“I’m looking forward to embracing the opportunity to go to the Reds and have a chance to really compete and win a division, and hopefully come home after the season with a World Series ring.” — Sean Marshall, 12/23/2011

“World Series ring.”

I’ve read the hundreds of thoughtful posts written here the past few days debating the merits of sending Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes to the stupid Cubs for Sean Marshall.  Many of the arguments opposing the trade are persuasive.

Over the next few years, Wood might again become a valuable #4 or #5 starter.  Sappelt might have contributed to the Reds in LF this year.  Few relief pitchers are consistent from one year to the next.  Only one year of Marshall.  Solid points, all.  But I’ve found myself drawn to the other side.

Yes, Dave Sappelt may become a nice player and Travis Wood likely already is a nice player.  And it’s not that nice guys finish last.  In 2010, the Reds’ collection of nice players won the NL Central Division.

I loved 2010.  I’ll never forget witnessing Jay Bruce’s dramatic, division-clinching home run, the post-game elation, and catharsis.  I was there for the glorious, but far-too-brief playoff run.  I don’t discount how 2010 was vastly better than the years and decades that had come before.  But the team and fans have been there, done that, two years ago.

“World Series ring.”

It’s time for the Cincinnati Reds to take the next step, to move beyond being an above-average team with an abundance of nice players and promising prospects.  To win the World Series you need more than a 40-man roster of good/great players, you need a 25-man roster studded with elite players.

Mid-level payroll organizations like the Reds must assemble a roster of elite players through a combination of development and trading from depth.  Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Johnny Cueto are examples of the former.  The Latos and Marshall trades are the latter — they consolidated several promising-to-good players into a top-tier pitcher.

Without Mat Latos and Sean Marshall, the Reds certainly were capable of winning the NL Central.  But with those two pitchers, the Reds have a stronger chance to compete with teams like the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees.  Yes, crucial moves still need to be made, the players must stay healthy and perform.  But, compared to ten days ago, the Reds have two more players who are elite, difference-makers.

This is how I feel (with emphasis on emotion, note the lack of a single statistic in this post).  It’s a bit of a gamble, but I’m eager for the Reds to go for it.  Ultimately, I’m far less interested in having the best farm system than I am the best major league team.  That’s why three words, spoken by Sean Marshall, sold me on the trade.

“World Series ring.”