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Renaissance Reds: Looking back at those who keyed Cincinnati’s success

As spring training gets going and another prominent Red moves on, we thought there was no time like the present to remember some of the players who were instrumental in ending years of frustration and bringing postseason baseball to Great American Ball Park for the first time.

These are the “Renaissance Reds.”

They were no Big Red Machine nor even a wire-to-wire act, but these gents are deserving of recognition nonetheless.

Brandon Phillips

After falling out of favor with Cleveland, the former highly regarded prospect made the most of his second chance with the Reds, winning four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and making three All-Star teams.

He became the first second baseman in National League history with 30 homers and 30 steals in one season and was one of the team’s most active off-field ambassadors via a vibrant social media presence.

Phillips was traded to Atlanta on Sunday for a pair of minor league relievers

Johnny Cueto

The right-hander from the Dominican Republic gave a hint at his ability when he struck out 10 in his MLB debut in 2008, but he did not round into a true ace until 2012 when he went 19-9 for the division champion Reds.

Two years later, “Johnny Beisbol” became the Reds’ first 20-game winner since Danny Jackson in 1988.

A 92-game winner in a Reds uniform, he was traded to the Royals in July 2015 for three left-handed pitching prospects, including Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed.

Scott Rolen

The Reds raised eyebrows at the deadline in 2009 when they acquired the 34-year-old Indiana native from the Blue Jays, but they envisioned him bringing some needed leadership to the clubhouse and stabilizing third base.

The move paid off a year later when he hit .285 with 20 homers and 83 RBIs as the Reds toppled the Cardinals to win the NL Central.

He was an All-Star in ’10 and ’11, but injuries plagued him in his last season and a half in Cincinnati. 

Aroldis Chapman

A major signing out of Cuba, the left-hander electrified fans and often devastated opposing hitters with a triple-digit fastball and knee-buckling slider.

“The Cuban Missile” made his debut in 2010 and ended up being the closer two years later when the Reds won the division again.

In the midst of an investigation of a domestic violence incident that ultimately cost him a month of last season, Chapman was traded to the Yankees for four players after the 2015 season and won the World Series with the Cubs. 

Jay Bruce

The team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2005 reached base all five times he came up during his debut in May of 2008 and smashed a game-winning home run on his fourth day in The Show.

The right fielder hit the home run that clinched the division championship at Great American Ball Park in 2010 and made three All-Star appearances for the Reds before being traded to the Mets last summer.

A streaky hitter and strong right fielder, Bruce hit 233 homers in nine seasons with the Reds. 

Mike Leake

A first-round pick in 2009 out of Arizona State, Leake surprisingly made the starting rotation in 2010 without having pitched in the minors.

He was a reliable member of the rotation for most of six seasons, going 62-47 while relying more on moxie than pure stuff.

Leake was traded to the Giants in mid-2015 in a deal that brought back Adam Duvall (an All-Star last season) and pitching prospect Keury Mella. 

Todd Frazier

The Reds drafted the Little League World Series hero out of Rutgers in the first round in 2007, and he came up four years later when Rolen was ailing.

A personable and powerful player, Frazier held down third base for four seasons and made two All-Star teams (2014-15).

He provided the biggest thrill of an otherwise lost 2015 season when he won the home run derby at GABP then was traded in the offseason to the White Sox.

A three-way deal also including the Dodgers netted the Reds three players, including talented utility man Jose Peraza and outfielder Scott Schebler. They are both projected to be in the starting lineup this season. 

Of course, two prominent members of the most-recent postseason teams are still with the organization.

While first baseman Joey Votto looks to put together another MVP-type season, pitcher Homer Bailey is on the shelf to start the season after another elbow surgery.

Bronson Arroyo could give them a third “renaissance Red” if he makes the club out of spring training after signing a minor-league deal. 

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