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.