The Reds have been busy this offseason jumpstarting their
rebuild reboot. Fan favorite third baseman Todd Frazier was shipped away to the Chicago White Sox in a three team deal that brought Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, and Brandon Dixon to the Queen City from the City of Angels. Aroldis Chapman was set to move to the Weez Coast as well, before his trade value was torpedoed by allegations of domestic violence and irresponsible use of a firearm.
Chapman was, of course, shipped for seemingly pennies on the dollar to the Evil Empire for a quartet of prospects in late December. That return is curious in a way that it could be sneakily good (if Eric Jagielo ever figures out how to play third base) or unspeakably bad (if he doesn't and if Rookie Davis is nothing more than Quad-A Davis).
The Reds idled in the free agent market, aside from signing Blake Wood to a major league deal, which is a lateral bullpen move at its absolute best. The punted on dabbling in the strategy of signing a second or third tier free agent in hopes of flipping him for more prospects at the deadline; a strategy that helped the Astros and Cubs during their teardowns. There's risk associated with this, and ultimately it was a risk the Reds weren't willing to take, even though they've freed up millions and millions of dollars compared to previous payrolls.
Of course, the Reds tried to free up even more money by shipping away Brandon Phillips. Not once, but twice. Phillips vetoed both moves using the 10/5 no trade rights he'd rightfully earned to stay in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future. A BP deal isn't dead, but it's hard to imagine a scenario at this point where Brandon accepts a trade unless it's a deadline deal to a bonafide World Series contender for basically nothing.
The only fault of the Reds here is that they allowed Phillips to earn this negotiation leverage to begin with; the proposed deals, then, are really out of their hands.
All of this movement has been received and discussed ad nauseam by Reds fans all over the land, but the actual returns cannot be accurately judged until the seasons to come. Most of them made the Reds worse in 2016, but that's really the idea of this whole thing. Like it or not, the Reds weren't operating in December 2015 with the idea of Making the Reds Great Again in 2016. They're focusing the big picture.
In that, the two best moves of the Reds offseason were ones that they tried but failed to make.
The Reds do not sign Cuban SS Alfredo Rodriguez
In mid January, many outlets reported that the Reds were on the cusp of signing 21 year old Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez. As early as November, Baseball America mentioned that the Reds would be the favorite for the slick fielding Rodriguez.
Sauce-Rod was Rookie of the Year in Serie Nacional last year, and the 5-foot-10, 180 pound Cuban is absolute fire with the glove at one of the most premium positions in baseball. The problem is that he showed very little on base skills or power potential, batting just .265/.301/.283 in 304 PAs. He walked 11 times.
The youngster could always develop under the tutelage of major league coaches, but many scouts weren't optimistic that he'd ever figure much out at the plate.
Apparently not concerned by the bat and despite trading for Jose Peraza, who is basically Super Alfredo Rodriguez but ready (or at least almost ready) right now, news leaked that the Reds had reached a deal with Rodriguez that would pay him $6 million dollars.
The problem with this proposed deal was twofold. First, the Reds had stayed narrowly within their international signing allotment during this international signing period, but the $6 million offered and/or agreed to with Rodriguez would send the Reds into the penalty, which would result in a 100% tax on every dollar over the maximum amount. Basically, the $6 million dollars the Reds supposedly signed Rodriguez for would actually cost them $12 million dollars.
Secondly, as a result of going over their allotment amount, the Reds would be barred from signing an international player for an amount greater than $300,000 for the next two signing periods. That presents a problem in itself: the Reds were set to have the highest bonus pool for the next signing period. This signing would have rendered a big part of that pool basically useless.
Several weeks went by without official notice that Sauce-Rod had signed with the Reds, and with the beginning of spring training coming last week, we finally found out that the contract talks with the Reds and Rodriguez had broken down, and that no deal was imminent. As it is, the Reds will be spared the penalties and Rodriguez will remain unsigned.
There's a theory that the Reds are just waiting until July 2nd when the next signing period begins, so that they can use their large bonus pool and avoid the penalties. If that's the case, then, well, good. That's what they should've been thinking about doing all along. But making this deal when it was announced would've been a mistake, and one that the Reds brass should feel good about avoiding.
For instance, they'll have all the money they'd need to make a serious run at Lourdes Gourriel, Jr., who is a much better talent and much more of a sure thing than Alfredo Rodriguez, should he wait until this summer to sign with a team. Or, perhaps, they'll make a run at Lazaro Armenteros, should his startling situation clear up by summer time.
Those are pie in the sky, best case scenarios for international signings that are likely not to happen. And maybe Alfredo Rodriguez will be MLB's best shortstop in five years or so, and I'll look really stupid. But, right now, not making this deal is best for the Reds moving forward.
The Reds fail to trade Jay Bruce for bad Angels prospects/possibly broken Blue Jays prospects
Look, Wick has already explained why trading Jay Bruce this offseason was a bad idea. I bring nothing new to the table other than what just about transpired earlier this week.
Monday news broke that the Blue Jays were very interested in trading for the Reds right fielder and the deal progressed to the point that the Angels were added to facilitate the deal, and then medical records were swapped with the three teams involved.
At least one of the teams didn't feel comfortable with the health status of the player or players they were set to receive. Maybe it was Michael Saunders, who was reportedly being sent to Anaheim from Toronto. Maybe it was one of the prospects that the Reds were set to receive. We'll probably never know for sure, but whatever it was, the deal died early Tuesday morning. It looks like Jay Bruce will be the Reds Opening Day right fielder.
And that's good for the team.
Bruce has long been on the block, first finding himself in conversations at the end of the 2014 season. Then came the deadline-deal-that-wasn't between the Mets and the Reds involving injured pitcher Zack Wheeler. The Baltimore Orioles have been interested several times in potentially acquiring Bruce's services but have since signed Dexter Fowler just earlier this week.
The problem with unloading Bruce now is that his value has never been lower. A knee injury sabotaged his 2014 season, but Jay was having as solid a season as he'd ever had through July of 2015. Unfortunately, the two month stretch that followed was some of the worst play we'd seen from Bruce. That, along with his $12.5 million price tag, has brought his trade value to its nadir.
If the Reds are in such dire financial straits that they can't wait and see how Bruce will rebound in 2016 that they just have to unload that money, then so be it. But, they'll be selling at the absolute lowest point, and such a strategy isn't an effective way to build for the future.
The bottom line: selling Jay Bruce before he's had a plate appearance for the Reds in 2016 for prospects in an abysmal Angels farm system or a potentially broken Blue Jays prospect, or both, is a bad idea. And the Reds (and their fans) should be glad that this deal fell apart.