"I think the boys are going to show up in Goodyear [Ariz., for Spring Training] in 2011 with a chip on their shoulders," left fielder Jonny Gomes said.
With a $76 million payroll, the small-market Reds won the National League Central with 91 wins and knocked off a Cardinals team that faded down the stretch. It was Cincinnati's first postseason berth in 15 years, and with St. Louis and the rest of the division retooling, the club's depth will be critical.
"We achieved a goal this year of getting a winning season and getting in the postseason," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We got a taste of it. Everybody will be hungry for more next year. It's a first step. We have a few more steps to go before we get to the ultimate goal."
Expect a winter low on turnover and high on expectations for 2011. It started with the two-year extension of manager Dusty Baker last Monday and continued Saturday when Jocketty revealed the plan to pick up the $11 million option on 17-game winner Bronson Arroyo.
Five of the Reds' eight regular position players -- Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs -- are either under contract or club control for next season. Gomes, shortstop Orlando Cabrera and catcher Ramon Hernandez have options for 2011.
Eligible for arbitration this winter, Votto will be coming off of a season in which he'll likely have an NL MVP trophy on his shelf after hitting .324 with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs. Phillips became a first-time All-Star this season. Both Bruce and Stubbs survived bumpy portions on the season to become strong contributors that still have high ceilings.
Expect work to be done to sign Votto to a multi-year contract, and possibly Bruce and pitcher Edinson Volquez -- both are arbitration-eligible also.
"You can build by improving," Votto said. "We are young players and players progress. Drew Stubbs is a perfect example. The second month of the year, we didn't know whether or not he'd be an everyday guy. All of a sudden, he looks like a heck of a player. Jay Bruce has a good six weeks and all of a sudden, he's one of the top right fielders in the National League. We're going to make progress. We have a bunch of young guys. We have talent here."
Nowhere is the talent deeper than in the potential 2011 rotation that should carry a no-vacancy sign at the clubhouse door. Behind Arroyo and Volquez, who should be another year back from Tommy John surgery, the Reds have Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Sam LeCure, Matt Maloney and a certain 105-mph throwing Cuban named Aroldis Chapman all competing to earn spots.
Save for Aaron Harang, who wasn't on the playoff roster and likely won't have his $12.75 million option exercised, most of the Reds' pitching staff is also set to return next season. Francisco Cordero, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek and Bill Bray should all return. Arthur Rhodes, 40, can become a free agent.
Reds pitching performed solidly overall against the Phillies, who were held to one home run during the series. Wood, Arroyo, Cueto and the Reds bullpen all had strong outings.
"That's about as good a pitching performance on the other side as we've seen. They were all fantastic," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said. "They're going to be good for a long time. They've got some great, great young arms. They're going to be a formidable opponent for a lot of years to come."
Bruce, the 23-year-old right fielder with 25 homers this season, was excited about the prospects of nearly everyone returning for another run at the playoffs.
"Obviously, I'm not happy with the loss in the series. But there are some positives to come from this," Bruce said. "You have to have a short memory in this game. I'm not saying we don't care that we lost at all. I am saying we need to reflect on this and that this is where we expect to be every year -- at least."