3 ways the Cincinnati Reds could surprise the fanbase this offseason

Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell enters the dugout in the third inning.
Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell enters the dugout in the third inning. / Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn
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While Major League Baseball and the Player's Association continue to be at odds over a new collective bargaining agreement, fans of the sport are left to speculate about what will happen once the lockout ends.

The Cincinnati Reds made some surprising moves prior to the lockout. Trading Tucker Barnhart wasn't overly surprising, but the return the team received for a two-time Gold Glove catcher was less than inspiring. Let's hope Nick Quintana makes some great strides in 2022.

The more surprising move came just days later when Cincinnati chose to waive left-handed starter Wade Miley. The southpaw was arguably the Reds best pitcher last season, and rather than pick up the $10M team-option and then trade Miley, Cincinnati's front office let him go for nothing.

Of course, being a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, we're surprised by very little anymore. That said, with Nick Krall claiming that the Reds are aligning their payroll to their resources, who knows what the organization will do once the lockout is concluded. What are some surprises the Reds front office may have in store for fanbase before the 2022 season begins?

1. Reds trade Luis Castillo to the highest bidder.

While some rumors may offer an opinion to the contrary, I believe that the Cincinnati Reds will look to trade Luis Castillo prior to the start of the 2022 season. Castillo is the Reds biggest trade chip and the front office knows it.

While it may make more financial sense to trade away Sonny Gray and his 10-figure salary, the Vanderbilt alum will only net Cincinnati a modest return. If Nick Krall and the Reds front office are looking for a massive haul, only Luis Castillo will offer that.

Starting pitching is going to cost you; whether it's in terms of salary or prospects is up to you. The Reds have Castillo under team control for two more seasons, but they'd be wise to deal the right-hander prior to the start of the 2022 season when his value is at its absolute highest.

We saw last spring how slowly Luis Castillo can begin a season. La Piedra limped out of the gate and posted a 7.22 ERA through his first 11 starts. However, Castillo righted the ship and put up a 2.73 ERA over his final 22 starts last season while striking out 144 batters in 135.1 innings of work.

The Cincinnati Reds are not going to sign Luis Castillo to a long-term contract. Jose Berrios, who's on par with Castillo, signed a seven-year/$131M contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. There's no way Cincinnati will offer Castillo a contract with an average annual value of $18M through his age 36 season.

The Reds should learn from their past mistakes and trade Castillo while he still has value. They cannot afford to go down the same road they did with Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. While it may be a bit surprising, Cincinnati should trade Luis Castillo prior to Opening Day.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) reacts after hitting a solo home run.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) reacts after hitting a solo home run. / Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK

2. Reds shockingly re-sign Nick Castellanos.

Surprised?! Don't be. While it may seem like a long shot, I'm still not ready to give up on the idea of the Cincinnati Reds re-signing Nick Castellanos. This all boils down to money. Are the Reds willing to offer the type of contract it's going to take to keep Castellanos in the Queen City?

Look, if Castellanos' market was as hot as some have assumed it to be, he'd be signed already. The slugger has been rumored to be seeking a seven-to-eight year contract, and I think a lot of teams are leery to dole out that much cash to a player who hit .260 on the road versus .359 at home.

Those stats matter. Of the 34 home runs Castellanos launched last season, 23 came in the friendly confines of Great American Ball Park. Of his 100 runs batted in, nearly three-quarters (72) came while playing at GABP.

As it was prior to the 2020 season, I don't know if the market is there for Nick Castellanos. He's a passionate player who's beloved by the fanbase in Cincinnati, and Castellanos seemed to revel in positive reaction he received from Reds Country last season.

The question is; will the Cincinnati Reds beat Castellanos' highest offer? They most certainly can, despite what you may hear from the team's ownership and front office. If you take into consideration the fact that Cincinnati will soon be off the hook for Joey Votto's $25M per season, this franchise certainly has the means to retain Nick Castellanos.

If the Reds are able to shed one more large contract (Mike Moustakas, Sonny Gray, etc.), I believe they'll make a run at keeping Castellanos in Cincinnati. No one though the Reds had a shot at signing Castellanos after the 2019 season, and they have an even better opportunity this go-around. It'd be quite the welcome surprise to see Nick Castellanos in a Reds uniform next season.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (86) receives a new ball after giving up a two-run home run.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (86) receives a new ball after giving up a two-run home run. / Sam Greene/Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn

3. Reds begin the 2022 season with three rookies in the rotation.

Whether it's Sonny Gray or Tyler Mahle or Luis Castillo, there's no way the Cincinnati Reds head into the 2022 season with three-fifths of the starting rotation returning. While Castillo would offer the organization the most in return, opposing executives would also be intrigued by the potential of trading for Mahle and/ or Gray.

The Reds have been known to manipulate service time in order to gain an added year of team control; see Nick Senzel. But the team did not do that last season; see Jonathan India. And the odds are high that after a new CBA is announced, that issue may be put to bed.

Cincinnati's top two prospects are MLB-ready and another surprising candidate has entered the mix as well. Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene will both enter spring training eyeing a spot in the starting rotation. But Reiver Sanmartin showed what he was made of in two starts to end the year versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Though Sanmartin started two games last season, in the eyes of Major League Baseball, he's still considered a rookie. The same was true of Jose Barrero and Tyler Stephenson last season despite making their debuts in 2020.

With Wade Miley off to Chicago, one spot in the Cincinnati rotation is already up for grabs. Should one of the remaining trio have a new home in 2022, a second spot in the rotation will emerge. Two of the remaining veterans are likely to claim a spot, and I'm sure Vladimir Gutierrez will be in the mix as well.

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But given what we've seen from Lodolo and Greene, I believe that proven all they can in the minor leagues and expect them to find their way onto the Opening Day roster. The question then becomes, can Sanmartin beat out Gutierrez for the last spot in the rotation? I believe he will and thus the Cincinnati Reds will begin the 2022 season with three rookies in the starting rotation.