Over at Cincinnati Reds blog Chris Sabo's Goggles I had the pleasure of advising Brian of that fine site on the state of the Milwaukee Brewers going into the 2014 season. Brian answered some questions about the Reds for The Brewers Bar in between corking his bats and doing LensCrafters commercials. Check out my thoughts on the Brewers at his site here, and if you like, follow them on Twitter at @Goggles17.
TBB: What do you think of the new Reds manager Bryan Price? How will the change from Dusty Baker and a new coaching staff affect the team in 2014?
CSG: Way too early to tell, but I get the impression that the players trust him. The more distance we put between us and the 2013 season, the more players are starting to say how "different" things are with Price running the show. You don't have to read between the lines too closely to see what they mean (different = better). The big thing is that Price is asking for players to be accountable. If Brandon Phillips doesn't run to first base and gets thrown out, Price will sit Phillips. Dusty would let things like that slide too often and I think some players probably took advantage of that freedom.
TBB: Who is the most impactful new player for the Reds in 2014… Billy Hamilton?
CSG: It has to be Hamilton. Everyone knows how fast is, but very few people know how (if) he can hit at this level. He's certainly a game-changer if he's able to get on base.
TBB: The Reds ran into a willful Pirates team in the 2013 Wild Card game. So it goes. How can the Reds improve in 2014?
CSG: I'm not so sure that they have improved. The pitching staff got injured quite a bit last season, and it's doubtful the starting five rotation will be intact for the start of this season. Hamilton probably won't put up numbers like Choo, so other players like Zach Cozart, Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier will need to step up.
TBB: Are you surprised Brandon Phillips is still with the club after reports surfaced that he could be traded?
CSG: His contract made it tough to unload him, but it made complete sense to try. He's a lot of fun to watch, but it would've been nice to trade him for an almost-ready starting pitcher or a power-hitting left fielder. If the Reds are slow to get out of the gate this season, I think he'll be gone by the All-Star break. Teams are more willing to gamble on players/contracts during the season when they see that player as the "missing piece" they need.
TBB: Does Joey Votto walk too much to be as productive at the plate as perhaps he should be?
CSG: I'd rather he walk than strikeout, but the answer is "probably." I guess. I don't know. The tiring argument among Reds fans is that he's paid too much to walk. I don't understand what that means. Do I wish he hit more HRs and drove in more runs? Yes. But if Votto is getting on base and nobody is driving him in, then that's not really Votto's fault. It's just an easy excuse to blame Votto because he gets paid the most.
TBB: What’s your prediction for the team’s performance in the upcoming season and how do you see the NL Central shaking out?
CSG: The Reds did very little to improve the club in the offseason. Cueto is coming off a season of injuries, Latos is recovering from shoulder surgery and a bum knee, and Arroyo is gone. That's a lot of pressure on Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani. I think the Reds will hang in there with a 87-75 record. Whether or not that gets them into the playoffs remains to be seen.