3 most difficult decisions the Reds must make before the end of spring training

Reds manager David Bell will have to make some tough choices this spring.

Cincinnati Reds infielder Noelvi Marte
Cincinnati Reds infielder Noelvi Marte / Kirk Irwin/GettyImages
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Spring training has arrived, Reds fans. After watching their beloved Bengals fall well short of expectations this past season, Cincinnati sports fans are eager for the Reds to begin their 2024 season.

There hasn't been this much talent on the Cincinnati Reds roster in quite some time. Not only are all the young fellas from last year's roster back for their sophomore season, but Bob Castellini actually opened his wallet this offseason and allowed president of baseball operations Nick Krall to spend some money.

But with so much talent on the Reds roster, Krall and manager David Bell will have to make some difficult decisions before the 2024 campaign begins. What are the three most difficult decisions Reds must make before spring training ends

3 most difficult decisions the Reds could make before spring training ends

Which five pitchers comprise the Reds 2024 starting rotation?

The Cincinnati Reds have at least eight pitchers who could be part of this year's Opening Day starting rotation. If healthy, Frankie Montas is a lock to be among the five who'll have a ticket for Cincinnati after spring training is over. The Reds signed Montas to a $16 million contract this offseason. While he may not be their ace, Montas will be considered a frontline starter.

You might as well pencil in Hunter Greene as well. After forking over a six-year, $53 million contract last spring, Greene is likely to be the Reds Opening Day starter when the Washington Nationals come to Great American Ball Park on March 28th.

As for the rest of the rotation, there will be debate all spring as to which pitchers will secure those spots. Among those vying for an opportunity are Andrew Abbott, Brandon Williamson, Nick Martinez, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Connor Phillips.

Every one of those pitchers, except for Martinez, has minor-league options remaining. While it might be infuriating or surprising to some Reds fans, Martinez may be break camp as a starter. If that occurs, look for Abbott, Williamson, and Phillips to start their 2024 season down at Triple-A Louisville.

Competition doesn't necessarily feel like the appropriate word to use when it comes to how the Reds plan to discern which five players will be part of the Opening Day starting rotation. This group of starters will be fluid and fans may even see eight different pitchers log at least 10 starts by the end of the season. Last year, that number was six.

How will the playing time be allocated among the Reds infielders?

Spring training is the perfect time for Reds manager David Bell to figure a few things out. The biggest sticking point among the Reds fanbase is how Cincinnati's skipper plans to allocate playing time to plethora of infielders currently on the roster.

Spencer Steer will get some reps on the infield dirt, but last year's rookie will surely see the majority of his starts in left field. From Bell's remarks earlier this week, it sounds as if Elly De La Cruz (shortstop) and Matt McLain (second base) will be regulars in the Reds lineup.

But after that, all bets are off. One day, fans might see Christian Encarnacion-Strand at first base, only to be replaced by Jonathan India the following the day. Noelvi Marte might get a start at third base on a Thursday with Jeimer Candelario lining up at the hot corner on Friday. Bell's lineups could change day-to-day.

The designated hitter certainly makes this abundance of infield talent much easier to juggle, but Bell also has four quality outfielders in Steer, TJ Friedl, Jake Fraley, and Will Benson who'll be looking to receive everyday reps as well.

Will one of Marte or Encarnacion-Strand begin the year in Triple-A just to ease the need to rotate players on a regular basis? That seems like a stretch at this point, but spring training will offer fans the ability to see how the club plans to use their depth to their advantage in 2024.

Will Reds relievers Fernando Cruz and Tejay Antone begin the season in the minor leagues?

A recent roster projection from MLB.com saw Fernando Cruz absent from the Opening Day roster. Not only that, but Tejay Antone's name wasn't among the 26 players breaking camp as well. This wasn't a misprint, and in fact, Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon could be on to something.

Though Cruz, who will technically be entering just his second major league season in 2024, has arguably the best stuff among the relief corps outside of Alexis Diaz, he may not be part of the Opening Day roster. Why? Because he has minor-league options remaining.

The Reds bullpen will likely feature Diaz, Lucas Sims, Ian Gibaut, Buck Farmer, and Sam Moll along with newcomers Nick Martinez, Emilio Pagán, and Brent Suter. Other than Diaz and Moll, not other player has minor-league options left. That means that in order to squeeze Cruz or Antone onto the Opening Day roster, it means waving goodbye to one or two of the veterans.

This will be a fascinating story to follow throughout spring training. The two players who are most vulnerable are arguably Gibaut and Farmer. However, after seeing both pitchers gut it out down the stretch in 2023, it would take a massive implosion during Cactus League play and a phenomenal effort from Cruz or Antone to displace one of those right-handers.

Strange as it may seem, two of the Cincinnati Reds most talented relievers could be leaving Arizona with a plane ticket for Kentucky rather than Ohio. But this once again speaks to the depth that this year's Reds team has. It's a good problem to have.