The Cincinnati Reds did not 'win' the Jay Bruce trade. They did not 'fleece' the New York Mets, nor did they massively increase the odds that this deep, dark rebuild will see the light at the end of the tunnel any faster than it would have before. There won't be parades that celebrate Trade Deadline 2016, and odds are it won't win anyone any significant promotions in the team's front office.
That doesn't mean it wasn't a good trade, however, or that Dilson Herrera isn't exactly the kind of player the Reds will need around in order to increase their chances of making 2018 when the Reds are great again. After calming down after a thorough grumbling following the 4 PM ET deadline, I've come around to the idea that this particular transaction is one that fits the mold the Reds have established for nearly two years now.
Rebuilds aren't linear, and they zig and zag in complicating fashion, often making you wonder if the people in charge know what the hell they're supposed to be accomplishing. This particular rebuild the Reds have undertaken is a clear cut example of just that, as it hasn't included any deal that concisely closes one door while opening another directly across from it. The trade of 3B Todd Frazier did not bring back a clear replacement for his production, instead netting Jose Peraza, a player now blocked in multiple positions. Trading closer Aroldis Chapman didn't bolster the back end of the bullpen, either, instead adding guys in Eric Jagielo and Rookie Davis that won't be able to replicate what Chapman's electric left arm could produce. Trading Mike Leake's arm to the San Francisco Giants netted Adam Duvall's bat in LF, and the Bruce trade for Herrera adds a competent young middle infielder to an already burgeoning crowd there.
It was an imperfect trade in that regard, albeit one that accomplished many of the major tenets required in a roster overhaul as broad as this one. It got the Reds younger, netted them much more overall team control, shed ample current and future salary obligations, and added talent of a similar age to the best group of talent already in the system. In Herrera, they nabbed a 22 year old likely second baseman who they'll control through at least 2022 (should they choose), a career .299/.362/.469 hitter in the minors and fomer Top 50 overall prospect who reached the big leagues at just 20 years old - meaning all 629 MiLB hits came as a player significantly younger than the competition he was facing. It also added a wild card in Max Wotell, a lanky 19 year old LHP who can hit 95 mph and, for the sake of all the other shoulders in the system, is added insurance given the age-old assertion that There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.
The initial 'meh' reaction I had to this trade deadline shouldn't overlap with this deal itself, as it did when I first tried to shuffle through the flurry of moves made just before the witching hour. If anything, the only frustrating part of this deal is that the team again failed to fully complete their outlined strategy for the second consecutive trading period, as the rumored deal that would send Zack Cozart to the Seattle Mariners never materialized. That, of course, means that the two most recently added prized returns - Herrera and Jose Peraza - continue to be blocked at the big league level because Cozart and Brandon Phillips are still on the roster and lineup stalwarts. In the grand scheme, though, that's an entirely different equation, and that small failure shouldn't leak into the overall evaluation of shedding Bruce, the money, and adding Herrera/Wotell.
That logjam in the middle infield is getting larger and larger, it's apparent. Peraza, Herrera, Alfredo Rodriguez, Nick Senzel, Eugenio Suarez, and (hopefully) Alex Blandino and even Blake Trahan represent a glut of recently acquired top-talent infielders that obviously won't be able to all man the same position at the same time, especially if Cozart and Phillips are unable to be moved.
These are precisely the kinds of problems rebuilding teams are supposed to have, though, and it's one the Reds themselves (with this same front office) dealt with the last time they tried to turn the franchise into a winner. There was a time when Yonder Alonso was redundant with Joey Votto at 1B, the logjam of Ryan Hanigan, Devin Mesoraco, and Yasmani Grandal was confusing to all of us attempting to decipher how the future lineup would play out, and which of Cozart or Didi Gregorius would be the next great Reds shortstop was a daily conundrum. The only difference between that glut and this one is that the Reds huddle the previous one together almost solely through their own drafting, not through trades of established stars as an augment to their drafting abilities. If anything, the latter strategy has opened things up to a quicker return to relevance than the former, and adding Herrera is one more step in that direction.
Speaking of that last great Reds core - and that's what it was, a core - the current 21-24 year old crop of talent in this system is one that should begin to remind you of the one that emerged in 2008-2009. Herrera, Peraza, Senzel, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, Jesse Winker, Chris Okey, & Co. have all been thrown together not just as talented peers, but as talented players who all project to mature into big leaguers at the same time, something that last happened with Bruce, Homer Bailey, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Drew Stubbs, Zack Cozart, and Devin Mesoraco. Whether the success comes similarly to this group as it did to the one before it is the roll of the dice question, but the top-end talent looks like it has a chance to replicate some of it, and the depth is there to facilitate the process by using it for trades akin to the ones that brought Mat Latos and Shin-Soo Choo in when needed.
Today did not jump the Reds light years ahead of where they were yesterday, but it took a step in the correct direction, and it did so without running the same risks the front office was bitten by this time last year. It wasn't the new bike you wanted on Christmas morning, but it was at least $50 bucks to put in the bank so, if things continue to go well, you'll get that bike sometime down the road.