Reds. How can I get past the basebrawl thing and provide an unbiased preview of the Reds? Easy. There are a lot of players on that team worthy of respect, and I won’t let Cueto and Phillips detract from that respect. On to the preview…
I expect a very slight decline from 2010 and a ceiling of around 90 wins. It may be asking a lot to expect Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, Ramon Hernandez, Drew Stubbs, and Jay Bruce to duplicate the numbers they collectively put up in 2010. That’s not a knock on the individuals responsible for the performances, but Rolen gave them Gold Glove defense at 3B along with 20 hrs and a .285 avg at age 35. It’s asking a lot of him to hold up for another 130+ game season. The same might be said for their regular catcher, Ramon Hernandez, who just re-signed for 1 yr at $3M after hitting .297/.364/.428 in his age 34 season.
Given that the Reds have to give pay raises to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, it’s unlikely that they can add an impact player via free agency without sacrificing a significant contributor from the 2010 division winner. After all, their free agent class includes Aaron Harang, Mike Lincoln, Arthur Rhodes, Orlando Cabrera, and Miguel Cairo. With nearly $50M already committed to a small number of players, the Reds are likely headed just north of $70M after arbitration, and they’ll still have 4-5 holes to fill. Even if they avoid expensive free agents, they could easily push $80M and not be quite as solid as they were in 2010. Then again, this team has Walt Jocketty and only $8.5M committed for 2012, so there is plenty of room to maneuver.
Overall, the Reds are relatively young and appear set to complete for several years as long as they can provide lineup protection for Votto. That said, they really are built for success in the regular season and made the playoffs by having success within the NL Central division. The Reds compiled a substantial number of their wins (43) by beating the Cubs (12-4), Astros (10-5), Brewers (11-3), and Pirates (10-6). I believe that at least a few of those teams will offer a bit more resistance next year, and they’ll have to improve on their 6-12 record against the Cardinals in order to repeat as division winners. I’m picking the Reds 2nd in 2011 with a 90-72 record.