Cincinnati Reds: Saved by the Bell?

Recently, the Cincinnati Reds hired former Giants bench coach, David Bell. Bell, a Cincinnati native, spent three years managing the Reds’ double- and triple-A affiliates. He signed a three-year deal with the Reds, replacing interim manager Jim Riggleman, who was filling in for Bryan Price. Price got fired in April, after Cincinnati got off to a glacial 3-15 start.

Riggleman did a fairly admirable job stepping in, leading the Reds to a mediocre 64-80 record at the helm. It was time to move on, though, and the club announced that Riggleman would not be returning to the team in any capacity. They’re clearly looking ahead to the future under Bell, who has his work cut out for him. The team has not lost fewer than 94 games since 2014 and has not made the playoffs since 2013. That being said, GM Dick Williams and the front office have made some quality moves thus far in the off-season.

After hiring Bell, the Reds wasted little time making two more coaching additions. They poached pitching coach Derek Johnson and hitting coach Turner Ward from the Brewers and Dodgers, respectively. Johnson coached Sonny Gray in college and helped shape the Brewers into a solid team on the mound. Milwaukee posted a team ERA of 3.73 in 2018, good for fourth in the MLB. Ward is credited with helping improve the swings of Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, and Justin Turner. The latter two had seasons well above their career averages, and Muncy posted career highs in HR, BA, and SLG. Ward places a big emphasis on launch angle, which will be helpful in Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.

So far, the Reds have done some great things in terms of personnel this off-season. However, none of their three new hires can fix the lack of pitching depth. If Cincy wants to be a contender as soon as next season, they will need to add some pitchers in free agency. They are reportedly showing interest in guys like Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ.

Both starting pitchers, Happ was named to the 2018 AL All-Star team, and Corbin posted a career-low 3.15 ERA last year. The Reds pitching staff finished no better than 13th in the NL in W, ERA, H, R, ER, HR, or SO. Clearly, they need all the help they can get on the mound. If they can get one or both of the aforementioned starters, they’ll be in a much better position moving forward, as young arms Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, and Tyler Mahle continue to grow into their roles.

From a defensive and batting standpoint, the Reds are solid. They ranked in the top five in the NL in H, BA, and OBP last year and are returning all eight starters from the end of the year on defense. That means there’s only one massive thing left to do to put the team in a position to be much more successful than it has in the past few years: for the love of God, Mr. Williams, cut your losses and dump Homer Bailey’s contract.

When healthy, Bailey has consistently been among the worst starting pitchers in baseball. In 2018, he posted a plus-6 ERA and went 1-14. The man was historically bad. In 2014, Homer was prematurely signed to a massive $105 million contract, which has been called “The worst for a pitcher in history.” I know it’s throwing money down the drain, but Bailey needs to be cut, sent down, or just benched. There is absolutely no excuse anymore to let him continue to start games for the Reds. The front office will never be taken seriously until Bailey’s time in Cincinnati is done.

The Reds seem to be trending in the right direction. They’ve made some solid hires and have shown interest in making some more good moves. If they sign a couple pitchers and say goodbye to Homer Bailey before the start of the 2019 season, there’s no reason they won’t improve significantly from their 2018 season and perhaps even make a run at an NL Wild Card title next year.

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