If you keep up with all the various outlets that cover the Reds, you might have noticed a theme this week.

First, from The Athletic:

They’re not dull, and they’re about three or four “Oh, sure, I saw that coming” success stories away from punishing the NL Central.

They’re not dull, but they’re not exactly good now, are they? They’ve outscored their opponents on the season, which means they should be above .500.

If you, like me, said out loud, “Wait, I thought the Reds had three or four out-of-nowhere success stories this season?” then this particular write-up is horribly demoralizing. It means that no matter how well Eugenio Suarez or Aristides Aquino or Sonny Gray plays, the rest of the team will still hover close enough to average to keep the team hopeful but depressingly average. For the Reds current roster to make the playoffs, literally every single player has to perform as the best version of themselves. And that’s a tall ask.

Next, from Baseball Prospectus:

And the Reds are “on the cusp” for what feels like the 14th straight year. Maybe “existential dread” isn’t quite right for this group. Perhaps their fans should be feeling something closer to anger, resentment, or at least a lack of patience. Lord knows we couldn’t blame them.

To be honest, I mostly don’t feel anything at all anymore. The Reds as a team are nothing more than the dog owner who hangs a treat from the front of the treadmill. The big dogs (Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals) know that with a strong leap, they can get the treat. The medium dogs (Reds) just keep plodding forward, hoping to one day reach the treat but never realizing they aren’t going anywhere. I guess you can find solace that the Reds aren’t a little dog (Pirates), flung from the treadmill altogether.

My point here is: Something needs to change. Everything needs to change. And yet, nothing needs to change. Stick with me.

From an organizational standpoint, the Reds finally seem to get it. That’s where nothing needs to change. They know they need to lunge for the treat and are making moves to do so. Trading for and extending Sonny Gray is a solid lunge. Trading for Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood is a tentative lunge. Flipping Puig and Taylor Trammell for Trevor Bauer is a lunge with more confidence, but still tempered.

Now this offseason, the Reds must make an even bigger lunge. Yes, that requires spending money or prospect capital. Yes, that requires upsetting some fans. That’s where something needs to change.

For years now, the Reds have only spent money when they know they’re making a safe bet. Extend Joey Votto, one of the best first baseman in franchise history? Easy. Extend Eugenio Suarez for an annual value around what most players of his caliber make in their second year of arbitration over seven years and hope he develops into something more? Might as well.

What the Reds need to do now is actual sign a free agent for big money. If Ryan Ludwick’s 2 year, $15 million contract is still the largest deal the Reds have given to a free agent hitter by the start of the 2020 season, something has gone seriously awry. Anthony Rendon is the hottest name out there, but Nick Castellanos also has his supporters. Of course, Marcell Ozuna and Yasiel Puig are also on the market. The big names are there for the bidding, the Reds just have to pony up to the table.

And here’s where everything must change: The Reds cannot just make one big signing and then hope that bit pieces will carry them the rest of the way. This isn’t the NBA: Neither LeBron James nor Eugenio Suarez can drag the Reds kicking and screaming to the promised land.

If the Reds are to compete next year, and I think many of us will riot if they don’t make an honest attempt to do so, they will need to be a constant presence in the headlines this winter. All the national sportswriters’ cracks of — “Oh, I had completely forgot the Reds existed these past few years” — will need to sound as outdated as a typewriter in the back of a Model-T.

I don’t assume any of this is news to regular readers of Redleg Nation. “The Reds just need to do things differently” is classic sports fan advice. But it feels counterproductive to focus on the minutiae of this season when so clearly it’s the big picture mindset that needs to change. We can praise Freddy Galvis as much as we want, but the reality is: Winning teams don’t employ Freddy Galvis. They employ Jose Altuve or Gleybar Torres or Anthony Rendon for crying out loud.

If the Reds want to make the playoffs, they have to make the lunge. Otherwise, it’s another year of misplaced hope and late summer doldrums.

39 Responses

  1. Chris

    Great insight! Love the article.
    So in your opinion, if the Reds had a theoretical $30 million to spend this off-season, what plunge should they take? Go all in with Rendon? Try to split that 30 between Puig/Ozuna and a lockdown bullpen arm?
    The Reds seemingly have some guys who are capable everyday players that haven’t quite gotten the chance to play everyday, though I do think that the big names are still a likely upgrade over guys like Van Meter, Galvis, and Winker. At the very least, we do finally seem to have some positional flexibility with some of these guys.
    My worry is that what the Reds will actually do is resign Jose Iglesias and continue to play Galvis at 2B, and Iglesias at SS. If either of these guys take a step back offensively, that could be pretty rough.

    • Lightning?

      There are worse things they could do

  2. Scott C

    The big thing is, the Reds cannot afford to place all their bets on one big signing. One big signing can can hurt in spring training and not play all year. Houston can afford right now if Altuve or Springer go down for awhile. The Reds need two more bats preferably bats that have advanced hitting skills. If one of them happens to play shortstop then all the better. They could use one more very good pitcher, preferably a left hander.

  3. CFD3000

    It’s all in the margins (except for one key, contrived position) isn’t it? The success of this team in 2020 isn’t up to Gray and Castillo. It’s on Bauer and DeSclafani. It’s not on Suarez and Votto (okay, maybe a little on Votto). It’s on VanMeter and Senzel and Aquino and Winker. It’s not on Garrett and Lorenzen and Sims. It’s on whoever replaces Hughes and Hernandez and Peralta. And it isn’t on Raisel Iglesias. oh who am I kidding? It is on Raisel Iglesias. And it’s on all the other little things at the margins. The failed bunts, the missed cutoffs, the unnecessary double switches. This team is either good enough – if they commit to the young hitters and upgrade the back of the bullpen and refocus on the little things that win or lose all those one run games. Or they’re not – if they insist on closer rules with an inconsistent closer, if the 3 and 4 starters both pitch like 5 starters, if the young guys don’t ever adjust to major league pitching. I’d love to see Rendon and Grandal and Gregorius in Cincinnati next year. But even if the checkbook is open and they do arrive, I’m convinced it all comes down to those margins.

    • Broseph

      You had me until you suggested Grandal and Gregorius for signings next season. If 1 -2 year deals for middling FA money, then I’d be ok with that. But if you’re talking playoff / World Series run, then I’d go for Rendon and use that Grandal and Gregorius money towards a 3 – 4 starter . Otherwise, you’re talking about premium defensive positions for guys heading into their 30s – so be prepared for a potential downturn in productivity.

      • CFD3000

        My point was that Gregorius and Grandal would be offensive upgrades over the current SS and C options and since they cost money instead of prospects I’m good with that. But I agree – not if they’re so expensive that other, more subtle but more critical, upgrades are no longer affordable. So we agree there. And on the whole it’s that 4th starter, the key prospects, the back end of the bullpen that ultimately make the difference in all those close games that end up in the loss column. So I think we agree there too.

  4. greenmtred

    Took the words right out of my mouth, Wesley. I, too, am past anger. I’ve moved firmly to apathy and am still moving in the direction of just not paying attention anymore. I’ll probably watch a few more games this season, though not many. I’ll pay a bit of attention to off-season moves. But if they stand more or less pat, adding a few fringe pieces, I’ll be done. The days when my family considered a trip to Cincy to see a game or two are long gone.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    Yeah, it just feels like the Reds are out of bullets. They made their big trades and it didn’t get them where they wanted to go, so the only thing left now is spend money for what hopefully will be immediate relevance or sit on their hands as this young core is reinforced by the likes of TStephenson/India by the middle of next season. My inclination is to hold onto these two prospects and spend on the free agent market.

  6. Don

    Until the same players start in the same defensive position and same place in hitting lineup on a daily basis the Reds will not go anywhere. Baseball is a game of habits and repetition, finding the groove.

    The constant changes result in players/athletes thinking. As soon as a player is thinking, that player is just enough behind that success will not occur.

    Looking at the mentioned players and whom they would replace on the current Reds. The question is improved production vs salary.

    Anthony Rendon (3B) will cost $28 a year for a 5 year deal. Trade Suarez, Play Rendon at 2B, Rendon has not played SS since 2013 and only 4 games then. I will take Suarez at 1 year younger and his contract vs Rendon.

    Marcell Ozuna (2.0 WAR in 2019) will cost $20 mil a year for 5 years. Winker and Ervin in LF are a 1.4 WAR platoon in 2019 at 1.1 mil in salary. Is 0.6 WAR really worth 20 times the salary?

    Nick Castellanos (2.7 WAR) – Probably cost $15 mil for 5 years. Great vs LHP, AVG vs RHP. He would be an upgrade vs Ervin/Winker platoon as he would be a defensive and offesive upgrade

    Yasiel Puig (1.0 WAR) – good entertainment but not part of a winning team.
    Pick Aquino or Puig, Ozuna or Castellanos, give me Aquino every day in 2020 vs are of those 3.

    The biggest impact the FO can make is not bring back marginal players whom were castoffs of other teams.

    If they offer re-sign Dietrich and sign Iglesias and use the option on Galvis then this fan will loose interest in 2020.

    • Broseph

      One way to look at signing a Rendon type, is you can live with either Iglesias or Galvis at SS. If Votto’s new (old Votto) approach at the plate stands, he may be a .280 – .290 hitter with just under 20 hrs next season.

      So you have Votto 1B, Rendon 2B, Suarez 3B and Iglesias/Galvis 2B on the IF. Pretty solid lineup
      Senzel, Aquino, LF platoon in the outfield. Again, solid lineup.

      I don’t think the team is multiple large FA contracts away from making a post-season run. They’re one big move and a few savvy small moves (bullpen / bench) from taking this division. Post season, IMO is a crapshoot on who is healthy and hot.

  7. Bigbill

    They have the following core. Bauer, Gray an Castillo. A decent 5th starter in Disco.

    Lots of guys trying out fourth spot in rotation. Sims, Mahle, Gausman. I believe you go after a #2 or #3 starter and the above are now competing with Disco for the 5th state an long man roles. The others are in the bullpen.

    Speaking of bullpen. Lorenzen, Garrett, Stephenson, 3 of the four above. I don’t see Iglesias the guy. Not mentally tough enough. Too often he comes into a game and doesn’t attack the hitter.

    Need to find a closer while trading Iglesias for a rh corner bat that can platoon with Votto and hopefully a couple of bullpen arms.

    Infield: Votto, Van Meter, Iglesias, Suarez. This can work with the obp Van Meter and Votto bring and defend that Iglesias brings with just enough hitting. Ne to drop Votto out of the two hole to 6 or 7th and have a rh power bat to spell him for about 40-50 games a year. A fresh Votto may regain a nit more pop to go with the high obp.

    Outfield: Winker/Ervin in left give you a nice platoon. Denzel in cf with Lorenzen giving him some days off. Aquino in rf with O’brien getting some solid at bats when Aquino how’s thru his slumps.

    Lastly catching. New and upgrade from Tucker. If have a ss that is glove first and a 1st baseman that has little power left, hopefully changes with a lot of rest/ platoon, then nee more production from our catcher. Reamaltu, to lazy to look up spelling, would have made a major impact on this team. A guy like Grandal would make a major upgrade to the lineup.

    Make those changes and maybe a more season manager. Comments on this for another day, and you have a team that should contend for the division.

    • Mason Red

      I don’t understand the fascination with TB. He has been horrible for the most part. He’s not a dependable #3 at all plus he wore out his welcome in Cleveland and I don’t care what he did 1-2 years ago. The Reds have to stop being the destination for reclamation projects and waiver wire pickups. The Reds either have to go all in with FAs and trades or completely overhaul their minor league teams and the scouting department so they actually do well drafting and developing good players on a consistent basis. The throwing stuff against the wall approach simply isn’t working.

      • Ed

        I gotta agree with this- Bauer has not only been inconsistent here. He has sucked for a while now and if the Reds make it to the playoffs somehow, he has demonstrated that he folds under the pressure in the ALCS.

      • Reaganspad

        I think he needs this offseason work with this pitching coach, who is the Bauer whisperer and looks like Sonny Gray next year

      • Indy Red Man

        I don’t understand why people rush to judgement after 4-5 starts or whatever it is. Do you know how difficult it is to pitch 175 innings in the AL with a 2.21 era? 134 hits in 175 ip with only 9 hrs. The guy throws 97 and has fantastic breaking stuff. Let him get settled in and see what happens. Check back in early May next year.

      • Joe

        My fear is that they traded the best prospects in Trammel, Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs to rent Puig, Wood and Bauer (gone after 2020). The front office may be more desperate this winter than they were last year. Makes me nervous. Having said that I agree with the author the something dramatic and effective is needed

      • Ed

        Maybe it’ll all work out- but there have been signs Bauer has been struggling for a while. The mind-game stuff is real for him, hence blowing all his shots to start in the playoffs. And hypothetically, he set himself up for a trade with his last tantrum, that will cost him a potential start for the Indians in a wild card game.

        DJ does well with improving actual pitching and recognizing potential new pitches- but he’s not a shrink. Otherwise, Raisel and Amir wouldn’t have tanked so hard the second half of this season. Among others…

      • Big Ed

        Indy, Bauer has 7 starts for the Reds and has given up 34 runs in 35 innings. I challenge you to find a worse pitcher in Reds history for 35 innings.

        Yes, it is difficult to have an ERA of 2.21 as a full-time starter in the AL. Bauer did it one year, but his lowest ERA other than that was 4.17. A lot of his outlier year was the result of a HR/FB rate of 6.2%, when his career average is almost twice that, at 11.8%. It is 15.1% this year, which is not his career high. So, he lucked out. His SIERA in 2018 was 3.21 and his xFIP was 3.18 (both very good), so his actual ERA over-achieved what he was actually throwing.

        He probably isn’t as bad as I portray him or his stats as a Red indicate, but then again it is hard to sustain being that bad.

        They have given up Taylor Trammell, Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs for 1.3 seasons of Trevor Bauer, plus paid $25 million in salary for the right to do that. In that series of transactions, the Reds may have matched the futility of a combo Robinson-for-Pappas, Brock-for-Broglio, and Ruth-for-No No Nanette trade.

        Right now, getting Bauer in exchange for my two brothers and me would have been a bad trade.

      • Ed

        I see what you’re saying but he went from a Cy Young award winner, heralded early this year as front-runner for the AL Cy Young award after a couple one-hit games, to really just blowing hard this year, even in Cleveland. Why does he need Derek Johnson now? What’s changed that could possibly cause such an insane regression? Strange stuff. Maybe they will figure it out.

      • Reaganspad

        I don’t know. Why did Nuke LaLoosh need crash Davis? Why did Dan Straley emerge in Cincy? Why did Miami trade Luis Castillo….twice in one year?

        Who invented liquid soap and why?

        Many mysteries. Bauer is in his own mind warp right now. He is too smart, and needs to stop shaking off his catcher so much or we will call him Meat and it is too late in his career for that

  8. RedNat

    Great piece Wesley. I think most Reds fans echo your frustrations. ( if the FO really thinks Freddie Galvis is the answer to our prayers, than why bother watching anymore). I think the main problem with the franchise is obvious. We just haven’t been able to develop position players in the minor leagues recently. The reds have never been known for developing pitchers but now we cant develop hitters as well. We have been forced to scavenge castoffs from other teams just to fill spots.

  9. BigRedMike

    The FO does appear to be making more decisions based on performance instead of fan favorites. That is encouraging. The incredibly poor development of the farm system is the real issue. Doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of improvement.
    The Reds have 3 position players with a WAR above 1. 2 of them are not really good players, Dietrich and Iglesias. Suarez is a solid player.
    Puig provided entertainment, but, little value.
    At this point, the Reds only hope might be if Aquino, Senzel, Winker/Ervin become 4 WAR players.
    If the middle infield next year is Igesias and Galvis, then I will probably move on to another team. If the Reds have those two as starters then they are not really trying to be competitive.

    Somehow the Reds have just not been able to develop players and draft. Very little from their #1 picks.
    Houston has Bregman 7.2 WAR, Springer 5.6 WAR, Correa 2.9 WAR from their top picks.

  10. george

    If the recent firing of the Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski doesn’t catch your eye, then you have already packed baseball in for the year. This firing by Red Sox ownership is the standard, WIN or leave.
    Team spokesman Kevin Gregg informed the media of the news. ‘We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave Dombrowski in to lead baseball operations. With a World Series championship and three consecutive American League East titles”
    This action by ownership is the reality of being in a real business, WIN or your gone. Would big Bob fire Williams? Big Bob is all talk but lacks real commitment ($$$) to win. The recent sale of the Royals for a Billion dollars probably got Big Bob’s blood moving a bit quicker. Don’t be surprised if the Reds change ownership in the next year or so. The recent concern of the poor performance of the Reds could be traced to Big Bob trying to build value of the team to a potential buyer.

    • TR

      Bringing in Dave Dombrowski would be a good move for the Reds since he’s been a front office winner with the Marlins, Tigers and Red Sox. It will not happen since the current President of Baseball Operations Williams is related to long-standing Red’s ownership. New principal ownership is not going to happen either unless the buyer is local from Cincinnati or the metro area. This has been the case since Powell Crosley took control of the Reds in the early 1930’s.

      • greenmtred

        My understanding is that part of the reason for Dombrowski’s firing was that, in addition to the disappointment of this season, he completely sacked the Sox’ farm system. That would be a bigger deal for the Reds than it is for the Sox, who have money for free agents galore, but it’s also a template that wouldn’t yield much for the Reds, given that they don’t have a lot of high-value prospects.

    • Mason Red

      George you completely nailed it. Well done.

  11. Linkster

    I’m just glad to see the Reds are playing guys like Galvis, Van Meter, O’Grady and others on a regular basis as the year closes. This exposes them as nothing more than bench/utility players. There’s nothing wrong with that but, they need A LOT more.
    Another solid starter, two studs in the bullpen, a hitting catcher and a great hitter up the middle. This will require money mostly as the prospect bin has been mostly depleted.

    • RedNat

      depressing but true Linkster. seems our roster is made up of JV and SUAREZ and then about 12 players that are .250 hitters at best, with marginal power that aren’t particularly fast or good fielders. then you have 2 unknown potential players with Lorenzen and Aquino. much work needs to be done

  12. wizeman

    would love to see them make a run at a solid outfielder. particularly in center. move senzel to second base.
    i love lorenzen but he should get more opportunities in the outfield. think he has less than 25 plate appearances.
    not sure how anyone can be sold on outfield. massive improvement from aquino. ervin and winker going to be a platoon.
    know doug wants to see van meter everyday… but the best thing is him as a utility player because we made an improvement somewhere else.
    happy with starters going forward. no on paying gausman big money.
    centerfield and shortstop where the money should go.
    no on dietrich and galvis.

  13. jgorrell.tcp

    The only move I see that can make the reds contenders is Rendon. He not only makes the defense elite but he changes the dynamic of the offense.

    Votto 1b
    Rendon 2b
    Suárez 3b
    Aquino rf
    Winker/Ervin lf
    Senzel cf
    Galvis or Iglesias ss
    Tucker/Casali c

    O grady
    Someone else as bench

    Make a few additions to the pen and you can see how that lineup could compete.

  14. Jon

    This is what I’ve been thinking all season. If the Reds want to contend in 2020, they have to make bold moves this winter, even if they come with risk. No more waiting until late January or early February for the bargain basement players to land here because they couldn’t find a better deal elsewhere. No more reclamation projects, where the team hopes a change of scenery brings a once-solid player back to his old self. (Though it did work out for Sonny Gray, but he seems to be the exception rather than the rule.)

    The Reds, as the author wrote, need to be constantly in the headlines this winter. Obviously they won’t sign everybody. However, if the Reds aren’t at least linked with rumors involving Rendon, Gregorious, Grandal, Ozuna, and Castellanos, the front office is not doing its job.

    The Reds are in win-now mode, so they’ve got that going for them. Bob Castellini is getting older with each losing season. Hopefully this will be the winter he decides to bump payroll to at least $150 million. Likewise, hopefully this is the winter the Reds sign a free agent hitter with an AAV more than $7.5 million.

    • Bill J

      The Reds remind me of the old song “To Much Talk, not enough Action”.

  15. D

    Stats ,war ,baseball is more then stats .Puig wasn’t my favorite with some of his antics.But what stats and war will never show is heart.Some folks rise to the occasion ,some don’t . I see CFD 3000 with a few posts ,there are firefighters,then there are firefighters who go beyond to not leave you in a bad spot.Puig will protect and defend his teammates to the end,as Charlton,Myers and Dibble(god bless 1990) with a manager of same mentality.This manager and his team don’t have it.Never will.

  16. jr53

    The Reds made a big mistake when they hired David Bell. I could give examples, but for now lets just say his record in close games tells you all you need to know.

  17. Mike

    Sadly I was more optimistic at the end of last year then this year. I was really looking forward to a new dynamic manager and hitting coach. The hitting philosophy is home run or nothing. No situational hitting ever. The manager thinks six of the eight positions are all platoon all the time and with all the double switches, by the end of the game when you need a run or two, the scrubs are what’s playing. No quality free agents, especially starting pitchers will want to play for Bell

  18. Bill J

    My concern is Winker’s and Senzel’ s health, Votto’s age and health and RI childish me only attitude. With the way the Reds luck runs I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of pitchers happened to go down next year.

  19. george

    The Cincinnati Reds began giving Ken Griffey Jr. a deferred payment of $3,593,750 in 2009 and will continue to do that annually through the year 2024. That’s $53.9 million.
    If the Reds were serious about winning they would make a deal with Joey V.
    Deferred payroll is always available for serious owners. Potential New ownership would be wise to address this option with Castellini in the purchase contract. Do you think that Big Bob and family would walk away from Billion(s) because their concern about the team

  20. george

    To Sliotar;
    I hope you wanted to say “every game in 2020”. 🙂

    I have been trying to get many of the commenters to this site to be ready for Reds management to NOT GO ALL IN. Current thinking (mine) is that it will take the REDS a payroll a minimum of $195 Million (with JV) to really compete in 2020 and beyond.