If you think the Reds are alone in making no off-season player acquisitions of any substance, think again.

This has been a very slow hot-stove-league season around the baseball world. In particular, the so-called prizes of this year’s free agent class are all still looking for new teams. The top 10 free agents on the list of veteran baseball writer Jon Heyman are all still unemployed as the calendar year is but a few days from its conclusion.

It’s not only the cream of the crop. As of this writing on Christmas Eve, 177 major league baseball free agents remain unsigned, according to the MLB Free Agent Tracker at MLBTradeRumors.com. If this number of players were to be equally distributed among all 30 teams, it would be 5.9 free agent signings per team.

Clearly that is not going to happen. But what we’re seeing is an obvious effort by teams across the sport to curtail spending. The top 10 players on Heyman’s list aren’t going to receive anywhere near the figures he projected in November. And, there will be a trickle-down effect. All of this year’s free agents are coming to grips with the fact that their paydays won’t be nearly what they were hoping.

Players that we as Reds fans believed would be long gone or out of the team’s price range may come into play at some point. Much of the Redleg Nation audience, including this particular author, has advocated for the addition of at least one starting pitcher with a successful track record. Thirty-two players labeled as starting pitchers are still available, according to the MLBTradeRumors.com free agent tracker.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are still out of reach financially. Other names still available include Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Tyson Ross. There are many, many other names out there, but at first glance, only the three names listed have the credentials in their recent past that would lead one to expect non-Arroyo or non-Bonilla numbers.

Look closely at the listing of available relief pitchers. Bringing in Trevor Rosenthal would be similar to last year’s signing of Drew Storen – a relief pitcher with a history of success before more recent struggles. How about lefthander Tony Watson? Or another former Pirate, Jared Hughes? (Note: After this piece was written on Dec. 24, the Reds did in fact sign Hughes to a two-year contract on Dec. 26.) Addison Reed? None of them is projected as a closer. Sign those four, add them to Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta, and you have one heck of a bullpen, top to bottom.

At the end of the 2017 season, we would never have imagined such scenarios. But on the cusp of 2018, they exist, and possibly at prices that would make sense from the Reds front office standpoint. Instead of impeding a rebuild, a scenario like this would help because:

  • It was clear that last year’s Reds could have competed if they had even decent pitching;
  • It would force young relievers to perform at a very high level in the minors to earn a promotion to the big leagues, instead of getting a promotion because they are the promotee-du-jour;
  • It may not require Dick Williams to go beyond his spending guidelines;
  • It would give the team a chance to experience winning and possible contention a year before the now-stated objective of winning in 2019.

Will all of the above happen? Almost certainly not. But the free-agent market has unexpectedly developed in a way which will likely allow the Reds to compete for some names with value.