The Cincinnati Reds commence spring training today, Valentine’s Day, at their Goodyear, Ariz. facility, hoping to win the hearts of their fans. They would love to give them a gift of fewer than 100 losses.
That, though, could be a difficult task as the team continues down its rebuild path with the fourth lowest payroll in major league baseball.
The Reds have lost more than a million fans in the past eight years. They drew 2.48 million in 2014, but only 1.4 million last year, the fewest paid admissions since 1984.
After losing 100 games last season, tying Pittsburgh for fourth in the National League Central, the club has made few glossy improvements.
Pitchers and catcher report today with the first workout scheduled for Wednesday. Position players are scheduled to report Sunday. The first full-squad workout is Monday.
One was a bold move that cost them $22 million and can be classified as addition by subtraction. They cut ties with underperforming third baseman Mike Moustakas and will pay him $22 million not to play for them.
The team traded popular and productive shortstop Kyle Farmer to Pittsburgh for infielder Kevin Newman and they signed San Diego free agent outfielder/first baseman Wil Myers to a one-year $7.5 million deal.
Newman, a shortstop with the Pirates, could be a stopgap with the Reds if Jose Barrero doesn’t display that he is ready during spring training. And Myers seems a fit in right field. And he can DH or play first base if Joey Votto is the DH.
Fans can’t wait to see 6-foot-5 shortstop Elly De La Cruz, the team’s No. 1 prospect. He will be on prominent display in Goodyear, but general manager Nick Krall said De La Cruz needs more time in Triple-A. Will he do enough in spring training to merit a big-league uniform?
There are myriad of things for fans to watch during the team’s six week in the Valley of the Sun.
»» Will 39-year-old first baseman/designated hitter Votto be full-go for spring training and be ready for the season? He underwent left rotator cuff surgery last August and was told the recovery time was six months, which fits the time frame for spring training.
»» Who will fill out the rotation after the three young guns (Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft) that showed high promise last season?
Luis Cessa has asked for the opportunity to vacate the bullpen and be part of the rotation. He will be given that opportunity. He was a starter at times with the New York Yankees and he started 10 games for the Reds late last season with a modicum of success.
The fifth spot has a ‘Position Available’ sign on it and will be won at spring training. The main contestants include Connor Overton, Justin Dunn and Luke Weaver, although a mystery guest could emerge.
As with a lot of players on the roster, there will be some unfamiliar names to Reds’ fans — as in a couple of other rotation candidates, Levi Stoudt and Brandon Williamson.
»» The bullpen has been a mess with a constant revolving door for a long line of occupants.
The Reds were counting on the return from injuries of three pitchers with good past performance work sheets in Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims and Tony Santillan.
One third of that triumvirate won’t make it. Antone missed all last season after Tommy John surgery and now has sprained flexor and indicated he might not be ready until the All-Star break. Sims and Santillan were limited last year -- Sims to six appearances due to back issues and Santillan made 21 appearances before succumbing.
Alex Diaz, younger brother to New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz, is the closer. But how many closing opportunities will he have?
Other returnees include Buck Farmer, Fernando Cruz, Reiver Sanmartin, Ian Gibaut and Buck Farmer. That was not a fearsome group last season, a part of the worst bullpen in baseball. If needed, Cessa could drop back into the bullpen.
»» The infield will have Votto at first if he is ready and Jonathan India at second. The left side is a couple of question marks. The club would like to have Barrero take shortstop, but he has flunked a couple of earlier trials. If he still isn’t ready, Newman is the man.
With Moustakas gone and already forgotten, third base can be won by Spencer Steer, who showed promise late last season. Newman also is a third-base possibility.
»» If Myers isn’t manning first base until Votto is ready, he will be the right fielder. Nick Senzel, who could move back to third base, his natural position, if necessary.
More likely he’ll be back in center field if he can stay healthy. The last two seasons he has spent more time with the medical and training staff than he has with his glove. He was immobile at RedsFest in December and moved around on a medical scooter.
Left field? TJ Friedl? Jake Fraley? Non-roster invitee Chad Pinder? Will Benson? Stuart Fairchild? Nick Solak? Michael Siani? Left field is open to the best performer in spring training.
Those are a lot of questions to be answered, questions the Reds hope that can be turned into exclamation points.