Nick Krall learned his lesson, Reds taking measured approach to free agent spending

The Reds approach to free agency is vastly different than it was in 2019-2020.

Cincinnati Reds president of baseball operations Nick Krall
Cincinnati Reds president of baseball operations Nick Krall / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cincinnati Reds have spent over $100 million in free agency this offseason. This is the most money the club has allocated to free agents since the Reds splurged prior to the 2020 season.

That year, Cincinnati signed Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, Wade Miley, Mike Moustakas, and Pedro Strop. The Reds are hoping for better results from the quintet of Buck Farmer, Nick Martinez, Emilo Pagán, Jeimer Candelario, and Frankie Montas.

The biggest difference that offseason was that the Reds used free agency as a means to change the roster from the outside. This winter, Reds President of Baseball Operations is using free agency to compliment what the team already has.

Reds taking measured approach to free agent spending this offseason

In addition to the aforementioned additions the Cincinnati Reds picked up through free agency before the 2020 season, the club also swung a deal midway through the 2019 campaign for Trevor Bauer.

The big bats of Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos were supposed to lead the way, while Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, and Jesse Winker pulled their weight as well. Nick Senzel was supposed to grow into the first-round talent many projected him to be, and a stalwart rotation of Bauer, Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Wade Miley, and Anthony DeSclafani were going to dominate the opposition.

On paper, the Reds had one of the best teams in the National League Central, and were the favorite among many pundits and experts to win the division. Of course we all know what happened. The coronavirus pandemic shutdown the sport for several months, and the Reds never reached the lofty expectations after the 162-game marathon was reduced to a 60-game sprint to the finish line.

The Reds got off the blocks slowly. Senzel, Moustakas, Miley and DeSclafani struggled to stay healthy. Joey Votto hit just .226, but Eugenio Suarez and Nick Castellanos were even worse.

Trevor Bauer won the Cy Young Award that year, but bolted for LA during the offseason. Shogo Akiyama never reached the lofty expectations set for the Japanese outfielder, and Cincinnati was saddled with an underperforming group of players with expensive salaries.

Most of the Reds' free agents are signed to short-term deals

Nick Krall is not going to make that mistake again...at least, not right now. The Cincinnati Reds have focused on mostly one and two-year contracts. Jemier Candelario is the only player who's signed a deal that takes him beyond the 2025 season.

After seeing Moustakas basically swindle the Reds franchise out of $64 million, and Akiyama handed $21 million for a career-OPS of .594, Krall made sure to hedge his bets this winter. Rather than going all-in, Krall is taking a very measured approach to free agency this offseason.

While some Reds fans may argue that Cincinnati overpaid both Frankie Montas and Nick Martinez, that's the cost of doing business when you play in a bandbox like Great American Ball Park. Pitchers are going to cost a little more because their ERA is sure to be somewhat inflated.

But regardless of the outcome, the Reds are not tied to these two pitchers for very long. If both Montas and Martinez fail, Cincinnati has plenty of young pitchers who'll be eager to take their place in the rotation.

If one or both excel, the Reds will gladly slap a Qualifying Offer on Montas or Martinez (if he opts out) and reap the benefits of the draft compensation. The old adage is, there's no such thing as a bad deal.

The Cincinnati Reds are using free agency to supplement the roster rather than overhaul it. If Cincinnati is going to have success in 2024, it'll be because the likes of Elly De La Cruz, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo played up to their potential.

The Reds' front office has done a nice job of providing manager David Bell with the type of roster he needs to compete for a division crown next season. It's now up to the Reds' skipper and the players to prove that they're up to the task.

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