The two main drivers of MLB's Hot Stove each and every year are available money and player scarcity, and major wheelings and dealings this week have begun to allocate the cash and take potential big name acquisitions off the board. For a club like the Cincinnati Reds - who are both long on needs and short on dollars - each falling domino still resonates strongly despite them playing no direct role in any of the deals that have been made to this point.
For instance, the biggest story of the week (and, in some ways, of all time) is the Miami Marlins extending OF Giancarlo Stanton with an earth-shattering 13 year, $325 million contract that stands as the single largest player contract in the history of American sport. While it dwarfs even Joey Votto's contract and isn't being signed by Bob Castellini & Co., the ramifications of the Marlins inking their budding superstar do have a ripple effect that could potentially shake the Reds into either action or the gutter. Teams, fans, and media have rightfully questioned the Marlins' willingness and ability to sign Stanton to a long term deal for years now, and the byproduct has been teams having Stanton as their best-case trade target for each of the last two offseasons; with him now off the table, the focus of every team needing an impact outfielder will shift down a notch, which will place the gaze of other front offices firmly on the same OF targets that the Reds will have been hoping for. Also important, of course, is that a franchise that was not at all expected to flex financial muscle this offseason just added over a third of a billion bucks to their long-term commitments, which effectively means that every other team that could have spent that much still has that amount to spend on all the other players availabe. Neither side of this development helps the Reds in any way, unfortunately.
The second major move of the week we've already detailed, and that's the St. Louis Cardinals acquisition of Jason Heyward from the Atlanta Braves. While it's a wholly different situation than Stanton's mega-extension, it impacts the Reds in that an available OF was picked up by a team in need of an OF. Scarcity once again rears its head, as now the 28 other teams in baseball who might have had interest in a player like Jason Heyward now have one less Heyward-esque player to choose from, and the Reds are most certainly one of those teams. Again, not a move that directly impacts the Reds, but one that brings them one move closer to checkmate in their duel against the other 29 teams in baseball.
A bit further down the chain of events baseball has thrown at us is the saga of Pablo Sandoval, as the now free agent 3B seems to be moving closer and closer to a new home with the Boston Red Sox. Sandoval, you know, has helped lead the San Francisco Giants to a trio of World Series championships in the last five seasons, and the reigning champions have made it known that they'd like to have their rotund hot corner stalwart back, too, which means that at least one recent title holder (and one large market franchise flush with cash) is about to miss out on a player who will sign for near $100 million. Once again, this is a situation that won't see the Reds directly involved on either side, but if there's one thing we've learned as followers of a small market team on a tight budget, it's that the only thing that can possibly shake the overall market up more than a big market team signing a high priced player, it's when a big market team misses out on a high priced player and is forced to get creative. Should the Giants miss out on Sandoval, they've got a massive (laugh, it's funny) hole to fill in their lineup and no real replacement in-house, which just may push them and the near $100 million they had earmarked for Panda out into the market for offensive help. Maybe that means bringing back Mike Morse, whom the Reds have had sights on, or maybe it means they swing for a bigger bat that would bump an available Morse high enough up the pecking order to price him out of the Reds' range.
So yes, the perils of having no money and talking to no one despite having big needs and a shrinking window crank the anxiety factor up with each domino that falls. Also, I sincerely hope at least one person who heads to Google looking for pizza ends up clicking on this article.
But you all are probably here for Reds-related news, so let's get to some of that.
The Enquirer's John Fay continues on his run-through of Reds position players, and his latest effort centers on RF and what Jay Bruce can mean for the 2015 squad. In regards to Bruce, there are two things that are categorically undeniable: 1) that he tore the meniscus in his knee and had surgery on it early last year, and 2) that he had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. How much you choose to pin the latter's causation on the former likely translates into how much you expect Bruce to bounce back in 2015, and the Reds will absolutely be hoping it's 100% why Bruce slipped from a 5 WAR player in 2013 to a -1 WAR player in 2014. That's a 6 WAR swing, which was the single largest drop off of any NL player over those two years, and there's little to no way the 2015 Reds win much of anything without the complete return of 30 dinger, slick fielding Bruce.
FanGraphs also got quite Redsy today, as Kiley McDaniel broke down the top prospects in the Cincinnati farm system. Of note is that McDaniel feels the system is actually in pretty decent shape, and that Michael Lorenzen is ranked higher than Jesse Winker. I've heard plenty of people high on Lorenzen's prospect status, and I'm convinced that he'll land on most every Top 100 list somewhere this winter, but this is the first place I've seen him listed ahead of Winker (who also got a very odd, and very low, 30/60 hit grade here). Cool analysis with cool videos, and whatnot, but I see no funnies and no snort-worthy nicknames. Farmer's Only it is not.
Bask in the concept of the Reds' system being "above average," possessing "high-end talent," and having "much of the top minor league talent in the upper levels" for a minute. Now, read what the same site (albeit different author) has to say about the Reds' prospects that project to have the most impact in the big leagues in 2015 only. Just when you thought that the most ready-made depth in the club's system was centered on the likes of Stephenson, Lorenzen, Holmberg, Corcino, & Co., we get to read this. For the record, I put about this much importance on preseason projections, especially on minor leaguers making the transition to the big leagues. (Sorry Dan! I still read them, though!)
Finally, Baseball America released their list of the top prospects who competed in the Arizona Fall League, and unsurprisingly Jesse Winker ranked highly. BA went as far as to suggest that there's a rough agreement that a future batting title is in his future, too, which is rad beyond imagination. Also worth noting is that BA was quite high on Raisel Iglesias, but that he pitched too few innings to warrant a ranking. Good news, regardless.