Whenever I hear the words “All-in,” I think of James Bond. I envision the collective eyes of a hazy, casino floor slowly turning in his direction; the cigarette dangling dangerously from the corner of his mouth; the almost imperceptible smirk informing the contours of his lips, born of a certain knowledge only a few fortunate souls possess; a Bond girl on his left flank; a chilled martini sweating in a glass on his right. The slight tug on one French cuff—then the other—serves to acknowledge the room and all those eyes. Only a fool bets it all unless he or she knows something everyone else at the table does not. He is no fool.

All-In is the strategy du jour on social media, on the blogs, podcasts and in the comment sections now that the World Series is over and free agency is hard upon the Cincinnati Reds. Empty the farm system. Fill those holes at catcher, shortstop and center field. Throw caution and the future to the wind. Work your imaginary forces. See those forever flags, fluttering in the receiving summer breeze. Signal the bartender. Push in all the chips. Go for it.

You may find all this stirring. I’m just shaken.

The towering irony here is that after years of lamenting and lampooning the old school ways of Walt Jocketty, everything old school is new again. Trade the farm for a meager 2 years of Francisco Lindor? Heck yeah! Better yet, let’s take on bad Red Sox contracts, like a past-his-prime David Price for the pleasure of a singular year of Mookie Betts, while paying him Votto Dollars. And while we’re at it, let’s fantasize that Betts would sign a long-term contract with the Red Stockings when he’s already rejected overtures by his Red Sox family, tacitly expressing his desire to spread his wings and discover just how high he can soar in next year’s annual financial playground they call the Winter Meetings.

Or, let’s just do something much simpler and outbid everyone for Anthony Rendon, no matter the sticker price. Trade and spend. Spend and trade.

Spend and trade was Jocketty’s stock and trade; his raison d’être. He left St. Louis when they decided horse-trading players to build a winner had gone the way of the bison and the prairie dog. Sure, you can still win championships this way, provided one has the requisite stable of horses. Witness the recently deposed Dave Dombrowski, selling off all that prospect treasure former Boston GM Ben Cherington had so carefully assembled, filching owner John Henry’s money belt and old schooling his way to a championship. Flags fly forever and all that.

But for most organizations, this approach is suboptimal at best, catastrophic at worst. For Jocketty, neither gambit was ever a possibility. Lest we forget, he rode into Cincinnati to discover near-empty saddlebags. The very things that made him successful in St. Louis—money to absorb large contracts, and tradeable assets—were largely unavailable to him with the horses he found tied up on the banks of the muddy Ohio River.

Twenty days before Jocketty replaced Wayne Krivsky as GM in late April of 2008, Baseball America rated the Reds farm system as third-best in the majors. By May 27th, the 4th and final member of the cream of that highly-regarded farm system—Jay Bruce—would be promoted to the big club, joining Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Joey Votto. What was left Walt traded for Mat Latos in the winter of 2011, and a year of Shin-Soo Choo not long after. As for spending, the owner had already opened the vault for Votto (necessary) and insisted on demonstrating to the city he was serious about winning a championship by doubling down on a Brandon Phillips contract (maybe not necessary). So, the cash spigot slowed to a Ryan Ludwick trickle. We laughed at the spare change that was doled out of the owner’s money purse to purchase trinkets such as Jack Hanahan and Skip Schumaker. In the end, all of that bought the Reds a couple of years of contention, then a fade to black.

So, here we are now, idling at the corner of Tomorrow and Yesterday. Oh, gosh, which way should we turn?

I freely admit my voice is in the minority. Still, I simply cannot understand it. The Reds have finally fought their way into the 21st Century. They appear to be—amazingly—elbowing themselves to the forefront of baseball analytics. They’ve robbed teams ahead of them in the standings of both their coaches and their philosophy. They’ve traveled to the cutting edge of baseball’s brave new world to bring in outsider Kyle Boddy and his coterie of progressive, analytic minds. They’ve invested in their minor league infrastructure from top-to-bottom, rethinking how everything is being done, hopefully, to produce major league baseball players who can make a difference in the not-too-distant future on the mainstage of Great American Ball Park.

And now, like a 4-year old in a Stanford testing lab, we’re going to greedily devour the marshmallow that has been handed to us, rather than wait for more sweet things to come at a later date?

I hate the “Flags Fly Forever” trope. They don’t, you see. Oh, they fly for those souls fortunate enough to have seen them run up the flag pole in person. If like me, you were lucky enough to enter Gate 11 and settle into a Club Box seat at Game 1 of the 1976 World Series, you know. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, have Joe and Johnny and Doggie and Pete and Davey and Rawley and Jack and George burnishing our memories.

However, if you are much under the age of 40, you were likely standing in front of your dad’s Sony Trinitron in your onesies with the feet in them, watching Eric Davis surrender his body for Shottzie and the greater good, while Jose Rijo did more than his part, blowing away memories of flawed Reds’ starting pitchers past. Sadly, those images live in the ether, or at least as grainy ghosts on your dad’s mothballed VCR, floating in the fog of childhood; not quite fully formed; dusty and barely accessible now.

For fans of a certain age, you must think yourselves accursed. Your memories are the sins of Marge and Old Leatherpants, the inconsistencies of Wayne’s World, Walt’s flip-phone, and Junior’s broken-down body limping down to first base. For you, flags haven’t flown at all. They are merely one-dimensional images painted on the side of the left-field façade below the Machine Room. Faded, if not forgotten.

That frustration, in my opinion, has been taken out on the current front office regime and its main product: THE REBUILD. Truth be told, I have written about the rebuild and the mythology surrounding it more than I had ever imagined or wanted to. It’s time for us to release ourselves from the flawed narrative of the endless rebuild, as if it’s a cheap menu item at the Olive Garden, devoid of the nutrients necessary to feed a fan base starved for a winner. It’s corrosive. It’s taken us far afield of the truth, to another place where the infield grass is always greener. Places like Philadelphia. San Diego. The south side of Chicago. And most recently, Atlanta. Yeah, everybody has done it better than the hapless Reds, the bitter narrative wails. The truth is a bit more complex.

The Braves rebuild has surpassed the Reds in speed and quality, to be sure. They’ve reached the playoffs the last two years. Interestingly enough, the Braves rebuild was initially predicated upon pitching. But, the international signings and subsequent flowering of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies sped up their return to relevance. One reason why the Braves rebuild has moved so fast is because they prematurely tore it down. In 2014, they had Freddie Freeman, Tommy La Stella, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward. Their pitching staff included Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana, a 23-year-old Alex Wood, and 26-year-old Mike Minor. Oh, yeah, they had a 26-year-old Craig Kimbrel, as well. It wouldn’t have taken too much to make the Braves a playoff contender with that core, but the Braves elected to pull the plug instead. They gave away a promising season or two, but were rewarded with a less painful rebuild, unlike the Reds, who kept players around at Bob Castellini’s directive because … pride, a/k/a the All Star Game.

Oh, yeah, then there’s that footnote in the form of former GM John Coppolella, who was banned for life by Major League Baseball in 2017 for gaming international signing rules. Did that help?

San Diego
Then, there’s the Padres, who began their rebuild in the winter of 2015 when they traded the aforementioned Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox in return for four prospects. GM A.J. Preller has since overhauled the farm system, turning it into the best in baseball. They’ve since put $144M under the Christmas tree for Eric Hosmer two years ago with a return so far of 1.1 WAR. Yikes. A year later, they doubled-down, signing Manny Machado for $300M, who rewarded them with a first-year return of 3.1 WAR.

Did I mention they have just concluded their 9th straight losing season, winning 70 games and having just fired manager Andy Green?

The White Sox won 72 games in year three of their rebuild. Along with Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez, they have some exciting core prospects waiting in the wings: Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and Luis Robert. But injuries have put the rebuild on the back burner, as they won 3 fewer games than the Reds this year. The progress has been disappointing and few people outside the south side think they are on the cusp of anything remarkable next year. Their rebuild is still ongoing.

The Phillie fan base must have been ecstatic to hear owner John Middleton’s proclamation to be a little stupid about spending money last off-season. There’s good reason for that. Their rebuild has been a bad Ben Affleck movie, an unmitigated flop. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

In 2016, Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus said this:

“The State of the System: Long a laughingstock for prioritizing athletes who couldn’t hit, the Phillies are now as loaded at the top of the system as any team in baseball. The rebuild started later than it should have, but it might not take long.”

That “loaded” group included shortstop J.P. Crawford; outfielders Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Cornelius Randolph; pitchers Jake Thompson, Franklyn Kilome, Mark Appel and Ben Lively; and catchers Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

As ESPN writer Ben Miller recently said, “There’s not one player on that list who would be starting on a good team.”

The Phillies have spent money, but have no base in place to build around. Unlike the Cubs, who drafted well and spent in free agency to supplement their young core, the Phillies have only done the latter and will have to keep spending furiously, throwing money at Gerrit Cole and/or Anthony Rendon to appease a very restless fan base.

The Phillies offense was 10th in Weighted Runs Created Plus in the National League, 13th in starting pitching in 2019. Their relievers were 8th in xFIP. They’ve struggled badly defensively for years. They have no identifiable strength anywhere on the diamond. They have now completed their 8th straight non-winning season and have replaced manager Gabe Kapler with no average Joe, but Joe Girardi and all the Yankee pedigree that comes with him.

The Brewers didn’t rebuild. They rebuilt on the fly. They did what many Reds fans wanted: they #GotTheYelich. They’ve had one remarkable year to show for it. Even as they won 14 more games than the Reds this season and made it to the wild card game, their +2 run differential and 3rd Order Win Percentage suggest they and the Reds should have had very similar records. That portends a fall back to earth in 2020 if they don’t make significant off-season moves and, in particular, #GetThePitching. But that will be difficult to do with what is now a farm system that ranks near the bottom of the major leagues. But, they Got The Yelich.

Envy and the Atlanta Braves aside, the reality is that the Reds’ rebuild has been just like everyone currently embarking on a similar project—a work-in-progress. There’s no guarantee that history will judge the rebuild a success. That will depend on the results of the draft from the last 4 years—on the development of Hunter Greene, Nick Senzel, Jonathan India and others—assuming the Reds don’t push them to the middle of the poker table for a shot at the playoffs now.

Today, the Reds’ farm system—despite the losses in the last year—ranks higher than every team in the NL Central, save for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Trading more prospect treasure away, weakening the minors just as analytical help is arriving to develop those players would seem to go against everything they have been attempting to do off the field.

It’s difficult to know how Dick Williams and Nick Krall define “All-in,” or whether this is even now the plan. The rumors that the Reds were going to trade multiple prospects for a meager 2 years of J.T. Realmuto is a sign they aren’t thinking long-term. The trade of their top prospect for one full year of Trevor Bauer only reinforces that notion.

Meanwhile, they’ve revamped not just the entire organization, but their philosophy, as well. Pair that with a decent farm system and you have something to supplement the rebuild. You have something that can be SUSTAINABLE when you’re building with youth.

If the Reds are going to spend their future for a couple of shots at glory, you should remember the lesson of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took their shots 2013 through 2015, only to lose in the LDS and twice in the wild card game.

If recent history is any indication, here’s the way offseason will go for the Reds:

Free agency will be slow for all but the top free agents. The Reds will wait and make several offers to those who are far outside the 3-ring circus that goes by the name Scott Boras. Trades will also likely be made from the 25-man roster as the Reds attempt to patch holes using positions of greater depth. While we talk about the same few players in the coming days—Rendon, Gregorious, Castellanos, and Grandal—it’s others now off the radar who will likely be wearing those dubious alternate jerseys in April.

The Reds will spend significantly more money because they’ve laid their reputations on the line by saying so publicly. What “significantly more” actually is remains to be seen. But, if Redsfest is not the only place they are playing poker this winter, if they leverage the farm for a generational player that is nothing more than a short term fix, be prepared to revisit the dark days all over again in a couple of seasons. Then, heaven help baseball in Cincinnati for years to come.

100 Responses

  1. Ed

    I gotta say I completely disagree with the entire first half of the article- what is the point in stocking a great rotation with folks like Gray, Castillo, maybe Bauer, if you don’t invest in bringing in capable, MLB-ready talent to play Major League Baseball? What is the point in digging in and establishing a “cutting-edge” as you say team for analytics and minor league player development, if you aren’t going to be willing to use the human capital you develop to put together a winning team?

    “All-in” is scary, sure, if you have no method for player development, no strategy to home-grow players you can play, or trade to fill holes on the field.

    Now is the time to go all in, with a heavy starting rotation, and a brand new approach to your farm system…. that said, whether Boddy will end up setting the Reds apart remains to be seen. If minor league pitcher development fails, a good chunk of the blame will be on his shoulders…… But in the same way, failure will fall on the shoulders of the owner and the front office, if they can’t bring $1,000,000,000 in equity- if they can’t find a way to be bold and use their billion dollars to piece together a team that wins ballgames. Spend money while you scout and develop strong talent.

    Finally I agree that Reds will miss out on big names and have to settle for mediocre free agents. I’d like to see some big trades for fielders to complement Suarez, who is basically the only offensive player I value on the team. I’d like to see another starter in case Bauer continues to suck, or perhaps Castillo slumps after his great start last year.

    • KDJ

      The fear is that if it does not work (or even if it does), the Reds may afterward fall to last place for 4 or 5 years. Wait a minute . . .

      Would you rather have a long, gradual build to 3rd or 4th in the league, or would you rather have some years at the top with some years at the bottom?

      • Michael E

        Neither, there are other options. Simply work to improve the worst position for prouction this off-season, coach/teach all the top prospects.

        Most importantly, BE AGGRESSIVE in promotions, even if players stats may not back up that promotion. Waiting for monster years to promote players to MLB will kill any chance at quick rebuild.

        It was refreshing to see Aquino promoted. He struggled a bit last month, but at least we know guys can actually be much more productive in MLB than AAA or AA, it’s not always linear.

        If Tyler Stephenson is raking in spring and each at bat looks professional, don’t wait, promote him (assuming we don’t grossly overpay for end-of-prime Grandal…I like him, just don’t overpay and regret it along side whats left to Votto).

        If a Betts trade is there, and we can get him to extend contract, sure, but if no extension, that feels like a one-and-done and will cost us a top 3, another top 6 and another top 15 prospect at the minimum…too rich for rental players for a small-market payroll team.

  2. Ed

    Additionally, your argument shifts from saying you don’t want them to go “all-in” and waste what they’ve built, to saying you are worried they are going to paint themselves into a corner and overspend—- which isn’t actually going “all-in” at all.

    It sounds like you’re actually afraid that they’re not gonna go all-in at all- you mention missing out on Grandal, Castellanos, etc. to me, missing out on some of these proven, powerhouse players is not going all-in. It would be a limp attempt at all-I’m, and it’d look more to me like screwing up than all-in. Truly going all-in would look pretty good I believe.

  3. Steve

    Well they tried the classic rebuild.. anyone that was paying attention the 4 years prior to this would know that there wasn’t anything to pay attention to! We’ve been terrible and I know trammel was our top guy in the farm but he regressed. Making a trade for a sure fire ace for a guy struggling to make the jump to double a might not sit well with you but obviously the reds who know TT better than you or myself thought it was the right move to be progressive in 20. Why the fuck not try? We’ve been doing the not trying thing for years now that hasn’t worked either so you suggest be trash until we get lucky on prospects hopefully within the next 10 years we turn into a winner? No. We were bad and got our prospects already. They’re on the team now just look at our outfield. We have Greene and Lodolo on the way. This piece is well written but I think most of the fan base would disagree with you and what you think should be done. From the sounds of it the writer won’t be around to see the fruits of tanking for any longer in all seriousness.

    • GoReds

      I don’t believe the writer is in that big of a minority. A lot of fans realize that buying lottery tickets isn’t the way to build a sustainable franchise. By the way putting Bauer and sure fire ace in the same sentence was the funniest thing I’ve heard all year. We traded a top 30 prospect for less than 1.5 years of an overrated head case.

    • Michael E

      They did NOT try the classic rebuild. That was botched mightily by NOT trading several players/pitchers when they had good value on the trade market. Time and again we (no, not fair, the short-term thinking GM and owner did) procrastinated and came up with lame excuses not to trade Chapman, Cueto, Frazier, Bruce, Rasiel Iglesias and other nice trade pieces. It cost us BIG in a “classic rebuild” approach.

      This was more of a wait until the implosion and only fragments of a franchise are left and THEN start the rebuild…hardly classic, more of a scorched earth policy on the wrong side of the front lines (on our own turf, not the enemies).

    • Michael E

      It didn’t help that Jocketty was locked in to short-term thinking at all costs mentality in the few trades made. He kept stating MLB ready talent. He was against upside and risk and wanted low ceiling and someone that could appear legitimate wearing the Cincy uniform.

      When trading our veterans, we needed to target high upside talents (we didn’t) and instead targeted quantity of mediocre over quality. Sad. What is worse is most fans seem to have a better grasp of what needed done, even if not one of us completely agreed on all the moves.

      We’re not getting paid and do a better job here on RLN groupthink than the highly paid execs. I think most of that was Jocketty’s poor vision (maybe his age played a role) and the owner’s non-stop meddling with “fan favorites” that really weren’t fan favorites. No one was going to miss Billy Hamilton, NOT A SOUL, unless they invented a new Designated Fielder position where they weren’t allowed to hit at all.

    • David

      There was never any “plan” for a rebuild of the Reds.
      Lose games, get high draft choices, hope for the best.

      Make opportunistic trades, sign cheap free agents.

      That was the plan. It hasn’t worked.

      And I don’t think the Reds have that great a farm system. I have my doubts that Hunter Greene will ever make it to the majors. He already has had TJ surgery, and there is no guarantee he will recover from it. What ever happened to Nick Howard and Nick Travieso, both #1 drafts?
      Nick Senzel had a partially torn labrum and may actually not really recover from that.
      “All In” for 2020 is just a slogan for selling tickets, because the Reds have had years of losing, and people are not buying tickets.

  4. Pete

    “I freely admit my voice is in the minority.” A teeny tiny one at that but I’m in it.

    The Reds have made promises to a starving fan base, can’t see how they turn back now. The next decade the Reds could wind up like the Baltimore Orioles: no young promising talent, old guys only getting older not better, and a front office without a clue. Maybe lady luck will help the Reds avert this fate.

    My focus would be singular: find the best president of baseball operations who can be had and let him figure it out. None of us or the current Reds FO knows what to do. Including Richard who is no dummy.

    • jim walker

      For me the irony here is that as Richard infers, the Castellini group inherited a nearly set table, played that hand out with a modicum of success but has been unable on their own to accomplish anything positive until they finally got some pitching last offseason.

    • Daniel James

      I’m in it as well. I mean the writer of this article articulates why the “all in” approach rarely works. He gives examples of teams like the Braves who instead of going “all in” a few years ago actually retooled and now they are better and set up for years.. a few years ago if the Braves went “all in” maybe they would have marginally improved in the short term but they wouldn’t have won a championship.

      Another example is the Pirates they traded two young studs for 1.5 years of Chris Archer. The Rays fleeced them on that. The Pirates were thinking short term the Rays were thinking long term

      The Reds are finally making changes to their front office and their analytics approach. I wish they would have started this 5 years ago but instead their farm system is weak and they really have nothing to show for the “rebuild” that just happened

      • Michael E

        The Pirates weren’t thinking at all. Archer had been a 4.00+ pitcher for a few years, nothing more than sub-par, less-than-mediocre, but you know what he did have? A few analytics boxes that folks that tried to like him pointed to. The results in this case were in line with analytics, had one bothered to look at all the peripherals.

        The Pirates have no MO, no plan, they’re one of the few teams more clueless and rudderless than the Reds. All the Archer trade showed was they had gone cheap and hired the most incompetent front office their jingly coin could buy.

        The Braves, they did what the Reds did not, SELL HIGH. They got great value in trades, didn’t wait, and most importantly did not have a single owner meddling in every decision (they’re corporate owned).

        The Reds had an old, subpar GM in Jocketty that cared not for the future, just season to season and an old owner that is much the same, neither with much baseball sense.

        Hopefully, judging by all the hires and moves of the past two years, that ugly chapter of missed opportunity to REALLY rebuild is now behind us. It cost us a few extra years of pain, but maybe it’s over.

        I want, like most of us, is somewhat sustained success. I am not sure a WS title followed up 10 years of no playoff wins would be worth being a contender 9 of the next 10 years, even without a WS title.

      • Michael E

        One other thing the Braves have done, is judge, much more wisely, international talent. The Reds signed a bunch of guys that couldn’t hit or hit some but were strikeout machines.

        The Braves seemed to nail about 40% of their intl signings, while the Reds seem to hover around 10% success rate.

        I.E. the Braves intl scouts are much better than ours (again, cheapness and playing favorites got in the way).

      • Jefferson Green

        Never forget that the Braves cheated internationally to get the talent they now have. No team is able to replicate that – nor should they want to ethically. Latin American scouting and signing has been a huge weakness for the Reds, which they have addressed by revamping their DR operations. We will see if they have fixed that problem – and I hope that in a world of shady buscones, the Reds have figured out a way to scout and sign more ethically than apparently has been common down there.

    • NatiinA2

      Interesting article, although I disagree with the message (this could be a disagreement in the definition of “all in”). The front office hopefully is not mortgaging the future in a fools hope to win the World Series, but the adoption of a more analytical process (or a process at all!) should allow for the Reds to allocate resources more judiciously and determine the right time”up the anti“ and move more or all chips into the pot.

      Their messaging of a greater payroll and added offense seems to indicate that now is that time. If they aren’t making these bets and taking an educated risk, why be analytical at all?

  5. Bob Purkey

    You can’t do both FAs and trades as a small market team(unless it is someone like R Iglesias). One or the other. I am for going the FA route. Yes, you spend some money, but if you don’t go beyond 3/4 year contracts, which doesn’t put you in the “Votto-Zone” where you pay a ton for little production in the last half of those long term contracts, they eventually go away.

    This still allows you to fit in your prospects, Greene, Lodolo, Santillan, Siri, Stephenson, India, etc., when they are deemed ready.

    So sign a 2B or OF(so Senzel will be established @ one or the other), look at a bit of bullpen help and EITHER a C(Gandal) OR SS(Didi), but not both, and don’t make a bunch of trades for Lindor, Betts, etc., who will be here for one year and we have no farm system left a year or so later.

    If you trade at all, trade R Iglesias for one of the needed positions. I think Lorenzen and/or Garrett can co-close. But at this point, DON’T SELL OFF THE KIDS FOR A YEAR OR 2 OF SOMEONE THAT WON”T BE HERE IN A YEAR OR SO

    • Richard Fitch

      Bob gets it.

      Where free agents are concerned, it’s not about the money, it’s about the years. I don’t care how much they in AAV they give Grandal. Just don’t give a 31-year old catcher a 4 year deal. And don’t then turn around and trade Tyler Stephenson because you have a viable backstop. You need depth. Players get hurt every year. Their pitchers will get hurt because that’s what happens. Spend money, yes. Spend lots. But don’t put it all in one basket. Anthony Rendon is the Ferrari everyone would like seeing in the Reds’ driveway. But, if you can’t afford the insurance, it just sits in the driveway looking pretty.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        I agree. You don’t give a 30-plus-year-old catcher a four-year deal. You take a chance on three years with a slightly inflated AAV. I’m sorry to say this, but the next four years of Votto’s contract are going to be very, very painful. They don’t need more of that type of greatly-diminishing-value contract.

        I love Votto, but we have to be realistic.

        We all know that the Reds won’t seriously entertain the Rendon-Cole-Strasburg tier of free agents.

      • RichS

        Richard: I am confused where you claim the Reds minor league prospects are high? Last I looked Louisville stunk it up…here in Fl, DAYTONA is middle of the road at best…and the guys they have been recycling the last few years are average at best! So where does the rebuild happen?

      • Ed

        Richard when you look at the 2019 World Series all of the catchers we’re between 30 and 36 years old. Hanging onto Tyler Stephenson could make sense, but then so does holding on to Casali, and using the newly restructured minor-league system to constantly develop new talent. In fact, most of the starters on the nationals were in their mid-30s. When you have a functional farm system, that works

      • Daniel James

        exactly.. I love your article and 100% agree. I compare it to a house. You have a house with foundation issues that leaks water in the basement every time it rains but yet you are wanting to build a big fancy pool in the back yard. IMO you fix the foundation and then you splurge on the backyard

        I agree with your overall assessments that the Reds have been making short-sighted deals lately.. the good teams that are consistently in the playoffs don’t do that. Teams that never have success (Pirates) do

    • Michael E

      Yep, the only way I trade a few top 10 prospects is if I am sure I am getting a good player for several seasons, not a one year rental and not a “almost there” or “frequently hurt” could be player.

      With that, I tend to agree. Go FA, non-tender the mediocre players that don’t offer value close to what they’ll cost and sign a couple of good players/pitchers to fill in where needed.

      Do NOT trade Lodolo or Stephenson (C) unless just blown away (we get an even better stud prospect back that is ready for MLB but maybe blocked or something.

      I really want to see Lodolo stay a Red. I’d be more willing to part with Senzel at this point than Lodolo given Senzel’s inability to stay on the field and the reduced production due to the frequent maladies.

      All that said, our prospects are far from sure things, so if trading a #2, #7 and #8 prospect got us a very good, young, controllable player or pitcher, do it and don’t think twice.

  6. MBS

    Using MLBTR as a reference it would cost about 39 m a year to sign, Grandal, Puig and Didi. That is very doable for a team that just shed so much payroll. Also they say they are going to make a “nice increase” in spending this season. So the Reds don’t have to trade the farm to make themselves a legit contender in 2020.

    • Optimist

      This – even more so by not adding Puig, but trading Iggy and a lesser (Peraza?) from the 25-man to take on a large, but limited, 2yr contract from someone (either a 3WAR OFer, or a RP and restock prospects). Even with a bounce back performance I expect Iggy’s value rapidly falls off after this years trade deadline.

      Another variation they may set up is add Grandal to bridge to Stephenson (3 years at a big price), and then look to have a series of Bauer 1-yr. purchases, or mid-season trade deadline buying. I wonder if Kemp was an initial flyer at that approach, but impressively cut quickly when apparently not going to work.

  7. Phil

    The idea here that I disagree with is that the Reds need to go “all in” to be able to compete for the playoffs.
    Lets say MLB Trade Rumors predictions are correct and the Reds sign Grandal for 4-years, $68-million and Gregorius for 3-years, $42-million.
    With no other moves made the Reds could reasonably expect to have:
    A solid starting rotation with Gray, Castillo, Bauer, Mahle & DeSclafani
    An average or better bullpen anchored by Iglesias, Lorenzen, Stevenson & Garrett
    Above average production from left-field platoon of Winker/Ervin
    Center-field is a bit of a question, but high-ceiling with Senzel
    Similar in right-field with Aquino
    Near all-star level production from Suarez at third
    All-star level production from short IF Gregorius returns to his 2017-18 level
    A bit of a question mark at second. VanMeter, Galvis, Peraza, Dietrich?
    Above average production from first-base with Grandal seeing time there instead of Votto against lefties
    All-star level production from Grandal at catcher

    Make those 2 signings and you don’t have to squint very hard to see a playoff caliber team without giving up any future talent from the minors.

    • Michael E

      BINGO! Thank you Phil

      All-in is not necessary. All-in means trading away all promising prospects for one year rentals. That is desperation, and not only is it far from necessary, it’s really VERY rarely done. Few teams ever go ALL-IN. Some trade a few more prospects than most fans wanted, but few completely gut the system and overload the payroll in an ALL-IN fashion. For good reason, it takes an incompetent GM (they still get jobs) or a complete meddling by an owner. We’re dealing with some meddling, but not complete and it seems to be fading after years of embarrassing teams…maybe Castellini FINALLY understands that he understands nothing about baseball?

      We don’t need to make 5 moves to contend. The gist of this year says we should have been a .500 team or near it given run differential. We lost a lot of one-run games, mostly due to offense not producing in late innings.

      One move to fix the WORST hitting spot and we’re a contender. Not saying we’re odds on favorites, just that we would have as good a shot as any other team at one of the WC spots and a decent shot at the NL Central given how every team has serious flaws right now.

  8. Klugo

    Yeah. The time to have been all in was about 5 yrs. ago. Instead, the Reds straddled the fence indecisively. Now that it’s time for the rebuild to yield its fruit, I feel desperation in the air and the window seems small. It’s going to get tricky.

    • Daniel James

      what? 5 years ago we should have started rebuilding instead we did the exact opposite

      • Michael E

        He’s right, they wouldn’t sell high on valuable trade pieces and they wouldn’t ADD that one or two players to get over the top when we had solid pitching and good hitting.

        They were definitely sitting squarely on the fence. Didn’t rebuild, didn’t truly try to contend. Instead they add cast-off utility players for overpaid deals and lots of ex-Cardinals (they were the cast-offs).

  9. Ed

    Would a Votto be a viable option at 2nd base? With first base reserved for big power, what would that look like?

      • JB

        Well Votto does (for some odd reasoning) range over to second on some grounders.

      • Ed

        Unfortunately I am kidding because 1st base would be an incredible spot to upgrade

  10. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I don’t believe “all-in” is being discussed at all. The times are different right now because the Reds have a lot of money they can spend. It’s different.

    • Jeff Gangloff

      I agree with this. I haven’t heard the FO use the term “all in” once. I’ve heard them say the opposite, actually. They have talked about fielding a competitive team while being good stewards with their resources.

      I think the “all in” thing is a term being thrown around by fans.

    • Richard Fitch

      As I wrote above, All-In is the strategy du jour on social media, on the blogs, podcasts and in the comment sections. I also reiterate that it’s difficult to know how Dick Williams and Nick Krall define “All-in,” or whether this is even now the plan.

      Nevertheless, trading your top prospect for one year of Bauer, negotiating for Realmuto–which certainly would have caused a further significant drain of prospects–has to make you stop and think.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        I have no problem trading prospects. Prospects have 2 uses: 1) replace players on the big club when they are ready, and 2) tradebait.

        Why not trade a prospect off if they are blocked on the big club, especially if it is for a need? There’s little need for a prospect to waste in the minors, getting old, simply because “we need depth”, and we never get a chance to utilize their value. “Trade the player on the big club and to the replacement”? That’s simply one of the many “calculated risks” teams make every year. “Trade production for potential”. “Veterans or youth”? Pitching, offense, or defense?

        Like with Trammell, just who was he going to replace? Winker? Senzel? Aquino? Ervin? Especially after Trammell had a poor season?

        When one considers “all” the trades the Reds made with this, they actually didn’t come out that bad. They lost Roark but got Bauer, an improvement (supposedly, though I haven’t seen much of it yet myself). And, they got a declining OF prospect for a prospect from the Padres, a small drop only. Pretty much evened out, I believe.

        Don’t get me wrong. I do believe we need to do more to develop the minor league system. For, I do believe we need to have a stronger farm system, especially for our market. But, again, that doesn’t mean we simply don’t trade any of them. For, all prospects have 2 uses: 1) replace players on the big club, and 2) tradebait.

      • Richard Fitch

        But, Steve, we did trade prospects. We had the #8 farm system at the beginning of last year. Now we’re are close to #18. So, no one says don’t trade them–just don’t decimate it. And don’t trade them for established stars you’ll only have for 1 or 2 years–players they truthfully have no chance of re-signing to long term deals. For example, for Latos brought them a controllable player, not a player like Lindor or Betts, who is going to bolt for the biggest contract he can find.

        Young players are the future. It’s why no one will pay players over 30 in free agency any more.

        I have no problem with the Reds trading Trammell if they concluded that he wasn’t the player they thought he was. But, prospects often struggle as they grow. It’s rarely a straight upward arrow.

        If Trammell is a failed prospect because he struggled last year, why isn’t Senzel perceived as a sure-fire success since he didn’t? Yet, everyone wants to give up on him now.

      • Jefferson Green

        I think the biggest reason the Reds farm system dropped over the last year was the lousy years that the top prospects had, and that many of the almost-top guys had:
        Greene – hurt and will be limited in 2020,
        Trammel is fringe-level defense for anywhere except left field – and he was an average hitter in a full season of AA (hit .235 with little power),
        India couldn’t put his hitting together for impact,
        Santillan regressed badly.
        (And Senzel graduated to MLB, and his replacement – Lodolo – has not yet risen to his level of ranking.)

      • jim walker

        Last offseason Realmuto would have come with 2 years of control at arguably the most productive point of his career (age 28-29 seasons). That’s worth a pretty high price for a team on which he becomes truly a finishing piece. Question is were the Reds have been such a team with him.

      • Daniel James

        I was very much against getting JT and I was against getting Puig/Wood for 1 year.

        the comment sections were going crazy saying we were winning the WS when we got Puig and them.. I was thinking to myself “this trade actually isn’t that great for us long term” thought the same thing about the Bauer trade

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        @Richard Fitch, “But, Steve, we did trade prospects. ”

        We do? Winker wasn’t a prospect? Senzel wasn’t a prospect? Aquino? JVM didn’t become a prospect? Me thinks you are only looking at the prospects we trade off and/or thinks once we do trade a couple off and/or bring some up to the big club that the prospect list as a group should still stay relatively the same in comparison with the rest of the league.

        That would be absolutely wrong. Trade a couple off, our prosect group will go down relatively with the rest of the league. Move a couple up to the big club, our prospect group will go down relative with the rest of the league.

        Also, don’t think the rest of the league aren’t trading their prospects nor moving their prospects up, also.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        @Jefferson Greene

        I agree. How does the prospect list improve? Through scouting and instruction/development/improvement of the minors, not by keeping the minors in the minors forever.

  11. Curtis

    Preach on… Preach on! I could not agree more with your writings. Do not wager the future of our minor leagues and place the hopes in the hands of players in the later years of their contracts who may give us fans and the team a rush of adrenalin that will so quickly fade. Let our youngsters grow and play within our own park.

    • Ed

      That’s fine but the teams that rely on homegrown players also benefit from having made enormous investments in their minor league systems- Dodgers, Astros. The Rays, Nationals, even the Cards, so many others trade and go big by trading and signing free agents.

      we saw last year what the farm here is putting out. Lackluster defense, miserable base running, and inconsistent hitting.

      • Optimist

        Isn’t part of the point to not strip remaining talent from the farm system just when you’ve completed the staff/infrastructure revamping of the farm? Sure it will take 3-4 years to develop, but better to leave the talent there as a control, rather than degrading the talent and testing for better results.

        As for the past few project trades it seems the proof there will be whether the evaluation of Trammell as not a superstar is correct, and if they severely underrated Josiah Gray. Sure Long/Downs/Moss et. al. likely have MLB futures, but the consensus seems that none were big loss/high ceiling types.

      • Ed

        When you look at who was brought up this year, aside from Aquino, no one was close to ready to start in MLB. Those guys were at the top level of our farm system. The fielding, base running, nd hitting was all surprisingly terrible. Aquino was amazing. Maybe better coaching fixes it, and so we should hold on to everyone and anticipate a team of all the young guys in the future. Meanwhile, I hope the system they’re establishing is able to quickly and more effectively scout these guys … Some of the problem might be a product of the coaching, but blatant problems we saw on the field could go all the way down to scouting these guys in the first place.

        Teams that win develop their talent, but make effective, frequent trades and FA signings for what they need to continue winning in the bigs. They don’t just hold onto prospects because prospects don’t always work out. You gotta extract value out of them and you need capable scouts who can identify a Grandal when you have him, so you don’t trade him for junk instead of extracting value out of him. I suspect there are lots of minor league guys that could and should get traded while the whole process is dialed in

      • Optimist

        Slightly disagree (but it’s why I sign “Optimist”). There was small, but visible improvement, this year, both in the WL record, and the farm call-ups. I may have better expectations for JVM than most, but fear Aquino may not quite be “good” though certainly worth finding out. Kuhnel seems to be worthwhile as well.

        Compare those 3 with the 2016-2018 callups, and you at least have MLB role players, if not potential regulars or better. Don’t know if Blandino has any further growth, yet am confident both Winker and Senzel will blossom into solid regulars.

        As SteveLV notes below, though, are there 4 all-stars in this group? Doubtful.

      • Pete

        Optimist – this is how I view the LA/CLE trades:

        The Reds received: 2/3 of a mediocre season from Puig, nothing of value from Kemp or Wood, some value but small from Farmer. A really bad 2 months of Trevor Bauer.

        The future of the aforementioned: maybe a good season, or maybe great, but possibly another lackluster effort from Bauer… and then free agency. Wood? Who knows but I’m not juiced. Farmer? Another season or two or a decent utility player.

        What the Reds gave up: Jeter Downs, Josiah Gray, Scott Moss and Taylor Trammell. Homer Bailey’s contract.

        Outside of Bailey this appears to be an epic disaster in the making. Because the Reds really don’t development minor league talent maybe it doesn’t look bad now. But the Dodgers and Indians do development their farm system’s talent. All 4 of those young players could turn into major league regulars.

        If Bauer lights it up next year, Cy Young level, he could limit the damage in a trade deadline deal but outside of this? My suggestion is don’t think too hard about the LA/CLE deals if you want this FO crew to make more/better deals. I don’t.

      • Optimist

        That seems the worst case scenario, perhaps second to one of them becoming a repeat All Star. As I said above, Gray and Trammell seem to become the worst outcomes, for opposite reasons. Everyone thinks Trammell develops into a regular or better. We’ll see. As for Gray, I thought he was actually a tougher loss, and his year in LA’s minors only adds to that, but again, we’ll see.

        If any of these 4 get to a Suarez, or even Justin Turner, level, then clearly the Reds bombed badly. If all plateau at replacement level regulars, meh. If they re-sign and get 3 good years from Bauer – worth it.

      • Ed

        Optimist- The thing that troubled me was that really, the team crumbled after the break- and that was when the young guys came up! I mean, 10 losses between starts from Bauer and Gausman didn’t help… But then we also had a chance to really face poor play from the young guys (er, and sadly the older guys too), even during that stretch of supposedly easy games against the Mariners, etc towards the end of the season. Even with Puig miserably slumped, we are just a few games back going into the break… then the call-ups happened and some of the pitching started to suck…

        Whoever the front office folks are who let the talent go for cheap, who fail to recognize when they have someone who really could have become a homegrown superstar, like Grandal, etc… that all seems to be a big part of the problem, so you know- you, Doug, etc probably knows better, because it’s tough for me to really get a feel for what’s going on in the farm system without really watching the games.

        But the thing that bums me out is that the article seems to imply the only option is to dump the prospects, when the team is literally worth a billion dollars that go towards this stuff – mlb players, front office, etc

      • jim walker

        And boom, the minor league system is being totally reorganized this off season. This probably should have been one of the top priorities when the rebuild began back whenever that was.

      • Jefferson Green

        My recollection is that the first thing DW did when he was promoted three years ago (before he had the control to make all moves and investments that he would have liked) was to analyze and begin to revamp the entire farm system, team by team. Over the following two years a lot was added: trainers, an additional coach on each minor league staff, nutritionists, and tech (and more that we don’t see, I’m sure). Off season training, including some high level leadership education for certain top players, was increased. In the last year a whole slew of new positions were added throughout the system – in the front office and on the road. Why some of these didn’t happen sooner is a good question, but they have been happening. And of note – they cost a lot of dough, millions and millions per year. (Scouting was dramatically revamped and upgraded, including a new regime in the DR and the first ever team of scouts in Asia, but that can be for a different post.) The Reds have gone from way behind the curve to getting on par, to now perhaps getting into the top third (or higher?) in the year to come, indicated by the hiring of Kyle Boddy (and others), who had his choice of organizations to join and chose the Reds.

  12. wizeman

    What besides Iglesias would it take for the Rockies to listen on Trevor Story.
    Grandal would be a big plus. The biggest out there that seems attainable.

    • Jefferson Green

      Completely agree on Grandal. I’d like Story – he’d be an upgrade for sure. But he also only has two more years of team control, and his hitting is a little below average outside of Coors field. He also is hitting his last two arbitration years, so while he wouldn’t break the bank, he will cost over $11 million next year and more the following (a lot more if he has a good year). It would be easy to overpay in prospects for him. Colorado wants to compete, so they will probably be patient to get a strong return – or will keep him.

    • Bob Purkey

      While I like Story, he is also another whiff artist to the tune of 174 times last year- 1 every 3 AB’s. Given the Red’s current lineup, I don’t think that makes him a good fit. His OBP was very good, but the K’s are a huge red flag for me, especially coming from Colorado. If the Reds had a lot hitter who put the bat on the ball, I could see it. With Story, I think the Reds would lead the league on Offensive K’s.

  13. AirborneJayJay

    Richard, good article again as usual. But you left out one component of The Rebuild that the Reds have been much, much, much, much worse than the other teams you mentioned. Drafting in June. The reason for tanking is mostly about draft position to rebuild back up with quality stars-in-the-making. The Reds have a very injury prone Nick Senzel to show for the last 5 seasons of losing. Granted, they have Tyler Stephenson and Nick Lodolo slowly developing in the minors, but that is it when it comes to early draft selections. The Hunter Greene and Jonathon India picks have been especially bad for the Reds and their rebuild. And the Reds haven’t done much better in the subsequent rounds of the draft. The Reds picked second in each round for two straight years and have close to nothing to show for it. The Reds front office, when it comes to international signings and the draft, has been way, way beyond woeful. And a few good picks the Reds did actually make have been traded away (Trammell, Downs and Gray). The Dodgers trade last summer will go down as the most bone-headed Reds trade since the Frank Robinson trade. Another woeful Reds front office move.
    Secondly, when those two teams traded away their pricey veterans, their GM’s got plenty of talent back in return. The Reds? Well they didn’t and haven’t. They did get Suarez, DeSclafani and Castillo. Where are the players the Reds got for Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Homer Bailey? Out of those 18 players the Reds received, only Reed, Peraza and Farmer remain from all those players the Reds got in return. None of those 3 expected to be a starter in 2020.
    If you don’t have a good, seasoned front office, the Rebuild is not going to be a good one. That seems to be the one commonality between Cincinnati, San Diego, and the Chicago White Sox. But both of those teams have drafted much, much better than the Reds have in the last 5 years. Both of those teams are ready to explode on the scene in 2020 with a lot of their draft picks. The Reds, well, their draft picks just are not very good ball players. Bad trades and bad drafts and here we are going into year 6 of The Rebuild. That is Year # 6.
    The Cubs, Astros and Braves are rolling in big rebuilt mansions. The Reds are rolling with a tarpaper shack on “the muddy banks of the Ohio River” as their Rebuild. What do the Cubs, Astros and Braves have that the Reds don’t? Baseball people in their front offices.

    • Ed

      Yeah I agree- it’s sort of an issue of poor scouting and totally misreading the values of prospects they do have. Additionally, it’s a coaching issue. Then, lots of bad trades. Lots to fix!

    • Richard Fitch

      I hear your frustration, but don’t agree with much you’re saying here.

      The Reds have gotten NOTHING for drafting second? So, now Senzel is nothing? Hunter Greene is nothing? Jonathan India is a bust because he didn’t come out gangbusters in Dayton?

      Fans are quick to give up on players at the MLB level, so it’s no surprise when they throw fresh prospects on the trash heap at the first sign of struggles. If Nick Senzel had a recurring injury in one part of his body, I could understand the concern. But, he’s had at least 3 freak injuries that have kept him from showing the form that made him one of the top prospects coming out of college. Greene was a teenager when they drafted him. He’s barely 20 now. But he’s a bum pick because he had to have TJ surgery, something that scores of pitchers will face?

      If the Reds’ draft so poorly, why did the Dodgers want Gray and Downs? The Reds drafted Winker 49th. Do you know how many guys drafted outside the first round ever have a career in the majors? I’m pretty sure Winker will–one he gets past the injuries.

      And you really can’t blame the Reds because Senzel, Winker and even Mesoraco have had their share of injuries. There are no metrics to predict that.

      As for the blame on the front office, this front office didn’t wait to trade Frazier, Bruce, et al. The owner did that. It was the owner that told Paul Daugherty that he listens to what his people have to say, and if they don’t persuade him, HE DECIDES. It was the owner who didn’t want to do a massive rebuild with the ASG on the horizon.

      And anytime someone brings up the Cubs and their rebuild, they should also mention that they spent $495M to supplement that core. And they have developed exactly ZERO pitching innings from their minor league affiliates.

      • Pete

        Richard, all I can see is what I see. I can’t read intentions or put stock in “what if’s”. The Reds have either been drafting or developing players poorly, maybe both. Coming up next month, DW has been the President of Baseball Operations for three years. Bottom line Senzel, Winker, Greene, and India; not to mention Siri, are who they are. Tomorrow? We don’t know.

        The Reds have had a miserable run of bad luck or it’s that and a combination of something else. If I’m a betting man, the Reds go down like the Titanic over the next couple of seasons. I want to believe but I need to see tangible proof. So far the only proof I can see is ineptitude. Instead of being cautiously optimistic over possible trades and FA signings, I’m mortified how much deeper the hole will be dug.

      • AirborneJayJay

        I didn’t say Senzel was “nothing”. I said Senzel is about all they have to show for drafting with high draft picks for 5 seasons. I did acknowledge Tyler Stephenson and Nick Lodolo also. That is about it.
        Have you perused Doug Gray’s new top-25 prospects list or the others that have come out lately? Very discouraging. Very discouraging. And if the Reds were not drafting badly, then why did they re-assign their top drafting personnel to other benign duties and usher in a whole new drafting and development regime?
        “And they have developed exactly ZERO pitching innings from their minor league affiliates.” That is completely false, or you are using “developed” in a completely different manner than Webster’s. The Cubs didn’t draft Kyle Hendricks, but he started with the Cubs at the A+ level. How is that not developing? That is 966.0 innings they developed. If we can’t say the Cubs developed Hendricks from the A+ level on, we cannot honestly say the Reds developed Luis Castillo then as he came over and started with the Reds also at A+. Drafting and developing are not the same thing.
        Don’t give this Reds front office a free pass. They don’t deserve it, nor have they earned it. A front office should be judged by the product they put on the field. Wins and losses. Not by how many beer gardens they construct, or stadium food apps they come up with, or how many bobbleheads they give away.

      • Daniel James

        agree the reason why we have consistently loss is our ownership. I don’t blame Walt Jocketty I blame Bob

    • doofus

      I will agree that the Reds International signings and finding gems in the lower rounds of the draft are way behind other teams, but….

      Anthony Rendon had nagging injuries early in his career. Look how he turned out.
      Nick Senzel also has been afflicted with nagging injuries early in his career.

      Hunter Greene was not the first pitcher to endure arm problems early in his career. Jacob deGrom, Lucas Giolotti, Stephen Strasburg, et al, had arm injuries early.

      On T Steve, catchers are notorious slow developers.

      On Nick Lodolo, how can you consider him a “slow developer?” He was just drafted last June and has done great. Did you want the Reds to have him pitch 150 innings from June to August this past season?

      Stuff happens.

      I finally believe that Williams and Krall are starting to sort things out after the Jocketty debacle and Bob C is stepping back from meddling. Let us see what they do this offseason.

      • Michael E

        I agree with ya Doofus. I don’t like all the injuries, but they are unforseen. I also agree that Bob C may have stopped meddling the past couple of years, given all the changes being made in the org and minors and the steady change of direction.

        I really like Lodolo and he has only been a Red a few months. I think that comment was probably just not well though out about developing slowly.

        I didn’t love the Dodgers trade either. The only think I did like about it a bit was showing SOME kind of activity.

        To that end, I see, to a small point, Pete’s frustration and fear and worry over digger a deeper hole. That the FO still is not sure how to improve, only how to make easy trades. I do want to see a very shrewd trade that pawns off 3 or 4 so-so players/prospects for a stud. The kind of deals we see other teams make and shake our heads in jealousy.

  14. SteveLV

    I think teams need a core of 2 starting pitchers and 4 position players who are in the all-star conversation. Virtually every team that has had any playoff success has that core, other than Tampa Bay.
    For teams that aren’t going to have a $200 million payroll, some of those core 6 need to be developed through the farm system.
    So from that viewpoint, I agree that depleting the farm system to go “all-in” is a real mistake. I didn’t like the Bauer trade, partially because I didn’t want to lose Trammell, but more so because I didn’t want that trade to cause the Reds to feel compelled to trade more of the farm in order to try to win at a high prospect trade cost in 2020.
    I am completely supportive of signing 2 free agents who can be in that core 6. I don’t think it matters a lot which positions those free agents fill, particularly given Senzel’s flexibility. I hope that’s the path they’re on.

  15. John

    I agree with the writer, on one hand I wouldn’t mind them picking up a reasonably priced free agent, IE Grandal, or such. I wouldn’t want them to trade away the farm system for a Mookie Betts, for one year. Don’t get frustrated and do something stupid.

  16. Scott Hecht

    What you failed to mention in this article is that the Reds front office is now finally able to make the moves needed to better the team without the interference of Castellini. I like the direction and attitude Williams, Krall and others are doing to bring this franchise back into relevance. The Reds need to go all in. Another decade of missed postseason play could doom this team for much longer than I care to imagine. I say spend (wisely), trade (wisely) and draft (wisely) to set up this organization for many years to come. Jocketty killed this team with horrible leadership. We the fans are finally seeing hope on the horizon.

  17. scottya

    Three general choices at this point. 1. Go all in for a 2 – 3 year run. 2. Make an attempt at long term winning (probable lots of mediocrity). 3. Strike a balance between the two. Which is the best choice? I don’t know for sure.

    At the worst, is a 2 year run at a title worth a 5 year rebuild cycle? I think that putting together a team that is expected to win the division for the next two years might be the best thing. Striking a balance, might be ok also? It might also leave us just short of a world championship. There are way to many factor’s to be sure.

    As far as the division; THE TIME SEEMS TO BE NOW, with the Cubs in flux, Cards look down to me and Brewers are also in an uncertain spot, the Pirates are also looking down.

    Even one big trade could potentially decimate our top 100 prospect list. 1. H Greene, 2. N Lodolo, 3. J India, 4. T Santillan 5. Tyler Stephenson

    Here’s a guess of what going all in for the next 2 – 3 years might look like:
    1. Trade for Corey Seager (7.1m) – it might take H Greene, T Santillan and T Barnhart
    2. Trade for Noah Syndergaard (9.9m) – It might take N Lodolo, J India, + another prospect.
    3. Sign Yasmani Grandal – projected 4 years will be required 17m av
    4. Sign Mike Moustakas – projected 2 years 20m (10m)
    5. Sign Corey Dickerson – probably 2 yrs 12 (6m)
    6. Sign Will Harris – projected 2 years 14 (7m)
    7. Sign Wilmer Flores – 1 year (2m)

    1-2 SS – Corey Seager/Peraza
    3-4 LF – Jesse Winker/Phil Ervin
    5-6 1B – Joey Votto/Yasmani Grandal
    7 3B – Eugenio Suarez
    8 C – Yasmani Grandal/Curt Casali
    9-10 RF – Dickerson/Aquino
    11 CF – Nick Senzel
    12-13 2B – Moustakas/Flores


    Will Harris
    Bowman or Kuhnel

    That’s a 2020 payroll of about 149m, with Bauer and Desclafani salary coming off in 20 offseason (24m) and more after 2021 the payroll is manageable going into 2022.

    I think the Reds are in a good spot, which way they choose to go will be fun to watch.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t offer Hunter Greene in any trade, at least not at this time. The Reds had two number two draft choices, which in theory were the “prizes” of the rebuilding effort. They have Senzel now in the bigs, and Greene supposedly has the potential of an ace starter. I don’t dare trade him until I am sure that he can’t be that ace starter. Many pitchers have recovered from TJ surgery to succeed in the bigs.

      • Richard Fitch

        I’m with you, Tom. He could be the next Dwight Gooden. There’s that much talent there.

      • Big Ed

        I agree, as well. Look no further than Walker Buehler, who had TJ surgery almost immediately after the Dodgers drafted him.

        Patience is one of the least admired human virtues. The goal as I see it is to build the organization to the point where the “window” is always open at least a crack, and wide open frequently. You can’t do that by stripping the farm system too early, or by signing long-term deals with catchers in their 30s.

        One thing that the organization MUST get better at is signing and developing hitters from Latin America, and the Dominican in particular. The Reds have managed the impossible feat of failing to develop a top-flight Latin hitter since Tony Perez more than 50 years ago. This is the team’s signature weakness, but it gets little attention.

      • doofus

        Agree. Greene and Lodolo appear to me to be two solid starting pitchers on the horizon. How many teams have that?

      • Michael E

        I agree too, the only two SPs we have with HIGH upsides are Greene and Lodolo. Add in that Greene’s trade value it lower than normal and Lodolo is a Lefty we really need, I don’t want to trade either unless it means getting back a better collection of talent all with upside proven or otherwise.

        In other words a trade in our favor that is in our favor due to quality, NOT QUANTITY. I wan the Reds to win the next few trades based on net quality.

        Basically I want to keep those two and see how all this new coaching and direction improves them. If they need to trade, trade from the next tier and go for quantity of pieces moved over quality, say trading #4 or 5 and 7, 11 and 14 to get a deal done, not #1 and #6.

  18. FreeHouse

    I wouldn’t damage the farm by trading away. Reds have money and they should use it. I agree with everyone that if you trade someone it should be Iggy and they shouldn’t sell low on Iggy either but the Reds front office has done that before.

  19. TR

    The Reds have a lot of question marks for 2020 and the main one in my mind is whether Trevor Bauer will be the shutdown pitcher they thought they traded for? If so, then the Reds will have a real good starting staff. Another big question is whether Winker and Senzel will be recovered from injury. With money to spend, I hope the Reds can sign Grandal and Gregorious. Barnhart as the backup would mean Grandal could occasionally give Votto some rest at first base. Hopefully Senzel moves to second base and that leaves a major question mark at the vital position of centerfield. The right offseason moves could set the Reds up to compete in 2020.

  20. BK

    Richard, fantastic article in both logic and presentation. I also hope the Reds will avoid the temptation on an “all in” approach this offseason. Equally tiring is the perpetual rebuild.

    I hope the Reds will follow the approach of the Cardinals and build a sustainable product on the field. This approach will produce opportunities to reach the playoffs and recapture the fanbase in Cincinnati. I’ve spent a lot of time in St. Louis. They were largely indifferent to the Rams, but they are obsessed with the Cardinals. Their fans believe they have a chance to be in the playoffs every year. Consequently, they watch the games on TV and they continually fill the stands. This produces income above and beyond the size of their market. In many ways, Cincinnati has the potential to be a better market with Louisville and Dayton close enough to make nearly any game on an impulse and Columbus and Indianapolis well within range with just a little planning.

    Thanks for all of the effort you put into this article … it is excellent!

    • TR

      St. Louis has a long history as a two team major league baseball town until the Browns moved to Baltimore in the early 1950’s. Metro St. Louis is also, at least, a half million in population bigger than Metro Cincinnati.

      • BK

        There are certainly market differences. Metro area favors St. Louis (21st largest in USA) is 600K to 700K bigger than Cincinnati (29th largest in USA), but there are now close cities like there are for Cincinnati.

        The Cardinals averaged nearly 43K in attendance in 2019 compared to the Reds 22.3. A consistent winner should result in that gap closing significantly over time. The Reds won’t get to 43K, but if they could get to the low to mid 30Ks, it would bring a huge chunk of revenue. That’s the Cardinals formula for success.


    The problem with small market rebuild is that by the time one or two talented players become great you can’t keep them here they get traded. Look at the players Miami has given up during there rebuild Yelich Realmuto,etc,etc they would have best team in baseball if they kept half the players they gave up. How far are they from competing , they can’t even draw 8,000 fans on a good night. You give up just as much rebuiding as you do going all in. A small market team can’t keep great teams together for more than a year or two even if they rebuild. All in and rebuild for small market teams are the same result so you might as well pick the side that gives you a chance to win go Redlegs.

  22. Ghettotrout1

    I think they kind of have to go all in at this point. Truth is Votto is not great and we owe him for what 4 more years and we have a pretty good rotation honestly probably the best one in the NL Central so I don’t see why we wouldn’t trade the farm the farm has produced very little anyway. So I guess I just don’t trust the farm. I’d rather blow 40 mil on whatever free agents we can get and trade away India, Greene and if really need be Santillon or Lodolo. I don’t think any of those guys are going to come up and light the world on fire in the time we have the rotation we do so waiting is kind of useless.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      DeSclafani and Bauer are both possible free agents after 2020, so the Reds need young starting pitching to be ready in the minors. I’m not as high on Mahle as others are. He’s a back of the rotation guy at best, in my view.

      • Doug Gray

        Counterpoint, Tom: If they both walk in free agency the Reds free up $24M in salary to replace them. They don’t necessarily need anyone in the farm system to be ready.

  23. Optimist

    I’ve already left a few comments, but one thing seems unclear – is there a firm date we can determine which marks the DW/Krall era? I understand DW has been around a while, but I thought 2019 was the first full season essentially under their sole management? Even if 2018, 2 years is barely half the time needed to see how their development plans work out. (See Big Ed’s patience is a virtue comment above).

    Clearly they’re not going the buy-it-all now Yankee/Dodger route, nor should they, so given that, I see them having built an excellent foundation (staff/analytics/minors development), and working up from there.

    I don’t mind the 10-year cycles, but the wide swings are disappointing – if the Latos/Choo team isn’t getting to the WS, then the down years aren’t worth it.

    • Jefferson Green

      Good question. DW got the title 3 years ago, but didn’t have the power to make the key decisions until last offseason. I’d call the winter of 2019-19 the start of the DW/Krall era, even though they each were working in similar roles in the previous couple of years.

    • AirborneJayJay

      Dick Williams was promoted to the position of Reds GM in November 2014. In December 2016, Dick Williams was promoted to President of Baseball Operations, and still held the GM title until Nick Krall was promoted to GM on May 10, 2018.

      • Jefferson Green

        To clarify – DW was promoted to GM in November of 2015 (he was assistant GM for the 2015 season), but was still under Jocketty, who gave up the GM title but was still President of Baseball Ops. Jocketty shed the President title and DW got it in late 2016. Until last offseason, it seems clear that he did not have the control to make moves that didn’t jive with the Jocketty/BC school.

        Exec Summary: DW got the official title of President of Baseball Ops (and Jocketty relinquished it) in late 2016. DW was able to realize the power of that position in late 2018.

  24. Curt

    Excellent essay Richard. You make a sound case that when looked at with calm logic and reason as opposed to knee-jerk emotion is hard to debate. In the minority? of course, but isn’t it always the lone voice in the wilderness that ends up shaping the popular opinion? Rave on!

  25. Jefferson Green

    Well-written and interesting, as usual. Thank you, Richard.
    The ‘All-in’ mentality seems to be coming from fans and pundits, not the Front Office. My sense is that DW is looking to be creative and find value – seeing where others undervalue something the Reds can add, and seeing where others over-value something the Reds can trade (or avoid acquiring). He is smart, and he looks through the lens of a well-trained investment banker (which is how some very successful baseball teams have been built).

    ‘All-in’ would have been signing Scooter to a long-term deal last year, or signing Harper or Machado. ‘All-in’ would have been trading the top of the farm system to the Dodgers or Yankees, or offering more than they did in order to land Realmuto. ‘All-in’ would be saying that the Reds would compete at that FA level this year (DW has indicated that they will not).

    My note on the only ‘top’ prospect the Reds traded away this year (I am not sure he’ll be a top rated guy going forward): While I question whether something more than Bauer could have been obtained in a trade of Trammel, his season at the plate was really poor, and his best chance to play CF is in a huge ball park that uses his speed, so he is best with another team, and I’m hoping the Reds traded him before he lost more value (although he seems like a really good guy, so I hope he succeeds for his sake).

  26. AirborneJayJay

    Would you want to take a look at this player in the Rule 5 draft if the A’s don’t have room and are not going to put him on their 40 man roster? It looks like it very well could be the case. He plays all 3 OF positions. He will be 28 next season. He hits LH. He plays pretty good defense in the OF.
    He hit .334/.400/.653 at AAA with 30 HR’s and 95 RBI’s, but that was in the PCL. JP Morosi noted him playing well for Team USA in the WBSC Premier 12 being played in Mexico now.
    The Reds could use a LH hitting OF in addition to Winker. I don’t think VanMeter should be playing much in the OF next year.


    • BK

      Promising player … if you can play all three outfield spots, handle playing sporadically and remain productive he would be a steal in the Rule 5 draft.

      As for VanMeter, he doesn’t have much outfield experience. I agree, he had some games where he really looked bad, but there is reason to believe he could improve. That said, his performance really tailed off as the season wore on. I also like Thames as a potential OF next year. He could compete with Aquino for RF and augment the corner spots as well as 1B. He’s a solid professional that may provide good value and a particularly good fit with the Reds.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        Thames has a career WAR of 3.4 in five big league seasons, but a career OPS+ of 111. He would certainly be a good bench option if it can be worked out.