Earlier this week we saw Dick Williams resign from his position as Cincinnati Reds President of Baseball Operations. While Williams has been working for the organization since 2006, he didn’t take over as the General Manager until November of 2015, but during that 2016 season it was still Walt Jocketty that was calling the shots according to C. Trent Rosecrans report from the day it happened (then of the Cincinnati Enquirer, now of The Athletic).
Walt Jocketty ceded the general manager’s title to Dick Williams on Wednesday and he will give up power following the 2016 season.
So let’s realistically begin with the offseason following the 2016 season to begin to give Dick Williams credit for moves made by the organization. No general manager is going to get every move right. In fact, they’ll probably get plenty of them wrong. The key you want to try and avoid is getting things painfully wrong, while also getting some stuff very right along the way.
With all of that said, what was the best move made during the Dick Williams era? I’ll go over some of the ones that I think should be in the discussion in chronological order.
The first big move that was made may very well be the best one. On January 19th of 2017 the Reds traded Dan Straily to Miami in a deal that brought Luis Castillo and two others to Cincinnati. In four seasons since that trade, Castillo has thrown 519.2 innings with a 3.62 ERA (124 ERA+) and been named to an All-Star team (2019).
Two months later, at the end of spring training, the Reds made another impressive move when the team picked up Scooter Gennett off of waivers from Milwaukee. Over the next two seasons he hit .303/.351/.508 with 52 doubles and 50 home runs, and was named a National League All-Star in 2018.
In spring training of 2018 Cincinnati signed Eugenio Suárez to a 7-year contract extension that includes an 8th season that’s a club option. The deal was for the bargain price of $64,000,000 (not including the 2025 option for $15,000,000 that has a $2,000,000 buyout). In the three years since signing the deal, Suarez has hit 98 home runs, posted an .892 OPS (129 OPS+), been a National League All-Star (2018), and gotten MVP votes in both 2018 and 2019.
Following the 2018 season the Cincinnati Reds hired Derek Johnson to be their new pitching coach, prying him away from the Milwaukee Brewers. While the pitchers also changed, the Reds went from a laughing stock pitching staff around baseball to a top 10 pitching staff in the two seasons since Johnson took the gig.
Building on the previously mentioned move, the Reds traded for Sonny Gray in January of 2019 and then signed him to an extension. He’s thrown 231.1 innings with a 3.07 ERA (153 ERA+) in his two seasons and was named to the 2019 National League All-Star team. He’s under contract through the 2023 season (team option for 2023 at $12,000,000).
On the final day of July in 2019 Cincinnati traded for Trevor Bauer. There’s a lot to this deal that still has to play out given that the Reds traded away Taylor Trammell and Scott Moss, both of whom have yet to reach the Major Leagues – but for as rough as the initial stretch was for Bauer following the trade in 2019, it was incredible for the 2020 season. He led the National League in ERA with a 1.73 mark (276 ERA+ was also best in the league), led the league in batting average against, WHIP, and hits allowed per 9-innings pitched. It may results in the first Cy Young Award in franchise history.
Those are the ones that really stand out to me over the years between the time that Dick Williams was General Manager or President of Baseball Operations. Which one do you mark down as the most important? There are a few moves that could still be vitally important that simply haven’t played out yet. The signing of Mike Moustakas or Nick Castellanos could turn out quite well (or the opposite). The bringing on of Kyle Boddy to be the teams minor league pitching coordinator and director of pitching initiatives. But those moves aren’t ones that we’ve seen play out just yet in the kind of manner on the field that the other ones have. Which move was the best in your mind? Did I gloss over/forget anything that would make your list?
Tomorrow we’ll be back to discuss the worst move, so hold onto your thoughts for that one.
Castillo and Gray were to me the two biggest acquisitions for Williams, followed by the signing of Johnson to be the pitching coach.
On a side note, the Reds desperately need to hire/poach Williams’ replacement from the Rays organization. They constantly manage to outsmart other teams with their talent evaluations, without having to sign guys like Castellanos and Moustakas to overpriced deals. Even if the Reds have to “overpay” to get a top Rays executive, it would certainly be worth it. Pay him ten million a year for all I care. With the success the Rays get from a payroll under $70 million, imagine what he could do with a larger payroll with the Reds.
Leading the organization out of the dark ages to the light of analytics and snagging Boddy will have long term effects that go beyond the trades that did or did not pan out. The trade to get Sims worked out well for both teams which is unusual. Signing Geno was a good move. Getting Castillo was a good move.
Agreed Bred. Bringing in people like Boddy, Johnson and the support staff have been huge. It will be years before we have an idea on how well things like the draft worked out but the things I mentioned seem to be paying dividends.
p.s. Sonny Gray and Castillo trades have been really good.
Dick Williams best move?
A: The day he resigned. That is if they go get a real credentialed baseball exec.
Best move was when he left. Reds need more baseball people in the front office and less nepotism. The whole organization is a good ole boys club and they’re getting walloped along the way.
Lots of great moves, IMO. Even though we all want more, the Reds haven’t sat on their hands during his short tenure. Seems like he did what he could.
I liked the acquisition of Castillo and Gray also. I agree that landing Derek Johnson and Kyle Boddy were major upgrades—coveted by other ball teams, even.
Scooter turned out great for two years, but i see that as a stupid move on the Brewers and DW at least being smart enough to see the no-brainer opportunity placed in his lap. So i guess he gets credit for that after all!
How about making the smart move like you said and picking scooter up and then not giving him a long term deal.
If you mean that it was smart not to extend Scooter (which i think is what you mean), then i agree. Time has validated that one.
The emphasis on pitching by Williams is a real positive and hopefully will be long lasting. Now we need a replacement who can mesh the Reds potential into a winning team. Checkout the Rays organization. The Dodgers made the first move a couple years ago getting Andrew Friedman to come over from Tampa.
Modernizing the infrastructure and thinking outside the box in the process were the most important things DW did. It is unfortunate he did not have a deeper and more ingrained sense of the nuts and bolts of baseball to guide him in these efforts. But still he got a lot done in these areas.
As far as player personnel trading for Castillo and extending Suarez long term on very team favorable terms were his best moves.
Agreed – seems most think the structural changes will be the legacy, rather than any particular player transaction. The Johnson move seems to have proven itself already, and hopefully we’ll see minor league/player development proof in the next 2 years.
It will/would be interesting to hear about the player moves they didn’t make, but those won’t be aired for a few years yet, if ever.
In the last 2 years, the Reds moved out a lot of prospect talent they had hyped as parts of the team’s future just to get Gray and Bauer (and save $$$ on the Bailey departure). If some of those guys come up big and the Reds as a team don’t, it is going to reflect poorly on Williams in regards to his personnel moves.
I think Dick WIlliams’ best attribute was the following …
Having an MBA, he used competitive analysis to see basic things the Reds needed to do/add, basic “blocking and tackling” … to be competitive as a smaller-budget MLB team. Brought a corporate approach to the Reds structure and operations.
Best moves from that approach:
1) Hiring Kyle Boddy
2) Recruiting Derek Johnson
3) Hiring Bell (not as manager, but long-term streamlining minor-league operations)
– Also, selling high on an asset, like an average arm, for the chance at a future star (Straily for Castillo).
As far as actually be good at running baseball operations in the present and setting up the Reds for a contention window now …. that’s tomorrow’s conversation.
Excuse me for jumping the gun on tomorrow’s conversation.
He should have resigned.
No 10 yr monster contracts, but he did re-sign Arroyo.
Actually he did a good to great job. Depends on how J Gray and Trammel/Moss. To be fair Josiah Gray is in the Dodger system and they can do a good job with Pitchers. Heard Moss added a few MPH. Trammel is in Seattle system. Hitting .230 in low minors screams a problem.
I still think Bob should sell me the team on weekly payments.
On the field? Castillo, hands down. The Marlins had tried at least once, maybe twice, to trade Castillo, and the Reds swooped in and got him. I’ve always been curious how many other teams might have been trying to do the same thing.
Getting Derek Johnson and then Gray, whom Johnson coached in college, go together as the next step. And if the Reds can entice Trevor Bauer to stick around, maybe that acquisition becomes No. 1.
Organizationally, just widening the scope of baseball analysis was long overdue.
Gray first for me. He needed out of NYC and he’s lived up to what we were promised.
Oh, and my Respect Cincinnati shirt arrived today. Wish it had been under an extended post-season run, but I’ll still take what we did, warts and all.
Senzel had not been off the field prior to the draft. Don’t see how DW’s failure to see the future was his ‘mistake’.
I thought the reports on India from the Prasco squad, now that his wrist is 100%, had him rated as the Reds’ number one position prospect.
Folks seem to want to dump on India. Maybe because he is from the same conference as Senzel and also had an early wrist injury?
In the draft India was taken 5th … 1st was SP (Mize, DET) … 2-3-4 were position players.
2nd – Bart, SF
3rd – Bohm, PHI
4th – Madrigal, CWS
All in MLB in 2020 and look to be fixtures for 8-10 years.
Is the letdown with India on the player, his injury history, on the organization’s draft evaluation or the organization’s development plan?
Colorado Red is dead-on, IMO about the Reds (still) having a weakness at development, beyond India’s situation.
Reports from Prasco are very encouraging. See the MLB article below.
A couple things. India took into his third year in college to break out. Now, think about making the adjustment to playing every day, pushing through the low minors quickly and then making the most difficult jump in minor league ball, to AA, while injured. A wrist injury in particular, not to mention (I believe) being hit in the face. I think India will be fine. Senzel, too. There are very few Kris Bryant’s out there.
PS. Dick Williams does not run the draft.
PS – When you are President of Baseball Operations … you either are responsible for all of the baseball operations … or none of it.
Maybe that’s why DW resigned?
We are all just “guessing” … but, when you get past modernizing systems and procedures …. there is a lot in the actual roster construction, for 2020 and beyond, that can be questioned and criticized.
Williams owns that, or ultimately, did.
Coincidence or not, this feels like leaving on a high note … good time to get out, and he is doing it.
If he doesn’t like public criticism, he surely would not like having the role in 2022 or 2023.
IIRC Doug has commented on the Senzel injury situation often – but that’s not a draft issue, akin to drafting a SP coming off TJ surgery. As for the rest, still too soon to tell – 3-4 lag time for draft-to-MLB.
Derek Johnson. I am not sure Gray is so good without Johnson. I have no doubt he has helped others too.
Boddy is too early but he is my co-choice. I don’t know who gets credit for Bauer. Either way Bauer was great and from what I have learned from Bauer, if the Reds are competitive, both on the field and with an offer he will return. Credit for this goes to Boddy more probably but Johnson may deserve some too.
Johnson and Boddy are also long term advantages (Hopefully)
Sonny was very good in Oakland and Cincinnati, where he was allowed to throw his curve, as DJ knew. The Yanks scrapped the curve in favor of a slider. Their mistake.
The Yankees are a mistake
2015: 13.66% (A’s)
2016: 16.35% (A’s)
2017: 14.54% (A’s/Yanks)
2018: 22.92% (Yanks)
He threw his curve 50% more often in 2018 with the Yankees than he did his last 2+ years with the A’s.
As for his slider which you make out to be a the reason for his demise:
2018: 16.56% (Yanks)
2019: 20.64% (Reds)
He threw it more often with the Reds. The difference wasn’t selection. His slugging % on his curve, slider and sinker were career bests in 2019 (complete seasons). From what I see his changes are:
1. Throw fewer pitches in the zone
2. Minimize pitches that are obviously outside the zone.
#1 is a Derek Johnson staple.
Do you think Senzel would be able to last longer if he were at his natural position of 3B? I’ll give my thoughts on related topics after tomorrow’s article is posted.
1st would be acquiring Derek Johnson. 2nd would be snagging Scooter Gennett. Liked the Trevor Bauer deal (but it didn’t help us win in the post-season since we had/have NO offense). Suarez strikes out too much. Jmo.
I’m a slacker. Worst move article will be coming Monday morning.
It’s all good, Doug. You and the team do an excellent job of giving us plenty to read and rant … I mean comment on.
+500,000 to speed you into the offseason.
Go Rays, Go Braves … I’m good with either of them making it all the way.
I believe its still too early to say whether the Boddy and analytics moves pay off. I’ll believe they’ve paid off when we see mid to late round draft picks starting to product at the major league level. First round draft picks typically make it to the big leagues. I expect to see 3rd rounders and 5th rounders produce at the major league level. See the Rays and Cardinals as example.
Redsvol. What do you mean by 1st round picks typically make it? Roughly a 50% rate for that.