Yesterday's 4 pm non-waiver trade deadline came, and went, and the transactions ledger for the then 53-54 Cincinnati Reds added no new entries. There was no sell-off for the 4th place Reds, who sat 6 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, yet there was no major acquisition brought in to help them bridge the 4.5 game gap between them and the 2nd Wild Card spot, either.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer had a chance to catch up with GM Walt Jocketty last night, and he got a few interesting quotes that may help unravel exactly what the Reds had hoped to accomplish (but didn't).
On the deadline as a whole:
Walt Jocketty said he was frustrated they didn’t get a deal done, but didn’t want to do a deal just to do a deal #Reds— ctrent (@ctrent) August 1, 2014
Kinda gives off the scent that they wanted to buy if a bargain was there, but didn't feel they needed to buy.
More on the strategy behind their actions/inactions:
Jocketty said #Reds never considered selling — only buying. ‘Do you know who I work for?'— ctrent (@ctrent) August 1, 2014
Kinda gives off the scent that owner Bob Castellini wanted to buy but perhaps Jocketty tried to prudently temper his boss's expectations a bit.
Finally, a rather cryptic look into the players Walt had his eyes on:
Jocketty said none of the guys they had targeted ended up moving in a trade #Reds— ctrent (@ctrent) August 1, 2014
That's a pretty juicy detail from a guy who normally keeps his plans held extremely close to his (sweater) vest.
Also of note were a few nuggets picked up by a pair of national media members that may add some insight into where the front office sees the team going between now and the end of the 2015 season.
An obvious decision that, obviously, had no takers:
The #Reds are telling teams LF Ryan Ludwick is available, He's earning $7.5M, w/ $9 millilon mutual option or $4.5 million buyout in 2015..— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 31, 2014
A pretty blatant admission that Luddy's 2015 option isn't getting picked up (and therefore a different LF will be patrolling in 2015).
Easily the biggest Reds-related news of the day, I'd say:
Not only are #Reds not buying. Other teams say they've dangled Mat Latos. Looking for big return of course— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 31, 2014
While no move was made, this tidbit may tell us more about the upcoming offseason than anything else we've heard or will hear.
So, what can we take away from all of this? Well, based solely on these five tweets (which ain't much), there's still a decent amount of stra-tejay-antone-ery we can kind of parse. If Walt can be taken at his word, that means the Reds weren't interested in David Price, Jon Lester, John Lackey, or any of the other top-tier pitchers that moved during yesterday's flurry, and that should come as no surprise. We can also take away that none of Yoenis Cespedes, Jonny Gomes, Martin Prado, Gerardo Parra, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson, Austin Jackson, Nick Franklin, Allen Craig, Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Denorfia, Emilio Bonifacio, or Sam Fuld were on Jocketty's list of must-acquire players, since each of them moved on a deadline day that was rife with action.
We can also assume that Ludwick was being shopped because he's about at the end of his tenure as the primary LF for the Reds, something that's been pretty obvious given his sparse playing time there of late. With the $9 million salary for 2015 tagged with an expensive $4.5 million buyout (and, of course, the diminished performance), that shouldn't come as any surprise, but it may also be a second clue into what the Reds were shopping for yesterday. If they wanted Luddy moved and were shopping for a player that didn't get traded yesterday, it means the Reds likely had their eyes on an OF with team control beyond 2014 (which is something they'd intimated in previous weeks). That means guys like Alex Rios, Ben Zobrist, any of the Los Angeles Dodgers logjam, Marlon Byrd, Alex Gordon, Brett Gardner, or any number of players that fit the mold and did not move may have been on Walt's list but simply would have been too expensive to chase. Since each of those (and presumably other players) have team control beyond 2014, we can expect talks to continue through the August waiver period and, potentially, throughout the winter, too.
The Latos dangling, however, is the biggest takeaway from this, though. Given that Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon are all slated to become free agents following the 2015 season, it's been oft discussed that the already robust Reds payroll would likely not have room to accommodate extensions to more than two of them, if that. Homer Bailey's $105 million extension already means that the club has locked up one of its impressive stable of pitchers beyond 2015, but the success they've achieved has continued to drive their extension prices through the roof to where a trade of one to help replenish the farm has become a prudent plan. The hard part will be deciding which ones to try to extend and which ones to trade, and if yesterday's news from Stark is any indication, it appears the Reds may be considering trading Latos for either a young, MLB ready player or a series of high-end prospects, which turns the focus on an upcoming extension squarely on Cueto's shoulders. It's a hair-splitting choice, but Cueto has dazzled enough this season to make it probably the best one.
That's about it, though. Of the six NL teams that stood tied or ahead of the Reds in the division and Wild Card standings as of yesterday, five made moves to acquire major league pieces to help in 2014. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the lone exception to that group, but their mid-season call up of uber-prospect Gregory Polanco means they've at least brought more talent into the mix than when their season started in April. It seems the banged-up Reds have been been tasked with patching together an unlikely August run until Brandon Phillips and, we hope, Joey Votto can return for a triumphant September, but that seems quite the tall task. In the meantime, fans will get a good, solid look at Kristopher Negron and Ramon Santiago as Cincinnati chases their 4th playoff appearance in 5 years.