The winter meetings came to a close on Wednesday evening and the Cincinnati Reds, a team who lost 100 games last year, exited things having made four moves. They signed three minor league players to minor league contracts, and they selected a player in the Rule 5 draft for another team in exchange for cash and a player to be named later.
While other teams were out there trying to win baseball games by signing proven big league players to massively long and high-dollar contracts, one of the worst teams in baseball did basically nothing. They signed no one to a big league deal. They traded for no one except a guy that will be named in the future who is very likely going to be a minor leaguer without distinction.
The winter meetings only last a few days. And they don’t mean that the offseason is over and teams can no longer make moves. But the optics of a team that has a payroll half as high as it was two years ago doing absolutely nothing coming off of a season in which they lost 100 games isn’t great.
Nick Krall, the Reds general manager, told Mark Sheldon of Reds.com that they essentially need to build through the farm system and need to focus on that. He would later say that he felt that the Reds laid the groundwork “with a lot of different things”.
While the San Diego Padres are breaking the brains of some other front offices who are confused as to how a literal billionaire can “afford” to pay outstanding baseball players despite being a small market team, the Reds are looking at a payroll of $71M right now and saying they “have a little money”. That’s about half as much as the payroll was two years ago.
One thing seems painfully obvious: The Cincinnati Reds aren’t even pretending to be in the market for players in free agency that are going to be considered good. Maybe they’ll be in the market for guys who were ok-ish, such as Andrew McCutchen, who may be willing to sign a short-term deal for a lower dollar amount.
What’s not obvious, though, is what the next steps are. Is Cincinnati’s “groundwork” from the winter meetings going to lead to the acquisition of established big leaguers in trades? Krall told Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that “Making a trade doesn’t mean you have to just trade a big prospect for a (veteran) player. You can make prospect trades. You can make trades for lower cost, more controllable players in the big leagues. I think there are a lot of those conversations going on.”
Notice a theme there? The team wants to acquire players who make as little money as possible. The Reds have a strong farm system, though it has some weaknesses, too. It’s thin on outfielders, catchers, and pitching and deep with middle infielders and third basemen. Utilizing that infield depth in trades could be beneficial. The farm system isn’t only about having guys to come up and join your organization – sometimes it’s value can be had in making trades to fill gaps that your organization has in other areas.
The Reds are asking their fans for a lot of faith and for a lot of patience. Have faith that this time it will work out. Give it time for things to play out. Hang in there with us while we wait around for a future that we hope will come. It’s a tough pill to take from a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff series in nearly 30 years.