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A Closer Look at the Reds in 2010

With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report (on February 17th) to Spring Training and just over a month until position players report (on February 22nd), the Reds haven’t made that much of a splash this off season. That is, until Owner Bob Castellini, General Manager Walt Jocketty and the Cincinnati Reds organization announced a week ago that they signed one of the most sought after free agents this year in Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman. Chapman, a soon-to-be 22 year old left-handed pitcher stands 6’4” and weighs about 180 lbs. His fastball has been clocked at 100 mph with a plus slider and has earned comparisons to a young Randy Johnson.

The Reds made the signing after standing firm all off season long with the motto of going with what they have, as opposed to spending money that the organization really didn’t have. This has included re-signing catcher Ramon Hernandez to a lesser amount and also reworking third baseman Scott Rolen’s contract to try to give the club more flexibility. The Reds have been unable to re-sign free agent outfielder Jonny Gomes so far as the two parties have been unable to reach an agreement. But maybe there’s more to this signing than what is out there. Maybe the Reds knew they had some wiggle room to sign the young, highly demanded Chapman and at the same time, knew that they could win out over the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

The signing doesn’t hamper the Reds too much though, as Chapman’s six-year, $30 million contract will be paid to him over the next ten years, with the young lefty making $1 million in 2010 with a chance of pitching for the big club. Most likely, he will start out in the minors and work his way up, as his control and need to develop a third pitch (probably a changeup) are the only things keeping him from starting the season on the opening day, 25 man roster. The signing shows that the Reds are still working toward the future, as if Chapman proves to be worth the $30 million, current Reds’ mainstays Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo could be on another team, in another city.

The Reds look to have a strong, young rotation by 2011 or 2012, as Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman could lead this team to the playoff land.

Moving past the Chapman signing, the Reds agreed on a two-year contract with pitcher Nick Masset. Masset, a current reliever, showed signs last year of becoming the future Reds’ closer after going 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 74 relief appearances. Reliever Jared Burton is the lone Red who has yet to sign after filing for arbitration. Burton, who went 1-0 with a 4.40 ERA in 53 appearances, was a bit shaky in 2009 after his breakout performances in 2007 and 2008.

The one signing the Reds have been unable to complete, which has upset Reds fans throughout the Greater Cincinnati Area, is Jonny Gomes. After being completely loaded with left-handed power bats the last few years, the Reds were finally able to find their right-handed power in outfielder Jonny Gomes, who ended 2009 with 20 home runs in only 98 games.
The inability to sign Gomes begins to show that the make-up in the outfield for 2010 could consist of Juan Francisco in left, Drew Stubbs in center and Jay Bruce in right. With Scott Rolen signed through 2012 after his contract extension in December, the chances of Francisco coming to the Big Leagues to play third base on an everyday basis seems slim to none. But with Francisco having some experience in the outfield, it looks as if Manager Dusty Baker would like the power left-hander to try playing left field in the big leagues after going 9-21 (a .429 batting average) with one home run and seven RBIs in 14 games with the Reds last September. The necessity of a shortstop that has some pop in their bat will continue to rise once the season begins if current shortstop Paul Janish is unable to hit at least .250. At the end of the year last year, Baker made it public that as long as Janish could hit .250 in the majors, the starting shortstop job is his. Janish will need to perform better than that though, as prospects Chris Valaika, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart could compete for the job within the next few years.
Currently, the Reds are talent-rich in most positions, which can only help the ball club return to the greatness this city hasn’t seen since the 1990 team and even before that in the 1970s during the Big Red Machine era.

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