When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
… I will try to fix you

Jim Bowden was surely channeling his inner Coldplay over at The Athletic earlier this week. Some hail and well met fellow named Mark teed it up for Jimbo, asking what he would do if he were the Reds GM, considering the reality of the Castellini ownership group.

If you have an Athletic subscription and stumbled upon this piece, perhaps you were as dumbfounded as I:

I would begin by investing millions of dollars into improving the baseball operations infrastructure, starting with areas such as research, development, technology and advanced analytics. …. I would then work to hire a strong cabinet around GM Nick Krall that would include former GMs, managers and scouting directors, along with some of the smartest engineers and mathematicians with diverse backgrounds. I would set a goal to hire the best player evaluator and analytics employee who are working with winning organizations such as the Dodgers, Rays, Astros, Yankees and Braves.

Did anyone mention to Jim that the Reds HAD an advanced analytic plan in place under Dick Williams before ownership blew all that up, telling Kyle Boddy and his philosophy to “take a hike.”

Edgertronic slow-motion cameras and Rapsodo pitch-tracking devices became de rigueur at Reds facilities under Boddy, the Reds new Director of Pitching. Weighted balls, which have been part of the Rays Way for some time, became part of the Reds instructional routine. Fresh ideas were the order of the day on the pitching side. New people. New hope.

Even the rest of baseball began to notice:

Yeah, the Reds were one of those teams that weren’t just on the analytic train, they were driving that locomotive. Even players were noticing:

A lot of players are begging to be with the Reds because of our player development.”

Imagine that. Yeah, Dick Williams had it going on, before somebody decided this was no longer the way to go. Before the guys in the bespoke red jackets decided they knew more than the baseball lifers:

Cutting-edge baseball analysis was just no longer a great fit for Reds ownership, so Boddy and his people were gone in the blink of an eye. Minor-league hitting coordinator C.J. Gillman was one of those smart guys who saw the writing on the wall:

“With the direction and leadership in-place when I was hired having moved on, it’s just simply the right direction for me to go personally and for the Reds to go professionally,” Gillman wrote. “I believe deeply in what we accomplished in the time I spent with the Reds. Were we committed to change, the numbers stand up on their own, and I am very proud of that.

Remnants of what was accomplished continue to trickle upward, as we are seeing with Connor Overton:

And Graham Ashcraft:

Bowden seems to have forgotten all this, or thinks ownership is suddenly going to reverse course once again. That would mean admitting they are wrong. They aren’t doing that.

At the trade deadline, I would shop everyone on the roster outside of Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson and Hunter Greene ….

Three guys???? That’s it? The idea that you would part ways with the Nicks—Senzel and Lodolo, not consider signing Castillo or Tyler Mahle, stripping it all down to 3 guys is a dumbfounding idea. It’s just starting all over yet again. It’s more of the same. An endless carousel of cheap players coming in, players with expiring team control going out. If Hunter Greene becomes a successful starting pitcher, he’ll be just like Castillo, a star player the Reds don’t want to pay, just when they need him the most.

I would then put together a five-year plan with clear budgets to guide the baseball operations staff as they build their blueprint.

It would seem the Reds have a clear budget assigned to baseball ops, one that is spartan and rejects what ownership now sees as the wanton free agency ways that resulted in Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama.

I would make everyone in the organization accountable.

Who makes ownership accountable? Again, look upward to the suites, Jim. That’s where the problem is.

I would mostly build the team through the amateur and international drafts, trades and waivers claims. But I would also sign short-term free agents who could be flipped at the trade deadlines. When the team was ready to be a perennial contender, I would target significant free agents, here and abroad, who were entering their prime years (preferably in their mid-20s) and fit within the five-year player budget.

The Reds are already doing some of this. Trades won’t bring much back for Moustakas or Tommy Pham in particular, who suddenly looks worthless in light of yesterday’s immature shennanigans. Trading Castillo defeats the whole purpose of building a sustainable pitching staff. Players of La Piedra’s talent are rare. And he’s here. Why trade him for lottery tickets that will take years to develop, only to send them off to greener pastures in NY and LA when success makes them too expensive to “align with our resources“? If they aren’t willing to pay him now, what makes anyone think they will be willing to target significant free agents at a later date, either.

Reds ownership walked away from the collective bargaining agreement angry. They’re committed to playing a different kind of ball. Call it low financial risk baseball. It feels like the fast track to losing baseball.

And … as soon as I won the first World Series in the Queen City since 1990, I would sell the team to Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos so they could maintain the roster financially.

Sure. What planet is Bowden living on?

Of course, this is the same Jim Bowden that once predicted this Francisco Lindor trade:

Lindor is traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Nick Senzel, infielder Jonathan India, right-handed pitcher Tyler Mahle, and a player to be named.”

Fixing the Reds is going to take a change in leadership at the very top of the food chain. That may be just wishful thinking. To paraphrase an old Rick Pitino line from a press conference during his tumultuous days with the Celtics:

Jeff Bezos is not walking through that door. Elon Musk is not walking through that door.”

18 Responses

  1. Roger Garrett

    It has to start with new ownership.What they have tried hasn’t worked and unless they start by spending more money more wisely it won’t work and I am referring to the Casty,Moose and Shogo debacle as the more wisely part.Nobody could see COVID coming but those deals were just dumb.

    • Donnie

      I couldn’t have said it any better. New ownership that’s not afraid to spend a little money, instead of lining their own pockets.

  2. Earmbrister

    Did we ever get any insight as to what prompted the parting of the ways with Kyle Boddy? Was it a power struggle with the pitching coach? Was it foreign substances being used to maximize spin? Maybe I missed the back story on what precipitated the move. Has the analytical approach been otherwise scrapped?

    On Castillo I agree, I’d make every effort to re-sign him, but if you can’t get the deal done trade him this year while they still have some time left on his contract. If Castillo is re-signed, see what kind of return you can get for Mahle. The Reds, for once, have a ton of starting pitching. Trade one pitcher to acquire a stud corner OFr. Push the chips all in for 2023 and beyond.

  3. Votto4life

    I have resisted trading Luis Castillo but the pat off-season was such a debacle it leaves them with no choice IMO. This team is going to need offense.

    I would discuss a deal with the Mets for their young catcher Francisco Alvarez and young shortstop Ronnie Mauricio.

    Like Ermbrister mentioned, a decision in Castillo needs to be made soon. Either extend him or trade him in July.

    The last thing the Reds can do is let this go unresolved for another year. If they trade him next July, they will only get a lottery ticket in return.

    • William

      If the Reds are not planning to extend Castilli, I agree that the time to trade is now. It is a must that the GM makes a good deal for the Reds’ future.

  4. LDS

    I’d trade Mahle before Castillo. If the ownership doesn’t change, they at least have to show seriousness by cleaning house in the FO and on the field. Eliminate the nepotism and hire quality management and baseball people. Having played pro ball, being a Reds legend, etc. shouldn’t be the qualifications. But alas, it’s all pipe dreams. Nothing is going to change. The Reds will continue to be a mediocre performer.

    • greenmtred

      Woe is us, then. I agree with you about trading Mahle instead of Castillo, but I wonder if he needs to regain some value, and suspect that he does. He’s generally had trouble at GABP and success on the road, but he’s been pretty rocky this season. We’d want to get value for whomever–of the two–we trade. I’m not as pessimistic as many, given the amount of young talent in the system.

      • LDS

        My concern with Mahle is he’ll get worse before they trade him. I don’t have a clue he’s failing so badly this year, just that he is. His last three years were respectable. One could argue that Castillo still hasn’t lived up to his talent but seems to have a higher ceiling. However, if the Reds won’t pony up some extension dollars, trade him. Greene, Lodolo, Overton (though a bit older), Ashcraft, and maybe Williamson offer some hope for the future if they can stay healthy. And with 2 on the IL already that’s a big concern. Some of the guys deeper in the system may be able to pick up the slack. And @greenmtred, you know we aren’t supposed to agree.

  5. Chris Wheeler

    The bottom line is Ownership has to invest money. Players, management. Many different ways. Being an MLB owner is about wanting to win. It is NOT about profitability. The teams that win consistently have owners that use their own money on top of team income.

  6. Bred

    I’d trade both of them. I thought Castillo had the talent to be a #1, but he is mostly a thrower who lacks control and command to be more than a 3 or 4. That’s not bad, but he could have been a contender. Mahle has talent, but just falls short of what he could have been. There are lots of reasons why both have not achieved their respective potential. Was it coaching, desire, or did I just overrate both? Maybe they are satisfied with what they are. Bauer is a fill in the blank, but no one worked harder or competed more intensely than he did.

    • Jim

      “I see the train a coming
      A coming around the bend”
      And that is the train of a good pitching staff forming for the next 4 or 5 years.
      Keep Castillo & Mahle and add the best 3 or 4 of the new ones. The Light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.
      Yeah Moose & Shogo we’re bad moves for the money, although I like them both, Shogo just didn’t work out and Moose hasn’t produced yet.
      One thing that might really help this present team is that Votto would agree with going home to Toronto for his farewell tour, then we could use that $ for a outstanding young player for the middle of the lineup. It would be great for Toronto, Great for Cincinnati, and Great for Votto. Just seams this year that when he is in the lineup we lose and when he is not in the lineup we win.

  7. Oldtimer

    I don’t remember Bowden being wildly successful as Reds or Nationals GM.

    • Jim Walker

      About all I remember about the Bowden era in Cincy was Pokey Reese saying if Bowden’s lips were moving he was lying. That was strong public language for Cincy 30 years ago. 😉

      • Oldtimer

        The Reds in 1994 and 1995 were among the best teams in MLB.

        Bowden was a Fibber McGee for sure.

  8. Shawn

    There are 2 ways a team can be consistent contenders. The first is to spend a lot of money, I don’t see the Reds ownership ever doing that. The second is to do like the Rays and trade players as they start to get expensive for prospects and when those prospects start to get expensive trade then, keeping a constant supply of good inexpensive players in the pipeline. Without looking it up, I doubt the Rays payroll ever gets much over 75 million but they constantly have one of the best teams in baseball.
    I think this is what the Reds are wanting to do (assuming Bob has the guts to follow thru with all the backlash he is getting) here is what the 2024 roster will look like if no one is added. There is a lot of good young talent not including what we could get for Castillo and Mahle which could be a haul if we don’t wait to long. Payroll would only be about 47 million so there would also be a lot of money to spend on free agents to fill holes. I know that all these prospects won’t work out. But some will. I know the roster below is not a winning team. I’m not trying to say it is. I’m just showing what players could be here. These players, plus the players we get from trading Castillo and Mahle plus a lot of money will make it a good roster. I know it’s a lot easier for me than most people to say “rebuild” even tho it would be a short one, because I love watching minor league baseball
    Only thing I would do different than the Jays is pick a couple players to extend to be the face of your franchise. I’m not talking 10 year deals. I’m talking pick a player like India or Stephenson and buy out a couple years early. Give the player some security for their family, they will still be a free agent in time to secure a big contract. and gives the Reds a good player for a couple extra years. Reds should be able to sustain a payroll of 125 million or maybe a little more.

    2024 roster and payroll
    This is what the roster could look like in 2024. Castillo and Mahle will be gone unless they are extended. I would prefer to extend Mahle but for this list I will assume he is gone.

    C- Tyler Stephenson. -1st year arbitration , est. 3 million
    C- Mark Kolozsvary or Matheu Nelson or Daniel Vellojin 740,000
    1B-
    2B Jonathan India- 1st year Arbitration, est. 3.5 million
    SS- Matt McLean- 740,000
    3B- Elly De La Cruz 740,000
    OF- Jose Barrero- 1st year arbitration, est. 2.25 million
    OF- Mike Siani- 740,000
    OF- Nick Senzel- 3rd year arbitration, est. 3.5 million
    BN- Alejo Lopez – 1st year arbitration, est 1.25 million
    BN- TJ Friedl – 1st year arbitration. Est. 1.25 million
    BN- Ivan Johnson- 740,000
    BN- Jose Torres 740,000

    SP- Hunter Greene- 740,000
    SP- Nick Lodolo- 740,000
    SP- Graham Ashcraft- 740,000
    SP- Andrew Abbott – 740,000
    SP- Brandon Williamson 740,000

    RP- Vlad Gutierrez 1st year Arb, est 1 million
    RP- Ryan Hendrix- 1st arbitration. Set. 1 million
    RP- Reiver SanMartin- 740,000
    RP- TeJay Antone- 2nd year arbitration, est. 2.5 million
    RP- Lucas Simms- 3rd year arbitration, est. 4 million
    RP- Tony Santillan 1st year arbitration, est. 2 million
    RP- Art Warren- 740,000
    RP- Alexis Diaz- 740,000

    There are a lot of other players that could be considered.

    Justin Dunn- 2nd year arbitration, est 3 million
    Max Schrock- 1st year arbitration, est 1 million
    Jake Fraley- 1st year arbitration. Est 1 million

    Pre arbitration players-

    Francisco Urbaez, Brian Rey, Rece Hinds,
    Christian Roa, Tyler Callihan, Allen Cerda,
    Lorenzo Cedrola,
    Michael Siani, Austin Hendrick, Daniel Duarte,
    Jay Allen, Lyon Richardson, Dauri Moreta,
    Brice Bonnin, Joe Boyle There are more pitchers I could have mentioned.

    • JayTheRed

      To me that seems like a pretty good potential team. I mean not all of those guys are going to be great players but even let’s say 3 of the 5 young starters turn out that’s pretty good and that’s not adding a single soul from trade or free agency.

      Castillo is my favorite pitcher on the reds currently. It’s going to hurt trading him. I have never been truly sold on Mahle. He seems like a decent # 4 or 5 pitcher, at best. He just too inconsistent. Not sure about Gutierrez. He seemed like he was about to be an outstanding pitcher but somewhere he has gotten lost. Maybe he would be better in the bullpen.

      Just wanted to point out there are some pretty good looking prospects in that group of pre-arb players too.

  9. Jeff

    Well writte article. Channeled the ghost of FireJoeMorgan.com in a way that I’ve sorely missed for about 10 or so years.