If this sounds like a broken record it’s probably because somehow the obvious still hasn’t happened. The Cincinnati Reds are fighting for the final playoff spot in the National League. After Wednesday night’s loss they are a game back of the San Diego Padres for that final spot and just edging out the Cardinals and Phillies for that runner up spot.
The Reds aren’t a perfect team. They are a solid team with some strengths and some weaknesses. They need all of the help that they can possible get. The small upgrades on the margins might be enough. Maybe they aren’t. If one of you reading can tell the future please chime in. But if you can’t do that, all that we can do is try to make the best educated guess that we can.
Right now the Cincinnati Reds have a few problems on their roster. The offense, while good on the season, is in a real rut right now. As pointed out by Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer following the game, 9 of the last 11 Reds losses have seen them score one run.
There is a lot of blame to go around for that. The third base situation is not great. Shortstop is also not great. Left field has also been less than great since Jesse Winker has been out. When you include the pitcher’s spot in the lineup the team has basically four automatic outs in the lineup right now. Looking at the minor leagues there are a few guys hitting well in Triple-A and one of them stands out like a sore thumb: Jose Barrero.
The 23-year-old shortstop is hitting .306/.392/.594 in Triple-A this year after hitting .300/.367/.481 in Double-A in the first half. Yes, the minor leagues are not the Major Leagues. No one expects him to join the Reds and start posting an OPS of 1.000 like he’s been doing in Triple-A. But he would almost assuredly not hit worse than what the team has been getting from shortstop in 5 of the 6 months this season.
Kyle Farmer is currently the every day shortstop for Cincinnati. He absolutely crushed the ball in July – like Barry Bonds crushed the ball. It was an incredibly fun ride to be on. But the magic pumpkin turned into a rotten, deflated pumpkin rather quickly. Through June 30th, Farmer was hitting .213/.282/.310. Since August 1st he’s hitting .233/.257/.357. That’s who he is and who he has always been at the plate. He’s a guy who has never hit at the big league level outside of one month. There’s no reason at all to believe he’s going to hit better than that because he’s never actually hit better than that. He’s 31-years-old – that’s not the age in which always bad hitters tend to figure it out.
Cincinnati has Jose Barrero just sitting in a hotel right now on the taxi squad. Not playing. Not playing while the offense struggles to put any sort of runs on the board while he’s hit the cover off of the ball all season in the minors. And for what? So a 31-year-old career utility-man can continue to put up an OPS of .630 or less for the 5th month this season?
It’s time to make the switch. It’s beyond time, but it’s better late than never.
That of course brings us to another issue that certainly will be brought up in the comments section: Third base. The combination of Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez haven’t hit, either. 100% fair to point out that Kyle Farmer has basically hit just as well as Moustakas this season and he’s easily outhit Suárez. Right now it seems that Moustakas and Suárez are platooning. Moustakas, as the lefty hitter, is going to get more of the playing time because there are more right-handed pitchers in the game.
Put Farmer in the platoon at third with Moustakas if you’d like. While it feels better to say that there’s a reason to believe that Moustakas can return to hit given that it hasn’t been that long since he’s had some success as a hitter (small sample size, but he was an above-average hitter in the 1st half this season before getting injured, and he was an above-average hitter in 2020 and prior to that, too), it’s tougher to make that argument with Suárez who hasn’t hit in two years. That, of course, ignores the defense, where it feels safe to say that Farmer is easily the best option of the three. Two of the three options, however, don’t seem like they are going to do much of any kind of hitting, and the third hasn’t done much hitting at all since coming off of the injured list a month ago.
Then there’s the bullpen. Last night wasn’t exactly a mark against the bullpen as a whole as much as it was a mark against Brad Brach. In his first 20 outings with the Reds this season he posted a 2.25 ERA, allowed 1 home run, had 9 walks, and he struck out 24 batters in 20.0 innings.
But the wheels have not just fallen off, they’ve blown off so hard that they’ve knocked off cars off of the road and into the concrete highway dividers. Since July 6th he’s pitched in 15 games, thrown just 10.0 innings, allowed 17 hits, walked 9, struck out 9, given up 4 home runs, and allowed 16 earned runs – good for an ERA of 14.40.
On the same night that Brad Brach allowed a walk-off 3-run homer to Jason Heyward, Dauri Moreta threw a shutout 9th inning for the Louisville Bats. That was Moreta’s 20th straight Triple-A appearance without allowing an earned run. The 25-year-old reliever hasn’t allowed an earned run since July 4th – which was his last outing in Double-A. He’s thrown 49.1 innings this season. His ERA dropped down to 0.73. He has walked 9 batters this season and he’s struck out 55.
It’s time. Another situation where the organization has seemingly sat around on their hands for an unknown reason to watch known bad options play instead of trying a rookie who has done nothing but destroy and embarrass the competition in Triple-A who almost assuredly could not perform worse than what the big league options were giving them.
Something has to give. Something has to change. The Reds actually seem to have answers to some of the issues they are encountering. But they haven’t seemed to give them much of a second thought, for reasons that this particular writer can’t figure out. It seems to be incredibly painfully obvious that Dauri Moreta should have been in the Reds bullpen long before Brad Brach returned from the injured list and that Jose Barrero should have been the starting shortstop long before the team’s offense as a whole went into a slump, but again – it’s better to make these moves late than to not make them. It’s time.