For the first time in seemingly forever, the Cincinnati Reds don’t have anything for sale on Craigslist.com/mlb, as most every established player from the previous era has been traded away. For the billionth time in the last billion years, the Reds aren’t expected to be active with any of the most prominent free agents already on the market this winter, with perhaps the lone exception being their (previously) own Zack Cozart.
It’s a quiet time in Redsville these days, and even the next decent-sized MLB date on the horizon - Friday’s non-tender deadline - doesn’t seem to be particularly eventful in these parts. The six arbitration-eligible players the Reds currently have on the roster are all virtual locks to receive a tendered contract this year, which means we won’t even have much drama in a handful of days to see if any Reds we’ve grown attached to become free agents earlier than expected. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be things worth watching in that arena, as there’s a solid chance that teams around the league might opt against tendering an expensive contract to a player who might well be a decent, bargain pickup for the Reds down the road.
Famously, David Ortiz was non-tendered by the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2002 season, and the Boston Red Sox obviously scooped up both he and history willingly after that happened. In essence, it’s a transaction that happens when a player who was previously good enough to warrant significant arbitration year salaries sees his production collapse, and suddenly a team is stuck wondering if that collapse was a one-year blip or the kind of trend that would make paying him a drag on their entire payroll. Sometimes, though, those kinds of players are prime bounce-back candidates, so there’s an inherent roll of the dice to the scenario.
Take this time last year, for instance. MLB Trade Rumors listed Yonder Alonso as a non-tender candidate for Oakland based on his rather dismal 2016 season, suggesting a $4.1 million salary might be too much to keep him around. Alonso, though, burst out with a 133 OPS+, 27 homer season for the A’s, who surely were glad they’d kept him around. Similarly, the White Sox were in a potential bind regarding Avisail Garcia, as his projected 2017 salary of $3.4 million seemed a bit ripe given his .692 OPS in 2016; however, his 4.5 bWAR breakout 2017 ensured that keeping him was the wise decision. Heck, even Scooter Gennett’s name found that list, and while the Brewers obviously chose to tender him a contract, they were still wary that he’d be able to live up to his salary escalation, which allowed the Reds to swoop in and claim him at no additional cost. A recent example of a player actually non-tendered and serving as a cautionary tale: Steve Cishek, who the Cardinals non-tendered after the 2015 season only to see him save 25 games for Seattle in 2016 with an impressive 144 ERA+ in his 64.0 IP.
It’s the latter transaction that the Reds will likely be hoping to replicate, should the right player and scenario arise, as their bullpen could use augmenting and their payroll could use some savvy additions and low costs. So, while the Reds may well have completely out of the rumor mill of the current crop of free agents, Friday will undoubtedly add a number of key names to that player pool, ones the Reds might well be hoping fall in their lap.
In other news, folks keep wanting the Reds to trade Raisel Iglesias, which they’re just (/crosses fingers) not going to do. They’ve got the upper hand in any potential negotiations, obviously, since he’s under contract for several years at an incredibly reasonable rate, which makes it a far different scenario than most every major deal the Reds have made over the last three seasons. In fact, only when they flipped Dan Straily to the Marlins because Miami mentioned Luis Castillo have the Reds opted-into a trade simply because the return was too incredible not too in recent memory, and it would take that kind of can’t-miss name to make the idea at all conceivable. People will keep writing about the idea, though, it appears.
December 1st isn’t just the non-tender deadline, as it’s also the first day of Redsfest 2017 in downtown Cincinnati. Tickets are already on sale, if you’re interested in attending.
Finally, last week while you were chowing turkey bits, MLB and its union finally got a handshake to help lay out the ground rules for the international posting system for the time being, which paves the way for Japanese superstar two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani to matriculate to MLB for the 2018 season. RedsMinorLeagues.com’s Doug Gray took a look at what the Reds would have to do to land him.