I did starters first because it seemed the easiest. I'm not so sure, because the bullpen seems pretty set, particularly if Owings does not make the rotation. Before we start, one more point about the rotation. Don't be surprised to see the Reds try and add a starter in free agency. Waiting out to the very end to see what's left and then offering an incentive-laden deal to a guy desperate for a job seems like a decent way to add some competition to the 5th-starter battle. By the way, Sheets does not fit that category. I'd be surprised if the Reds sign Sheets, but we've been surprised before this off-season.
Anyway, on to the pen. Cordero is obviously the closer. He's in the third year of a four year deal. No question, he's been good for the Reds. He walked more guys than he would have liked last year and his strikeouts are down some, but he shut the door very effectively last year and there's no indication he won't be a reliable closer this year. He's certainly overpaid, and we could have a short debate (it's wrong) about whether a team like the Reds should have such a high percentage of their payroll locked up in a closer, but the contract doesn't have anything to do with his performance on the field. He's been solid.
The bullpen was a plus for the Reds last year, and a big part of that was the emergence of Nick Massett as a good set up man. He came over for Jr. and competed in spring training for a starter's role. But he ended up in the pen and had a great year. The Reds just signed him for this year and next, avoiding arbitration. Set-up men can be volatile, so he needs to put together another great year to be considered a top guy. Like Arthur Rhoads, who's made a great career being a good, lefty set-up guy. Last year, he mostly pitched the 8th inning, not just against lefties, and was effective in that role. He and Massett are a good tandem setting up Cordero. If something happens to Cordero, look for Massett to get the next chance, even though he's 1 for 6 career in save chances.
I expect Owings to miss out on a rotation spot, and take a long relief role. Don't forget, Dusty likes his bat off the bench.
Unless Bill Bray bounces back and finally reaches some of his potential (he was supposed to end up a closer) or he gets out pitched by Pedro Viola, Daniel Ray Herrera will take the second lefty spot in the pen. Dusty had (justified) faith in him last year even though he faded a lot at the end of the year.
I don't see a third lefty in the pen, because I think Jared Burton (who just re-upped for one year to avoid arbitration) and Mike Lincoln (in the second year of a terrible (for the Reds) two-year deal -- he's making $2.5 mil. this year) will grab the last two bullpen spots. Carlos Fisher will try and compete for one of the spots. He was great last year in the Arizona Fall League, closing games, but he was not great last year for the Reds. But he does have a great arm. He's got options, though, so expect him to be ready in AAA if there's an injury.
The Reds have four more pitchers on the forty-man roster, all added on November 20 to avoid the Rule 5 draft. Don't expect any of Enerio Del Rosario, Logan Ondrusek, Jordan Smith, or Phillipe-Alexandre Valiquette (all-name team candidate) to compete for a job.
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