4 former Reds players that Cincinnati will regret letting go in 2024

The Reds are going to miss these players more than fans want to admit.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez (53)
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez (53) / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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Though the Cincinnati Reds did not clean house this winter, the club did undergo some roster changes. The youth movement is in full-effect, as players like Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, and Matt McLain are looking to establish themselves as the next generation of great players in franchise history.

But with the ascensions the Reds young talent came the dismissal of some of the old guard. Most prominent among them being Joey Votto whose $20 million club-option for the 2024 season was declined.

And while Votto's presence in the clubhouse, and even his on-field production, may be missed, Cincinnati added Jeimer Candelario in free agency and will look to Christian Encarnacion-Strand to man first base in 2024. But there are some other, perhaps more concerning, subtractions from last year's team that the Reds may regret making this offseason.

1. Vladimir Gutierrez, Right-handed pitcher

Nick Krall and Cincinnati's front office received a very humbling lesson over the final month of the 2023 season; you can never have enough pitching. The Reds failed to add anything other than a left-handed reliever at the trade deadline last August, and it may have cost the team a chance at the playoffs.

That isn't to say that Krall and Co. made the wrong move. All signs suggested the asking prices for starting pitching was outrageous, and If Krall judged the asking price to be far too great, so be it. But with pitching being so valuable, why did the Reds part ways with Vladimir Gutierrez? After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2022, Gutierrez made just five rehab outings at the end of last season.

Gutierrez went 9-6 during his first year in the big leagues and garnered Rookie of the Year votes. While Gutierrez struggled during his second season in the majors, we saw the same thing from Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft last season. Gutierrez wasn't going to eat up a lot of payroll and has minor league options remaining.

The right-hander was outrighted shortly after the 2023 season came to close and elected free agency. A little over a month ago, it was reported that Gutierrez had interest from several major league clubs. Having a starter who's gone more than 100 innings in a season shouldn't be dismisses so quickly, and the Reds may live to regret this decision.

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2. Nick Senzel, Infielder/ outfielder

There are several reasons why the Cincinnati Reds made the right call when the decision was made to non-tender Nick Senzel last year. But, at the moment, the role that Senzel played so effectively in 2023 has yet to be filled.

Senzel was merciless against left-handed pitching last season. The versatile utility player hit .348/.389/.619 against southpaws in 2023 with nine of his 13 homers coming off left-handed pitching. If the Reds were facing a lefty last season, you could bet your bottom dollar that Senzel was in David Bell's lineup.

But the Reds, after years of frustration decided to part ways with the former No. 2 overall pick. While the decision was probably the correct one, it'll undoubtedly affect the on-field product if Cincinnati fails to find another platoon bat.

Senzel has since signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals and is scheduled to play third base in 2024; a position he rarely manned in Cincinnati. The University of Tennessee alum will attempt to reestablish his value before potentially entering free agency again next offseason.

Senzel's $3 million deal with Washington is relatively close to what he would've made through arbitration. Considering Senzel still had minor-league options remaining and was under team control for two more seasons, it's fair to criticize this move from a business perspective. If the Reds don't shore up their bench, they may regret letting Senzel go.

3. Harrison Bader, Outfielder

A lot of Reds fans forget that Harrison Bader was part of the team's roster in 2023. After being waived by the New York Yankees, Cincinnati stepped in and secured the services of the speedy outfielder. Unfortunately for Bader, his time in the Queen City was less than successful.

The Reds made the right move bringing Bader into the fold. It was a low-risk, high-reward acquisition. But the high rewards never came and Bader hit just .161/.235/.194 in 14 games for the Reds before the former St. Louis Cardinals' centerfielder landed on the 60-day IL, ending his tenure in Cincinnati.

Bader was cut loose during the offseason, and despite putting up an OPS of just .622, was able to secure a one-year, $10.5 million contract from the New York Mets. While some baseball experts and pundits look at the Reds' $16 million contract with Frankie Montas as a drastic overpay, the same could be said of the Mets deal with Bader.

There's one thing Bader does very well, and that's field his position. The mix of speed, arm strength, and awareness that Bader possesses makes him one of the best centerfielders in the game and helped him win a Gold Glove in 2021.

But Harrison Bader, much like the aforementioned Nick Senzel, had a ton of success against lefties in 2023. Bader posted an OPS of .936 against southpaws. While that lofty salary is something the Reds were probably right avoid to avoid, Cincinnati may well regret not having that platoon outfielder to help offset the left-handed duo of Will Benson and Jake Fraley.

4. Ben Lively, Right-handed pitcher

Of all the players mentioned, no move was more questionable than outrighting Ben Lively in October. For some odd reason, the Cincinnati Reds removed Lively from the 40-man roster only to see him sign a new deal with their in-state rival, the Cleveland Guardians.

Quite frankly, it was one game that ruined Lively's entire stat line from 2023. After giving the Reds 6.2 innings on July 26th against the Milwaukee Brewers, a game in which he gave up just two runs and got zero help from Cincinnati's lineup, Lively was sent back out five days later and got dismantled by the Chicago Cubs.

Lively allowed 13 runs on 13 hits including four home runs. The right-hander worked four innings because the previous game saw David Bell's bullpen cover 5.2 innings and allow just one run in Cincinnati's 6-5 win over the Cubbies. Lively took one for the team the following night in an effort to rest the bullpen after Andrew Abbott was only able to go 3.1 innings the previous game.

If you remove that one outing from Lively's performance last season, his ERA drops from 5.38 to 4.25. Lively pitched in over 80 innings, recorded 79 strikeouts, and walked just 2.5 batters per nine innings pitched. Are you sure the Reds don't need a veteran who can put up those types of numbers in 2024?

Ben Lively won't become a free agent until after the 2028 season and still has minor-league options remaining. Lively is a better option than Levi Stoudt, Alex Young, and a few other pitchers currently on the Reds 40-man roster. No matter how you look at it, this was a mistake by the Reds' front office and one they'll regret in 2024.