Cincinnati Reds: Three steps to becoming a World Series contender

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 02: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Nick Senzel #15 and Jose Iglesias #4 after the 5-4 win in 11 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park on July 02, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Iglesias hit a game winning single that drove in Yasiel Puig #66 in the 11th inning. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 02: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Nick Senzel #15 and Jose Iglesias #4 after the 5-4 win in 11 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park on July 02, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Iglesias hit a game winning single that drove in Yasiel Puig #66 in the 11th inning. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds
MIAMI, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 09: Yasmani Grandal #10 of the Milwaukee Brewers looks back to first base after hitting a homerun in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 09, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Step 1: Sign a big name free agent early

Cincinnati Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams has made no bones about it; he expects the Reds to be competitive in 2020. For that to happen, team owner Bob Castellini will have to open his wallet and spend some money in free agency.

There is not a bevy of big names on the free agent market this season, but there’s enough impact players at positions of need for the Reds to go after once the World Series wraps up. I’m sure the front office and coaching staff have already identified some names, but the Reds should not dawdle and allow players and agents to set the market.

You know the names, right? Milwaukee Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal, New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna and Chicago Cubs right fielder Nicolas Castellanos are some of the biggest names available this winter. If Gregorius and/ or Ozuna are extended qualifying offers, that makes them less desirable to sign.

Grandal would top my list if I were in the room with Williams and general manager Nick Krall. Grandal is among the very best offensive catchers in the game. The 30-year-old slashed .246/.380/.468 with 28 home runs and 77 RBIs. He’s also among the very best when it comes to pitch framing.

Whether it’s Grandal, Castellanos, or even Anthony Rendon, the Cincinnati Reds should be aggressive early on during free agency and bring a big fish to the Queen City. Starling Marte is another name to follow if the Pittsburgh Pirates fail to pick up his option.