In part two of the offseason having an impact on the 2016 First Year Player Draft, the Cincinnati Reds are an interesting team to keep an eye on. However, the offseason may be the only thing worth watching this year as the Reds project to have a down 2016 season. In an effort to restructure the roster, the Reds this winter have traded perennial All-Stars in Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman in exchange for seven prospects. Suddenly, competing in arguably the best division in baseball, with the NL Central having the three best records a year ago, Cincinnati needs to develop a different approach going forward. As the Reds rebuild, they also need to discover a future face of the franchise that the team may not have on its current roster.
Over the last two years, the Reds have been rated with the 14th best farm system, so moving Frazier and Chapman makes sense to try to bolster that ranking. In addition, Cincinnati will also be picking second overall in June, along with having virtually four picks in the first three rounds. If the Reds are able to hit big on some of those picks they will certainly start to head in the right direction. Over the last few years the rival Chicago Cubs have stripped it down, picked early, gathered prospects and hit on guys like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. But why stop there?
The three most established players currently on the roster are Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto. With the Reds likely not to contend much over the next two years, why not move Phillips, (whose name has been involved with trade rumors previously,) for a prospect or two. Bruce is a free agent after this season, and is likely not to sign an extension with Cincinnati. Suddenly, come the All-Star break the Reds may very well be able to parlay four players into 15 prospects via trades and early draft picks within just a few months. In order to really go for it, Votto must also be considered as a trade possibility as well.
Best case scenario is that the Reds will be competitive again in 2018. But do you really want to build around a 35-year old Votto at that time? Moving Votto within the next year or two would also bring in return high value for the Reds. That then leaves the face of the franchise as Billy Hamilton? Would you be able to sell tickets around Hamilton and Jose Peraza playing small ball and stealing a ton of bases?
While the Great American Ball Park is not the ideal place for pitchers to flourish, the Reds do have some promising young arms in the mix. At one point last season, their rotation consisted of only rookie pitchers. In their system, they have Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, and Amir Garrett. If the Reds also draft the likes of A.J. Puk in June, the once Big Red Machine will become the Big Red Rotation. The blueprint of winning with young arms was laid out last season by the New York Mets.
If all breaks well for the Reds and they are close to contending in 2018, they will almost certainly have a ton of salary cap available to get an impact veteran or two. Could Cincinnati be a market to contend with an Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, or even get a Todd Frazier back? If the Reds are still searching for a face of the franchise, could they even become a potential suitor for Bryce Harper if he hits the open market?
The Cincinnati Reds will likely endure some rough times over the next few seasons. But, with successful restructuring they could be right back in the thick of things once again in a few years. It is possible that the future face of the franchise is not even in Cincinnati yet, but the Reds have the ability to secure one with proper execution this season. It will likely be the only thing worth watching this year with this team.