Free agents expected to bolster Reds’ offense

By Tom Usher -

Mike Moustakas, who signed with Cincinnati as a free agent during the offseason, hit .254 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI last season for Milwaukee.

Mike Moustakas, who signed with Cincinnati as a free agent during the offseason, hit .254 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI last season for Milwaukee.

AP photo

Nearly anything can happen in a mere 60 games.

And the Reds are hoping the compact schedule can allow them to at least scoot in for a wild card berth.

Last year the Reds went 75-87 and finished fourth in the National League Central, nine games behind the third-place Chicago Cubs.

The offense was given a tidy makeover with free agent additions of infielder Mike Moustakas, outfielder Nick Castellanos and outfielder Shogo Akiyama.

The two keys in reaching the playoffs will be getting production throughout the lineup and pulling out the Indians’ version of right-hander Trevor Bauer and mothballing his Reds’ version from last year.


Tucker Barnhart’s bat went soggy for most of last year, hitting .231 (11 home runs, 40 RBI).

He was on the disabled list from June 29 to July 26. However, when he returned, his confidence at the plate soared and he hit .273 for the second half, including .291 in August.

Barnhart’s greatest value comes on defense. He won the Gold Glove in 2017, owns a plus arm and is good at blocking balls. He threw out 23 percent of the runners who tried to steal on him.


First base

At 36, Joey Votto’s MVP year of 2010 is well in his rearview mirror.

For the second year in a row, his numbers tumbled. In 2018, he hit .284 with 12 home runs.

He followed that up last year by hitting .261 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI. His on-base percentage, which had been over .400 the last three years, dropped to .357. His walks nosedived from 108 to 76.

Votto can still be productive, as his career batting average is .307, with a career on-base percentage at .421.

But it may be too much to expect him to return to hitting .320 like he did in 2017.


Second base


That’s the number of second basemen the Reds had play at least five games at the position.

Jose Peraza, who is now with the Red Sox, led the way with 50 games. Freddy Galvis, who took over at second down the stretch, played 23.

That revolving door ends this year with the free-agent signing of Mike Moustakas.

Moustakas brings a power bat to the lineup, as he hit .254 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI last season in Milwaukee.

Since 2017 with Kansas City, he’s rolled out home run seasons of 38, 28 and 35.

He also had 30 doubles with the Brewers.

A third baseman throughout his career, Moustakas played 105 at third and 47 at second base last year. He had 11 errors at third and only one at second.



Jose Iglesias played 136 games at short last year and batted .288.

He also flashed the best glove at shortstop the Reds had seen since Barry Larkin. Iglesias signed with the Orioles as a free agent.

That opens up shortstop for Freddy Galvis, who played mostly at second with the Reds when he was claimed on waivers from Toronto on Aug. 12 last year.

Between Toronto and the Reds, he hit .260 with a career-high 23 home runs and 70 RBI. For the Reds, he batted .234 with five home runs and 16 RBI.

Galvis may not have Iglesias’ glove, but did lead the N.L. in fielding percentage for shortstops in 2016, 2017 and 2018, when he was with the Phillies and Padres.

His career fielding percentage is .985.


Third base

Eugenio Suarez is making hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park his playground.

He ended up second in the league in home runs with 49 last year, along with batting .271 with 103 RBI.

But don’t think he is a mere GABP bandbox creation. He had 24 home runs at home and 25 on the road.

In the second half of last year, he batted .300 with 29 homers.

He’s made huge strides with the glove, but still made 17 errors with a fielding percentage of .954.



Yes, Virginia, the N.L. will have a designated hitter.

At least this year.

Any of the Reds outfielders could fill this role, but they will probably start the year with free-agent signing Nick Castellanos as the DH.

Castellanos hit .289 with 27 home runs and 73 RBI between the Tigers and Cubs last year. He also led the majors with 58 doubles.

In 51 games in Chicago, he hit .321 with 16 home runs and 21 doubles.

The .277 career hitter has hit 76 home runs the last three years.

Castellanos played third base earlier in his career, but since 2018 has settled in at right field and DH.

Nick Senzel had elbow issues this week, but should return to center field.

He was shut down Sept. 5 and eventually underwent surgery on his torn labrum (shoulder) Sept. 24.

When the plug was pulled on spring training in March, it was doubtful if he would have been ready to throw in games by April.

Senzel, the team’s first-round pick out of the University of Tennessee in 2016, made his MLB debut May 3 last year. He was tossed into center field to learn on the job and he did a very credible job.

Senzel batted .256 with 12 home runs and 20 doubles. He had 14 stolen bases and 42 RBI. He hit .323 with runners in scoring position.

Jesse Winker will probably slide from left field to right.

He hit a career-high 16 home runs in 338 at-bats, while batting .269. He also had 17 doubles and an on-base percentage of .357.

Winker struggled early, but came on to hit .326 in the second half.

Shogo Akiyama, the free agent from Japan, will start in left, but can play center field. He played in center for nine years in Japan. The 32-year-old is a career .304 hitter in Japan, who hit .303 with 20 home runs last season.

Also expected to see time in the outfield or DH are last year’s amazing sensation Aristides Aquino (.259, 19 home runs in 205 at-bats), Phil Ervin (.271, seven home runs) and Josh VanMeter (.237, eight home runs).

The question on Aquino is whether he’s the player who hit .320 with 14 home runs in August, after he was promoted on Aug. 1, or whether he’s the Aquino who hit .196 with five home runs in September.


Starting pitching

The rotation has become one of the league’s best.

This week ranked the Reds’ rotation No. 3 in all of baseball, behind only the Nationals and Rays.

The overall staff compiled a 4.18 ERA last year, which ranked fourth in the league. The starters’ ERA was 4.12.

The top of the rotation is strong with right-hander Sonny Gray (11-8, 2.87) and right-hander Luis Castillo (15-8, 3.40).

Gray struck out 205 in 175 innings. He ranked fifth in the league in ERA and 10th in strikeouts-per-nine innings (10.5).

Castillo struck out 226 in 190 innings. He was sixth in strikeouts-per-nine innings (10.6) and third in hits-per-nine innings (6.5).

Right-hander Trevor Bauer came to the Reds from Cleveland in a trade July 31.

While Bauer compiled a 3.79 ERA in 24 starts with the Indians, he went 2-5 with a 6.39 in 10 stars with the Reds.

For the year, in 213 innings, Bauer struck out 253 and walked 82.

Next in the rotation is right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (9-9, 3.89), who made great strides last season. He struck out 167 in 166 innings.

Rounding out the rotation is left-handed veteran Wade Miley, who went 14-6 with a 3.98 with the Astros last year. For his career, he’s 85-82 with a 4.23.



Closer Raisel Iglesias had a yo-yo like season and compiled a career-worst 4.16 ERA. He did have a career-high 34 saves.

He was inconsistent at best, compiling an 8.64 in June and a 6.10 in August. He also had a 2.31 in May and a 1.69 in September.

Pedro Strop (4.97) was signed as a free agent from the Cubs.

Strop will join set-up men Michael Lorenzen (2.92), Robert Stephenson (3.76) and Amir Garrett (3.21).

Also in the mix are former starter Tyler Mahle (5.14), Matt Bowman, (3.66) Lucas Sims (4.60) and Cody Reed.


Mike Moustakas, who signed with Cincinnati as a free agent during the offseason, hit .254 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI last season for Milwaukee. Moustakas, who signed with Cincinnati as a free agent during the offseason, hit .254 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI last season for Milwaukee. AP photo

By Tom Usher

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.

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