“There’s no cut and dry definition of farm to table. If you find yourself wondering “What is the farm to table movement really?”, it boils down to this: the farm to table movement broadly refers to food made from locally-sourced ingredients, often natural or organic.”

Farm-to-table is an apt metaphor for where the Reds think they’re going. It conjures up buzzwords like “sustainability.” It’s so 2022, so “right now” it’s downright “crème fraîche.”

It also—as I’ve said previously—plays on the format the Tampa Bay Rays have made successful, a menu particularly tantalizing to the Castellini’s because it involves little infusion of dollar bills. If you could keep from getting distracted by the insults hurled the fans way on Opening Day, you heard this:

“I do think we’ve had to shift the discipline. We’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t work and they came this close to working and didn’t. Nobody’s going to tell me it didn’t work. So, I think we’ve learned from those things, so trust me, Nick is a guy on a mission. He’s a bull in a china shop that has his way to do it and that way is to grow your own and he’s doing just that.”

I feel like a guy on a month-long vacation, there’s so much to unpack here. It seems fairly obvious that the “things that didn’t work” Phil Castellini referenced are named Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama, etc. It feels like the lesson Phil learned—and wants to pass on to us plebeians—is free agency is fool’s gold and “locally sourced” is the Reds Way forward.

Here’s the thing, though: all of those were relatively small contracts and/or short term. Whether they were free agent deals or inherited contracts via trade, that’s a part of baseball risk. If you own a team, you just suck it up and deal with the losses and move on.

On the other hand, to be fair, we can, in retrospect, understand why the Reds were hesitant to keep Nick Castellanos. Nick signed with the Phillies, a five-year deal worth $100M. Here’s what Brian Kenny, in his book, Ahead of the Curve, Inside the Baseball Revolution, had to say about those types of signings:

“I went through not just baseball’s $100 million deals, but all the big free agent deals through baseball history, and tried to spot why so many seemingly went so wrong … I found the following red flags that seemed to keep popping up in the deals that ended badly … Here are those five red flags:

1. Wrong Side of 30
2. Wrong side of the Defensive Spectrum
3. Misreading of the Metrics
4. Contract longer than 5 years
5. Branding over Baseball

Wrong side of 30
Castellanos was born in March of 1992, so yes, he’s technically on the wrong side of 30. Check.

Wrong side of the Defensive Spectrum
Uh, yeah, most definitely. Check.

Misreading of the Metrics
Nope. Nick has had the numbers to back it up.

Contract longer than 5 years
Nope. But 5 years at 30 years of age is close to the danger zone, Will Robinson.

Branding over Baseball
As Kenny opined, “this one should be subtitled ‘Ownership Involvement.’ If a signing is made to make the franchise relevant, to put fannies in the seats, convince other free agents to sign here, or to sell merchandise, avert your eyes from the train wreck ahead.” Of course, this exactly depicts the Nick Castellanos phenomenon last season. There was briefly the banner outside the ballpark showing the right fielder standing defiantly over Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford at home plate. His son Liam’s tee shirts sold in the team shop and at Cincy Shirts. And those tees that depicted a black and white photo of Nick with the simple word “Legend.” It would have been easy for ownership to buy into the branding, but, of course, they never had any intention of spending that kind of money, even if none of Kenny’s red flags had been present, but still …

Listen, I’m not saying the Reds shouldn’t have signed Castellanos. In fact, a big part of me wanted them to do just that. But there are real and valid reasons why they chose not to go down that avenue. Brian Kenny’s conclusion is that more than half of the $100M contracts owners opened their wallets for were deals they wouldn’t have made in hindsight.

But this is not about letting Nick Castellanos get away. This is about the other part of the equation. It’s about those smaller contracts that didn’t work out and how they have now poisoned ownership’s thinking; Moustakas, Akiyama, etc. As Kenny says “a short-term deal that doesn’t work out is part of the budget. Soon it’s over and you turn the page.”

This is the part that the Castellini family cannot abide. It appears from the COO’s comments, they refuse to deal with the inevitable losses that are part of baseball signings. The Farm-to-Table approach will inoculate them from such losses. It’s their path to sustainability. Or so they think.

But just as a restaurant in the Midwest can’t shop local for soft-shell crab and fresh oysters, so must baseball organizations look beyond their local estuaries for the kind of talent that takes a roster from merely competitive to five-star.

Instead, it appears the Reds have given up on supplementing the considerable local talent farmed from years of rebuilding mediocrity. The farm has given them Tyler Stephenson, Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, Tyler Mahle, Jonathan India, and Nick Senzel, and potentially more in Tony Santillan, Elly De La Cruz, and Matt McLain. None of that will be enough if they don’t supplement with outside talent to fill the inevitable holes that the farm cannot address.

Until the Reds learn this lesson, they will continue to be putting square pegs into round holes, playing talent out of position (e.g., Senzel), rather than finding players via free agency that neatly fill their needs and create a well-rounded meal for fans.

Cincinnati baseball fans deserve better than this. Think Jeff Ruby’s, Phil, not Ruby Tuesday.

94 Responses

  1. Craig

    The ownership can’t stick to any plan, all over the map. As long as this team keeps the “knee jerk” approach this team will never made any headway.

  2. Bryan Scott Shaul

    Nailed it!! i really had hoped they would re-sign Nick and that would bring other free agents our way sadly it didn’t happen and we are stuck now with rooting for our guys and hating our owners

  3. SultanofSwaff

    I feel the issue isn’t so much lack of splashy free agent signings because we’ve had those…..or at least more than other franchises similarly devoid of much hope. Krall’s stated goal is to end the wide boom/bust pendulum and build a club that is competitive year in year out. To do that in my opinion they need to lock up the home grown pieces. Otherwise, it’s just a revolving door. And here’s the thing, the fan bases are wise to this charade. There’s too much information for ownership to continually be selling hope to the masses. We know the franchise valuations, the budgets, the talent in the minors, and especially how other franchises operate. For me, if ownership isn’t willing to lock up Mahle and Castillo then there’s simply no point to enduring these lean times because there won’t be a reward at the end. It’s taken me many years to realize there’s no nobility in struggling when help is readily available but withheld.

    • LarkinPhillips

      I am probably in the minority here, but I don’t think the Reds should lock up both Castillo and Mahle. I think one should be flipped this year mid season and the other should be signed long term. You can debate which one, both have pluses and minuses. However, with Greene, Lodolo, and the other young pitchers behind them the Reds should be able to roll out a top of the line rotation with only one high paid pitcher and the rest still on their original contracts. That is of course assuming the money saved in SP goes to bullpen and veteran offensive players. The Reds truly have the opportunity to build a consistent winner from this young core of SP and hitters if they don’t screw it up.

    • Richard Fitch

      This is an excellent point and one I left out. Signing young, producing players before they get expensive works for both sides. They should have tried to negotiate a long term deal with Castillo. I fear it could be too late now.

      Still, you just can’t fill all nine places on the diamond via your system alone. When you draft, you draft the best player available, not by position. You never know what your needs will be 3-4 years down the line when you try drafting out of position need.

      • LarkinPhillips

        I agree you can’t fill all nine positions internally. However, the Reds have a great young core with Stephenson and India to build around with the hopes of Mclain, Barrero, De La Cruz, become solid contributors as well (and hopefully a couple others from Torres, Cedrola, Confidan, Allen etc. developing into competent pros as well) Pair that with a solid young staff and hopefully you only have to sign a couple of the 9 positions and a bullpen.

        Obviously all that is a perfect world with out injuries and consistent development. However, that is the only thing us Reds fan have to even hope for at this moment.

      • old-school

        They did that with Suarez and Homer Bailey well before age 30. Neither worked out. Votto’s contract broke 3 and 1/2 of the tenets. Branding and baseball both made sense but paying that money going into the desert of 2014-19 with no winning window was about branding.

        Great article.

      • Daytonnati

        Pirates just signed KeBryan Hayes for 8-years / $70 million. That locks him up to age 32. That is the sort of deal the Reds should look to with India and Stephenson, and any of the others who demonstrate staying power.

      • Jim Walker

        …..you just can’t fill all nine places on the diamond via your system alone.

        Agree a team cannot operate this way and be successful. However, we may be about to see the Reds try to do things this way. They could always adopt a “next man up” attitude like college football, regardless of how unready or short on MLB level talent the next man in line is.

    • Hotto4Votto

      I mean, they’ve sort of done this as well. They signed homegrown young talent to extensions, as with Bailey, Votto, Cueto, Mesoraco, and Barnhart. They also extended who they thought to be young core guys in Phillips and Suarez, and in more complicated but technically extensions, with Gray and Iglesias. Some have worked out well (Votto, Cueto, Gray), some came back to bite them (Suarez, Bailey, Mesoraco), some worked out reasonably well at the front end, but they ended up eating money on the backend (Phillips, Barnhart, Iglesias).

      I’d say extensions ought to follow the same red flags as FA signings. And largely it’s all a crapshoot due to injuries. All that said, I’d be in favor of extending both Mahle and Castillo. Both have been reasonably healthy and consistently improving over enough period of time. And, even more importantly, I think both can still reach another level. But if they don’t extend them, then they need to trade them at the deadline for a haul.

    • doofus

      What “flashy” free agent signings have the Reds made?

  4. LarkinPhillips

    I would have been more likely to buy into this as their “new strategy” had they not went out and signed Minor. I can understand Pham as a potential piece to flip midseason and allow the younger guys (Friedl, Cedrola, etc.) another half season in minors before being called up. I can understand the Winker/Suarez deal (Winker injuries/Suarez consistent decline) and not signing Nick (Money). However, when at the end of the offseason, you merely save 9-10 mil and make this team substantially worse, while blocking younger guys from getting any MLB time, I find it very hard to believe that they are switching approaches or even have an actual long term strategy to become a consistent winner. Ironically, Minor’s injury and other injuries have opened the door for a few younger to get some MLB experience, which is what this season should be about after the horrible offseason.

  5. AMDG

    “We’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t work”

    To be accurate, he should have said “we’ve tried a lot of BAD things that didn’t work.”

    Overpaying in prospects for Puig, and giving bad contracts to Moose & Shogo looked like bad moves when they were made, and proved to be.

    Just like selling off quality like Winker & Gray, and dumping Miley, only to waste the $ saved from those moves, on dead weight like Minor, Moran, and Pham were also bad moves from the moment they were made.

    I think the lesson here is not for the Reds to stop trying. But to stop trying BAD things which reek of incompetence.

    • Doc

      Oh how simple! Just don’t sing bad deals. But one tiny question:

      How do you know that it’s a “bad” thing before you do it and see that it turned out bad? Richard’s article points out that, when studied, at least half the big signings across mlb turned out bad, and the study was not limited to the Reds. It’s pesky when data complicate a theory.

      • Doc

        Sign, not sing, though singing bad deals is probably also not good.

      • VaRedsFan

        @Doc…It is hard to decipher what is bad and good. I was excited to acquire Moose (good) but not for 4 years at his age (bad). Asian players have made an impact in MLB for years. They took a chance on Akiyama, which I am fine with. It just didn’t work out. It wasn’t an 8 figure per year deal, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Signing Mike Minor and his 5+ ERA, hurt or not, for 10 million was not bad….it was AWFUL. Everybody knew it….but Krall. He was not only a bad pitcher, but he would have blocked one of our young starters that need to get experience and priceless evaluation at the big league level.

    • BK

      I liked the Homer Bailey (so bad the Dodgers immediately cut him) and two good prospects for a proven starting pitcher (Wood, 105 ERA+ in 27 starts in prior season), a RH platoon partner for LF (Kemp, 121 OPS+ in prior season), a starting RF (Puig, 120 OPS+ in prior season), and an intriguing bench piece (Farmer). Many soured on this trade in retrospect when Wood spent most of the year on the IL and Kemp had nothing left.

      Moose was signed coming off a long string of >100 OPS+ season and filled a hole at 2B. His contract came in at $2M/year AAV over mlbtraderumors prediction. A slight overpay at worst.

      Akiyama brought top of the chart OBP potential and like Moose was signed just above mlbtraderumors prediction. He also filled a need for improved OF defense.

      None of the deals have worked out, but none of them put the Reds in an insurmountable hole. Many on this sight applauded each move as they were made.

      In contrast, several here panned the trade for Bauer (he won the Cy Young with us). Several here panned the signing of Castellanos (he had his best season with us). The front office needs to be willing to take risk. Unless they find a crystal ball, they will not “win” every transaction and back to the thesis of this article, they won’t be able to produce everything they need on the farm.

      • AMDG

        As far as the 2018 trade with the Dodgers, nothing about that deal made sense. The Reds were coming off a 67 win season where they finished 5th in the division, yet gave away some of their top prospects for rentals. Then, throw in the big salaries the Reds had to pay for the guys they acquired, like Kemp, who was declining overall, but coming off a fluke year. And it seemed pretty obvious the Reds were paying tomorrow’s prices for yesterday’s production.

        Most players lose about 0.070~0.090 from their batting average & OPS when they transition from Japan to the US. That projected Shogo as a 0.230 / 0.320 (BA / OBP) hitter for the Reds with power that didn’t project to the majors. Plus, he was on the wrong side of 30. At the time, it seemed like an overpay for a guy who projected to be an older Eddie Milner, and just didn’t make sense. In hindsight, he was a far worse hitter than that, but at the time we didn’t know that.

        As far as Moose, I didn’t mind getting the player. He was a decent bat. But for a bat-only player with zero defense, who was on the wrong side of 30, and only averaging 1.5 WAR the previous few seasons, $16M/year seemed like an overpay. In hindsight he has hit far worse than expected and it looks even worse than it did in December 2019.

        I think there are certain moves that look bad from the onset. From my perspective, these all fit that category. I didn’t expect these moves to utterly flop as terribly as they did. But they did look like bad moves at the time. And I’m just asking the team to make moves that actually make sense at the time they are made.

      • VaRedsFan

        The Moose contract would have been fine…for 2 years. The Reds were taking a shot in 2020. 4 years was the killer, but he probably wasn’t looking for a 2 year deal and they wouldn’t have been able to land him.

      • Andy

        Josiah Gray remains the key to that trade. Homer for Kemp was a wash, trading bad salaries. Puig was mediocre and Jeter Downs looks like an AAA organizational filler type. Alex Wood was a miss, clear downside of the trade. Kyle Farmer became a valuable utility guy (miscast as starting SS, but absolutely has value on 25man roster.) Gray is now the x-factor. From Reds perspective, if he becomes a star, it was a bad deal. If he becomes solid regular (or less) with value similar to Farmer, then it’s a wash.

  6. David

    Krall certainly has messaging problems and the roster has major issues this year. It probably will next year too. However, I kind of like the direction. He looks to be building on the starting pitching talent coming in with Greene, Lodolo, Williamson, Petty, and Ashcraft. I think they probably sell both Mahle and Castillo. One will probably go this year and the other next year. They need some more position players and especially outfielders. They will also trade for some more starters. They really hope that Pham plays well and they can get someone for him. But bear in mind this. They should have about $80 million to spend even if they keep the same payroll since there will be no Votto, Moose, Pham, Minor, etc. It looks like Krall wants to have as much flexibility as possible at that time. He definitely did not want to bank on any over 30 players like Castellanos and Winker that may or may not be what they were in 2021 and be saddled with any long term deals at that time.

    • Doc

      Perhaps it would be different if they didn’t lead the majors in guys on the IL.

    • Votto4life

      They may have money to spend, but who is going to sign here? They obviously had to overpay to sign Moose and Castellanos would only sign with an option to opt out every year. These signings were before this latest fiasco.

      The only free agents who will sign here will be players like Tommy Pham. Players who are not wanted anywhere else.

      The Bengals had the same problems for years. It’s going to take a generation or more before top free agents will want to sign here. The only thing that will change it is new ownership.

      • greenmtred

        I don’t know who would sign here, but we won’t know without making competitive offers. Supposedly, Boras told the Reds that Castellanos was open to resigning with them.

  7. Daytonnati

    The last really good Reds team, 2012, had the following “blended” Opening Day starting lineup:

    1st – Votto (farm)
    2nd – Phillips (acquired via trade)
    3rd – Rolen (acquired via trade)
    SS – Cozart (farm)
    LF – Ludwick (free agent)
    C – Stubbs (farm)
    RF – Bruce (farm)
    C – Hanigan (farm)
    P – Cueto (farm)

    • Optimist

      Yep – that’s the model development – of the two trades Phillips was excellent, Rolen was fair value considering. Ludwick is almost the perfect FA – not too expensive, not too long, not too vital. 4 or 5 fielders from the farm, 1/2 or more of the pitching – always churn relievers.

    • doofus

      Five of the BRM starting position players were from the farm: Griffey Sr, Rose, Concepcion, Perez, Bench.

  8. Chris

    Good article, except for the last example, which made no sense. Senzel is not playing out of position. He’s an athletic kid that they had move from a lesser athletic position to his current athletic position of CF. Senzel, when he plays, is an outstanding Center Fielder. Would you suggest that Billy Hamilton was playing out of position too, he was drafted as a SS? Again, great article, but trying to support a solid position, is often damaged when using bad examples, just to pile on.

    • MBS

      Is he a better CF than a 3B? That’s a debatable point. That said, however, I don’t disagree with you, a lot of people complain that they ruined Senzel by moving him around. It’s really kinda a joke, he’s been snake bit by injuries. They just moved Hinds to the OF to protect him from injuries at 3B. I hope Senzel puts it together soon.

      • Chris

        Not to mention, Senzel had injury issues in the minors when he was still playing 3rd base. Organizations move young players all the time; that’s not bad planning. As for whether Senzel is a better defensive Center Fielder than he was a 3rd baseman, I don’t know. In all fairness I don’t think anyone in this forum has any idea. We don’t have any deep matrix on Senzel at 3rd base. With that said, Senzel’s goal is to win a GG in CF. He may not do that, but he’s a damn good defensive outfielder when he’s actually out there.

      • greenmtred

        It is debatable, but I tend to favor him as a centerfielder. He has outstanding speed–necessary in center, nearly superfluous at third. The Reds have a fair number of guys who can play third (I’m not counting Moose) and few legitimate centerfielders.

      • DaveCT

        I have no issue with moving Nick to CF. Eight games into his first ML season, however, was not wise. Plus, and I have a much greater issue with this, they blew up in hitting approach, again in his first ML season. Or, more specifically, they allowed him to blow up his hitting approach halfway through his rookie year. Who does that? Throw in his string of injuries, and whatever his other struggles he’s had, such as Covid in 2020 and episodes of vertigo, at this point you just want this guy to be OK and have success. Tragic, really.

  9. Daytonnati

    And they added Mat Latos for four of their highest minor league prospects, thus going “all-in”. It almost worked.

    • Daytonnati

      Oops, three minor league prospects and Volquez.

    • VaRedsFan

      They chose Mesoraco over Grandal. Everyone thought that was the right choice. Everyone was wrong.

      Yonder Alonso was blocked by somebody, and absolutely couldn’t play another position.

      So they traded players that were redundant to the current team to get a top notch pitcher.
      I loved this trade.

  10. MBS

    I’m onboard with the plan in theory. I think over the years many baseball fans have looked to the Rays as a way forward for their franchise. Like with any plan it’s about execution, and who’s executing it. Is Krall the guy? I have no idea, but Bob is not the owner. I think he wants too much input in to personal moves.

    The funny thing is we could do their plan much better than they could. In 2013 and 2014 the Reds average attendance was 31,288 and 30,576 respectively. I picked those years because they were after 2012. So when we have success, Reds fans attend. The Rays are always at the bottom of the attendance charts.

  11. PetalumaRedsFan

    Excellent article. On point with Nick Castellanos, he could have signed for the Reds for 16 million versus 20 million per year by the Phillies. Not much difference (4 million per year). I like Nick, he is a gamer and plays with intensity, the Reds did all they could to keep him. Better to adopt Tampa Bay, and Oakland A’s model and fill gaps with free agents.

  12. Oldtimer

    The two best Reds teams of my lifetime (1975 and 1976) had the following key players:

    1B Perez (farm) 2B Morgan (trade) SS Concepcion (farm) 3B Rose (farm) C Bench (farm) LF Foster (trade) CF Geronimo (trade) RF Griffey (farm) DH Driessen (farm)

    SP Nolan (farm) Gullett (farm) Norman (trade) Billingham (trade) RP Eastwick (farm) McEnaney (farm).

    The best “recent” Reds team (1990) had the following key players:

    1B Benzinger (trade) 2B Duncan (trade) SS Larkin (farm) 3B Sabo (farm) C Oliver (farm) LF Hather (trade) CF Davis (farm) RF O’Neill (farm) DH Morris (trade)

    SP Browning (farm) Rijo (trade) Armstrong (farm) RP Myers (trade) Dibble (farm) Charlton (trade)

    So a mixture of farm and trade worked best for the Reds then. Similar in 1961, 1970, and 1972.

  13. Optimist

    Of all the moves listed, I’m baffled by the Miley/Minor transactions – what did they gain there? Cannot tell if that was planned sequentially, or if it was just cut Miley and see if we can save money after the lockout. Neither make sense financially and certainly don’t “align the resources”.

    • BK

      I agree with you. That said, these transactions happened months apart. With Miley, the Reds decided not to exercise his option. Unable to work a trade, they took a chance that someone would pick him up on waivers allowing them to avoid his buyout. So, with Miley, their motivation was to save his buyout cost.

      As for Minor, they were willing to take on some payroll to get a guy who had made most of his starts over the last 4 seasons. Even with middling results, that had value to them for THIS season as they look to bring younger pitchers to the Majors. In short, we tend to look at these together, but they really came quite a while apart.

      One other point, there are still active grievances against some teams for not using their Revenue Sharing dollars to improve their team. It’s possible the Reds don’t want to take a chance having a grievance filed against them and potentially losing it.

      • BigRedMike

        Thanks for the last paragraph. This is an issue, particularly after the new CBA. MLBPA is looking at teams that receive extra revenue sharing and the Reds spent after the CBA.
        This needs to be remembered by Reds fans going forward when looking at contracts.

        Miley and Minor have nothing to do with each other. The 5th starter role could always be a 1 year veteran contract.

        Minor and Pham are 1 year deals, this what should be done going forward as the roster is filled with farm system, hopefully.

        I would look to trade Senzel and one of Mahle or Castillo. Probably Castillo as Mahle seems more reliable. Mahle, Greene, Lodolo, then two one year contracts for veteran starters might work for a few years. It would be nice to develop an additional starter.

        Not sure how/why anyone would have considered the Moustakas signing as a good one at any point. That is just a bad bad signing. A two year contract with a club option for the second season, maybe.

  14. doofus

    Since 2006 the Reds have suffered from the #castellinicurse and will continue to do so until Bob sells the team.

  15. LDS

    After 15+ years of failure and still many give the ownership the benefit of the doubt, e.g., accepting the “pivot” theory. This is not a pivot, it’s a ploy. Phil C has a degree in marketing, i.e., he believes packaged the right way, folks will buy anything regardless of quality. Minor, Dunn, Moran, Drury, how do any of these reflect sound strategy? Particularly Minor and Dunn, both of whom came to the Reds injured. That’s pure mismanagement. And clearly the anti-tanking CBA changes are irrelevant to some owners. Good article but more generous than the Reds management deserves.

    • centerfield

      Phil must have cheated to get that degree in marketing. He is about as anti-PR as you can be.

    • Luke J

      It’s not about trusting management (or accepting some “pivot” theory). It’s about understanding the process for a small market team to compete. Hate Reds front office all you want, this is still the correct strategy. Whether they can execute it is a whole different question.

      • LDS

        Give up the small market argument. It’s a canard. Look at the tax treatment for player contracts. Look at the revenue sharing. The media contracts. ETC. Are the Reds ever going to be as flush as the Dodgers or Yankees? Nope. Does that mean they can’t invest in the team and win a few games. Also no. That the attendance continues to fall is caused by fielding a lousy product. Same as the situation in Oakland. Hire some decent management. They don’t have any, apparently at any level. Sooner or later, Reds fans will realize they have the power to change things. Stop buying the streaming packages. Quit buying the tickets. Quit buying the merchandise. At the end of the day, it’s a one way street. Fans pay the owners. The owners should be fielding a good product. It’s also informative to compare the rosters career stats to their Reds stats. Sure suggests a systemic problem with the organization, especially given that GABP is a hitters park.

      • BK

        @LDS, the Reds are actually a small market team and the fact that as you state, they will never be as flush as the Dodgers or the Yankees proves the concept is no canard.

        Tax treatment for player salaries is consistent across all clubs. The fact that MLB has a specific process to have large market teams to share revenue with smaller market teams is clear evidence of the revenue disparity among teams. Similarly, local media contracts are another clear area of disparity. It’s a fact that the Reds and A’s (and several other teams) are at a structural disadvantage when competing for player talent with larger market teams. To continuously deny the obvious is the real canard.

        Luke is exactly right, this structural disadvantage means the Reds must have a different strategy than a large market team. I also agree with you in that the Reds status as a small market team does not excuse the Castellini’s performance as CEO and COO of the Reds. Other small market teams have had much greater success–we can look across the state of Ohio to see an example and of course there are others.

      • Luke J

        @LDS All you have proven is that you don’t understand the economics of it. The Reds are a small market team. Period. Most of a team’s revenue comes from TV contracts, and like it or not, the Cinci market is not the LA market. A $200M payroll is absolutely not sustainable in Cinci. Whether you like it or not. Maybe for 1 season as I’ve explained is the strategy. But not like you expect.

    • BigRedMike

      How is it tanking? It might be bad strategy and the continuation of no plan. The signings are to meet a certain salary threshold for revenue sharing purposes.

      Minor, Moran, Drury, Pham are not bad signings, they are 1 year contracts.

      I liked Gray and it would be nice to have him, but, they at least obtained something for him and he is injured. Gray would provide little value to this team.

      Miley is hurt, Barnhardt is awful and was blocking Stephenson. Suarez is doing pretty decent and Winker has been truly awful. Winker has hope though.

      • LDS

        Moran and Minor aren’t bad siginings? Seriously? A Pirate reject and an injured player that hasn’t pitched a single pitch thus far. As for the economics of the game, even if one accepts the Forbes estimates, the team is more than capable of profiting and spending more than they currently are. Sorry small market isn’t a viable excuse for mediocrity. Making no changes in leadership despite a track record of failure is not defensible. Signing 30+ year old cast offs is not a strategy. The attendance last year was 1.5 million. They haven’t pulled 2+ million since 2015. Those that argue that attendance isn’t the revenue driver it once was, are the ones not understanding economics. As for marketing the Reds, well insulting the fans is a brilliant marketing plan.

      • BigRedMike

        I guess you missed the part that they are 1 year contracts. Moran is not close to a bad contract.

        Of course signing cast offs is not a strategy. Having a plan and filling in spots with veteran one year contracts is a strategy. Doubtful the FO can do this, but, it is at least a strategy.

        The Reds could have spent the same amount of money on bad players that they got rid of or are injured. Gray, Barnhardt, Suarez, Miley, etc.

        Guessing you want more contracts like Moustakas to show they are trying

  16. Brent

    The Reds played well last year. If it weren’t for a super hot finish by the Red Birds, we would have made the post season. Reds will never be able to put together a team like the Dodgers have (who still lost to Atlanta).

    I feel like this year should have been a year to go for it, not one to take a step back. That being said, I agree that Votto is the exception to the big contract wisdom, not the rule, so letting Nick walk, was not necessarily a bad move. But Tucker, Wink, Genius and Sonny were all club friendly contracts. So…

    As to the need to invest to fill in holes. I don’t like how Phill is coming across, but it seems they have not really turned off the tap as hard as his words suggest.

    Both Tommy Pham and Mike Minor were free agent signings. I don’t think they were good signing, but it seems to show at least some willingness to invest.

    Maybe I am reading the article too narrowly.

  17. Chris Wheeler

    Article is spot on. I would add the Reds were two elite relievers away from a special team. Management knew that for basically two seasons and would not go out and get those two pieces.

  18. Luke J

    The key point that is missing in this scenario is that while everyone knows you absolutely must supplement the farm to table with short term free agent signings, the article misses the point that there is a timeline for that. You only go get those free agents when the farm to table team is ready to compete. Otherwise you miss your window. And does anyone actually think the Reds would be ready to compete for a title in 2022? I think not. Their farm to table system will be ready around 2024. By then the current young guys who are on the roster will have a couple years under their belt but still under team control. And the rest of the young crop will be making their way to the roster. THEN they should go get those free agents. You don’t do it now, when Greene and Lodolo and company will be going through their growing pains. I think people are panicking and getting the cart before the horse. We just need to face it, the last window to win is closed. That rebuild failed to produce the wins, but did produce a nice farm. Now we shoot for the next window in 2024.

    I fully understand the skepticism of this front office doing it right. I do. But demanding they do it wrong is not the solution. Signings like Pham and Minor area inconsequential to the plan of a 2024 window. So we need to stop worrying about them. They are roster fillers to cover the gap until 2024. That’s all.

    • Old-school

      Well said Luke J

      This team had no chance in 2022 and 2023 might be a year early unless some guys blow up in Lodolo and Ashcraft and Barrero and McClain and Senzel finally healthy and productive and Moose finds what Ponce De Leon could not. But thats a lottery ticket not a plan

    • Joey Red

      I remember in 1996 that 98 was going to be the year. Or 2001 when 2003 was going to be the year. Or 2017 when 2019 was going to the year. Actually I’m not sure about the years I listed but that’s what it feels like. To continually say “just wait a couple years” has long past gotten old. I have absolutely zero confidence in this franchise getting it right. It’s a joke. A disaster. A train wreck pulling 20 dumpster fires.

      • Luke J

        @Joey Red What you don’t understand is that those were “the years”. The Reds took their shot and failed. But it doesn’t change the fact that the method for success for small market teams under the current structure remains. Line up those shots and take them. Winning it all isn’t guaranteed, but that doesn’t mean you abandon what is obviously the proper formula.

    • VaRedsFan

      @ Luke….Nailed it. The only thing I would say is, for the money they are giving Mike Minor, could have been used to start extending the young talent. That would allow for more resources for signing free agents during the next window.

      • BigRedMike

        The idea of extending the younger talent is a good idea. Wonder if they have identified those to extend. Wonder if the players are open to that type of extension.
        I would just view the Minor signing as money to appease the CBA.

  19. Old-school

    Hunter greene tweeted to reds fans to
    Come out this weekend and support

    We need you!

    I have no problem watching the rReds @ Gabp and supporting the team and the Banks while also voicing discontent with the COO

    Ill buy tickets to cheer on Greene and India and Stephenson and support the Banks and enjoy a nice day

    • VaRedsFan

      I’m flying to Cincy in June to catch a couple games.

  20. SOQ

    When the Bengals blew up in the 2016 playoffs, I swore I was done with them. But I remembered the players, it wasn’t their fault (except for Burfict and Pacman). That’s how I feel now. When the Reds tweeted that they were still in the running for Nick C, I felt used. Wanted to swear them off as well. But the young guys are very exciting and I love the way Farmer is taking advantage of his opportunity and being a quiet leader. Joey is always terrible in April, so his performance isn’t bothering me at the moment. They’ve all worked hard to be here and are proud to wear the wishbone C. I’ll go to few games this year to check them out. It’s in my DNA I guess

  21. jessecuster44

    Puig, IMHO, was a good player here. I’ll never forget his mad dash to Beat Milwaukee in July of 19. I wish he had stuck around. He’d be a solid corner OF right now.

    And the thing about farm to table is that you need to develop pitching AND hitting. Aside from McLain and Jose B, there’s no young hitting on the farm, and the Reds traded none of their good players for hitters. Can’t beat teams if you don’t score runs.

    • Rednat

      best post in a long time. 1000+
      THE REDS have been obsessed with “getting the pitching” since the Ken Griffey JR days and it drives me nuts. started when they give up Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns for those two dopey relievers from the Nationals and THEY HAVEN’T STOPPED SINCE

    • VaRedsFan

      I loved Puig for his fire and passion. The league found out he could hit 1 specific pitch….Fastball, middle in…preferably at the knees. From then on, he became useless as a hitter, unless some dopey pitcher missed. He would just himself out. He never adjusted and was out of the league.

  22. jessecuster44

    Puig, IMHO, was a good player here. I’ll never forget his mad dash to Beat Milwaukee in July of 19. I wish he had stuck around. He’d be a solid corner OF right now.

    And the thing about farm to table is that you need to develop pitching AND hitting. Aside from McLain and Jose B, there’s no young hitting on the farm, and the Reds traded none of their good players for hitters. Can’t beat teams if you don’t score runs.

  23. Michael E

    If they’re actually going to build from within and actually invest serious money (relatively speaking) into the minors and prospects (and coaching/training) then I am okay with it. The big problem is, they have been mostly awful developing drafted players. Dick Williams and Co gave it a go to remedy this with the analytics folks and driveline, but that plug has been pulled.

    So, if they try to build from within, but we’re back to awful player pipeline investment, coaching, training and scouting, then we’re simply going to take another step back. This means top 5 draft picks for the next 10 years and envying Pirate fans if so.

    Pony up on the lower levels if you want to save at MLB. $1 million spent at lower levels might be worth $10 million spent at MLB level, so don’t cheap out now.

    I’d like to see the Reds pilfering scouts and coaches from very successful organizations (overpay them), and that have been with that said organization at least 3 years (not a just got here, and not part of the culture yet).

  24. Votto4life

    Please take a minute and really read this comment below:

    Just think how exciting it would have been right now to have this team adding Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, jose Barrero, Matt McClain and Elly De La Cruz to a major league team with the likes of Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto, Jessie Winker, Nick Senzel, Jonathon India, Tyler Stephenson, Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Michael Lorenzen.

    What an exciting team that would have been! Instead Nick Krall absolutely destroyed this team. He absolutely destroyed it. He will do it again in July by giving away Louis Castillo and Tyler Mahle.

    The Reds owners obviously are not going away. We are stuck with them. But we need not be stuck with Nick Krall. The Castellinis know next to nothing about Major League Baseball or assessing talent. In the few months leading up to the July trade deadline, they need to understand that they must, the absolutely must fire Nick Krall.

    If Nick Krall is the GM at the trading deadline he will give Louis Castillo and Tyler Mahle away for peanuts. Nick Krall may be a nice guy but he is not Knowledgeable about Major League Baseball an how to assess major league talent.

    We need to replace the “SellTheTeamBob” billboards with “FireNickKrallNow”

    I am serious about this. If we don’t act, we run the risk of extending the rebuild from 3 to 5 years without Nick Krall to 5 to 9 years with Nick Krall.

    Nick Krall must be fired immediately. The franchise may depend on it.

    • TR

      Obviously, Nick Krall has the GM position because the majority ownership approves. The Reds fanbase is stuck with the current ownership until change happens.

    • Luke J

      Um, other than Nick Castellanos, who opted out and chose to walk for a long term $100M contract, Sonny Gray, who is hurt and would be washed by the time you are adding players like De La Cruz anyway, and Winker, who is a platoon batter who can’t play defense (and is currently hitting worse than Suarez in Seattle), the rest of the players you listed are still here. So one guy walked in free agency and the other 2 aren’t big losses and were replaced with players who actually might have a nice role when those other youngsters are called up (Williamson will come up before De La Cruz, and Petty might be not far behind). I don’t think your argument holds nearly the weight you think it does.

      • Votto4life

        Um, If the reports are to be believe Castellanos had interest in signing an extension here.

        What did Nick Krall do to replace the production the Reds lost when their best hitter left for free agency? Nick Krall promptly turned around and traded their second best hitter.

        Luke, if you sincerely believe the Reds losing almost 100 home runs in the off season and it not replaced is a good strategy, then I get why Nick Krall is your guy.

      • Luke J

        Nick Krall isn’t my guy. I just understand how the process works for a small market team. Losing 100 home runs in 2022 is completely irrelevant if your goal is to build a winner in 2024. The Reds offered Nick C. $18M and he rejected it.

    • VaRedsFan

      Agree with Luke. Losing Castellanos was not the Reds choice. They let go of a pretty good righty-only hitter in Winker, who’s never played more than 110 games, who swings so hard now, that he injures himself, and was probably below avg defensively. That allowed them to get rid of their sub .200 hitting Suarez, who was also horrible defensively.

      • Votto4life

        It also has the team with the worst record in baseball . Trailing the 4th place Pirates by 4 games.

      • VaRedsFan

        Yeah….It really doesn’t matter if you finish 4th or 5th. They were a non-playoff team with those guys and are a non-playoff team without them. If your ceiling is to make the 8th playoff spot, or be a .500 team, then tear it down and start over. Aim higher. IMO

      • Jim Walker

        Given the on record comments of Scott Boras that he personally called Bob Castellini and made the point that Nick Castellanos had “interest” in returning to Cincinnati, I’m not sure it can be presumed it was Castellanos’s choice not to return to then Reds versus the choice of the Reds not to match the offer available to Castellanos.

        And those offers look like they should have been affordable for the Reds. The 2-year option term with the Reds Castellanos walked away from had an AAV of $18m. He signed with the Phillies for an AAV of $20m over 5 years. Thus the total AAV difference over 5 years from the AAV the Reds had already committed to for 2022-23 is $10m. That is bird feed in MLB, especially with Votto and Moustakis coming of the books after the 2023 season ($32m net off the books after adjusting for the buyouts of their 2024 options) .

        As Richard said in the post, Castellanos could be seen as a gray area signee at $100m over 5 years. However given his demonstrated success at GABP in his 2 years with the Reds, I believe he would have covered the total contract cost within 3 years based on WAR; and it is at least even money the Reds walked away from Castellanos versus him not wanting to come back.

    • Michael E

      So adding a bunch of rookies that will have more downs than ups to a mediocre team and we’d be excited?

      They had too many holes and still too many hitters that are/were more K than put in play. Castillo if healthy would probably have a 7.00 ERA right now (he doesn’t like April and not a huge fan of May) and we’d probably be under .500.

      We’d have a glimmer of playoff hope though, that I will give you, but in no way would we be favored for a wild-card spot, even if they had kept everyone around with a much bigger, even bloated payroll.

      My only glimmer of hope is clearing the payroll of bloat and in 2024, when no big contracts remain, they target that year to sign a couple of, hopefully, under 30 players with proven good K/BB numbers (on both hitting and pitching) and that can actually play defense.

      If the SP looks good then (might) with Greene, Lodolo and a couple of solid SP3/SP4 from A/AA level right now, then go get a couple of solid RPs to really solidify the pen.

      Target the worst position and focus the biggest upgrade there, whether it’d be SS, 3B or CF. Also, 2024 would be the time to perhaps trade a prospect or two for a relatively cost-controlled SP or good, with upside 24 or 25 year old hitter that another approaching rebuild team is ready to trade to jump-start their rebuild.

  25. RedsDownUnderwr

    I came across something from Kyle Boddy on Twitter the other, where he responded to a Reds fan who said they wished we still had him. And his reply was that he loved Reds fans and that there was great direction; the quote was something like, “they promised the world and overdelivered.” I assume this was referring to Dick Williams. Made me think that the ownership actually had things okay in 2019, then the bad deals and COVID and they just blinked and pulled a 180.

    • RedsDownUnderer

      Here’s the quote: “I’ll always miss the Reds fans! Two great years under visionary leadership who promised me the world and overdelivered. Results will continue to pay dividends for some time I do believe.” In trying to find this I saw other comments where he praised ownership for their treatment of MiLb players and that he has no beef with the org.

  26. old-school

    I don’t blame the reds for not signing Castellanos to a 5/100 contract.
    Love Castellanos the player . I would have liked the Reds to have made a high AAV offer and extend it 1 season past his original 4 year deal- say 3 years $75 million and maybe give him an opt out after the first season. At least the Reds could say then they made a credible offer to keep a great OF with them and to compete in 2022 and he then chose the a longer deal with more guaranteed money with the Phils. But, its water under the bridge at this point .

    Castellanos did speak very highly of Nick Krall in that interview.

    • Jim Walker

      As I said above, I think Castellanos would have covered the 5 year AAV inside of 3 seasons. This would be a situation similar to Votto where the player has more than covered his total cost on a WAR basis even if he is not covering it now (and probably hasn’t for a couple of years). It is a corollary to the concept of accepting the loss on a short term deal as a cost of doing business.

      • Luke J

        That’s not the point. The Reds can’t afford to get 5 years of value in 3 years of a contract, when those 3 years you aren’t contending. Only to have the last 2 years where you want to contend but are saddled with a large contract for an underperforming player. That’s the whole point. The Reds didn’t want to give him 5 years, nor should they have. They will need that money available for a free agent when they are ready to compete. Nick C. making them a 4th or 3rd place team for the next 3 years really means nothing.

      • Jim Walker

        But if the Reds had Castellanos they would most likely be contending. He is a difference maker of that degree. He makes players around him better too. Ask Jesse Winker or even Jonathan India who was struggling before he was hurt.

        If a team’s outlook is to avoid the “peaks and valleys”, they will never contend because every time they are on the cusp (i.e. starting to peak as in 2021), they will decide they need to retool.

        Yes, with all the folks injured now, they would be struggling even with NC. But the current injury streak is beyond projection.

      • Luke J

        You don’t seriously believe that the Reds adding Nick C. to this team makes them serious contenders, do you? If you do, I guess I can understand why you would take issue with a rebuild. But it also makes me question your assessments. Because there is no way in the world he makes this team a serious contender this year. Heck, keeping the whole team intact, Nick, Jesse, et al., would still have resulted in projections at or slightly above .500. Hardly serious contenders like we are trying to build here.

      • Jim Walker

        I guess that depends on how a person defines “contender”. A team cannot advance in the playoffs unless they make the 1st round. The Reds would have been last team in for 2021 under the format being used this year. There is no reason (aside from a blizzard of injuries) this season’s team could not have been contending for at least the same spot with Castellanos on board.

        The starting pitching as a staff (barring serious injury) will be a push versus last season’s. When all is said and done, the bullpen will be better.

        The core would have been India, Castellanos, Stephenson and Votto. Farmer would be a super sub/ platoon guy at 3B or corner OF (w/Naquin) with Barrero at SS. Solano is a more legit RH bench bat and spot starter than they had last season. Keeping Senzel on the field would have been key because that allows them to platoon Naquin (w/ Farmer at a corner OF spot as cited above). Schrock has done nothing but hit and hit some more when given chances.

        That team wins more than it loses which makes it a contender to be in the playoffs