Over at The Athletic, long-time Reds writer Mo Egger made the case this past weekend that the Reds need to be sellers at the trade deadline. His case hinges on this paragraph:
This is a chance for the Reds to be proactive, not necessarily in an effort to liquidate and sell off pieces for less than they’re worth, but to capitalize on having a cadre of players who can be flipped for assets that can further push a rebuild that’s yielding results.
I understand Egger’s point, but over the course of the Reds six-year long rebuild, no paragraph of writing about that process has frustrated me more. It’s a knee-jerk take rooted in the Reds’ scuffling at the plate and coupled with businessman’s perspective of baseball, not a fan’s.
No fan should ever use words like “liquidate” and “capitalize” or phrases like “flipped for assets” and “yielding results.” That Egger does shows that baseball owners have successfully poisoned the well of the sport’s discourse. We as fans now care more about payroll and future returns than the actual product on the field, which if you haven’t noticed of late, is pretty dang fun!
From Derek Dietrich’s home runs to his antics, Jesse Winker’s perpetual smile to Jose Iglesias’s on-field finesse, Yasiel Puig’s bat-licking to Joey Votto’s infield wind sprints, Amir Garrett’s strikeout roar to Luis Castillo’s strut, this team is immensely pleasurable to watch. These days, when I turn on a Reds game or check Reds Twitter, it doesn’t feel like a chore. Instead, I get to see a talented team hold their own against the luminaries of the National League all the while providing endless highlights and laughs.
More than anything, I take issue with the idea that the Reds opportunity to be “proactive” is contingent on selling. The Reds were proactive this winter, as Egger notes. They brought in Yasiel Puig, Tanner Roark, Derek Dietrich, and Jose Iglesias. They took gambles on Matt Kemp and Alex Wood. They finally saw their young core realized, and they made moves to bolster it. By being buyers this past offseason, the Reds created the character of this team. Why would you “liquidate” a Reds team that finally figured out how to be entertaining?
Egger writes that they didn’t go “all-in,” so why not go all-in now? The Reds were finally proactive this offseason, why take the reactive step of selling the team now after slower start than expected?
Also, who is Egger even recommending the Reds trade? He lists Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Amir Garrett, and Robert Stephenson as building blocks for the future so they’re out. The Reds wouldn’t dare trade Votto, plus his 10-5 rights and contract likely make a move impossible. Neither Puig nor Roark are big enough superstars to justify another team trading any prospect of value for a half-season rental, which, as last season proved, are diminishing in popularity for superstar-caliber players too.
That leaves who: Scooter Gennett, Derek Dietrich, and Raisel Iglesias? Maybe Tucker Barnhart?
Of those four, only Iglesias will draw any prospects of serious consideration in return. Dietrich’s resurgence may be the real deal but good luck convincing another team of that. And both Gennett and Barnhart were kicked around in rumors all winter, giving all indication that the Reds tried to deal them but found no takers. The truth of the matter is: The Reds selling at the deadline doesn’t make any sense because the Reds don’t really have anyone of value they’d be willing to sell.
But this trade deadline is a chance for the Reds to be proactive, just not for the reasons Egger thinks.
Instead of taking Egger’s advice and preparing to sell, the Reds should “further push a rebuild” by buying at the deadline. Selling does not capitalize on the Reds young players. Selling only shows that Bob Castellini cares more about his bottom line than bringing winning back to Cincinnati. Why not deal for a high-leverage reliever or a third ace to take the mantel after Castillo and Gray?
Egger should argue that the Reds need to be buyers right now. With David Bell’s bullpen usage through the roof and the dropoff in quality Reds relievers after Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and Garrett, why not sign Craig Kimbrel? No one else seems to be making him any offers.
To argue that the Reds need to sell boils baseball down to a binary: Either win the World Series or cut payroll. As a fan, that makes next to no sense to me. The Reds can compete this year. The Castellinis have the money to spend. Giving up on the former because you’re worried the later may not be true makes no sense on July 30, much less May 20.
I understand Egger’s argument, but I don’t think resignation is the feeling anyone should accept in the second month of a six-month season. The Reds should not decide in May to be sellers because 1) unless they’re trading Castillo, they won’t get much back anyway and 2) it’s May!
After the last few years, I understand the impulse to panic and hit the eject button on hope and optimism. But give it another month at least. Trust me on this one.