Well, the Cincinnati Reds just traded literally everyone they could. Some people are happy about it because general manager Nick Krall really did net some excellent prospects. Some people are not. I’m in the “not” club. In a vacuum, I have no problem with the trades. They make sense given the current state of the team. But Shakespeare told us “past is prologue.” And that, readers, is why these trades stink.
The larger Reds argument this year has been whether small market teams are even a thing. They aren’t. TV deals and revenue sharing mean the Reds make a profit before they sell a ticket. That’s simply math and you can find all the relevant numbers online pretty easily. Tangential to this argument, however, has been something along the lines of “A lot of the guys they got rid of haven’t been good anyway.” This is true, but it’s also a problematic argument because, no one would have predicted Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos playing like they have (though I do count myself in the minority who correctly guessed that Eugenio Suarez was gonna bounce back). Wade Miley, yeah, that was predictable, but so it goes. And Sonny Gray has been excellent, of course. There was no good reason for the Reds to not enter this year with a lineup that looked something like this:
- Tyler Stephenson – Catcher
- Joey Votto – 1st Base
- Jonathan India – 2nd Base
- Kyle Farmer – Shortstop
- Eugenio Suarez – 3rd Base
- Jesse Winker – Left Field
- Tyler Naquin/Nick Senzel – Center Field
- Nick Castellanos – Right Field
The Starting Rotation could have looked something like this:
- Luis Castillo
- Sonny Gray
- Tyler Mahle
- Nick Lodolo/Hunter Greene/Graham Ashcraft
That’s a playoff caliber lineup and rotation at the start of the season. Especially with the 12-team format. And listen, in the 25 season of wild-card era baseball that were not artificially shortened, a team winning 90 or fewer games has won the World Series 5 times. That’s 20% of the time. So yes, you get to the playoffs and you have a real shot at a championship.
Now, concerning the group of players discussed above: Did a bunch of guys get hurt? Yes. Would the Reds actually have made the playoffs with that team? No, probably not.
But that is not the point. The point is they CHOSE not to compete this year when they had other options. They CHOSE to punt. If this season had gone south (as it likely would have) with a good roster and then you trade Castillo and Mahle for that haul, I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I would get it. We tried, it didn’t work out, let’s get some prospects.
Shakespeare told us that “Past is prologue,” which means everything that’s happened before frames how we experience the world now. There is a huge difference between trading a player in a year when things went wrong and trading a player in a year when you made an active effort to field a bad team. And that is exactly what ownership did this year. Right before telling fans they didn’t care on Opening Day. Trying matters.
So yeah, I’m mad about the Castillo trade. He is a great pitcher and I want to continue to watch a great pitcher pitch for my favorite team. I’m mad about the Castillo trade (and the Mahle trade) because while the Reds (36th largest media market) are crying poor, the Brewers (35th) are running away the division, the Padres (28th) just landed Juan Soto, and the Cardinals (21st) are having their one millionth winning season in a row.
I’m mad about the Castillo trade because the entire Reds organization right now is the classic, “Capitalist when we win, socialist when we lose” pro-sports nonsense. Crying, “Come to games so we can afford players!!!111!!!” isn’t convincing unless you wanna start writing checks to fans when times are good. You want us to watch? Put a product on the field worth watching. You had that last year and you decided to scrap it because this way makes you more money. You can’t treat the team like a business and not expect the fans to treat it the same way.
In fact, I hear the Mariners are running a special on trying-to-win. Maybe I’ll walk a few channels over and see what they have to offer. Feel like I’ve seen a lot of those guys somewhere before.