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Central Notes: Reds, Cubs, Baez


The Reds enjoyed a 2023 season in which they exceeded expectations, spending the summer in the mix for a playoff spot despite ultimately falling just short with an 82-80 record. With a bevy of young infielders led by Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain, the club appears poised to potentially take another step forward in 2023. One key area in need of improvement, however, is the pitching staff: Cincinnati’s team ERA of 4.83 was the sixth-worst figure in the majors, and only the A’s and Rockies saw their rotation post a worse ERA than the Reds’ 5.43 figure. That rotation ERA is made all the more glaring by the fact that Reds starters combined for just 787 innings of work this year, 23rd in the majors.

Of course, that body of work from the rotation ignores the injury woes of promising young arms like Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, who could combine with fellow youngsters Andrew Abbott, Brandon Williamson, Graham Ashcraft and Connor Phillips can fill out a rotation that, at least on paper, looks better than this year’s bottom-three production would imply. While it’s certainly feasible that steps forward from young arms and health from Greene and Lodolo could provide Cincinnati with a serviceable rotation in 2024, Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer relayed comments from president of baseball operations Nick Krall today that indicate the Reds will look to add to their rotation this winter, taking advantage of an unusually deep free agent class for pitching.

Per Goldsmith, Krall told reporters that the Reds will look to add “some sort of blend of quality and quantity” to their pitching staff this winter, while noting that the club’s young arms can already provide the club with upside. Krall’s comments particularly seemed to indicate that the club is interested in pitchers who can both pitch out of the rotation and the bullpen as needed. That sort of swing arm is certainly in supply this offseason, with former Reds Michael Lorenzen and Alex Wood joined by the likes of Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, and Jakob Junis among the arms who fit that description. Signing a swing arm could make plenty of sense for a Reds club that has several interesting young arms who figure to get looks in the rotation next year but is nonetheless clearly in need of a veteran presence who can provide reliable innings in the event of injury or under performance from the club’s youngsters.

More from around MLB’s Central divisions…

  • The Cubs’ coaching staff has largely been in flux since the club brought in Craig Counsell to take over for David Ross as manager, but Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun Times reports that at least two of Ross’s coaches will be retaining their positions under Counsell: hitting coach Dustin Kelly and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. Kelly is the latest in a long line of Cubs hitting coaches in recent years; he became the eighth person to hold the role over the past twelve seasons upon taking the role for the 2023 campaign. Hottovy, meanwhile, is a much longer-tenured part of the Cubs organization. He first joined the organization back in 2014 before being elevated to the role of pitching coach in 2018. Counsell will be the third manager Hottovy serves under, joining both Ross and Joe Maddon.
  • Tigers shortstop Javier Baez is coming off perhaps the worst season of his career in 2023, having slashed a brutal .222/.267/.325 in 547 trips to the plate this year. That was the second-worst offensive performance from a qualified regular in baseball last year by measure of wRC+; Baez’s 61 figure, which was 39% worse than league average, clocked in just barely ahead of former White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson’s 60 wRC+. Brutal as the 2023 season was for Baez, Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press relays that Baez is planning to spend much of his offseason stateside this winter rather than return to his home in Puerto Rico, as he typically does after the season comes to an end. During his time stateside, Petzold indicates that Baez plans to focus on strengthening his back and core muscles to recapture the athleticism that allowed him to connect for 86 home runs from 2017-2019, the fourth highest figure among qualified shortstops during that time span. If Baez, 31 next month, can successfully combat father time and recapture the power that carried his offensive profile in his youth, that would provide a massive boost to a Tigers team that finished bottom four in the majors with a team-wide wRC+ of just 89 in 2023.

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