Things didn’t go as hoped for the Cincinnati Reds this season, but they will win the NL Central in 2020.
After four straight 90-plus loss seasons, the Cincinnati Reds made some notable additions last offseason. Sonny Gray worked out, while Matt Kemp didn’t and Yasiel Puig mostly did after coming aboard in a trade with the Dodgers.
At 67-77 entering Monday, the Reds may lose 90 games again this year. Their run differential has greatly betrayed their record for much of the season, and it still sits at plus-five now. But all is not lost in Cincinnati, and even in a competitive division there’s potential for a real push into playoff contention in 2020.
While you weren’t looking, third baseman Eugenio Suarez has topped 40 home runs this season (44 going into Monday) and his career-high for RBI (104 last year) seems sure to go down as he has 95 RBI right now. At 28 years old he’s firmly in his prime, and Suarez is under contract through at least 2024 (club option for 2025).
After Puig was traded to the Indians, the Reds called up Aristides Aquino from Triple-A. It’s a small sample, but he seemed to set a record with every home run he hit in August and he’s got 15 home runs with a .999 OPS over 147 plate appearances since being called up.
First baseman Joey Votto is clearly in decline as he hits 36 years old on Tuesday. But he still gets on-base at a solid clip (.357 on-base percentage this year), and can be a functional hitter. He’s also not going anywhere unless he retires, as he’s under contract for $25 million per year through 2023.
Former No. 2-overall pick Nick Senzel made his Major League debut this season. While he hasn’t hit particularly well (.256/.315/.427), he does have 12 home runs with 14 stolen bases and he should be better next year.
Cincinnati could probably look to upgrade both middle infield spots. But they do have some internal options (Jose Peraza, top prospect Jonathan India, looming free agent Jose Iglesias) to go with any free agents they might consider during the offseason (Brian Dozier, Jonathan Schoop, Howie Kendrick).
After a rough run with the New York Yankees, Gray’s reunion with his college pitching coach Derek Johnson in Cincinnati has brought back his All-Star form. He has a 2.75 ERA over 28 starts this season (157.1 innings), with an uptick in K/9 (10.3) as he’s notably abandoned his cutter. Gray, Luis Castillo and a full season of a better Trevor Bauer, who came from the Indians in the Puig trade but has an 8.23 ERA over seven starts since being acquired, sets the Reds up to have an enviable top three in the starting rotation next year.
The Reds have also formed a solid back end of the bullpen, with Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson leading into closer Raisel Iglesias.
A good and fairly deep lineup, aided by a hitter-friendly home park. A solid pitching staff, from the rotation to the bullpen. The ability to affordably fill a notable hole in free agency. The Reds can absolutely be a playoff contender in 2020, and it’s looking likely they will win the NL Central.