5 moves from the Cincinnati Reds 2021 season that didn't work out

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (7) argues with an umpire.
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (7) argues with an umpire. / Sam Greene / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The Cincinnati Reds 2021 season did not end as we'd all hoped. That said, if you'd have told me before the season began that Cincinnati would be in contention during the month of September, I'd have told you that you were off your rocker.

Instead, the Reds put forth a valiant effort in 2021 and finished with a winning record. Cincinnati was one of the most pleasant surprises last season, but the team's performance lagged behind that of the St. Louis Cardinals during the final month of the season and the Redlegs were left out in the cold.

Rather than looking forward to what might be in 2022, let's take a retrospective look back at the 2021 season and pinpoint some of the flaws in Cincinnati's unsuccessful attempt to make a run at the postseason. Here are five moves that just didn't work out for Nick Krall, David Bell, and the Cincinnati Reds organization in 2021.

1. The Reds attempted to move Eugenio Suárez to shortstop.

At the time, I think most of Reds Country was on board with the idea of moving former shortstop Eugenio Suárez from third base back to the position he had played earlier in his career. While defensive miscues were certain to be part of the equation, Cincinnati was willing to sacrifice defense for offense.

The problem was, Suárez never provided the offense. After a successful campaign in 2019 that nearly saw the Venezuelan lead the league in homers, the past two seasons have been an unmitigated disaster for Geno at the plate.

Suárez slashed just .198/.286/.428 with 31 bombs and 79 runs batted in. That, coupled with Geno's .202/.312/.470 slash line from the year before have many Reds fans questioning what to expect from Suárez in 2022.

While shifting Geno from third base to shortstop did not work out, the move did allow former first-round pick Jonathan India to show what he was made of. All India did was become the Reds table-setter and earn Rookie of the Year honors.

Moving Eugenio Suárez to shortstop was not a success, but we found out that Kyle Farmer was more than able to hold down the position. Look for Farmer and Jose Barrero to share shortstop duties in 2022 while Suárez will likely open the season as the Cincinnati Reds starting third baseman.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Santillan (64) throws a pitch.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Santillan (64) throws a pitch. / Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

2. The Reds inserting Tony Santillan into the starting rotation.

Tony Santillan had been one of the higher-rated prospects in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, and after dominating at the Triple-A level to begin the 2021 season, it became apparent that Santillan was due for a promotion.

In his six starts with the Bats, Santillan posted a 2.51 ERA over 32.1 innings with 45 strikeouts. Santillan then made his big league debut on June 13th versus the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander went 4.2 innings, struck five, and walked four in his first major league start.

The Reds sent Santillan back out to the mound for three more starts, but only once did the Texan make it past the third inning. Santillan's 10.80 K/9 and 24.4% strikeout-rate in his four starts was impressive, but he also posted a 5.40 BB/9 and a walk-rate of 12.2%.

Cincinnati eventually sent Santillan back to Louisville and transitioned him from a starting pitcher to a reliever. In his return to Triple-A, Santillan went 5.2 innings without allowing a run. Santillan was then inserted into the Reds bullpen and became one of the most dominant arms that David Bell could summon.

So, while Santillan may not be a starter, moving him to the bullpen turned out to be a great move on the part of the Reds coaching staff. I wouldn't be surprised if Santillan is given another chance to be a starter this spring, especially if Cincinnati trades one or more of their starting pitchers.

Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera (3) hits the ball.
Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera (3) hits the ball. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Reds late-season pick up of infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera.

The Cincinnati Reds made a move late in the year that many, myself included, applauded. Cincinnati claimed infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks. While not an earth-shattering signing by any means, adding Cabrera to the roster gave the Reds a veteran presence off the bench.

The move made all the sense in the world. Cabrera was a veteran of many playoff teams and Cincinnati was in the playoff hunt. A switch-hitter, Cabrera could give David Bell's team some solid at-bats late in a game or be a defensive replacement at any number of infield positions.

Oh, how wrong we all were. Cabrera was an unmitigated disaster off the Reds bench. The 36-year-old immediately received a start after joining the Redlegs and promptly went 0-for-3 with two punch outs. But that was just the beginning.

Asdrúbal Cabrera entered a slump that would see him make 27 consecutive plate appearances before recording his first hit as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Cabrera finally singled in his third at-bat versus his former team, the Washington Nationals, on September 26th.

Initially seen as the type of savvy move that shrewd front office executives make down the stretch, the addition of Asdrúbal Cabrera was nothing short of horrendous. I bet the Reds are wishing they could've given those handful of ABs to any number of players on the team's Triple-A roster.

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon (6) grabs a bouncing ground ball.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon (6) grabs a bouncing ground ball. / Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services,

4. The Reds signed Dee Strange-Gordon to play shortstop.

Ugh! This was, perhaps, one of those moves that set the tone for the 2021 season. On the bright side, however, the Cincinnati Reds overcame this penny-pinching transaction the part of the ownership and front office and almost landed in the playoffs. So I guess there's hope for the 2022 season after all.

The Reds went into the offseason with one mission; find a starting shortstop. After allowing Freddy Galvis to enter free agency, Cincinnati had their pick of Andrelton Simmons, Didi Gregorius, and Marcus Semien; all of whom were rumored to be of interest to the Reds.

Well, Simmons signed with the Minnesota Twins, Gregorius re-upped with the Philadelphia Phillies, and to the surprise of many, Semien inked a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. That left the Cincinnati Reds with Kyle Farmer as the team's starting shortstop on Opening Day. Had we known then what we know now, most of Reds Country would have been fine with that scenario.

But, it was deemed necessary to upgrade the shortstop position, so Nick Krall and the Reds front office decided to sign, wait for it, Dee Strange-Gordon. Okay, Strange-Gordon is a fine utility player with years of big league experience, but he hadn't played shortstop regularly since his stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2011-2013).

Thankfully, Cincinnati made the right call and dismissed Strange-Gordon before the season began. Had the Reds not been so cheap, they could have come to terms with Jonathan Villar. The infielder spurned the Redlegs and instead inked a one-year deal with the New York Mets. Villar went on to post a .738 OPS and racked up 18 home runs.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Carson Fulmer (41) delivers in the ninth inning.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Carson Fulmer (41) delivers in the ninth inning. / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content

5. The Reds pieced together a substandard bullpen.

When you look at the Cincinnati Reds bullpen as we head into the 2022 season, there are some holes to be sure. But it looks nothing like the ridiculous compilation of arms that the Redlegs ran out to begin the 2021 season.

Take a look at the names who were part of Cincinnati's relief corps to began last season. Sean Doolittle, Carson Fulmer, Cionel Pérez, Cam Bedrosian, and Sal Romano were all part of the Reds Opening Day roster. This was in addition to José De León and Jeff Hoffman beginning the year in the starting rotation.

The only player from that list who's still on the Reds offseason roster is Hoffman. Along the way, Cincinnati added the likes of Heath Hembree, Brad Brach, Josh Osich, Ashton Goudeau, Edgar Garcia, and Michael Feliz to their relief corps as well.

David Bell saw 10 differnt pitchers record a save in 2021. Thankfully, the Reds added Luis Cessa, Mychal Givens, and Justin Wilson at the trade deadline. However, had Nick Krall and Reds front office pulled the trigger sooner or given Bell some better relievers to begin the season, we may have seen our beloved Redlegs in the playoffs last year.

The failure to add a legitimate shortstop to the Opening Day roster was bad, but to run out that bullpen was inexcusable. The fact that Cincinnati was even in contention during the month of September is a testament to the job that Bell and his staff did in 2021.