McCoy: Reds' president of baseball operations says no major overhaul needed

Dick Williams has no plans for a rip-it-up, tear-it-apart off-season for the Cincinnati Reds.

For the most part, the team’s president of baseball operations was pleased and satisfied with what went down during a different and difficult 2020 season.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute State of the Team Q-and-A session via Zoom with the media, Williams said:

**Manager David Bell and his entire coaching staff will return for a 2021 re-run.

**Even though the possibility is heavy that the Reds will lose pitchers Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani, and maybe outfielder Nick Castellanos, Williams doesn’t believe the Reds will be pushing a cart through the free agency market.

Williams mentioned a possible starting staff from a pool of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, TeJay Antone and Jose De Leon, if Bauer hits the free agent highway.

And if Castellanos opts out of his contract, Williams believes that even if a designated hitter is necessary next season, the team is well-staffed with outfielders: Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Brian Goodwin and Jesse Winker.

**Williams believes, and hopes, that an offense that hit only .212 last season can be more true to the backs of their baseball cards so the team can utilize the physical and defensive skills of Jose Garcia at shortstop. If the rest of the team hits, Garcia’s offensive deficiencies while he gains experience can be covered.

After winning 11 of their final 14 regular-season games to sneak in the back door of the playoffs, the Reds were shoved out of the postseason quickly, 1-0 and 5-0 defeats to the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-three series.

“It is hard not to say it was difficult waking up this morning without bitter disappointment,” said Williams. "There is no joy in Mudville today.

“I will say mixed in with that for the players and staff, there is pride,” he added. “And there should be for what they accomplished this year.”

One of the reasons Williams is content with the makeup of the team is the way it finished the regular 60-game season, under difficult circumstances and he said, “The season was so short that it was hard for the best teams to rise to the top in a short period of time. I truly believe the longer the season went the more we would have distanced ourselves from a lot of the other teams around us.”

Williams was disturbed about some things he read after the two losses to the Braves in what he termed, “The local press.”

Said Williams, "I saw the word embarrassment somewhere. I pity people who feel like that’s an appropriate word to use in situations like this. When you do what we did and go to the postseason, stack up against the No. 2 seed and have epic battles like we did in those two games, you can be disappointed, but you still have to be proud.

“And I saw an article that mentioned effort,” he added. “You can question our execution, you can question the decision-making of the coaching staff and front office — those are all fair game. But never question the effort that those guys put forward this year under the circumstances.”

Williams was pointed in saying Bell and his staff are safe and secure.

“I forsee this staff coming back,” he said. “I do. What we went through as a group and the way they prepared the guys, they deserve every chance to come back. This is a year they should be proud of and right now we see that group, including David Bell, coming back.”

In the offseason last year, the team invested $149 million in signing position players Moustakas, Castellanos and Akiyama, with eyes focused on a big offense.

It didn’t happen.

“We want to see more out of the offense, we wanted to see more this year,” said Williams. "We don’t want to go down that road again of explaining why. One of the biggest reasons was a shorter season. It just was. There were great hitters out there who had terrible years. Over three moths, four months, five months, you would have seen guys get better.

“We can’t use this as the basis for all of our decisions moving forward,” he added. “There are too many veterans on this team that have track records that were not given the opportunity to prepare the way they have in the past (due to the Covid-19 virus that interrupted spring training and shortened the season) to find their groove during the season the way they have in the past.”

Even if Bauer and DeSclafani depart, Williams believes the pitching remains strong and all it need is some complementary offense.

“All that being said, clearly we have to have a better offense to take advantage of the pitching we have,” he said. "Senzel was going great when Covid hit. Shogo was going great once he got acclimatized over here. I am really encouraged by what we saw from Shogo the last three or four weeks.

“And Votto, Moose (Moustakas), Geno (Eugenio Suarez) were all trending up, playing better,” he said. "Winker had a great year. Senzel was the guy we expected before the virus hit him.

“So there are definitely ways the team is going to perform offensively,” he added. “Like we have in the best, we will get creative in addressing areas that we think are needed.”

Williams was asked about the possibility of a different offensive approach, more small ball instead of baseball’s current three true outcomes — home runs, walks or strikeouts. The Reds this season were the first team in history to draw more walks than they had singles.

“I don’t think anybody is enamored with the fact that this gave has evolved to the three true outcomes,” he said. "It is not just the Reds, it is a league-wide phenomenom. This year we were at the extremes in some of the categories.

“At the end of the day, you are trying to get into the postseason, trying to win,” he added. "You have to prevent runs, you have to score runs and we did it to get into the postseason. Some of it was through the long ball (a baseball record 61 percent of the team’s runs were provided by home runs). All of us would like to see more line drives, more balls in play, more action, more movement on the basepaths.

“The way we built our team this year we knew that we were investing heavily in pitching and the offense we were able to acquire on the free agent markets, blended with what we have, was going to be of a power team, more of a station-to-station team,” said Williams. “We don’t have a lot sprinters on this team, a lot of base-stealing and hit-and-run action.”

Williams, though, said the club plans to address those missing facets going forward.

“The coaching staff will re-evaluate their messaging to the players, their approach to the players because at the end of the day we went our guys to get more hits. We have seen it in their past, in their track records. It will definitely be a focus.”

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