Cincinnati Reds: Who would be the 26th player on the roster?

GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Sal Romano #47 f the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portrait at the Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Sal Romano #47 f the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portrait at the Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) /
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Next season, Major League Baseball will allow 26 players per team rather than 25. How would this affect the Cincinnati Reds roster if the rule were implemented this year?

Major League Baseball is instituting some rule changes both this season and next. Most changes this year surround the All-Star festivities and the trade deadline, while next year’s change revolve around roster construction. How might those rules have affected the Cincinnati Reds if they were implemented this season?

First, before we delve into the potential roster implications in this fictitious scenario, let’s see what next year’s league rules will be. First, there will be a three batter minimum for every pitcher. Furthermore, the roster will expand from 25 to 26, with a maximum of 13 pitchers on the roster. So, how would those changes affect this year’s roster?

For starters, Zach Duke would likely not have been signed. The 35-year-old left-handed specialist would’ve likely gone unsigned during this past offseason and may have been forced into retirement. The LOOGY (Lefty Out Only GuY) will soon become a thing of the past as pitchers will now be demanded to face at least three batters.

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So, that now opens up two spots on this hypothetical Cincinnati Reds roster. The usual suspects will assuredly still make the cut. Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, José Peraza, Eugenio Suárez, Tucker Barnhart, Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Matt Kemp, Curt Casali and Yasiel Puig would be part of a 26-man roster.

Looking at the pitching staff, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray would make up the starting rotation. Jared Hughes, David Hernández, Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, and Raisel Iglesias are virtual locks to make the club as relievers.

That locks up 20 spots, leaving 6 spots remaining to fill. Derek Dietrich has had a terrific spring. He and José Iglesias were brought in to add depth to the Cincinnati Reds’ bench and a versatile and reliable glove to backup the infield starters. That brings the total to 22.

With Zach Duke no longer on the team given this hypothetical scenario, the Reds would likely desire another lefty out of the bullpen. Wandy Peralta has played very well during Spring Training and seems to have returned to his 2017 form. With Peralta now securing a spot, the roster still has three spots left.

With an extra spot available, the Reds could now end the silly debate of who loses out if Nick Senzel starts on the Opening Day roster. Starting the season with Senzel as the Opening Day center fielder would allow the team to bring along either Connor Joe or Kyle Farmer. Because he’s a Rule 5 Draft pick, we’ll go with Joe. Farmer still has minor league options.

With the additions of Senzel and Joe, the Reds position players seem set at 14. Though David Bell has stressed his desire to carry 13 pitchers for the majority of the season, three days off in the first two weeks to begin the this hypothetical season with 26 spots would allow the team to keep just 12 in the early going.

With the this roster projection sitting at 25, there’s only one spot left and it belongs to a pitcher. There’s likely three candidates; Sal Romano, Cody Reed, and Tyler Mahle. With the starting rotation set and Mahle’s future likely to be as a starter, it seems likely that Mahle would be sent down.

Romano and Reed, two former starters turned relievers, would likely be the two finalists for that 26th spot on the Cincinnati Reds roster if the rule changes took effect this season. Neither candidate has had a terrific spring. Both Romano and Reed have 7 strikeouts during Cactus League play, however, they both own an ERA over 9.00.

Being that Reed had better success as reliever than Romano in 2018, I’d go with Reed. Romano was 1-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched last season. Reed was 0-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings of work. Reed also had much more success against lefties than Romano, which is always a plus.

So there you have it. If the 2020 rule changes went into effect this season, the three batter minimum would likely void the deal the Reds agreed to with Zach Duke and the expanded roster spot would go to Connor Joe with Wandy Peralta, Cody Reed beating out Sal Romano for the final pitching spot.

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As it is, there are only 25 roster spots available to claim before the Cincinnati Reds take the field on Thursday, March 28th against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park. The Reds brass still has some decisions to be made before then.