As promised, here is the first section of the roundtable on the upcoming season that has been conducted over the last week or so among those SBNation bloggers representing the NL Central. I'll take the teams in reverse order of my own predicted order of finish.
As always, I was impressed by the depth of my cohort's knowledge and expertise, which kinda shames my own. And I was sorry that JD Arney, who runs the very fine Red Reporter blog, was unable to lend his own considerable wit to the proceedings.
I didn't really find myself qualified to comment on Edwin Encarnacion or even the state of the Reds' 40-Man so I kinda ducked out on those. Still, Jeff, Al and Charlie do very well, and perhaps some readers here have their own thoughts to add. I'd certainly welcome them.
The very thorough questions were provided by Marc Normandin of Beyond The Boxscore and posted on a common wiki. Respondents were thus able to answer a question or two, leave, then come back later, answer a few more, and edit all the while.
The answers are presented in the order in which they were offered.
The results, I think, were fine, better than if it had been some AIM free-for-all:
1. The Reds made some trades this offseason, most recently the Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo swap. Do you think the Reds made out well in any of their offseason dealings? Why or why not?
The Crawfish Boxes: I just don't understand what the Reds did. When they traded Casey, I figured it was to clear the logjam in the outfield: they'd move Dunn to first, and Griffey, Kearns, and Pena could play every day. A slight downgrade in team talent, surely, but the club brass figures it's worth it for the vote of confidence it brings Willy Mo and the order it imparts upon the Reds clubhouse with everyone knowing their exact role.
Then they trade Willy Mo for a third starter and I just figure it's part of a comprehensive and diabolical plan to divest the Reds of all their best players. Sean Casey and Willy Mo Pena for Dave Williams and Bronson Arroyo?
Obviously, an Adam Dunn for Chan Ho Park deal is in the works.
Bleed Cubbie Blue: I'm going to have to differ here. The Reds had four outfielders, and had to get rid of one. Now, their outfield consists of Dunn, Griffey and Kearns. They have a reasonable facsimile of a first baseman in Scott Hatteberg. What they've needed is pitching, pitching, pitching. Now, you can argue about whether or not Williams and Arroyo constitute "pitching". Maybe they don't. But the Reds at least have more pitching bodies right now. Offense was never their problem; if they had had any pitching in 2005, they'd have contended.
Brew Crew Ball: If the Reds pick up Carlos Pena and Pena has a big bounceback year, all of these moves will look reasonably bright. But if Scott Hatteberg and Rich Aurilia platoon at first all year, one wonders just how much pitching they'll need. When the Reds first signed Hatteberg, I saw him as a decent pinch-hitter and, essentially, outfield insurance. If Griffey went down, Dunn could move back to the OF, and Hatteberg would slide in at first. But that's a contingency plan, not a blueprint for a successful season! And if any team needs OF insurance, it's the Reds, with Griffey occupying such an important role. And don't tell me Ryan Freel serves that purpose--I know that may be the plan, but every AB Freel gets in the OF turns into some number of additional ABs for Tony Womack or Rich Aurilia.
Taken individually, the two deals for starters got very different reactions from me. The Casey/Williams trade looked mighty smart: the Reds saved some money and picked up a useful starter. Arroyo/Pena may well make the Reds a better team this year. But Pena's upside is superstar, while Arroyo's upside is, well, about 105% of Arroyo. The Reds pitching will certainly be stronger and deeper than it was last year, but they are acting like a team aiming for a solid run of .500 seasons. And hey, if things break right (like, say, Tony Womack's knee), they might achieve that. But like the Pirates, I don't get the sense this is an organization with a plan than leads to contention.
Bucs Dugout: What Brew Crew said. Dave Williams is a mediocre flyball pitcher who probably won't be very good in the Great American Ballpark, but the Casey trade still made sense because it allowed Pena to play every day, because Casey isn't very good and because the Reds saved money. The Pena trade, though, just doesn't make sense to me - Bronson Arroyo is a great pitcher to have around, but he's a middle-of-the-rotation type of starter, and I don't understand why you'd give up a guy with Pena's upside for a pitcher like that.
2. Picture yourself as the manager of the Reds. Or the general manager; really, just picture yourself as someone in a position of power that has control over the roster and the lineup. What would your Reds lineup look like, using the players on the 40-man roster?
Brew Crew Ball: I'd go Lopez/Kearns/Griffey/Dunn/Encarnacion/Larue/Freel/Hatteberg/pitcher. That's before finding a Major League first baseman. Maybe swap Kearns and Encarnacion depending on how those players are looking. If the Reds did pick up somebody like Carlos Pena, that would be a very balanced attack--it would actually look more like an AL lineup, with no hole except for the pitcher's spot. I wouldn't want to face it, but then again I wouldn't mind so much if my team put up seven runs in the first inning against Eric Milton.
3. Edwin Encarnacion takes over as the everyday third baseman in 2006. How do you see him performing in his first full year as a starter? Give your best guess as to what his career outlook may be as well.
Brew Crew Ball: If he were on my team, I'd probably be more excited, but I just don't see him as future star. He'll be a great guy for the Reds to have under control for the next five years, and he'll do a great job of preventing management from signing Joe Randa again. I see him like I see J.J. Hardy: right about average for the position, maybe he'll have a nice year or two where he makes the all-star team. Probably the best part about a guy like that, able to play full-time from a young age, is that it's one fewer gap the front office has to deal with.
In 2006, I think the 50% PECOTA projection is about right: .270/.340/.480 with 20 HRs. Depending on where he's plugged into the Reds lineup, he could be a fantasy force, racking up serious runs (2 spot?) or RBIs (6 or 7 spot?).
Bucs Dugout: So you think that Edwin Encarnacion is going to hit .270/.340/.480 with 20 homers as a 23-year-old, but that he's not a future star? I don't disagree with the projection, but he wouldn't have to improve much beyond that to be a star in my book, particularly if he can be a plus defender. I like him a lot.
Back later with Team Five. . . .