After coming off a 67-95 season and their 5th straight losing season, the Cincinnati Reds have made big strides this off-season in becoming a contender in the very competitive NL Central. The Reds in recent years have not been big spenders and haven’t made many moves, but with a frustrated fan base tired of losing, the Reds made some key acquisitions. Included in these acquisitions were All-Star sluggers Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, and All-Star pitchers Sonny Gray and Alex Wood. With these acquisitions the Cincinnati Reds have a chance to be contenders in the Wild Card race as well as within their division.
Why the Reds are Contenders
On December 21st, 2018 the Cincinnati Reds agreed to a trade with the LA Dodgers acquiring OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp and LHP Alex Wood and cash from the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Homer Bailey, INF Jeter Downs and RHP Josiah Gray. This blockbuster deal gives Cincinnati a full year of control over All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig. Adding Puig will give the Reds another power bat in their lineup and it will improve the Reds defensively with Puig’s range and cannon for an arm. Puig’s power bat in the hitter friendly Great American Ballpark will be a lot of fun to watch as well.
Puig will likely be the X factor for the Reds, as long as he stays healthy and avoids off-field issues. Back in 2015, Puig created tension in the Dodgers clubhouse and there were many reports of Puig’s teammates requesting that he be traded. But this seems to be a thing of the past, as Puig looks like he has matured and put this behind him.
Many wondered if Puig would embrace the trade from the bright lights of Los Angeles to a small market team like Cincinnati, but it appears that he’s done just that. Puig will be looking to revive his career in Cincinnati and if he plays with the energy and excitement like he did in LA, Reds fans will love him.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) February 1, 2019
The Reds lineup is by far their biggest strength. By adding two sluggers like Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, the Reds now boast one of the best lineups in baseball. Adding the likes of Puig and Kemp to an already very talented lineup made up of Eugenio Suarez who hit 34 home-runs and knocked in 104 RBI’s in 2018, the very dangerous bat of Joey Votto, and others like Scooter Gennett, Scott Schebler, and Jose Peraza make them a nightmare for opposing pitchers. With this lineup and playing in such a hitter friendly ballpark, no pitching staff will enjoy the thought of traveling to Cincinnati for the 2019 season.
The pitching staff is the Reds biggest weakness, ranking 24th in total pitching in 2018. The Reds had a very unattractive 4.63 team ERA, and opponents batting average was .266. The bullpen had some bright spots with Jared Hughes and Amir Garrett, but the Reds pen still blew 18 saves. It’s hard to tell if it’s the pitching or if it’s because of playing in such a hitter friendly park, but nevertheless the Reds will have to clear this area up to be successful in 2019.
But the Reds have made big improvements this off-season with the pitching staff. Acquiring Alex Wood from the Dodgers, Sonny Gray from the Yankees, and Tanner Roark from the Nationals. Alex Wood will bring a big boost to the Reds starting staff, going 9-6 with a very respectable 3.68 ERA, one year after winning 16 games for the Dodgers. Sonny Gray is coming off a rough year with the Yankees, but none the less still managed to win 11 games last year. And Tanner Roark will add a nice touch to the Reds rotation too, having a 64-54 record and a 3.59 ERA in his first six years in the Majors.
An Exciting Season Ahead
Competing in the NL Central against teams like the Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates will not be an easy task, but with the acquisitions the Reds have made in the off-season, their potent lineup, and the improvement of the pitching staff, this has a chance to be a great year for Reds fans.