Originally posted on Three-Way Chili  |  Last updated 1/10/12

It certainly feels like 2012 is shaping up to be a stellar year for the Cincinnati Reds.

On Monday, former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was voted into the Hall of Fame and will be the lone inductee in the ’12 class. Larkin received a whopping 86.4 percent of the vote (it takes 75 percent to make the cut) on this his third time being on the ballot. The next-closest was pitcher Jack Morris with 66.7 percent. Mark McGwire received just 19.5 percent of the vote.

Larkin played his entire 19-year career with the Reds (1986-2004) and was a 12-time All-Star selection. Larkin had a .295 lifetime batting average with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases.

He was also a key member of Cincinnati’s 1990 World Series championship team, won the 1995 National League MVP award for the NL Central-winning Reds and captured three Gold Glove awards. (Ozzie Smith dominated the NL Gold Glove award for much of Larkin’s career.) Also, in 1996, Larkin became the first shortstop in MLB history to have a 30/30 season (home runs and steals).

Needless to say, Larkin’s inclusion into the Hall of Fame is well-deserved and it will be a great day for Reds fans this summer when he’s officially inducted. And yes, I think it makes it extra-special that he will be the only player to enter the Hall this year. It will literally be “Barry Larkin Day” in Cooperstown and you know Reds fans will flood there to be a part of the festivities.

Reds Making Bold Offseason Moves

Looking at the 2012 version of the Reds, they appear to be in “all-in” mode and I love it. Now is the time to strike with the Cardinals losing Albert Pujols (and Tony LaRussa), the Brewers losing Ryan Braun for 50 games due to PED use and probably Prince Fielder via free agency, and the Cubs re-building.

The Reds gave up a lot to land starting pitcher Mat Latos, but that’s what it takes to get a 24-year-old, top-of-the-rotation pitcher who can’t become a free agent until 2016. The Reds will have Latos for at least four seasons at a relatively cheap rate. Fans can’t talk out of both sides of their mouth. They can’t clamor for general manager Walt Jocketty to make moves to improve the team, and then when he does make a bold move like trading for Latos, complain about it.

Yes, giving up Yonder Alonso isn’t anything that the Reds wanted to see happen – and losing relief pitcher Brad Boxberger hurts too. Yasmani Grandal is an excellent catching prospect, but the Reds have an even better one in Devin Mesoraco, which made Grandal expendable. And losing Edinson Volquez is nice just so I don’t have to look at his pathetic ass any longer. What a joke. Reds fans thought there would never be a trade that hurt the franchise worse than the Frank Robinson deal, but the Volquez-for-Josh Hamilton disaster might end up taking the prize when we look back on it. Thanks, Wayne Krivsky! (Although, it was Krivsky that originally acquired Hamilton for the Reds. But that doesn’t excuse his boneheaded trade for Volquez.)

Anyway, the bottom line is that I like the Latos trade. This gives the Reds a dynamic starting rotation of Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo. Also, Aroldis Chapman is transitioning back to a starting role (what he did his entire amateur career and with the Cuban national team) giving the Reds a total of six legitimate starters entering spring training. Arroyo was horrific last year, but I think he’ll bounce back with at least a solid year. But if he doesn’t, Chapman will be sitting right there waiting to take his spot in the rotation. Same deal for Bailey. He’s dripping with talent but can never seem to harness it consistently. If he struggles – or when he goes down with his yearly injury – Chapman will be waiting in the wings.

Can you imagine if Chapman finds his groove this season and the Reds end up having a top-four rotation of Latos, Cueto, Leake and Chapman? Wow, that would be exciting and would create a lot of winning baseball.

As for the trade that landed left-handed relief pitcher Sean Marshall, again, the Reds gave up a lot to make it happen, but I like the deal. Marshall is one of the elite set-up men in baseball and the Reds’ bullpen needed someone like that. I was a big Travis Wood fan and thought he would be nice insurance for the Reds’ rotation if there were injuries (or pitchers not performing well) but, again, the Reds were not going to land someone of Marshall's status without giving up some good players. (They also dealt outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor-league second baseman Ronald Torreyes.)

The remaining needs are closer, someone to at least platoon with Chris Heisey in left field and a backup shortstop. I’m holding out hope that the Reds will land the best free-agent closer still on the market: Ryan Madson, formerly of the Phillies. I fully believe the Reds are being patient on this front because not many teams in MLB need a closer and Cincinnati might end up finding a very-good bargain.

Other, less-ideal options include re-signing Francisco Cordero at a relatively cheap rate (something like 1-year, $5 million) or signing Kerry Wood. I don’t like either of those ideas.

However, what I do like are the Reds’ chances of winning the 2012 NL Central title. The team might only have two more seasons of Joey Votto and they are pushing all their chips to the middle of the table. The time to win is now. You know Charlie Sheen would be proud of his favorite team. And Barry Larkin.

Winning!

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