Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Cincinnati Reds headed for a down season?

Keyed by a loaded lineup, a solid starting rotation, and a dominant bullpen, the Cincinnati Reds have consistently been playoff contenders for the last few seasons. Unfortunately for them, that has not translated into a deep playoff run, something that cost manager Dusty Baker his job.

Among the changes this off-season are the departure of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and the arrival of new manager Bryan Price. Still, the Reds should be in the mix again in 2014, right?

Joe Lemire of Sports Illustrated isn’t so sure. In a 2014 predictions column this week, he writes that he believes the Reds are headed for a fourth place finish in the NL Central next season:

Their offense was already top-heavy in 2013 — with Joey VottoJay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo levying a disproportionate amount of damage — and now it will be without Choo, who signed with the Rangers. (Brandon Phillips‘ 103 RBIs last year were deceiving in light of his poor .706 OPS.) While the first five in the team’s rotation is strong with Johnny CuetoMat LatosHomer BaileyTony Cingrani and Mike Leake, there’s no depth should anyone get injured (unless Bronson Arroyo, another free-agent, returns). The Cardinals will continue to be a power, the Pirates will remain strong and look for the upstart Brewers to finish a game or two ahead of Cincinnati.

I’m not sold that the Brewers will have much to offer next season, but it is still interesting to note that the Reds might not have been as loaded as we thought in recent years.

If Lemire is right about the Reds, a team that will largely be the same save for the departures of Choo and Arroyo, then perhaps they were never the contender that we thought they were.

Tags: Cincinnati Reds