The last two seasons have left plenty of Reds fan disappointed and exasperated.

Facing the reality of financial constraint and not liking the status-quo feel of roster conservatism, many instead are calling for Walt Jocketty to blow up the team.

But what would such a Big Bang theory mean, exactly, and is it the right move?

For some fans, it’s the equivalent of opening up a window, sticking their head out and shouting, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to watch all those strikeouts and base running mistakes any more.” Channel Howard Beale, feel better and figure out the details later.

Others see the Reds as having now missed the opportunity to win with this core group of players. They’re ready to trade the headliners for prospects and start rebuilding.

A final segment of Cincinnati fans says, “If the Reds think all they need to do is get healthy, they’re mistaken.” This group believes their perspective is more nuanced than howling out the window or pushing the detonator. But in fact, that point of view is stuffed full of straw.

No one, not even Walt Jocketty, believes that all the Reds need to do is get healthy. No one. The Cincinnati Reds need a new left fielder, at a minimum. Everyone gets that. There is certainly reasonable disagreement about what the Reds can and should give up to acquire one. But those whose argument is that the front office is simply waiting for distal quads and flexor masses to heal are as full of straw as Ray Bolger.

But let’s get back to the notion – a drastic one – of blowing up the team.

First, trading a starting pitcher or Aroldis Chapman for a new left fielder isn’t radical. That isn’t blowing up the team. In fact, some variation of that is Walt Jocketty’s most likely offseason move. There are certainly degrees here. Trading Aroldis Chapman and Johnny Cueto is a bigger step than trading Mike Leake. But if the goal is to acquire 2015 hitting, that’s not a Big Bang detonation. It’s just trading major league pitching for major league hitting.

Second, trading the Reds’ best players for prospects – straight rebuilding – is impractical and not guaranteed to work. Franchises that sell off their premier players for prospects fail more often than they succeed. And in the few examples where rebuilding worked the process took several years. Bob Castellini isn’t going to concede the 2015 season. It’s not in his DNA and it’s not going to happen in the same season he’s hosting the All-Star game.

Trading a star player for a handful of prospects is no sure pathway to the postseason. The Reds have experienced that first hand on the receiving end with Mat Latos. Ask the Padres how they feel about the haul of top young players they received for their stud RHP. In July, Mike Maffie wrote a 4,000-word post detailing the hit-and-miss outcome of trading for prospects.

The Reds need hitting. But they can’t become a better hitting team in 2015 by trading Jay Bruce or Joey Votto. It’s understandable to be frustrated with the two left-handed sluggers’ 2014 seasons. But it’s a huge leap to conclude the Reds should trade either one of them. Successful teams don’t act impulsively in reaction to fan emotions.

A close and realistic look shows the Reds don’t have many encouraging options for trading position players. “Let’s trade our bad players for their good ones” rarely works in fantasy baseball. Try it with Theo Epstein or Brian Cashman.

Joey Votto can’t be moved this offseason for two reasons. Votto didn’t get an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s healthy and he won’t have a chance to do that in time to pull off any blockbuster deal. And even if he could it’s doubtful the Reds could find a trading partner willing to take on the first-baseman’s massive contract.

Face-saving protestations notwithstanding, the Reds tried to trade Brandon Phillips last offseason and couldn’t. With BP a year older and a longer record of injuries and declining performance, Dat contract is even more upside down now. Phillips has also acquired 10/5 veteran rights, which means he can block a trade.

Even if the Reds were simply looking to unload those contracts, it’s unlikely either Votto or DatDude could be shipped off as a salary dump now.

The player who generated the most frustration this summer was Jay Bruce. If you believe the 2014 Bruce is the one who will suit up for the Reds going forward AND if you can find a trading partner who values the 2015 Bruce, at age 28, as the 2012 and 2013 Silver Slugger winner, you might find an opportunity to win a hitting-for-hitting exchange. More likely though, if the Reds shop Bruce, they’d be selling low.

Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier could be traded, but the Reds don’t have obvious in-house replacements that would be improvements, taking defense into account. The league markets for shortstops and third basemen with bats are skimpy. Because of his poor performance at the plate, Cozart wouldn’t bring much in return. It’s hard to think of a third baseman the Reds could realistically acquire to replace Frazier who wouldn’t be a downgrade.

Devin Mesoraco has become the most valuable position player on the team. Trading him is a non-starter. If “untouchable” describes any player on the roster it would be Hot Mes, especially since the Reds would be looking for hitting in return.

Billy Hamilton is simultaneously too amazing and too awful to trade right now. Hamilton’s defense obviously provides substantial value, but his complete collapse at the plate after the All-Star break limits his return. The other team would have to believe his bat ends up somewhere between the extremes of his 2014 season. The SB don’t provide much value given the accompanying CS. On the other hand, he did start to walk more at the end of the season. He could easily improve. And he’s cheap, with two more pre-arbitration years.

That leaves the pitchers. We’ll tackle their value later.

Like shouting out the window, the Big Bang theory for the Reds offseason may feel good in the moment, but it’s hard to see much in the way of real, reliable dividends. It’s worth remembering that Howard Beale was eventually killed because of lousy ratings.

Getting the Offseason Right – Next: The relative value of hitting vs. pitching

71 Responses

  1. greenmtred

    Steve: Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Not a quibble, really, but all teams but one fail every year in their off-season modifications. Depending, of course, on how one defines success. I, for one, am firmly undecided concerning the Reds’ best course of action. I haven’t thought, for years, that the situation was as rosy as some have thought, nor do I find it to be as dire now as others seem to think.

  2. tct

    I think one of the biggest questions the management needs to make is how good is their starting pitching really? Are they over valuing it? Is the rest of the league over rating, or under rating, the reds starters? There are some numbers that suggest the reds starters were below
    average as a unit, but got above average results playing in front of an elite defense. Reds starters ranked 23rd in FIP based WAR (mainly based on strikeout, walk, and homer rates) this year. But they ranked second in RA/9 based WAR( based on total number of runs allowed).

    That’s a huge difference between the two and suggests that the defense made the starters look much better than they were. The reds ranked first in the NL, 3rd overall, in defensive WAR according to fangraphs. They were first in all of baseball in defensive runs saved(DRS). I think we can all agree that the reds defense helped the pitching staff, but the question is to what extent? The answer to that question should have an impact on what the reds do going forward. If they can get above average results from average pitchers, it wouldn’t make much sense to sign their starters to expensive, long term extensions. It would also give them a chance to sell high on pitchers who maybe aren’t as good as their results would indicate.

    • Michael Smith

      Excellent point. I think we can all agree that FIP is way off on Cueto. For the rest of the staff these are fair questions.

    • droomac

      Great point. I believe we overvalue the pitchers. In just a matter of a few years, this has become a pitching dominated game. Simply put, there are many very good pitchers in the game right now.

    • greenmtred

      Another possibility, discussed(argued, really) here before, is that the metrics used to evaluate pitchers don’t always accurately reflect a pitcher’s ability. When theories don’t work, their proponents speak of outliers, exceptions that prove the rule (whatever that is) and extraneous factors that pollute the results. Sometimes the theory is wrong or incomplete. Not saying that’s the case here, and I definitely agree that the Reds’ defense helped the pitchers. By the same token, however, the offense probably hurt them, and not just in the much-maligned category of wins: The pressure of pitching while knowing there likely will be no run support can’t be helpful to most pitchers not named Cueto.

  3. Grand Salami

    Steve, thanks for taking the time to break down both the trade value of this everyday players and the factions of fans along the off season spectrum of desperation!

    One more ‘obvious’ issue re the TBD left fielder: they will more than likely need a trade to acquire someone that meets their needs. You seem to imply that by ignoring the potential FA market and discussing trade but fans need to understand that this roster has the payroll nearly maxed out for the time being.

    There doesn’t seem like a reasonable position player trade candidate on the roster. Frazier is probably the best option but how moving him helps a poor hitting team hit better is beyond me. It seems they should test the waters on Coz. There may be a team that will tolerate his career numbers and value his defense. Re-signing Santiago and keeping Negron would be a tolerable 2014 band-aid if Coz actually works in a three way trade or loosens up a team with a glut of OF. He would obviously be only a part of any deal.

    The other things the Reds need to accomplish in their trade is to free up salary. One of their three starters does that. Chapman does that. But that is about all the candidates they have that make even a dent in 2015 payroll.

  4. WVRedlegs

    Good summation of where the Reds find themselves now. The trade options are limited with those you mention. Nice cinema references from Network to The Wizard of Oz. Who is the man behind the curtain for the Reds? Who is pulling the strings? Jocketty or Castellini? I hope Castellini doesn’t go all Jerry Jones on us and want to be GM too after the 2014 debacle. Bob, just wake Walt up a few times this winter from his slumber and hibernation, and let the baseball people do their jobs.
    If the front office plays their cards just right, there could still be a small window of opportunity to trade BP. I’d tell BP going into the off-season that he will be in a platoon situation with Negron at 2B next year and that he might not get more than 100 starts at 2B. You know BP’s pride would kick in, and he just might waive that 10/5 no-trade right, if it was to a contender. Or maybe in with a larger deal with one of the Reds starters.
    However, if Jocketty fumbles and stumbles his way through another off-season, his ratings (fan attendance) will fall and he may meet the same fate as Howard Beale. New two-year contract be darned.
    The Reds are at a 3-way fork in the road and which direction will they go? Will they take the Big Bang Avenue, the We Only Need to Get Everybody Healthy and Stay the Course Road, or the Lets Make a Deal Highway?

  5. Dale Pearl

    I look at this from an enjoyment perspective, at least that is the way I have started to approach it. It isn’t fun watching this team right now. If the Reds are assuming that all of their injured players come back 100% then I would guess the ownership has moved to Denver and smokin that legal green stuff out there. Latos, Bailey, Marshall, Votto, Bruce. What are the odds that all 5 of those guys come back 100% when so often we see a player permanently diminished from a major injury. I put the odds squarely at about 20% (assuming each has a 50/50 chance of a full recovery)

    I don’t know what the answer is but if the same group of players take the field next year plus a new outfielder I will be inclined to just read the box scores and wait for magic to strike as I simply don’t want to watch the current lineup any further. They are not a fun mixture sorry to say.

  6. preacherj

    This team already looks blown up to me. While I don’t think the solution is to just get everyone healthy and hope a legitimate LF option comes available, it’s the only viable course of action I see. We can’t get decent value for any position player at this point. Packaging a pitching package for a corner outfielder with ‘splash value’ while exchanging some other pieces and parts looks like the only realistic option. We can shave some salary here and there, hopefully reduce the gas spills from the pen, and tweak some things, but given our lack of minor league depth and the amount of payroll currently allocated, I don’t see much else likely.

  7. John Walsh

    What about Negron? Could he play LF?

    In 53 games, he’s slashing .270/.333/.473 with 126 wRC+ and projects to 18 HRs per year. Then again, his .331 BABIP probably speaks to the above question. It’d be nice to have another Todd Frazier-esque “Super Sub” to keep guys fresh.

    • Kyle Farmer

      I was beating this drum during the season. I think he’s earned a chance. I’d also get Mes out to AZ early and hit him about a million balls in LF.

      • lwblogger2

        I’m not sure that giving Mes time in LF would be enough rest for his legs when he wasn’t catching. That said, it has been enough for some other catchers in the past. I have no doubt he’d play LF just fine. A nice thing is that as a catcher, he reports early for spring training anyway so maybe you hit him some flies and see what happens.

    • Captain Hook

      I like Negron but you are being fooled by a small sample size. Negron was drafted in 2007 and only hit double-digit HRs in a season once (11, in 2010).

    • lwblogger2

      I really like Negron but there is no way, over 500 PA, that he will show to be a better hitter than Ludwick. I love what he did for the Reds this year. I like his approach. I love his makeup. The thing is though, he’s not a prospect and has a rather uninspiring MiLB track-record. He projects as a nice utility guy and that’s the role he should fill for the 2015 Reds. Of course there’s certainly a tiny, very tiny, chance that I’m wrong but it’s not a gamble I’d made at SS or LF if I was hoping to contend for the NL Central in 2015.

  8. daytonnati

    The fact remains that five position players for the Reds have been recent All-Stars. Two pitchers have. I’d would give those five position players one more year together, and try to supplement them with a left-field bat in exchange for one of the All-Star pitchers. I don’t think the Giants were blown up in 2011 or 2013?

    • lwblogger2

      That’s true about the Giants. They had horrible injuries last year too. You make a very good point.

      • WVRedlegs

        But keep in mind, the Giants didn’t sit on their hands at the trade deadline either. They went out and got a non-home grown player named Hunter Pence, who is now considered the heart and soul of the team. Something the Reds front office should take note.

      • lwblogger2

        Correct. Then they extended him, which I thought was kinda crazy but it’s worked out so far; at least in the short term.

  9. Jake

    If only we could bundle Ondrusek and Hoover and get Giancarlo Stanton

    Honestly fundamentally this team, apart from Votto, is awful at the plate. I’ve seen it far too many times this year. Guys flailing away at breaking pitches, stuff in the opposite batters box, etc. Jay especially need to have someone throw him off speed stuff in batting practice. We need a LF bat but we may have to part with a pitcher. For no reason should Cueto be traded, he’s the ace of our pitching staff. I’d be willing to part with any of the other pitchers though, including Chapman

    • manuel

      Yes, for no reason should Cueto be traded-

      • tct

        Why? The best organizations, in sports and business, buy low and sell high. Just because he was the ace this year is not a reason to not trade him. He missed almost all of last year, and Latos and Bailey were the aces. Think of what the reds could have gotten for Latos last off season compared to what he is worth now. His trade value has plummeted.

        When it comes to Cueto, all that matters now is his value going forward. If the reds want to keep him after 2015 they are going to have to pay him 20+ million per year for at least five years, maybe more. He will be thirty years old in 2016. Long term contracts for pitchers are always risky, but a 100+ million dollar contract for a short, pudgy pitcher in his thirties who has missed significant time because of injuries in two of the last.four years is a bad gamble. Cueto could bring back some nice talent that will be in Cincinnati for a while. If they keep him, they will only get one year of good value and then they will either have to pay him big money or let him walk.

  10. WVRedlegs

    If they blow this baby up, can air-power alone do the trick? Or will ground troops be needed to wrestle away the front office from the incompetent Walt Jocketty?

  11. Reaganspad

    You don’t trade Jay Bruce

    You extend him now

    For the Reds who have to overpay to even have a chance at a free agent, you have to take care to keep the ones you want. And a healthy Jay Bruce needs to be a Red

    In fact, if there is another Jay Bruce type in the majors, you trade for and start him in LF

    • droomac

      Extending Bruce now is an interesting idea. I would have liked it had the Reds approached Cueto about an extension last offseason (and said as much) instead of Bailey. If he was amenable to it, I would not object to an in-season extension of Bruce next year. He will still have a year left on his contract, so he would probably not reject the notion out of hand. However, the obvious caveat is that he has to take a “team friendly” deal.

      • reaganspad

        Thanks DROOMAC,

        I was big on extending Cueto last year. Cincy is just not going to bring in big time free agents. We have to sign our own. And when we can get a bargain on a great player like Cueto or Bruce, we have to take advantage of that.

        We didn’t last year with Cueto and now we are looking at 4 pitchers in their walk years in Cueto, Simon, Latos and Leake who will all take major dollars to resign.

        Bruce will be fine next year. I saw him trending to a 40 HR year this year, but knees are important in this game.

        However, Jay remains young with that great swing and made some progress this year on understanding that there are 3 outfield regions that he can hit to

    • Dale Pearl

      With that logic let’s also extend Latos. We could also probably convince Ludwick to extend on a 3 year deal as well. Why not extend CoZart? Surely he will bat better in 2015 as well.

      • lwblogger2

        Come on Dale… There is no comparison when it comes to age or past performance between Bruce/Latos vs Ludwick/Cozart.

      • JRS1972

        Yes, but why settle for insight when thoughtles hyperbole would do so much better?

        The simple truth is that this team is in exactly the same position it was last year wrt the need of a solid hitting LF. But now add to that a bullpen that mostly imploded and you have where they need to focus. If I am the Reds I want to pry a hitting OF with 1-2 years on his contract away from a non contender rather than signing another marginal FA who’s contract will be a roadblock for one of our up and coming prospects in a year or two. Other than that and tweakign the bullpen, the

        Reds best chance of making another post season run is with the current roster.

      • reaganspad

        Dale, I was never a fan of the Ludwick deal. I do like Cozart but there is no need to extend him.

        I would extend Latos in a minute.

        As for “thoughtles hyperbole” JRS, that is exactly what I think trade Jay Bruce comments are.

        Jay Bruce is exactly the type of player that I want to add to this team. Maybe we can locate teams whose “thoughtles hyperbole” drives young star talent off of their team and make them available for us to take a flier on.

        You know, like Wayne Krivsky used to do with the Brandon Phillips and Josh Hamilton’s of the world. Because the Reds cannot sign that kind of player as a free agent.

        Why would Nelson Cruz sign a contract to play in Cincinnati? Who was the last impact free agent we have signed? Hint, it was a reliever and we had to overpay for him

      • Dale Pearl

        It is reasonable to assume that all our existing stars have already had their best seasons save for Mesoraco and Hamilton. The rest of the guys have already peaked. Bruce isn’t getting any younger so why sign him when he hasn’t even proven himself in his youth.

      • lwblogger2

        Hasn’t proven himself? He’s had one crap year. Wow.

    • tct

      I am all for buying low, selling high, but I don’t really see the point in extending Bruce. They have already got him for the next two years at twelve million per, and a team option for 13 mil in 2017. So they have got him for three years 37 mil, and those are his age 28-30 years. Any extension would start at age 31. Jay is one of my personal favorites, but after the year he had I don’t see the point in buying up his early to mid thirties. Just seems like a pointless gamble, especially considering that outfield is the one spot, besides starting pitching, that the reds actually have some depth in their farm.

      I like the philosophy behind it, as the reds buy high way too much, but it just doesn’t make sense with regards to Bruce.

      • lwblogger2

        Bruce is my favorite Red, which I’m sure comes as no shock to anyone who reads my post. I tend to agree with you here though.

      • greenmtred

        I don’t know about extending Bruce, since the unpredictable future is what determines the wisdom of it. But he has certainly proven himself–a silver slugger who probably should have a few gold gloves. He has had one bad year, and wasn’t the second coming of Henry Aaron, but his track record suggests that, long-term, he’s not the problem.

      • lwblogger2

        That’s why I tend to believe he’ll be fine in 2015. I’m not certain of course, because he’s gotten into some awful habits that may be hard to break… And yes, I’ve argued several times that Bruce is a 2 time All-Star and wasn’t his team’s “gotta have somebody”, he’s won 2 Silver-Sluggers, and has finished in the Top-10 of NL MVP voting twice. He’s done something right in his career and honestly, I don’t understand the haters. What I agree with is that as he’s already under control for 3 years, I don’t see why you’d try to extend him.

  12. VaRedsFan

    For all of the stupid 2-year “take a chance” contracts that Walt spills forth, it’s a shame he didn’t throw one to Nelson Cruz last off season. I beat on that drum several times last winter.

    I would vote for a a mini big-bang. Blow up, purge, everyone in the bullpen except Jumbo and Chapman. Look at this year’s playoff teams. The Orioles, Giants, Nats all have great bullpens, and they are still playing. The Tigers and our Reds…not so much. A strong bullpen is a key ingredient to winning.

    • lwblogger2

      I would have liked to have seen Cruz here too. I think one of the objections was his PED usage. I think the same thing will probably make Melky Cabrera an unlikely option for LF too. Fans in Baltimore had some concerns about signing Cruz but once he started hitting them out of the yard, they came around pretty quickly. He’s turned out to be an excellent signing for them.

  13. droomac

    As usual, Steve has raised many solid points. However, I believe there is a “middle way” that the Reds should take here. Given the tendency of teams to overpay for sexy offseason acquisitions, I think the Reds could get pieces that help the team in both ’15 and beyond. Cueto and Chapman would, of course, be among the most attractive of commodities for teams trying to create buzz (and increase ticket sales) in the offseason.

    Look at the Rays. I think it is completely reasonable to say that they are actually better off for 2015 after trading Price to Detroit. They added Smyly, who gave them a 3.07 FIP, and he looks to be a solid, young, cost-controlled addition to their rotation. Of course, they also got the prospects to boot. Perhaps more importantly, they saved a boatload of money off of next year’s payroll that they could now turn into some FA additions. Now, they probably won’t do so, but they have added much flexibility by trading one year of Price.

    This is, of course, why the Reds should most certainly trade Cueto (and Chapman).

  14. WVRedlegs

    Trading Cueto is #1 on the mistake list. Do not do it. Trade Latos, Simon, or Leake in that order of necessity. Trade Cueto and the Reds find themselves back in 2001-2007 years. Those were not fun years. The Reds need to do a very serious evaluation of where all the minor league pitchers are and decide which ones are the elite ones, about 4-5, and then possibly deal from a pool of the others. They drafted a few nice pitchers this year, and have the #11 overall pick that could be used on a stud college pitcher that could rise quickly. There are more on the way up the ladder.

    • ToddAlmighty

      Don’t trade Cueto and you get one year of him, then he turns down his qualifying offer and goes and signs with San Diego for 5yr/$125m… and rather the team having the King’s Ransom they could get in trade for Cueto, they get a single 2016 first round pick, which may or may not be helpful to the team in 2020.

    • tct

      What is the connection between trading Cueto and going back to being a losing team? I don’t get it. They were a losing team this year with Cueto having a monster year. He missed most of last year and they won 90 games. They don’t need Cueto to win, and he’s not going to be their ace forever. The reds need more talent in the organization and Cueto can bring that. Simon won’t bring much at all, Latos doesn’t have half of the trade value that he did last year, and guys like Leake go on the free agent market all the time and sign for around 3 years/30 million. One year of Leake doesn’t have a whole lot of trade value.

      To me, the reds only have two reasonable choices with regards to Cueto. Trade him this off season or extend him. He will be thirty in 2016, so an extension will mean paying him at least twenty millions per, probably more, for five or six years in his thirties. A bad gamble in my opinion. Keeping him for one year and only getting a draft pick would be dumb. Keeping him with the thought of trading him at the deadline if you fall out of the race is not a good move either, because he loses so much value. Two months of Cueto is not nearly as valuable as a whole year, and unlike a team trading for him in the off season, a team who got him in July couldn’t extend a qualifying offer and get a draft pick if he left. I think the best option is to trade him, as long as you get fair value. Saying “don’t trade Cueto no matter what is offered” doesn’t make sense.

      • droomac

        Bingo. . . . Of the two reasonable choices, there is no way they should extend Cueto at this point. For a relatively small-market team, the payroll is already much too constrained in the coming years. Flexibility is the name of the game for a team like the Reds. So, in my opinion, the only sensible thing to do at this point is to trade Cueto.

      • WVRedlegs

        The Reds really don’t need a haul of prospects you think Cueto would bring. They need a LF and a ML ready SS or 2B to push Cozart and BP. That can be bought with Latos, or Simon, or Leake, or Chapman or any combination of them and some of the pitching prospects. A bullpen arm or two can be had from free agency or trade.
        What Reds pitcher was the last to put up two 19 win seasons within a 3 season span? How far do you have to go back to find that one? Keep Cueto. Who leads this staff if you trade Cueto? Latos cannot even hold Cueto’s jock strap. Latos is highly overrated and in major decline. Get rid of him now before his value really tanks.

      • tct

        I never said trade him for prospects. I don’t want the reds to concede 2015, so if a big prospect is in the deal, I would want one that I think could contribute in 2015. They could also get young major leaguers with many team controlled years left. Now, the really good young players who are already producing in the big leagues are going to be too expensive to get with one year of Cueto, but you could get an elite prospect who is ready to contribute as well as a solid major leaguer or two, like a decent number five starter or a good piece for the bullpen. It shouldn’t be prospects who are years away.

        I think your comments on Latos are bizarre. You say that he can get the reds a bunch of hitting talent, then turn around and say how horrible he is: that he is overrated and in decline. Well, why would other teams give up lots of talent for him? While I wouldn’t use the word decline, I would say that Latos has lost a lot of trade value since last year. And why is that? At this time last year, Latos was coming off his fourth straight really good year with no injury trouble to speak of. He was still in his mid twenties and had just as much value, if not more, than Cueto who couldn’t stay healthy. So what happened? Well he had multiple injuries and when he finally came back he had lost some velocity. Do you not understand the exact same thing happens to pitchers all the time, and could just as easily happen to Cueto? That’s why you invest in pitching and not in individual pitchers. The reds shouldn’t be giving 100 million dollar contracts to any pitcher, especially not one who will be in his thirties for the entire deal.

      • greenmtred

        I’m doubtful that the leftfielder we’re all talking about–a seriously good-hitting leftfielder–can be had for one of the pitchers you name. I’m not even sure that leftfielder exists. Never mind the ML-ready middle infielders. The reason we want them is to improve the offense, and available and good-hitting middle infielders don’t exist either.

      • reaganspad

        I think your post TCT was the only one that mentioned:

        “Saying “don’t trade Cueto no matter what is offered” doesn’t make sense.”

        Obviously if you get the right value in return, you trade anyone.

        I do agree that he is the last pitcher that should be traded. I have been a fan of trading leake for 2 years and if Chapman doesn’t start, he really is the best trade trinket.

        Of course, I would start Chapman….

        I hate leaving the Ferrari in the garage, up on blocks only to back it down to the end of the driveway twice a week

  15. Davis Stuns Goliath

    I have long believed that starting pitchers are overvalued and overpaid, and that anyone who can help you win every game is worth inherently more than someone who can only help you every win every fifth game.

    Johnny Cueto’s 2014 rattled my belief system to its core. If I had MVP and Cy Young votes, I’d vote Kershaw for Cy Young but Cueto for MVP. I don’t know how any everyday player could have possibly had a more significant impact on an otherwise listless, lifeless team. Forget individual stats — the team was what, 10 games over in games he started and 20 under whenever someone else took the mound? That’s incredible.

    I know his value on the open market has never been higher, but the same can be said about his value to the franchise. I’d let Chapman go in a heartbeat if it meant keeping Cueto.

  16. nicolecushing

    Yeah, you’re not going to get a lot if you trade Bruce. But you’ll get more for him at 28 than you will at 30. And I don’t see him ever having another All Star year. It’s not just the numbers, it’s the fact that — if I recall correctly — all teams have to do stop him is put on the shift. He had a lonnnggg time to adjust to the shift and couldn’t.

    He’s a beaten man and beaten men don’t last long in MLB. Nor should they. Cut him loose and put him to work as a cabana boy in the club seats. 😉

    • droomac

      On one hand I want to believe that Bruce will bounce back nicely in ’15. Maybe his knee was an issue all year and he will get back to slugging next year. However, he could well be one of those “peak early” guys. This, combined with the effectiveness of extreme shifts on him as well as his continued lack of adjustment to the breaking ball away make me a bit more bearish than I care to be on Bruce.

      • nicolecushing

        Maybe he’ll turn around. I was wrong to be so insulting toward him (the “broken man” and “cabana boy” comments were more judgmental than he deserves). And he’s had off-the-field issues (the death of his grandfather) to cope with, too.

        That said, I remain bearish on him, too, because of the effectiveness of the shift. It’s shut him down completely. At some point, he’ll have to find a way to overcome it. My hunch is he can’t.

  17. Tom Reed

    Like many fans, I would prefer the Reds keep Johnny Cueto. But the contract he’s going to look for in 2016 is beyond what they can afford. The Reds need to be reenergized with a left fielder and prospects. Trading Cueto is the way to go. And a winning team needs a dominant closer and Chapman likes that role. I would keep him there.

  18. Thegaffer

    Best hope for a trade, Latos to Boston for Betts and Nava. Reds can afford to keep Cueto and trade at deadline if we are out of it.

    • droomac

      I would love to get both Betts and Nava. However, I seriously doubt Latos will do the trick. Moving Cueto for those two would be a bit more appropriate, though I doubt the BoSox are looking to move Betts for any price.

  19. wvredlegs

    Yes, trade Latos now. His right elbow isn’t going to hold up. Relying on him and his elbow scares the bajeebers out of me. If he is on the Reds roster on Opening Day, he won’t make it to the All Star break. He is a Tommy John surgery waiting to happen. Then you lose him altogether. Get what you can this winter for Latos.

    • ohiojimw

      Other teams are certainly aware of all theses negatives too. So, unfortunately what they can get for him probably isn’t much.

      • tct

        Seriously, what Jim said. If we can see it, do you think other team’s scouts and executives who do this for a living can’t see it?

      • lwblogger2

        Which is why I say not to trade Latos. I think it’s better to see what you can get out of him this year in the rotation then to trade him for a very marginal return. If somehow he does stay healthy, he can give you 200 innings and a sub 3.50 ERA.

      • wvredlegs

        Any team during a trade will do their due diligence and review the medical reports before a trade is consumated.
        That is unless you want another Bowden/Majewski debacle.

  20. ohiojimw

    I agree that nobody is going to take Votto or BP except perhaps in the worst of salary dumps that would still have the Reds paying out a bundle and getting next to nothing in return as a face saver.

    It is probably selling low if they shop Bruce but if somebody else is so convinced they have the solution for what ails him and makes a good offer the Reds should listen closely. I see Hamilton as being in the same position as Bruce

    I think there is a case to be that they are in a position to sell high on Frazier if he is packaged with one of the pitchers. He is a strong supporting piece but not a central player on a truly strong team. Such a team might give very good value for him if they saw him as their finishing piece. He is coming to arb for the 1st time at an advanced age (28/29) which makes him a potential risk for a long term deal out beyond his arb years. He does however still have the three years of team control attached to him which give him value.

  21. ohiojimw

    Right up there with a LF, the Reds need a strong bat to back up Votto at 1B. I suspect keeping JV healthy enough to be something resembling either of his former selves is going to require that he sit at least a day every week and quite possibly at time two days a week. The solution is not the one they used this year of shuffling the deck among their back up catcher and opposite corner infielder (which equated to playing a back up middle IF at a power position).

    • pinson343

      I strongly agree with the need for a strong bat to back up Votto, even though I think in 2015 Votto will be at least as good as he was in 2013. There are two other needs to consider. Several of those 1 run losses could have been wins with a strong bat off the bench. Also, obviously, you need depth. Look at how well the Orioles have done without 3 of their best starting players. Because of the depth issue, it would be good if the first baseman could also play 3rd base or LF.

      With a major upgrade over Hannahan, the Reds bench would be a good one with that plus Pena, Negron, Heisey, and Schumaker (not crazy about Schumaker but we’re stuck with him for 2015, hopefully he has a better year after recovering from the shoulder injury).

      So there’s a LF bat, a strong first base bench bat, and the bullpen ….

  22. pinson343

    Steve, this series of articles has been outstanding, very well thought out. Eager to see what you have to say about the bullpen. Putting together a quality bullpen at a low cost is one of the toughest challenges a GM faces.

    This postseason has once again demonstrated how important a strong bullpen is. The Tigers had no chance with their bullpen (again). The Dodgers weak bullpen has hurt them against the Cardinals. The Giants postseason success (so far) is again largely due to their bullpen.

  23. eric3287

    Your main argument rests on the assumption Walt Jocketty knows the team needs to add talent. I disagree:
    “I expect to be busy and active in the offseason. I do not know how much we’ll alter this club. We’ll speak in depth about it. I nonetheless believe this is a very good club.”
    Color me skeptical but that doesn’t sound like a statement from a guy that is actually planning on adding anything to this team. It sounds like the words of someone who knows OTHER people want him to do something and is just paying lip service to it. Kind of like Bryan Price and his “commitment” to using Chapman differently to maximize his value. They say what you want to hear and then make excuses when they don’t follow through.

  24. cfd3000

    I’m not a Big Bang proponent but I do know the Reds need major help in left field and the bullpen. There isn’t much in the FA want ads so trading seems a necessity. I’d shop Chapman first, Cueto second, knowing that many will disagree. But sell high isn’t that complicated, really. Chapman is NOT a lights out closer. He could be, but he hasn’t been used effectively. Name two games where he came in before the ninth to get a key strikeout or two to shut down a rally. I can’t think of a single game, but I suspect a thorough search would turn up one example. And in traditional save opportunities his conversion rate is solid but not otherworldly. But he is perceived to be (and probably could be) all world. Sell high. And Cueto couldn’t be worth more than he is right now. With the trade or extend options at hand I agree with those who don’t want to buy out a pitcher’s 30’s. Sell high. In return I’m looking for a solid young bat for the outfield, a flame thrower or two for the bullpen, and a couple of AA starting prospects. That’s not Ondrusek for Stanton silly, but real world possible. Not easy, but possible. Go earn it Mr. Jocketty. I’m ready to be excited about 2015.

  25. al

    I think the original post did a good job of discussing the current Reds trade value, but didn’t really get to the main point of why someone would want to blow up the team, or what that would mean.

    First, you would want to blow up the team because you don’t think that this current core of players can win, even with a few additions.

    Second, if you are going to blow up the team, you can’t be thinking about also winning in 2015, you have to think about shedding salary to rebuild long-term. And that means that no one is untouchable even if you don’t have a good replacement for them.

    I don’t necessarily think that blowing up the team is the way to go, but if I did, this is what I would be thinking:

    1) Offer below-market, hometown-discount extension to Mesoraco and Frazier. If they don’t accept them, look to move them for multi-prospect packages.

    2) Trade Chapman.

    3) Dump Phillips. Last year we tried to trade him, now we try to get rid of as much of his salary as possible.

    4) Look into moving Latos and Cueto. If the packages you can get back aren’t worth a first-round pick, keep them and get the pick.

    The only players that you for sure keep are Votto, because you can’t move him without still paying him most of that money anyway, and anyone pre-arbitration. Anyone who has already hit arb, and is therefore making money, is part of the current core, and should be moved to get prospects and clear salary. That’s what blowing up the team is.

    • reaganspad

      there is no market to “dump Phillips” as he could not be traded last year and now he is 10 and 5

      • al

        The 10 and 5 is a good point if he wants to veto a trade. But if it’s to go to a better team, and he knows he’s not wanted, I don’t know that he would.

        My point is that we don’t know there isn’t a market to dump him. Last year we know that the Yankees wouldn’t trade Brett Gardner for him. Gardner is 30, put up a .749 OPS, a 4.0 WAR season, with 21 SB, and 50 XBH. Phillips is 33, put up a .678 OPS, a 1.7 WAR season, with 2 SB, and 33 XBH.

        Gardner was also making about half the money, so obviously the Yankees were smart to not trade him for Brandon Phillips.

        That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for trading Phillips for $8mil and a C+ prospect. That’s what dumping a player means.

  26. FSBDAN

    Who do you trade? Who do you not trade? The bottom line is you can’t make chicken salad from chicken poop. This is off topic, but the real issue that needs serious attention is the farm system. It seems to me that it has stagnated and produced very little the last 3 or 4 years. Is it inability to identify talent (scouts?) or inability to manufacture players who can play winning ball at an major league level? I suspect it’s both.