The Reds are limping into All Star Break. And the plan seems to be to keep limping.
Facing two hobbled catchers, Dusty Baker threw up his hands:
"There's not a whole lot available," he said. "Nobody's doing anything. There's a lot of teams that think they're still in it. You don't see a lot of transactions. I don't have a lot of answers. Not all these decisions are mine."
Dusty is often cagey about giving up injury details so as not to telegraph weakness. Sometimes that comes off as slightly paranoid, but you can totally understand why he wouldn't want to say, "The only reason my catchers are able to walk is horse-strength cortizone shots and several cans of SURGE. Please steal every base." So he might be downplaying this a little while the wheels are turning in front office.
Limping into the All Star Break isn't a terrible idea either. There's no point in making a bunch of knee-jerk moves when you have four days off at the end of this week and the chance for a fresh start.
But let's also consider that the Reds have seven games against the Pirates and Braves before July 21 - the NL's #2 and #3 teams. And then they head for a West Coast swing. And then they come back and play three against the Cardinals and two against the A's - who are currently tied for 2nd-most wins in the majors.
The Reds have a four game lead over the Nats in the Wild Card. With the team as currently composed, I think they're probably good enough to edge out the field for a wild card spot - which is before considering the circa-All Star Break returns of Broxton or Marshall.
They've gone 14-16 over their last 30 games. Most every playoff Reds team in history has gone through roughly a month-long stretch of mediocrity. Last year's team started the season off with one. Lately, the Reds have been losing games by just a few runs - sometimes a few inches - while generally getting a decent number of guys on base.
But their offense has also been gradually slipping. They're now in the bottom half in team wRC+ (8th, behind the Giants). They've had just two "offensive outpourings" since June 12 (>5 runs over nine innings). They came against Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Kickham. Bonderman has since been DFA'd and Kickham, of the 12.15 ERA, was sent down.
The Reds have to start playing better than .500 baseball to get to the playoffs, let alone avoid the play-in game. They can't get complacent with two teams ahead of them in the division and the unlimited spending power Dodgers - among other teams - trailing them in the wild card.
A couple things:
- Maybe there's no way to avoid putting off a deal until July 31, but the offense needs help now. The Reds are still in a tough stretch of opponents with no apparent help on the way. Chris Heisey, who was mashing .368/.440/.895 since returning, just got beaned. Even if he's completely healthy, it'd be great to have someone to help cover over Choo's .501 OPS against lefties and provide any kind of jolt for the bench. For how important a few wins might end up being this season, it's worth overpaying.
- You'd never know it from the injuries, but July started off well for both catchers. Just let them get healthy. Why not find someone who can fill in now so that they both don't fall apart and would provide halfway decent depth in case one of them has to hit the DL? There's a 40-man spot open. If Ramon Hernandez doesn't want a minor-league deal, then call up Nevin Ashley. He's hitting .284/.353/.455 in Louisville.