MLB NL NL Central Reds

What to Expect from the Cincinnati Reds in 2021

Photo courtesy of Joe Robbins – Getty Images

2020 Reds at a Glance

RECORD: 31-29 

2020 for the Redlegs, much like the rest of the world, was one that was very up and down. It was a season that was unlike any other season within MLB history. It included a later start than any season in MLB history and also a shorter season than had ever been played. 

Even with all of this, expectations were very high for the team given the acquisitions that the team made throughout the offseason. Unlike what we had seen with the Reds in the past, Cincinnati went out and spent a big money on pieces to expand their roster. The Reds signed multiple players to help bolster an already stellar lineup. Former All-Star Mike Moustakas was signed to a four year contract to be the everyday second baseman for the Reds. The man they call “Moose”  was signed to fill the hole in their middle infield. The biggest problem area in the Reds lineup entering the 2020 season was within their outfield.

The Reds addressed this issue by signing multiple pieces. The first of these was arguably the best outfielder that was available in free agency, Nick Castellanos. Castellanos, much like Moose, was signed to a four year deal with a player option after each of the first three seasons. The Reds then also signed the first Japanese born player to play for the team in its storied history. This Japanese outfielder being Shogo Akiyama. The Reds then went out and signed a few smaller pieces that they hoped would prove helpful to their season. Wade Miley and Pedro Strop to help their pitching staff. All these signings to go along with the trade for Trevor Bauer the Reds made at the deadline in 2019. Giving the Reds their first full season with the talented starting pitcher.

The Reds started off the season with a win over the less than stellar Detroit Tigers. Morale was high and it seemed to be the start of what was supposed to be a very promising season. After that singular win things took a turn for worse. The Reds went on to lose the next four games they played. Two of those being to the Tigers, who would eventually finish well below the .500 mark, while then losing two straight to the Chicago Cubs. They quickly fell from a high-spirited 1-0 after the opening day win over the Tigers, to a way less than optimal 1-4 after their first five games. The Reds then beat the Cubs in the final game of the series before winning the final two games in the second three game series of the year against the Tigers. They went on to win their third straight game against their instate rivals, the Cleveland Indians, to once again return to .500. Moral once again at its highest. It wouldn’t remain that way for long because the Reds would go on to lose the next three games in the series with the Indians and once again fall to three games under .500. This was a common occurrence for the Reds throughout 2020. It seemed like every time the Reds seemed to get close breaking through, they would go on a two or three game losing skid. 

The Reds would ultimately fall to 20-26 with only a handful of games left to play in the season. All but down and out and yet again on their way to another very disappointing season. Then things really started to click for the Reds. Guys like Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, and Michael Lorenzen, who had been a huge reason for the teams struggles earlier on in the year, started to come on fast and strong. Trevor Bauer was pitching better than he had at any point throughout his already stellar career solidifying himself as the Cy Young favorite within the National League.

The Reds won the final game of the series against the St. Louis Cardinals before they headed to Pittsburgh for a four game set with the struggling Pirates. The Reds absolutely took care of business. They emphatically swept the Pirates, taking all four of the games and improving to 25-26 and giving themselves a glimmer of help. Up next was the biggest three game series of the year for the Redlegs and it just happened to come against the best team in the American League, the 33-17 Chicago White Sox. The Reds homered four times to beat the White Sox in dominant fashion, and won their sixth straight game to once again return to .500. The Reds would then split the remaining two games of the series with the Sox to win the series and stay right at the .500 mark, solidifying their push towards a wild card appearance. The Reds then would play the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that themselves was making a playoff push. The winner of the series would put themselves in great position to make the playoffs as a wild card.

The Reds went down early in game one of the series, but late in the game hit three homers to take the game and push closer to a spot in the playoffs. The Reds scored early in game two of the series, but would give up runs late and fall to the Brewers in game two. The Reds would again prevail in game three of the series behind a strong performance by Bauer. Winning their fourth consecutive series and pushing their magic number to make the playoffs to one more win. The only problem is that they were playing the prolific offensive powerhouse in the Minnesota Twins, and they were playing them at their place. The Reds would go down by a run early behind the pitching of Michael Lorenzen, but wouldn’t stay there long. Moustakas drilled a two run bomb and then an inning later Freddy Galvis would go yard to extend the lead to 3-1 Redlegs. Castellanos would then add a run on a hit later on in the inning. The Reds would give up a run to allow the Twins to draw within a run, but then the Reds would break it open in the top of the ninth. Another Moose homer along with two other runs would push the Reds over the hump and into the playoffs. Although it didn’t entirely matter, the Reds went on to win the series against the Twins and win their final five series of the regular season.

The Reds would ultimately lose two heartbreakers in the playoffs. Game one going to 13 innings and giving the Reds a ton of chances, but eventually losing 1-0 to the Atlanta Braves. Bauer pitching an absolute gem for the Reds, but getting no support in the runs column behind him. Game two was much of the same. Castillo pitched a heck of a game for the Reds, but the Reds again were unable to score a single run. The Reds would leave the season with a sour taste in their mouths. With all of this being said, the Reds were felt to be a team that was on the right track. A team that, if there had been a normal length regular season, would have probably won the NL Central. 

Looking Forward to 2021

Offseason Transactions

Players who have moved on
  • The biggest player that the Reds will be without in their 2021 campaign is no doubt the 2020 National League Cy Young award winner, Trevor Bauer. The Reds offered Bauer a qualifying offer, which he turned down and entered into unrestricted free agency. Cincinnati tried to bring Bauer back, but ultimately he wanted too much money and the Reds could not afford his salary. Bauer signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • The Reds will also be without the services of right handed starting pitcher, Anthony DeSclafani. Disco, as he was called during his tenure with the Redlegs, signed with the San Francisco Giants in free agency.
  • Shortstop and utility player Freddy Galvis was another free agent who moved on from his time with the Reds. Galvis signed a contract to be a part of the Baltimore Orioles organization. 
  • The Reds decided to move on from verteran catcher Curt Casali who eventually signed with the San Francisco Giants. This move was in order to allow a roster spot for the up and coming Tyler Stephenson. 
  • The Reds traded away long time bullpen arm Robert Stephenson to the Colorado Rockies.
Returning Players and New Signees
  • The Reds avoided arbitration with many of their high named MLB players including the likes of Pitchers Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, Amir Garrett and also outfielder Jesse Winker.
  • The Reds re-signed infielder Kyle Farmer who may become the team’s primary shortstop in the 2021 campaign.
  • The biggest free agency signing that the team made was for bullpen arm Sean Doolittle. Doolittle is poised to be a solid arm for the Reds on the backside of the bullpen.
  • The Reds signed both Dee Gordon and Tyler Naquin to minor league contracts. Both are players who have spent extensive time on big league clubs and are guys who are poised to make a push for a spot on the opening day roster

What to expect 2021

Many MLB insiders believe that the Reds may have missed their one year window to make a long run in the MLB Playoffs. Much of this is due to the loss of Cy Young Trevor Bauer and the inability of the Reds to fill the holes that many feel that they have within their roster, while other teams within their own division have added superstars to their lineups. The shortstop position is a position that scares many when it comes to the Reds. Prospect Jose Garcia is the shortstop of the future for the Reds. Although he broke the MLB roster last year and made his debut with the team, he is still a player that could grow through another year within the minor league system. That leaves two options for the Reds. Kyle Farmer, probably the most likely option, has shown some upside for the Reds, but came in through the Reds farm system primarily as a second baseman. Many fear the transition to an everyday shortstop role may be implausible. The final option is Dee Gordon. Gordon being a player that has been a part of multiple World Series runs, but who is also on the back half of his career. He has lost a step and may not be the guy that many grew used to seeing earlier on in his career. 

The other hole that many see within the Reds is their starting pitching. The Reds have valuable arms like Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, both of which are one time all-stars. From there is uncertainty. Michael Lorenzen and Tyler Mahle both pitched excellently for the team down the stretch last year and were pivotal parts of the rotation in their run towards the playoffs. Even with this being said are both these once bullpen arms ready to make the jump to full time major league starters? Then there is veteran Wade Miley. Miley was signed by the Reds prior to the 2020 campaign. He struggled throughout due to multiple injuries and an inability to stay on the field. Will he be what the Reds thought he’d be when they signed him in 2020 or will he be the injured arm they saw throughout last season. 

Even with all of the flaws that MLB insiders see within the team, I suspect that the Reds will be a quality team throughout the entirety of the 2021 season. With guys like Castillo and Gray on the mound you can almost guarantee that the team falls into the win column. All Star third baseman Eugenio Suarez is poised to bounce back from his less than ideal season in 2020. With his bat in the lineup along with guys like Mike Moustakus and Nick Castellanos the Reds are bound to be hitting a lot of balls that leave the ballpark. Not to mention, veteran first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto still bangs baseballs all over the ball yard. Guys like Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, and newcomer Tyler Stephenson will have the ability to have break out seasons and be the players the Reds thought they were going to be as they came throughout their farm system. The Reds should be a team that is fun to watch in the NL Central this year. 

2021 Reds Season Predictions

  • Record: 92-70
  • Division Status: Win the NL Central
  • Playoff Prediction: Lose in the NL Championship Series

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