2009: 78-84, 4th place in NL Central, Payroll: $73,558,500
2008: 74-88, 5th place in NL Central, Payroll: $74,277,685
2007: 72-90, 5th place in NL Central, Payroll: $68,904,980
2006: 80-82, 3rd place in NL Central, Payroll: $60,909,519
2005: 73-89, 5th place in NL Central, Payroll: $61,892, 583
2004: 76-86, 4th place in NL Central, Payroll: $43,067,858
2003: 69-93, 5th place in NL Central, Payroll: $59,355,667
2002: 78-84, 3rd place in NL Central, Payroll: $45,050,390
2001: 66-96, 5th place in NL Central, Payroll: $45,227,882
2000: 85-77, 2nd place in NL Central, Payroll: $46,867,200
The last time the Redlegs made the playoffs was 1995...
Sorry, had to stop to ponder that for a minute (and wipe away a tear). As you can see, it is easy to have little hope left about a dream season anytime soon. And yet somehow every offseason I found a way to convince myself that this year is OUR year. This year is no different, as I refuse to give up hope... until summer rolls around and we are again fighting for 4th place in the division.
What have the Reds done this offseason to provide a little hope for the fans? It all starts with quite possibly the biggest surprise signing in baseball:
- Aroldis Chapman: The soon to be 22 year old Cuban southpaw immediately became the best left-handed pitching prospect in Major League Baseball when he signed a 6 year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds. My take: Reds fans were grumbling about another offseason in which we let opportunities slip away. Walt Jocketty made a splash when nobody was looking, and it felt great to have a little water in the face when I was focused on nothing but football and college basketball. Let's hope the Reds don't rush him into the rotation before he is ready. Chapman throws HARD, but he hasn't developed a secondary pitch that is good enough to take care of big league hitters. If he makes it to the majors in 2010, it will instantly become one of the biggest stories in MLB.
- Extending Scott Rolen: The decision by Rolen and the Reds to restructure his contract works in favor of both parties. As noted by Mark Sheldon, the move gave the Reds some more payroll flexibility for the present and future, and it gives Rolen two more years of job security. My take: Rolen is one of, if not THE best defensive third basemen in baseball, and he's not too bad with the wood either. He also gives the Reds some veteran leadership, and some World Series experience to keep us ground if we do finally make a playoff push.
- Resigning Ramon: Jocketty kicked off the offseason by declining the option on Ramond Hernandez's contract. He followed that up by resigning the veteran backstop for $3.0 million in 2010, with a vesting $3.25 million option. My take: The catching market was pretty weak, and there wasn't a better option in house, in my opinion. Hanigan is probably not the answer at catcher for the future of this team, so bringing back a veteran that can continue to help develop our good, young arms would seem to be a worthwhile move.
- Bringing in Cabrera: Everybody that even remotely pays attention to the Reds knew that shortstop was easily the biggest position of need heading into this offseason. The Reds have tried to solve that weakness by bringing in Orlando Cabrera on a 1 year, $3 million deal with another $3 million option for 2011. My take: Cabrera can't be anything but an upgrade over the production we've gotten offensively from the shortstop position in the last few seasons. If he can even play above average defense he will be the right man for the job, in my opinion.
- A Few Minor Moves: There will be a few guys coming in on Minor League contracts, and none of them are worth shouting over. There a couple of moves that a like, a couple of move that I'm neutral on, and really nothing to be angry about. My Take:
- Miguel Cairo: Should provide solid defense from all four infield positions as a utility guy, and will have a decent chance at making the roster out of Spring Training.
- Jose Arredondo: Will not be able to pitch until 2011 after Tommy John Surgery. When he returns, Reds fans will be very happy with this signing because Arredondo has been a strikeout machine when healthy.
- Josh Anderson / Laynce Nix: Neither guy would appear to be the answer in Left Field, as both have struggled at the plate throughout their time in the Majors. Nix showed some power last season, and has the better chance at making the roster, but it will be as a backup outfielder and pinch hitter at most.
- Chris Burke: With the Cairo signing and Paul Janish still hanging around, Burke will have to bring something special to the team during Spring Training. I don't see it happening, and I don't see Burke being a Red for very long.
- Jonny Gomes Coming Back (Soon): A Gomes return appears imminent, and you can count me as one of the Reds fans that is pretty excited about that. Why? Because he broke out last year and proved he is the answer in left field? Nope. Because he hit 20 home runs last season? Not quite. Because he looked really cool when he wore that mo-hawk for the Rays in the playoffs? Precisely. Gomes is a fun guy that brings a solid work ethic to a young team that is full of otherwise quiet characters. He may not be the answer in left field, and he may not hit 20 home runs, but if somebody comes after one of our pitchers, you can bet he will come in swinging.
- Ridding the Outfield of Tavares: The one big trade made from Cincinnati this offseason has been the one I've been hoping for since before the trade deadline last year. Tavares ended up being quite the bust when it comes to leading off and playing centerfield, and the Reds have tried to make some good of the situation by moving his contract and bringing in a utility guy in Aaron Miles. The trade also included Adam Rosales, a guy that got a chance to show what he could do in the majors last season and didn't quite live up to expectations. My take: This leaves little to no pressure on Drew Stubbs heading into Spring Training, which could be a good or bad thing. Let's face it, with Dusty Baker managing this club, he very well could have started Willy in the leadoff spot and delayed the development of Stubbs. The future is looking bright all around the diamond with the solid young players that will be getting playing time in 2010.
C - Ramon Hernandez
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Brandon Phillips
SS - Orlando Cabrera
3B- Scott Rolen
INF - Miguel Cairo
LF - Chris Dickerson
CF - Drew Stubbs
RF - Jay Bruce
OF - Laynce Nix
SP - Aaron Harang
RP - Jared Burton
Obviously there are a few positions there that I am being bold in predicting, but for the most part this is the most comfortable I've felt about knowing who should make the roster out of Spring Training. That certainly can't be a bad thing.