aroldis Chapman to move to the rotation, but I don’t see it happening. Now that he’s proven he can be a dominant closer, I think the team will decide to keep him in that role. Also, there’s not a glaring need for another starter. Yes, Leake is bad for the playoffs, but he’s not a terrible No. 5 starter by any means and hopefully the former first-round pick will perform better as he gets older.

By the way, how many innings of the NLCS will I be watching? That’s right, a grand total of zero. Whether the Cardinals – who finished 9 games behind the Reds in the Central – or the Giants advance to the Series, all I have to say is … Go Tigers!