We got rather used to the Cincinnati Reds being tight-lipped about many of their biggest transactions. The front office came out of nowhere as the swooping ‘mystery team’ to sign Aroldis Chapman from under everyone else’s nose back in early 2010, for instance, and the deal that landed Mat Latos prior to the 2012 season flew almost completely under the radar despite including a former All Star in Edinson Volquez and three other former 1st round draft picks (all of whom have since become All Stars).
Walt Jocketty became notoriously tight-lipped about his dealings. Of course, Walt Jocketty no longer has his hands on the steering wheel, having moved to a senior advisory role with Dick Williams now the GM.
The transition to Williams didn’t lend much of a chance for the new GM to Oz behind a curtain, however. With the rebuild clearly in place and numerous prominent players nearing the very end of their contracts, the rest of baseball could largely see the cards being played whether Cincinnati’s front office wanted them to, or not.
For a while on-paper, the 2017 season seemed to be setting Williams up for his first real chance to be creative, or at least to hold leverage in his dealings. In Zack Cozart, he again held a rental who most all in the league figured would be moved, but Cozart’s offensive explosion figured to be enough of a sweetener to allow Williams to ask for a more significant return when shopping his shorstop. Similarly, when Scott Feldman ended June with a season ERA of 3.78 and on-pace to sniff 200 IP, he and his miniscule $2.3 million base salary seemed precisely the kind of mid-rotation deadline piece that teams in contention would love to scoop for a playoff push.
Pair those two with a position player core full of impressive, largely pre-arb players, and Williams seemed primed to be a GM doing the asking, not the turning down of deals. With the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline now just a week away, that no longer seems to be the case.
Feldman, of course, is now stuck on the DL with knee inflammation, where he’ll be at least through July 28th. His season numbers took a beating in his two July starts while reportedly dealing with the issue, and now the best case scenario is a return after just 10 days to full health, a great outing against a Miami Marlins team that just took two of three off the Reds in GABP, and a desperate team out there willing to take a flier thanks to the stopwatch ticking in their ear.
Similarly, Cozart’s market hasn’t developed at all the way his numbers would suggest it should. Despite hitting .319/.406/.564 and flashing his usual great glove, the rumors surrounding Cozart suitors have been wholly nonexistent. Part of that is surely due to his June DL stint thanks to quad soreness, an injury he’s openly stated he’ll be dealing with for the rest of this year. It’s caused him to sit for most day games following night games for maintenance purposes, and since it’s in the same right leg that suffered the devastating knee injury back in 2015 (and had achilles soreness last year), there’s a little skepticism that the combo of his leg and his breakout offense will be able to hold up until the end of the season.
The trade market for shortstops is also complicating matters. Of the teams out there in contention for playoff spots, almost none of them need middle infielders at all, much less an everyday shortstop. Injuries to Trea Turner in Washington and Carlos Correa in Houston initially opened eyes to how Cozart would fit in there, but the Nationals and Astros have 12 and 17 game leads in their divisions, respectively, as well as capable fill-ins in Wilmer Difo, Alex Bregman, and Marwin Gonzalez to hold the fort until their star starters return before the playoffs. While Nick Ahmed’s injury in Arizona initially stirred up rumors, Chris Owings has taken over primary SS duties and is on a career-best power surge this season, with young Ketel Marte - Seattle’s starting SS from last year who’s just 23 years old - there providing depth.
Truly, only the Kansas City Royals - who are in the mix for both the AL Central and AL Wild Card - could truly use a significant upgrade at short, but given how decimated their farm system is after years of trades for playoff runs and how nearly their entire lineup is set for free agency, it’s hard to see them sending the moon to Cincinnati as an upgrade over Alcides Escobar (who’s been bad for most of their great run in recent years anyway). In other words, there are very few teams that actually need Cozart, and even those that you might create an argument for don’t have enough of a need that would cause them to part with a great prospect package.
In all likelihood, that means the next week will be dedicated only to a small procedural move, or two. Drew Storen, making some $3 million in his lone year under contract, will probably get moved, though there’s been no real talk of him in public chatter of late. And even if he gets moved, the return will be minimal, at best. Tony Cingrani, posting a 4.79 ERA and set to make some $3 million in 2018 in his second run through arbitration in 2018, could also be on the block this week, though there don’t appear to be a ton of suitors for him, either. However, those are likely what we’ll be watching for alongside Cozart for the rest of the week, as unexciting as that sounds, especially since Williams seemed to pour water on the rumors that Raisel Iglesias might be moved at this time.
How to find space in the OF for Jesse Winker alongside Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and Billy Hamilton will still be a major question, albeit one that might get kicked to the offseason. Whether or not to cash-in on Scooter Gennett’s offensive breakout will be kicked around, too, though also probably not until this winter. Finding room for Nick Senzel, landing an established starting pitcher, and other major rebuild questions will fall in that category, too, it seems, since it doesn’t appear any of those major constructions are going to get set in stone in the next seven days.
That is, unless Dick Williams has a few Walt Jocketty tricks up his sleeve, in which case the next week might be the most surprising in recent Reds history.