Day three brings us to a team that seems to be nearing a breakthrough, but still has a ton of major questions that need to be answered in their favor for them to make a run at the playoffs. Last year the Reds finished fourth in the National League Central, will this year be any different?
The Reds won 78 games last season with a ton of injuries. Could they be just a healthy season away from making the playoffs? At a glance this team looks like it could be good, a solid dark horse candidate to win the wild card. They're like that chick you meet at the dimly lit bar, she's a nine when you're drunk but when you sober up and look closer you realize she's really more of a five, with some real problems.
Meet the new guy!
Orlando Cabrera. Is that it really? The only real addition that the Reds made is a 35-year-old shortstop? Alright then. I won't knock this signing, Cabrera has been a solid player for his entire career. He is a good defender and hasn't hit lower than .280 in the last four seasons. If you are looking for any holes he really doesn't walk much, his career OBP is just .322.
Oh, I'm being told the Reds also signed Aaron Miles. That should be... something.
He's still playing?
Apparently, the Reds are content to open the season with Scott Rolen as their every day third baseman. It'll be interesting to see how he holds up over the full season. Rolen has had trouble staying on the field for the last several years and his power has completely left him (11 Home Runs in each of the last two seasons). He can still play some defense and hit for a decent average but he's running out of gas. As long as Cincy isn't banking on him having a big year it shouldn't matter much though.
Those guys can play
The right side of the Reds infield is terrific. Brandon Phillips is one of the best second baseman in baseball and Joey Votto is a very quickly rising star. If there is a knock on Phillips it's that he tends to be a very streaky hitter, but there aren't many second baseman you'd rather have in Major League Baseball.
There might be some health concerns in regards to the first baseman, Joey Votto, but he still managed to put up career highs in runs, doubles, home runs and batting average despite playing in 20 less games than his rookie season. He's the real deal.
Maybe he's not the next big thing after all.
Let's call it the Jay Bruce story. Everyone told us how great of a player Bruce was going to be, how he was true hitter and not Adam Dunn. He was the next great hitter coming out of the minor leagues. Not yet, not by a long shot.
Before breaking his wrist Bruce had power, but not much else. In 101 games he hit 22 home runs but struggled to a .223 batting average. Bruce will be one storyline to watch through spring and the early part of the season. Is he hitting for contact or just power? 2010 will be an important year for him.
A good reason they won't win.
When your manager is Dusty Baker there is always cause for concern. Everyone calls him a "players" manager. It's good that his players like him because nobody else does. Baker is simply not a very good manager, say what you will about Ken Macha I would still take him over Dusty every day of the week. Fortunately for Reds fans, he is in the last year of his contract so they shouldn't have to worry about him next season.
I just don't see it
The Reds can trump up their pitching all they want, but this staff might not be all it's cracked up to be. Let's start with Aaron Harang. In the last two seasons Harang has lost 17 and 14 games. He's seen his innings pitched drop in each of the last three seasons. Also, his WHIP has gone up in each of the last two seasons and his strikeouts have gone down. He's just not as effective as he has been in the past.
Next we have Edinson Volquez, who is coming off ligament replacement surgery on his elbow. Volquez is anything but a sure thing, not everyone returns to form in the season after Tommy John (see Francisco Liriano). Also, he really wasn't that good in the second half of 2008 and before his injury in 2009. Hitters had seemed to figure him out and that doesn't bode well for him this season.
Next up is Bronson Arroyo, many who pick the Reds to finish higher than fourth have to be banking on Arroyo repeating last year's success, but there is no reason to expect that to happen. Arroyo's never had a sub 4.00 ERA in back to back seasons, his strikeouts were at a four year low and he tied his career high for gopher balls given up. Arroyo might be solid, but he probably won't be as good as last year.
Finally you have a spot that could end up with either Aroldis Chapman or Homer Bailey. Chapman is a complete wild card, as easily as he could be a $25 million waste of a roster space, he could be rookie of the year. All eyes will be on him come spring training. As for Bailey, the question will be whether he's actually figured it out or not. Even if he repeats last year, his batting average allowed was .266 and his WHIP was 1.47, so take it or leave it.
The bottom line
When it all comes down to it, there are just too many questions that have to be answered favorably for the Reds to have a good season. One or two variables can be managed but their are a lot more than one or two variables on this team. Two of three outfielders are majorly inexperienced, the pitching staff is loaded with question marks. On top of all that, the team is set to go into 2010 with a catching tandem of Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.
It's just not going to happen.