When the Cincinnati Reds lost to the Atlanta Braves in the first game of the first round of the 2020 playoffs, Reds manager David Bell used every position player on the team’s bench.
While the playoff rosters in 2020 were set at 28 players, the Reds carried 16 position players and 12 pitchers for the three-game series. The Reds lost the game, but the deeper bench allowed the Reds to use four pinch-hitters, a pinch-runner and two defensive replacements.
If the Reds reach the 2021 Wild Card game, they’d likely apply a similar approach to how they shape their postseason roster.
Entering Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds had a half-game lead over the San Diego Padres in the NL Wild Card race. According to Baseball Reference, the Reds have a 69.2% chance to make the playoffs due to an easier strength of schedule down the stretch.
If the Reds make it to the postseason, they would have the opportunity to tweak their 26-man roster for the one-game playoff.
Last season, the Reds carried 16 position players on a 28-man playoff roster for a three-game series. In 2021, with rosters at 26 players, the Reds could still carry a similar number of position players for a one-game playoff series.
For a one-game series in the National League, most teams carry a deeper bench of position players than pitchers.
In 2019, the Washington Nationals carried nine pitchers and 16 position players for the Wild Card game. That season, the Milwaukee Brewers carried just 10 pitchers and 15 position players. In 2018, the Colorado Rockies carried 10 pitchers, and the Chicago Cubs had 11. In 2017, the Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks carried 10 pitchers.
MLB rosters have expanded to 26 players since the 2019 season, and the Reds could carry between 15 and 17 position players for a potential one-game playoff in 2021.
The Reds currently have 13 position players on the 26-man roster after claiming infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera. When left fielder Jesse Winker (intercostal strain) returns from the 10-day injured list, the Reds will add another starter into the mix.
For additional depth, the Reds have infielders Jose Barrero, Alex Blandino and Alejo Lopez on the 40-man roster in Triple-A. The Reds also traded for outfielder Delino DeShields on Tuesday. Since he joined the organization before Sept. 1, DeShields could be eligible to be added to the postseason roster, where he could contribute as a potential pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
MOUSTAKAS BACK: Reds infielder Mike Moustakas left Saturday’s game with hip tightness, and he wasn’t available to play on Sunday. But Moustakas came off the bench in the Reds series opener on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals and pinch-hit.
Moustakas was back in the starting lineup on Tuesday playing third base. Over his last six games, Moustakas has five hits, two home runs and four RBI.
“Before the game Sunday morning, he came in and was much improved,” Bell said on Monday. “It seems obvious, but that was a big deal that he was a lot better.”
MINOR TRADE: On Tuesday, the Reds acquired DeShields in a trade with the Boston Red Sox. Since DeShields wasn’t on Boston’s 40-man roster, he was eligible to be traded after the deadline.
DeShields hit .250 last season with Cleveland and has been a good base runner during his six-year MLB career. He was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2015, but he has spent the entire 2021 season in Triple-A and hit .252.
DeShields will report to the Louisville Bats, the Reds Triple-A affiliate. The Bats released starting outfielder Ender Inciarte this week, and DeShields can fill his role as a starting outfielder in Triple-A.