The Cincinnati Reds have come to a crossroads. As with any business, there comes a time when the high-paid suits need to make some difficult, important decisions to better the organization. For the Reds, that time has come. Jeremy wrote about the Reds trade assets yesterday. Today, we look at some potential organizational plans for the next few years.
The Reds essentially have three major options. Each of these options has some variation, but the variation is quite small and depends in part on development from minor league players. Before I present those options, I want to emphasize that this post could easily be 3500 words long. I could write 1000+ words on each of these options, but I felt it was better to lay them out succinctly in one post for discussion sake. I’m sure some details are missing, but these options are reasonable divisions for what the Reds might do. As I see it, the Reds way forward is one of the following.
Option #1 We Believe!
The Reds could stand pat and not make any major changes to their roster. They would try to scratch their way into a wild card spot and hope that Johnny Cueto can propel them past the wild card game. At season’s end, Cueto would leave, and the Reds would get a compensation pick for him and maybe a pick for Mike Leake, depending on how things play out. The front office could then upgrade the bench and hope that Jesse Winker returns to form and readies himself for leftfield. They could also trade Frazier, Bruce, and possibly Phillips in the offseason if they decide to rebuild.
The Reds certainly have talent on the roster. With Jason Marquis out of the rotation and Kevin Gregg off the team, they have already improved themselves since the beginning of the season. The young guys have good stuff and could conceivably pitch well enough for the Reds to win a lot of games. Jay Bruce has turned around his season and appears to be improving in many ways (career high BB%, K% is down). Todd Frazier has played like a top ten player in baseball, and Billy Hamilton has to hit better than this? Right?
A wild card spot isn’t that far away. The Reds nine game losing coincided with a rare Joey Votto slump, a Brandon Phillips injury, and a pitching staff meltdown. Maybe that stretch was just a blip on the radar.
The Reds needed everything to go right to contend this year, and the injuries to Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco doomed the Reds to a mediocre or worse season. The Reds have zero depth and seem reluctant to bring up hot hitting alternatives in AAA (Ivan De Jesus, Steve Selsky, Eugenio Suarez). They have already dug themselves too big a hole and need to go 63-50 the rest of the way just to win 85 games.
Even if they made a run, they aren’t equipped to succeed in the playoffs. Unless they trade assets and get younger, they will eventually become the Philadelphia Phillies, a team whose valuable assets have all gotten old and undesirable.
Option #2 Keep the Core
The Reds could trade their top assets whose contracts are close to expiring. These players include Cueto, Leake, and Chapman. The players they bring back will make them younger and add depth to the organization. They may also get several top 100 prospects out of that group. The Reds could also explore trading Brandon Phillips or Zack Cozart in the right deal as Eugenio Suarez has heated up in May and looks ready to play every day whenever a middle infield spot opens.
The core of Bruce, Frazier, Votto, and Mesoraco is too good to completely give up on, but they need young talent around them to win again. Winker, Suarez, Blandino, and whoever the Reds get from trading three or four high-profile pieces will add the talent and depth to contend in at least 2017, likely Frazier’s last year with the Reds. Bruce and Mesoraco are still in their 20s. and Frazier should remain effective through the rest of his Reds playing days.
The rotation could be excellent in a couple years. Bailey will likely be fully recovered from surgery. Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen won’t have any pitch limits and Robert Stephenson, who has struck out 21 batters in his last two games, will be throwing mid to high 90s fastballs in the major leagues. The next wave of Reds starters will enter their primes, and the Reds could win again soon.
The Reds do not have the talent or assets to compete in the next few years. Billy Hamilton isn’t the offensive asset we had hoped for. We have no idea what to expect from Mesoraco or Bailey going forward. The Reds do not have much position player talent excelling in the minors and outside of Jesse Winker reaching his potential, they have little to no star talent.
The pieces the Reds would get from Cueto, Leake, and Chapman will likely have a couple years of development left; Thus, the current core will be aged or moving on to other teams by the time the Reds would compete again. The Reds are better off making a run now or selling on this core of players and starting over.
Option #3 Fire Sale
The Reds could overhaul the core of their roster and start over. This option would likely mean trading Cueto, Leake, and Chapman but also trading Frazier at his peak value and Bruce. The Reds would also try hard to send Phillips to the highest bidder if he will waive his no trade rights. If anybody wants Marlon Byrd, the Reds would gladly send him away. The Reds need to receive enough quality assets to compete in 2018 or 2019.
The current core of players either doesn’t have enough talent around them to succeed, or they can’t be counted on because of injuries and aging. The Reds need to cut their losses and begin building the next winning team in Cincinnati. This rebuilding effort will take several years but will make the Reds competitive sooner than if they let their assets age and get little for them (Phillies).
As Jeremy noted, Frazier would likely bring back a big package. Cueto, Chapman, and Leake would also bring back quality. If Bruce continues to hit and show good plate discipline, the Reds may get something useful for him. He is young and likely has a few more years of quality production ahead. Winker, Suarez, Blandino, the young rotation, and the pieces from the trades are the building blocks for the Reds next World Series’ teams.
The Reds have enough talent right now to build around if they are careful. Prospects are unpredictable and giving away all that talent at once is too risky. The tales of Matt LaPorta and Justin Smoke are prime examples. The Reds core is solid and with some shrewd moves, they could again contend in the near future. They have already received some quality prospects for players they couldn‘t keep much longer. The Mat Latos trade yielded Disco, who has pitched well thus far. The Alfredo Simon trade brought back a first-round draft pick in righty Jonathon Crawford and a young shortstop playing well in AAA in Suarez. A few more of those moves could change the Reds fortunes quickly without giving up too much talent. Trading known commodities for prospects is risky.
Again, these are overviews meant to spark some discussion. Right now, I would probably vote for number two. I see too much talent to completely blow up the roster, but I think the Reds need to trade Cueto, Chapman, and Leake this month to get as much value as they can. The Reds have enough pitching talent in the system. If they infuse some quality bats through trades, they aren‘t that far off form contending again. As bad as the nine game losing streak was, the Reds have good pieces in place for a few more years.
But I ask you, Nation: Which option do you think is best?