McCoy

Dayton Daily News - - MLB PREVIEW - Con­tact this con­tribut­ing writer at Halm­c­[email protected] hot­mail.com.

It is a one-year push, then it re­treats back to the re­build­ing cy­cle.

Why say that? Be­cause while they have made sev­eral solid and note­wor­thy ac­qui­si­tions, most are oneyear rentals, play­ers who can be­come free agents af­ter the 2019 sea­son.

That’s the case with pitcher Tan­ner Roark, pitcher Alex Wood, out­fielder Yasiel Puig and out­fielder Matt Kemp.

They did add one pitcher, Sonny Gray, whom they locked up with a three-year, $31 mil­lion deal.

And they have not ex­tended the con­tract of sec­ond base­man Scooter Gen­nett, also el­i­gi­ble for free agency af­ter the 2019 sea­son.

While they do this, it gives their top prospects Nick Sen­zel, Tay­lor Tram­mell, Hunter Greene and Jonathan In­dia, among oth­ers, the chance to get more mi­nor-league sea­son­ing as part of the con­tin­u­ing re­build.

In the mean­time, the Reds have filled their ros­ter with in­ter­est­ing play­ers for the fans for 2019.

The col­or­ful Puig will be a fan fa­vorite. But where will he play? The Reds are still with­out a le­git­i­mate cen­ter fielder af­ter let­ting go of Billy Hamil­ton.

Will they move Scott Schebler from right field to cen­ter field and play Puig in right? It would seem that Puig in cen­ter and Schebler in right is a bet­ter op­tion.

And they are still talk­ing about mov­ing in­fielder Sen­zel to cen­ter field. That will work it­self out over the next six weeks in spring train­ing.

How about left field? Will they play the vet­eran Matt Kemp there or keep the young up-and-comer, Jesse Winker, in left. That, of course, could be a pla­toon sit­u­a­tion, although that would seem to sti­fle Winker’s progress.

How good the Reds will be still starts and ends on the pitcher’s mound. The Reds will score runs, but will they stop the op­po­si­tion from scor­ing more?

There is no ques­tion Roark, Wood and Gray are up­grades, but none are ac­com­plished top-of-thero­ta­tion pitch­ers.

Those three are ex­pected to join Luis Castillo and in­jury-prone An­thony DeS­clafani in the five-man ro­ta­tion. Who will start Open­ing Day? That, too, will be de­ter­mined over the next six weeks.

Roark led the Na­tional League in losses last sea­son at Washington, Gray strug­gled might­ily in Yan­kee Sta­dium and Wood was up-and-down with the Dodgers. Both Gray and Wood found them­selves in the bullpen dur­ing parts of last sea­son.

For the Reds to im­prove, all three need to reach a higher plateau than they did last sea­son.

The bullpen once again should be a plus with Jared Hughes, David Her­nan­dez, Michael Loren­zen, Sal Ro­mano, Cody Reed and Amir Gar­rett be­hind closer Raisel Igle­sias.

The Reds tried hard to pry catcher J.T. Real­muto from the Mi­ami Mar­lins, of­fer­ing catcher Tucker Barn­hart and No. 1 draft pick Jonathan In­dia. The Reds balked, though, when the Mar­lins wanted Sen­zel or Greene or Tram­mell, so the Phillies landed Real­muto.

Barn­hart, though, is one year re­moved from a Gold Glove, although he took a small step back­ward both de­fen­sively and of­fen­sively. Real­muto would have been a gar­gan­tuan up­grade, but the Reds can live with Barn­hart.

The in­field re­mains the same, a solid of­fen­sive group with Joey Votto at first, Gen­nett at sec­ond, Jose Per­aza at short­stop and Eu­ge­nio Suarez at third.

All four are of­fen­sive weapons with Suarez and Per­aza tak­ing big strides last sea­son. De­fen­sively, the in­field is av­er­age — not good up the mid­dle and just ad­e­quate at first and third, although Suarez is getting bet­ter and bet­ter.

New man­ager David Bell most likely will do a lot of ex­per­i­ment­ing with line­ups dur­ing ex­hi­bi­tion games, seek­ing the right com­bi­na­tion.

Per­aza most likely will lead off, as he did most of last sea­son when Hamil­ton was dropped to the bot­tom of the or­der. Per­aza puts the ball in play, doesn’t walk much, and has shown power.

The lineup might look some­thing like this: Per­aza, Winker, Votto, Suarez, Gen­nett, Puig, Schebler, Barn­hart. Or it could be Per­aza, Gen­nett, Votto, Suarez, Kemp, Schebler, Puig, Barn­hart. Bell will sort it out. The lineup has punch in any or­der.

The ma­jor prob­lem, of course, is the Na­tional League Cen­tral. The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Car­di­nals and Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers are all still strong.

But if all goes well — no in­juries and the new pitch­ers per­form — the Reds could pass the Pitts­burgh Pirates, va­cate last place and come close to .500.

What­ever the case, the 2019 team will be in­ter­est­ing, more com­pet­i­tive and fi­nally break the 90-plus loss chain it has worn around its neck the past four years.

MITCHELL LAY­TON / GETTY IM­AGES

New Reds starter Tan­ner Roark led the Na­tional League in losses in 2018.

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