In just about one month, it will have been a full six years since the Cincinnati Reds and Ryan Ludwick agreed to a 2 year, $15 million contract that included a $2 million option buyout for a third year. Ludwick, you’ll remember, was fresh off a solid 25 dinger campaign in that brilliant 2012 season, and the Reds wanted to keep the 34 year old former St. Louis Cardinals slugger around to help anchor their offense.
Of course, Ludwick immediately proceeded to shred his shoulder, called out Reds fans for not being as good as Cardinals fans, posted a combined -1.4 bWAR in a pair of abbreviated seasons, got bought out, and never played a big league game ever again.
I mention this both because that deal still remains the largest Reds foray into free agent spending in recent memory and because it followed a pattern the Reds have long been stuck in - falling in love with familiarity, especially at bargain-bin rates. The 2018 offseason, though, is supposed to be different, if ownership and the front office are to be believed, as a ‘record payroll’ and a mandate to fix the broken pitching staff are on the public table. That said, the members of the front office right now all look eerily similar to the ones who were around five, six, seven years ago, and it will genuinely take a turn of course to show that these aren’t merely the same old Reds for yet another offseason.
With that in mind, here are three moves that, if made this offseason, would fall completely in-line with what we’ve seen over and over from the same old Reds in previous years.
Reds sign IF Daniel Descalso to 2-year contract
Former Cardinal? Check. Fresh off a career year? Check. Over 30? Check. Blocking top prospects once signed? Check, check, check.
In the spirit of the 2-year guaranteed deals doled out to the likes of Miguel Cairo, Jack Hanannanananahanahanhan, and Skip Schumaker in recent years, this one’s just too good to overlook. Descalso, 32 last month, finally posted an OPS+ above league average in 2018 for the first time in his nine year career, the 106 mark easily the highest of his career. Somehow, he’s stuck around the bigs long enough despite that sub-par offense also being backed by sub-par defense, likely because he does at least have the ability to play sub-par defense at no fewer than five positions. Heck, he’s even got 5.2 IP under his belt!
A redundant player whose age and baseball card scream regression absolutely fits this mold. The same old Reds would be all about some Daniel Descalso.
Reds sign RHP Edinson Volquez
The Wagon missed the entire 2018 season while recovering from the second Tommy John surgery of his career, both of which have been performed by Reds Medical Director Dr. Tim Kremchek.
Since being shipped to the San Diego Padres in the Mat Latos deal prior to the 2012 season, Volquez has pitched to a 4.31 ERA in 1027.2 IP for five different organizations, his 4.0 BB/9 still indicative of the control issues he has faced in the past. BUT, HE DID THROW A NO-HITTER FOR THE MIAMI MARLINS!
Now 35 years old, Volquez would fit the mold of Opening Day Starter Scott Feldman, whatever you can call the Jason Marquis experiment, or even what we winced through with Bronson Arroyo just two seasons ago.
Reds trade Shed Long, Cody Reed, and Blake Trahan to Nationals for LHP Sean Doolittle; sign Doolittle to 3-year, $16.5 million extension
It’s been awhile since the Reds traded a trio of youngsters - including a LHP with promise - for a lefty reliever named Sean, but rest assured that if they did so, they’d have a 3-year contract extension waiting for him.
Doolittle was excellent in 2018, as he has been for pretty much all of his seven seasons in the big leagues. He’s also a product of Virginia, as he spent his college days at UVA while old friend Sean Marshall plied his college trade at Virginia Commonwealth. And, to continue the parallel, Doolittle is in his final year under contract before hitting free agency, which makes giving up that much prospect talent to acquire him seem that much tougher to palate, which was certainly the case when the Reds shipped Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, and Ronald Torreyes to the Chicago Cubs to land Marshall prior to 2012.