It was rough. It was painful. The day-to-day losing was, at times, soul crushing. From 2015-2018 the Cincinnati Reds lost a lot of baseball games. The losing began, not as rebuilding, but as a “reboot” or a “retool”, but definitely not a “rebuild”. And it seems like that was actually the plan. The team made trades with the near-term future in mind. Several of those trades that were made, however, didn’t work out for one reason or another.
That reboot quickly turned into a full-on rebuild. The team looked to look into the future rather than into the present. And it led to a whole heck of a lot of pain for the fan base who sat through it. But fast forward to today and we are starting to see some of that losing pay off. And perhaps the biggest part of that was on display on Friday night in San Francisco.
With all due respect to Dan Straily, had the Reds been trying to win – truly trying to win – then they would not likely have picked him up on waivers to begin the 2016 season. But that isn’t quite what the Reds were trying to do at the time. And they had room in their rotation for a guy like Straily. The move worked out as the right-hander pitched better than anyone could have expected him to in 2016 when he posted a 3.76 ERA over 191.1 innings for the Reds. After the season was over he was traded to the Miami Marlins in a move that was looking towards the future. Cincinnati acquired three players in return for Straily: Reliever Austin Brice, minor league outfielder Zeek White, and minor league pitcher Luis Castillo.
The losing. The looking forward rather than the trying to win in the moment. That led to Luis Castillo becoming a Cincinnati Red. And here we are nine starts into the 2019 season and Castillo is 56.1 innings into the year with a 1.76 ERA and looking like he might be the best pitcher on the planet. While it’s quite unlikely that he’ll continue at the current rate, it’s clear that he’s taken steps forward this season. His change up has gone from among the better pitches in baseball to the best pitch in baseball.
Finding an ace, a top of the rotation pitcher, a stopper, it’s not an easy task in Major League Baseball. For the Cincinnati Reds history, it’s been even tougher. They have been few and far between for the franchise. Johnny Cueto was the last one that they had. Prior to him you had to go back to Jose Rijo. Prior to that it was arguably Mario Soto for two seasons in the early 80’s. Right now it sure looks like the Reds are close to having someone they can call that guy.
It was seven months prior to acquiring Luis Castillo that some of the losing paid off. With the Reds having gone 64-98 in 2015 it led to Cincinnati having the #2 overall pick in the 2016 draft. They used that pick to select Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel. While the timeline to get him to Cincinnati wasn’t as quick as anyone wanted it to be for a whole variety of reasons, Senzel is in the Major Leagues now. And he’s already showing that he’s got a chance to be a difference maker for this team.
At least for the time being he’s playing well in center field. Whether he stays there after this season is unknown, but right now that’s where he’s at. And thus far the range has looked good. At the plate, he showing plenty. He’s working the count in nearly every single trip to the plate, showing power, and a good ability on the bases.
There were some real missteps along the way of the Cincinnati Reds rebuild. The losing killed a lot of fandom in Redleg Nation. But not every move turned out poorly. all of the losing wasn’t for nothing. And we are starting to finally see some of that pain make it to the field in a beneficial way for the Reds. More work has to be done, and hopefully more things from all of that losing start to help out and show up on the field. For now watching Luis Castillo every fifth day, and seeing Nick Senzel in center field and in the lineup instead of Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler is enough of a start.