How would the Cincinnati Reds fare in 10-team Central Division?

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 24: Anthony Gose #12 of the Detroit Tigers evades Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 24: Anthony Gose #12 of the Detroit Tigers evades Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

It’s being reported that three 10-team divisions are being considered for the 2020 season. How would the Cincinnati Reds fare in such a scenario?

Baseball is going to be different in 2020. The latest idea is to have three 10-team divisions instead of the usual American and National Leagues. The thought is having a more geographically allocated grouping of teams would eliminate as much travel and allow for better television viewership. How might the Cincinnati Reds fare in the newly created Central Division?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that a league-wide realignment would see many of the classic rivalries maintained. For instance, the Cincinnati Reds would still bee part of a division containing the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.

However, according to Nightengale, the Pittsburgh Pirates would be part of the East Division rather than the Central. Instead, the Atlanta Braves and the entirety of the AL Central would join Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee. So, how do you like the Reds odds given the latest rumors?

Well, first off, let’s agree that the Pirates were not going to be a threat to the Reds in 2020. Pittsburgh traded away their best player (Starling Marte) and were likely to finish their second consecutive season in the NL Central cellar.

Moving on, it appeared as though 2020 was going to be a four-horse race in the NL Central. Cincinnati improved during the offseason, and the other three competitors who finished atop the NL Central in 2019 were likely to be the Reds biggest stumbling block in their efforts to return to the postseason.

The Reds were not heavy favorites to win the National League Central, in fact, some pundits and experts still had Cincinnati sitting No. 4 in the division. Given that no one in the division made more impactful moves than the Reds and it’s easy to see that some teams even went backwards (St. Louis), it could easily be argued that Cincinnati had the most talented team in the NL Central.

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So, if we like the Reds chances against those in the NL Central, what about the AL Central? Last year, the Minnesota Twins surprisingly won the division and appeared to get better over the winter with the additions of Josh Donaldson and Kenta Maeda.

If the Reds made the biggest moves of the offseason, the Chicago White Sox were a close second. The South Siders additions of Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Nomar Mazara are sure to upgrade the team’s hitting. Dallas Keuchel, whom Cincinnati chased the previous winter, signed a three-year deal with Chicago as well, boosting the team’s starting rotation.

Do the Cleveland Indians pose a threat to the Reds chase for a title in a 10-team division? You betcha. While Cleveland has seen several players move on over the past two seasons, the Indians still have Francisco Lindor and José Ramirez on the left side of the infield. Pair that with pitchers Mike Clevinger, Zach Plesac and Shane Bieber, and you’ve got a talented team to contend with.

Both the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, much like the Pirates, are in rebuild-mode. Reds Country knows all too well what that’s like. However, the Tigers still have Matthew Boyd on the mound every fifth day and Jorge Soler hit 48 homers last season for the Royals. K.C. also has infielder Whit Merrifield, perhaps the most underrated player in the league.

But, of all the teams mentioned, the one ball club who would offer the Reds the most trouble is undoubtedly the Atlanta Braves. Aside from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves were the team with the best chance among National League contenders to make a run at the World Series. Atlanta’s offense is stacked and their young rotation is no slouch either.

Obviously, when you think of the Braves, you immediately think of Ronald Acuna Jr. The 21-year-old is in a battle with Juan Soto for the best young player in the game today. While Atlanta lost Josh Donaldson, who led the team in WAR (6.0) last season, the Braves still have Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson. Atlanta also added Marcell Ozuna this offseason.

If you think the Braves lineup is scary, take a look at the starting rotation. Even with Keuchel off to Chi-Town, Atlanta still boasts the likes of Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz. Top pitching prospect Kyle Wright looks ready to make his mark in 2020 as well.

One word that comes to mind when looking at the possible realignment of the divisions for the 2020 season is balance. There’s not one division that sticks out among the others as a cakewalk or a gauntlet. For every top-level team, there’s also one who’s rebuilding along with a scattered mix of teams vying a spot in the postseason.

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If MLB chooses this path, could the Cincinnati Reds win the newly created Central Division? Sure, but it won’t be easy. I’d give the Braves the nod as the favorites, with the Royals and Tigers well off the pace. However, a cluster of the Reds, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, White Sox, Indians and Twins would all be in the hunt as well. This could be a very fun scenario.