Viewpoint: Reds may be better off pursuing Zack Wheeler instead of OF | Nick Kirby

Viewpoint: Reds may be better off pursuing Zack Wheeler instead of OF | Nick Kirby

[This post was written today by longtime Reds writer and friend Nick Kirby. We’re thrilled he chose to poke his head out of writer’s hibernation from chilly Cleveland and offer his view of what the Reds should do going forward after the reported Moustakas signing. — Steve]

The biggest struggle for me this off-season for the Reds is the free agent corner outfielders. The sad truth is that I just don’t really like any of them. The Reds obviously need to improve their offense. They made a great first step with signing Mike Moustakas, but there is still work to do. The outfield is everyone’s first thought of ways to improve the team, and it is with good reason. The Reds were tied for 11th in the NL with a 94 wRC+ across their outfield.

I don’t think the Reds current outfield options are as bad as they are made out to be. One of the major reasons for the overall outfield being a disaster was that there were 15 starts from Jose Peraza, 17 from Scott Schebler, 10 from Matt Kemp, and nearly a half season of Yasiel Puig before he caught fire. The Jesse Winker/Philip Ervin platoon was really good offensively. Winker had a 127 wRC+ against RHP (second best on the Reds to Eugenio Suarez), and Ervin had a ridiculous 164 wRC+ vs LHP (top 20 in all of baseball among players with 90+ PA). Aristides Aquino of course was the story of baseball for a couple of weeks, and he posted a 119 wRC+ despite slowing down drastically at the end of the season.

My big question is this: Are any of the free agent corner outfielders actually guaranteed to be better than the Reds current options?

Here are the top 3 candidate’s wRC+ in 2019: Nick Castellanos (121), Marcell Ozuna (110) and Yasiel Puig (101). Defensively, Ozuna was worth -8 outs above average; while Castellanos was worth -7 (Jesse Winker was -8). It would be great to add one of those players as a mix-and-match fourth outfielder, but it is hard to imagine a scenario where any of them would be happy with that. It would also be great to just platoon Winker and Aquino, but that could significantly hurt the development of Aquino. The Punisher might be the best lottery ticket in baseball, and do the Reds really want to throw away the ticket before scratching it off?

I am starting to believe that if the Reds want to spend more money in free agency (which is great), then they would be better off trying to sign someone like Zack Wheeler. There is no question that adding Wheeler would make the team better, whereas I’m not as convinced with Ozuna or Castellanos. The Reds could either go into camp with 6 really good starting pitchers (which is not a bad thing as there is a good chance someone doesn’t make it out of camp healthy, plus Tyler Mahle still has an option to stash until someone does get hurt), or they could trade a starter to try to improve elsewhere.

The Reds not making a move out of fear is probably a poor strategy, but I just can’t help but think that if they go out and sign Ozuna or Castellanos that it could be wasted money. The Reds can still make moves during the 2020 season, and if one of their current corner outfield spots isn’t producing they could look to make a deal then.

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Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    In addition, signing Wheeler locks 1-2-3 rotation spots mid term, and can then flip Mahle/Disco (whoever has more value) and India for an upgrade at SS, C or OF

  2. vegastypo says:

    My hesitation with signing free agent starting pitchers is having to go longer than three years. But I guess that goes with the territory. … If they do sign a pitcher, I’d get on the phone to the Red Sox and try to put together a package to get Benintendi. Mahle and prospects, whatever it takes. … Hey’s it’s the holidays. I can dream.