Fans Seeing Red: Why Did Cincinnati Give Up On Aristides Aquino So Abruptly?
The entire front office should have been fired, and probably even manager David Bell. Their mistakes were not only failures on the field, but also on the bank book.
Offensively, things were looking great for the Reds, as they wound down the 2019 season with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That game was recognized as the last for longtime broadcaster Steve Blass and veteran manager Clint Hurdle, but is should also have been the last for the executives of the Reds.
They had, for some inexplicable reason, decided that their best player by far should be on the bench before the next season had even started. A player who had in just two short months become either first or second in nearly every offensive category, was being written off.
Aristides Aquino was brought up from the minors on August 1, 2019, the day after the Reds shipped outfielder Yasiel Puig to the Cleveland Indians. Immediately Aquino caught fire, and by the end of August he had set several home run records for rookies.
He was clearly the highlight of a season that saw Cincinnati finish under .500, providing a reason for fans to feel optimistic about the immediate future. The promising outfielder was just 22 years old, and he had more to offer than merely the home run power.
Although he played in just 56 games, Aquino finished at or near the top in every noteworthy offensive category. His 19 home runs were second most on the team, trailing only third baseman Eugenio Suarez.
In terms of runs batted in, Aquino again finished behind Suarez, and shortstop Jose Iglesias drove in six more than Aquino's 49. Those same two teammates finished ahead of him in batting average as well, as Aquino's .271 clip ranked fourth behind Jesse Winker.
The young sensation topped the entire team in slugging percentage, while ranking as runner-up to Suarez in on base percentage and OBPS. Even more telling of his overall abilities, Aquino finished second on the Reds in stolen bases behind Nick Senzel.
There is little doubt that, given a full season of 162 games instead of just 56 in two months, Aquino would have finished at the top of every category. And that is exactly what fans were anticipating for 2020, a chance to watch Aquino as a starting outfielder in every game.
Great American Ballpark had recently witnessed the development of other young talents in Senzel and Winker, so Aquino would have given Cincinnati one of the most talented trio of outfielders in all of baseball. Apparently, however, the front office folks had other plans.
In spite of already having that thrilling threesome, the Reds signed Asian outfielder Shogo Akiyama early in the winter. He was immediately handed the center field job, an announcement that also mentioned Senzel moving from center to right.
Suddenly, the club's biggest offensive threat had become a fourth outfielder, leaving fans scratching their heads. A month later Aquino had been demoted to fifth outfielder, when Cincinnati signed free agent Nick Castellanos.
These additions actually subtracted from the offensive production, as neither Akiyama nor Castellanos could duplicate the numbers of the guy they replaced. Homerless Akiyama finished with a batting average sixteen points lower than Aquino's 2019 mark, and Castellanos had fewer home runs and RBI.
By exiling Aquino from the everyday lineup, Cincinnati's offense dropped to one of the worst in the N.L. The Reds finished at the very bottom in team batting average and second to last in total runs scored, most unfortunate for a team who boasted the a stellar pitching staff anchored by Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer.
Pitching alone got the Reds to the postseason, when the decision to dismiss Aquino looked even worse. Cincinnati hitters set a dubious record of going 22 innings without scoring a single run, as the Atlanta Braves shut them out in the two games of the Wild Card series.
Over those two games the Aquino replacements, Akiyama and Castellanos, went a combined three for fifteen with eight strikeouts. Fans cannot help but wonder that, had Aquino been in the lineup instead of either of the expensive free agent outfielders they brought in, the young slugger could have broken the opener's scoreless tie with one of the blasts he hit almost daily before the Reds dumped him.