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Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on February 02, 2008
Fifth in the NL Central – 13 games back
CL Francisco Cordero (signed as free agent from Milwaukee Brewers)
SP Edison Volquez (trade from Texas Rangers)
SP Jeremy Affeldt (free agent from Colorado Rockies)
RP Jim Brower (free agent from New York Yankees)
Thinking the Great American Ballpark isn’t that Great
3B Jorge Cantu (signed as free agent by Florida Marlins)
RP Eddie Guardado (signed as free agent by Texas Rangers)
OF Josh Hamilton (traded to Texas Rangers)
SP Eric Milton (free agent)
The Skinny: As has been discussed previously on this site, the 2006 Cincinnati Reds played way over their heads. Whenever the team played to its true levels -- i.e. the 2007 level -- it seemed like a let down, but that was where they truly belonged.
And this upcoming season, while it should not be as horrible, should be a little bit better. Future stud Homer Bailey will likely spend the entire season at the major league level, and closer Francisco Cordero is a shut-down force at the back-end of the bullpen. Those two improvements on the pitching staff should go a long way to improving what was a crummy 2007. There is hope here.
Strengths: As can be expected with a home park that favors offense, the ball club has plenty of firepower up and down the lineup. Second baseman Brandon Phillips, while not the greatest threat to get on base, did hit 30 home runs. Right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. matched him in that category, and Adam Dunn did both of them 10 better. Their middle of the order should provide plenty of fireworks.
The top of the rotation also has a chance to be a hidden strength. Aaron Harang, a right handed pitcher with amazing strike out potential, is not a perfect staff ace, but he is still a great pitcher. When paired with Bailey and Bronson Arroyo, who suffered a down year in 2007, the 1 through 3 slots of the rotation should be much improved.
Weaknesses: As good the first three slots can be, the last two will not. Going into spring training, Matt Belisle and Jeremy Affeldt are likely to take the jobs, but youngsters Edison Volquez and Johnny Cueto have higher ceilings. Whichever wins the jobs, however, likely will not do much for the team in 2008.
Outside of Cordero and David Weathers, things do not look good in the Reds’ bullpen. Weathers, who finished with a 3.59 ERA in 77.2 innings last year, should ably setup Cordero, but there are not many other arms for manager Dusty Baker to rely upon.
CF Ryan Freel
1B Scott Hatteberg
RF Ken Griffey Jr.
LF Adam Dunn
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Alex Gonzalez
3B Edwin Encarnacion
C Dave Ross
Jeremy Affeldt / Edison Volquez
Set Gary Majewski
Set Dave Weathers
Closer Francisco Cordero
Keys to success: The most important thing for the Reds in 2008 will be getting numerous and quality innings from their top three starters. While Bailey should not be counted on for more than 160 innings -- and we will see how notable youngster killer Dusty Baker handles the power pitcher -- Harang and Arroyo will pitch until their arms fall off.
Almost as importantly, the Reds need their moves to acquire bullpen pieces to pay off. Cordero needs to show he’s worth the $11 million-plus he is being paid. Mike Stanton needs to show he was worth the two-year contract he earned last off season. And Bill Bray and Gary Majewski, former of the Washington Nationals, need to show they are, indeed, worth more than outfielder Austin Kearns.
Prediction: It all depends on how much faith one has in the arms performing. The offense is likely to produce as it has in the past, but the pitchers have to keep the runs off the board, especially in a home ballpark conducive to offense. Bet on a 75 win season that could vault them into third or fourth place in the division.