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So now that we’re pretty sure we’re through with the drama that is Dusty Baker, let’s talk about what we certainly hope will be happier times. Like, Opening Day 2014, and how the roster is going to look! We’ve got 25 spots to fill, so let’s get to work.
I think the one thing that we can agree on is that the pitching staff isn’t going to undergo huge changes. It doesn’t need to, this was one of the best staffs in the National League, and the core of it is still getting into, or well into their prime. So, let’s map it out.
Ace - Mat Latos
#2 Starter - Johnny Cueto
#3 Starter - Homer Bailey
#4 Starter - Tony Cingrani
#5 Starter - Mike Leake
Whether Bronson Arroyo is going to get a qualifying offer will be an interesting discussion over the next couple of weeks before free agency kicks off, since the risk of him accepting and sucking down $14 million from the payroll is a little scary, but the draft pick you’d get if he declines might be worth it.
Closer - Aroldis Chapman
We’re gonna get to March next year and hopefully, before that, let’s hope that this recurring issue is quelled. Aroldis Chapman is an other-worldly closer, and still doesn’t have a third pitch mastered. As a reliever, he doesn’t need one, and can be the shutdown closer we need.
Setup - J.J. Hoover
We bemoan those three grand slams, but around the inherited runners scoring, he had a very good season, and has progressed into a quality set-up man.
Middle Relief - Sean Marshall
Middle Relief - Jonathan Broxton
Middle Relief - Alfredo Simon
Middle Relief - Sam LeCure
Middle Relief - Logan Ondrusek
This would be your standard 12-man, all of them either under contract, or still affordable via arbitration avoiding contracts. Injuries would likely come from Triple-A depth.
Catcher - Devin Mesoraco
1st Base - Joey Votto
2nd Base - Brandon Phillips
Shortstop - Zack Cozart
3rd Base - Todd Frazier
Left Field - Ryan Ludwick
Center Field - Billy Hamilton
Right Fiend - Jay Bruce
Much like the starting rotation, most of these stops are signed and established, there aren’t guys in Triple-A who are threatening their spots, and unless of the guys under cost-control are traded, more likely Cozart than Frazier who I think is blossoming into a team leader, I don’t see major changes here.
Billy Hamilton convinced me in September that he’s not going back to minor league baseball, ever again. He’s got 100-steal stuff, and Baker was ill-equiped to use that in any other way than as a pinch-runner. I expect the new manager to setup the lineup in a way to maximize his speed, while balancing to allow hitters to see pitches around Joey Votto, who might “suffer” from another 125-walk season, but hopefully will show a little more power and aggressiveness to go with that patience (and better clutch hitting).
The payroll for these nine has one glaring albatross: Ludwick. His base salary of $1M goes up to $7M this year, while Votto will actually make $5M less as he goes into the first year of the back-loaded 10-year extension. Additionally, Jay Bruce goes up by $2.5M, but Nick Masset’s contract comes off the books for 2014. If this roster stays pat, the payroll will as well.
Jack Hannahan (signed for 2014)
The backup catcher could easily be Ryan Hanigan, and I don’t think many people would complain. Hannahan has a contract for 2014, so I fully expect him to return. I also think Donald Lutz has a chance to play his way into a fourth outfielder / pinch hitter role with the big club unless they want him to get additional Triple-A seasoning as a possible replacement for Ludwick, who I would have a lunch is not brought back for 2015 on the option unless he has another resurgence. Heisey is not going to be that guy to take that spot permanently, Lutz has a better shot at this.
A suggestion for the utility guy … maybe we could bring Adam Rosales back? Good glove, a little more experience, and could backup at any of the infield positions.
In short, unless the Reds do some wheeling and dealing of their talent on the 25-man, I don’t see a lot of room for this roster to undergo major change. If Bryan Price gets this job, he pretty much knows what he’s working with, it’s his job to get more out of it.