Before the Cincinnati Reds kicked off their 2018 winter caravan, Cox Media Group Ohio spoke to general manager Dick Williams.
Entering his third season running the club, Williams is excited about the state of the team’s rebuild.
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Here are five things he had to say about the state of the Reds — present and future.
1. Have you determined for certain Hunter Greene will be a Dayton Dragon in 2018?
“It’s not official yet,” Williams said of the team’s 2017 first-round draft pick, a right-handed pitcher from California. "We’ll get to spring training and see how everything works out. I think it’s a high likelihood he’ll end up in Dayton just based on performance last year. He was in Billings just for a little while, but he accomplished what we needed to see from him. I would think Dayton is a logical spot.”
2. The team is encouraged by the Dragons’ winning 2017 season. Dayton went 71-69 overall and advanced to the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship series, where the Dragons lost to Fort Wayne in three games.
“It was starting to get a little bit frustrating that we weren’t winning in Dayton,” Williams said. "Obviously it’s the team that’s closest to us, right in our own backyard, and we want to see a team succeed there. You can’t force it, but we were a little perplexed as to why the performance wasn’t there. Glad to see the win. I think because we’ve had some strong drafts a couple years they’ll have another strong chance to put a competitive club out there.”
3. How does Williams feel with another year of experience under his belt?
“I don’t know. I’m older — I don’t know if I’m wiser yet. I’m learning. The biggest challenge is the patience that it takes. Let these young guys develop. Looking forward to the next couple of years when we’ll be able to be a lot more aggressive in free agency and on the trade front, but right now the thing to do is just really let these young guys sort themselves out.”
4. He is ready to see how the team’s large collection of young pitchers looks after a tumultuous 2017 when injuries to established players such as Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan changed some career paths.
“Those guys had a chance to cut their teeth last year and this year it’s time to go out and perform. They’ve gotten their feet wet at the big-league level. They’ve had some bumps in the road. Now you learn from those challenges.
“It’s time to get after it. I think those guys feel a sense of urgency to perform, but more importantly they have the confidence now. They’ve had some setbacks, but they’ve also had successes. I think that’s what they’ve been able to reflect on this offseason. I think they’ll come out swinging.”
Young starting pitchers have started to find their way in the second half of the season for the Cincinnati Reds.
“Injuries really blew through everybody’s development path. We rushed a lot of guys last year. And that’s OK. We got them some experience at the big-league level, but it did shortcut their development. I think now they’ve had their chance to catch their breath. We’re expecting health from some of our key starters and that should give us some stability to go back out there.”
5. Williams understands fans get frustrated with the rebuilding process at times — especially when established stars are traded away for future considerations.
“It’s a challenge. When you look at all those guys who came up and helped us in the past — Votto, Bruce, Frazier — all those opportunities were created by getting rid of guys who were popular — Dunn, Griffey, Kearns — you had to trade those guys to create opportunities for the next generation. It’s just something you’ve got to keep doing.
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“The fans always think the guy you’re losing is the last great player at that position or whatever, but you just have to keep filling the pipeline to give them something new to get excited about and try to sign the right free agents at the right time, and I think that time is coming. We’ll have enough young talent that we can really start to add from outside.”