Things looked a bit brighter for the Cincinnati Reds this time a week or so ago. The Pittsburgh Pirates, NL Central foes that they are, had finally begun their inevitable tear-down, trading former #1 overall draftee and resident ace Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros and backing that up with a trade of former MVP Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. On the surface, it was one team that looked significantly less formidable than they had been in some time, and that just so happened to be coinciding with the Reds’ ability to finally, finally break the glass on their multi-year rebuild.
Then the damn Milwaukee Brewers happened, and happened in a gargantuan, division-shaking way. So far tonight, the Beers have traded for Miami Marlins star Christian Yelich and his team-friendly contract, and backed that up by signing free agent Lorenzo Cain to a 5 year, $80 million contract. There are details, and you can read them here:
Lorenzo Cain has agreed on a 5-year, $80M deal with the #Brewers, source says. It’s the biggest free agent contract of the offseason. The deal includes no-trade protection and significant award bonuses. Milwaukee building a super outfield with addition of Yelich and Cain.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 26, 2018
Christian Yelich traded to #Brewers, sources tell The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 25, 2018
Marlins get Brinson and Diaz— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 25, 2018
There’s admittedly a pile to digest here, but it’s the obvious that we should look to first. Yelich and Cain are damn fine, all around good outfielders, guys who don’t strike out much, get on base at solid clips, and can cover some serious ground defensively. And, at their going rates, aren’t expensive in the slightest. The haul that the Brewers gave up to land Yelich was brutally expensive on their end - and, rightly so - but even losing top prospect Lewis Brinson is softened by the fact that he, too is an outfielder.
If you’re running the quick math here, you’ll discover that the Brewers now have an outfield logjam featuring Cain, Yelich, Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun, and Keon Broxton, among others, which seems like more mouths than an everyday lineup can feed. What you’ll also notice, though, is a healthy amount of depth from which they can still do some serious dealing, something that they’ll likely do to continue throwing impressive new logs on their burgeoning conflagration.
Lest we forget that Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta have been linked with the Brewers this winter, or that breakout star Eric Thames is still entrenched cheaply at 1B. Did I say breakout star? Well, I probably should’ve reserved that for Travis Shaw, actually, who they’ll be deploying as their everyday 3B.
The Brewers, you see, have enriched themselves greatly in the last few minutes, which dovetails quite well with how they’ve gradually enriched themselves over the last few seasons. It’s a rebuild that’s been impressive in its delivery, gradually building momentum before dropping a 10 point cannonball into the deep end tonight off the high dive.
For the Reds, well...
...well, who the hell knows. The Chicago Cubs are still damn good and damn mighty, with pocketbooks they’ll surely open for Darvish or Arrieta or whomever the hell they want in the coming weeks. The St. Louis Cardinals, too, have Marcell Ozuna in the fold and a gluttony of devil magic to keep the rest of the Central scratching its collective head for another few decades. The Brewers, man, just burst through the door swinging elbows, and the Pirates - even after trading Cole and McCutchen - still boast a talented young roster with a pile of former top prospects poised to get their chance to now shine. The Reds, Jared Hughes and all, still seem to be in a position of sitting, hoping, and waiting, something that appears to be the case while the rest of the division matriculates itself forward.
There’s optimism for the Reds, of course. The only trouble is that it’s the same optimism on which we’ve had to bank for going on three offseasons in a row now. It’s still on Jesse Winker, who admittedly has ample promise. It’s still on Nick Senzel, who still is a Top 10 overall prospect in the game for the Reds and not for the Marlins in exchange for Yelich. It’s still on Eugenio Suarez continuing to improve, Jose Peraza continuing to improve, on the pitching continuing to improve, and on the collective health of about 27 different players paid to throw baseballs for a living.
The Reds are still the Reds we’ve had our hopes riding on for years, while their peers appear to be cashing in those hopes for some proven damn production.
Winning the offseason hangs zero banners, of course. The Marlins themselves could teach a 300 level course on that. But what today’s action from the Brewers cements for Reds fans is a fixed date, a circle on a calendar that will clearly be remembered as the day Milwaukee pushed in their chips and went for it, and did so in an incredibly strategic, intriguing way. They got immediately better. They’ll sell a pile of tickets off today’s action. They won’t ever have to turn to their fans and preach “patience” or “trusting the process,” since they now have pudding pops of actual proof.
The Reds might well pip the Brewers to the top of the division in 2018, or 2019, or 2020, but they’ll be doing so in a way far more stoic than many of us would hope. And, if they get there, they’ll have done so in the most patient approach I may have ever seen. Prudent? Perhaps, but certainly boring as all hell, something the Brewers have eschewed completely as of today.
The Brewers just got boatloads better today, and the incremental steps in which the Reds have been hoping to climb to improve just got a lot, lot taller.