The last time the Detroit Tigers faced the Cincinnati Reds, the series was viewed as a potential World Series preview. The Tigers were several games back in the AL Central at the time, but the Reds were sitting atop the NL Central. They lost two of the three games, but went on to win 97 games on the year.
For Tigers fans that were paying attention back then, many of the names you will hear this week will sound familiar. The Reds still have the same core players that led them to a pair of division titles this decade, including Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Johnny Cueto, and Aroldis Chapman. Many of the role players will be familiar as well, as several of them are former Tigers.
In order to get reacquainted with the Reds roster, we reached out to Brandon Kraeling, managing editor of Red Reporter, SB Nation's excellent Cincinnati Reds community. Be sure to check out Red Reporter all season long for the best Reds news and analysis around!
1. The Reds have gotten off to an interesting start this season, and currently sit just below .500. However, they have the misfortune of playing in the same division as the St. Louis Cardinals. Is this what you expected out of the Reds this year, or are they underperforming their true talent level?
Given the events of the season so far, I think this is exactly where we expected the Reds to be at this point in the year. The team’s been absolutely decimated by injuries this year (sigh, again), and I think realistically we all knew that the Reds could be a team in the mix if they stayed healthy, but that hasn’t been the case.
The NL Central has been an interesting case study, with the other teams in the division bringing in big upgrades like Jason Hayward and Jon Lester, while the Reds were content to stand pat and keep saying they’re happy with the current squad. I’m not sure why the Reds thought they’d be a contender (and for that matter, why the Reds’ ownership still thinks they’re a contender even today), but it’s definitely playing out like we expected it to.
2. The Reds blew up their starting rotation last offseason, trading both Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. However, they did not do much to fill in those holes. How have the replacements fared so far? On a semi-related note, why is Tony Cingrani still in the bullpen?
They’ve been pretty hit or miss, but overall pretty admirable. The Reds have had four rookies start for them so far this year, with Anthony DeSclafani being the best of the bunch (the main return from the Latos deal). There has been a lot of promise in all of the rookies, especially Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias.
Then again, this is also a team that gave nine starts to Jason Marquis, so it hasn’t gone too well.
As for Cingrani, despite his track record of getting hitters out, the Reds seem to see him as a reliever for the time being. His secondary pitches have been an issue since he was first called up, but he hasn’t done enough in the Reds’ eyes. They seem happy with him in the bullpen as long as he’s still a two-pitch pitcher, no matter how great those pitches are. Cingrani wants to start, though, so there’s going to be drama there until that gets resolved.
3. Joey Votto has bounced back to being the monster we expected after a subpar 2014 season, but he has been outshined by third baseman Todd Frazier, who was an All-Star last season as well. Is Frazier really this good?
Yes, I think so. He was originally drafted as a shortstop and came up as kind of a utility guy, but he has really transformed himself into a classic corner infielder since being given the third base job full time. He had a strong first half in 2014 as well before cooling off towards the end of the season, so it’s probably not a sure thing that this is sustainable, but it has been pretty encouraging to see him develop into a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat.
4. Johnny Cueto is a free agent at the end of the season, and with the Reds so far out of the divisional race, there will undoubtedly be plenty of trade rumors swirling around him over the next month. Will the Reds trade Cueto? Or are they going to try to lock him up long term?
I think the Reds have had discussions with his agent about it, but I’m not sure they even got to half of Cueto’s number. The Reds straight up can’t afford him.
That said, it’s still probably a 50/50 shot that they’ll actually pull the trigger on a deal. Trading him is easily the smartest call, but ownership has been reluctant to get rid of anybody with the All-Star Game in town this year, even to the detriment of future Reds rosters.
This is completely infuriating as a fan, and is probably heading them being desperate at the deadline and holding on to him for a pick, which is lame.
5. The Reds have a few former Tigers on their roster, so I’ll go rapid fire. How much does Brennan Boesch’s defense annoy you? How many times have your announcers mis-pronounced "Eugenio Suarez?" Is Brayan Pena the most GIF-able player in baseball not named Bartolo Colon?
I have no idea what to think of Brennan Boesch because we’ve barely seen the guy. He’s only started 9 of the Reds’ 61 games, and they’ve had major injuries to their left and center fielders.
We’ve only had Suarez on the big league roster for a few days now, but there’s already been a few good ones. "eu-GENE-oh" has been my favorite so far.
Brayan Pena is the freaking best, and I’m glad you asked me about him. He’s easily the best personality on the team, and with Devin Mesoraco’s injury, has taken the full-time gig and made it his. Is he having the quietest .302/.371/.349 season in baseball right now? Can you imagine if Brayan Pena got voted to the All-Star team in his home ballpark? This needs to happen.
Once again, a big thank you to Brandon and the rest of the Red Reporter staff for answering our questions. Be sure to check out Red Reporter all season long for more Reds news and analysis!