Time to see if Reds' big offseason moves pay off

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Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell embraces the added pressure that comes with making multiple free-agent splashes.

CINCINNATI - The Reds have done a lot this offseason to acquire free agents, and they spent a lot of money in the process -- just under $166 million, in fact. But the question that will loom large as Spring Training opens next week:

Has Cincinnati done enough to be 2020 playoff contenders?

"With our window opening, [ownership has] stepped up in a big way to give us the resources to finish the transactions we've completed this offseason and put this team in a position to compete and perform at a championship level in our division," president of baseball operations Dick Williams said.

Following a 75-win season in 2019, the Reds went all-in this winter to make improvements and upgrades. The biggest priority was adding offense, as Cincinnati was ranked 12th in the National League in runs and team batting, and first in the Major Leagues for one-run losses.

First, All-Star Mike Moustakas signed a four-year, $64 million contract to become the team's regular second baseman. In January, the Reds signed their first Japanese player to a Major League contract, adding outfielder Shogo Akiyama on a three-year, $21 million deal. Later in the month, arguably the top free-agent outfielder on the market came onboard when Nick Castellanos signed his own four-year, $64 million contract.

Also getting some attention were the rotation (lefty Wade Miley at two years, $15 million) and the bullpen (versatile veteran Pedro Strop at one year, $1.825 million).

Manager David Bell embraces the added pressure that comes with making multiple free-agent splashes.

"Rightfully so and realistically, our fans are expecting a championship," Bell said. "That's a great challenge, because you can talk about it. We still have a ton of work to do to prepare ourselves and get ready. We still have to go out and do it. To be in a position where the expectations are nothing short of a championship, that's where you want to be as a player, competitor, manager, coach or anyone in the organization. We put ourselves in a position to succeed, and that's all you can ask for. We feel the support within the organization. We feel the support in the city."

As for the returning Reds, a recent pool accident led to right shoulder surgery for third baseman Eugenio Suárez, who may not be ready for the start of the regular season as he recovers and rehabs. First baseman Joey Votto is trying to rebound from back-to-back subpar years, including a '19 season in which his OPS dipped below .800. Closer Raisel Iglesias notched a career-high 34 saves last season but was also on the hook for 12 losses -- a franchise record for relievers.

Cincinnati remains optimistic about several of its young hitters, such as Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Aristides Aquino, as well as veteran shortstop Freddy Galvis.

But the cold splash of reality is that it doesn't matter if a team "wins" the offseason. The only true absolute is what happens on the field, and in the standings. And not everybody is as bullish on the Reds as the players, management and fans.

MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince recently consulted the FanGraphs' team Wins Above Replacement projections, and converted those projections to a win total. For the Reds, that was 80 wins -- just five more than in 2019. USA Today was more optimistic, projecting 85 wins. Oddsmakers have the club finishing somewhere between 80 and 84.

The good news for the Reds is that their National League Central rivals made few major moves this offseason. Those same FanGraphs projections had those teams winning fewer games in 2020: 88 for the Cubs, 84 for the Brewers and 83 for the defending division-champion Cardinals. The Pirates, who finished in last place in '19, could fall farther back as they begin a massive rebuild.

Having missed the postseason for six straight seasons, the Reds feel they've done enough to challenge for a division title and play October baseball. Now they have to go out and prove it.

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