The Reds have been the hustlingest hustlers in Vegas this week. A number of mucky-mucks have noted just how busy the organization has been, pestering everyone from every organization and earning thinly concealed grimaces from the kind and hard-working service folks at the hotel. So many half-empty cans of Fresca and spent-up vape cartridges.
So what have they been doing this whole time? Well, the headliner is last night’s acquisition of Tanner Roark. For all the fraz and bluster the last few months about getting the pitching and such, Roark is maybe not the most thrilling guy, at first glance. I mean, we’ve been talking about Corey Kluber and Dallas Keuchel and all, and Tanner Roark isn’t one of them. But you really should not be disappointed here. In fact, I think this is one of the smartest moves the Reds have made in a while.
While Roark may not be an ace, he is definitely good. He has thrown 180 or more innings for three years running and has posted a respectable 3.89 ERA in that span. He’s the kind of pitcher that gets strikeouts, limits walks, and induces weak contact. How many guys have the Reds had like that over the last few seasons?
And here’s the best part: the price was way cheap. He will make a hair under $10 million this season before being eligible for free agency. And the pitcher the Reds sent to the Nats, Tanner Rainey, is an acceptable loss. He has all the talent in the world, but he has always struggled to find the plate. It’s possible that he turns into one of the very best bullpen arms in the world, but that possibility is remote. He is a lottery ticket.
I’m low-key psyched as all hell about this trade. It isn’t the big flashy top-of-the-rotation ace we’ve all been clamoring for, but he isn’t so far from it. And the cost is way reasonable. This is a really smart move.
They’ve had some wild chats with the Dodgers, it seems:
1/There’s been lots of permutations of #Dodgers #Reds talks, heard latest does NOT have Puig in it. Key salary LAD want to wash is Kemp’s. He has $21.5M left, Homer Bailey $28M. But twd payroll for luxury tax Kemp is $20M, Bailey $17.5M. If Alex Wood also goes LAD would— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 13, 2018
2/Save about $13M toward tax payroll, gain some financial flexibility for other areas. Cincy would have Wood/Roark as veteran rotation adds if deal can get to finish line.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 13, 2018
This is a really hairy idea, so let’s try to make some sense of it. It is clear at this point that Homer Bailey is a sunk cost. He has had too many injuries. It’s sad and I feel badly about it, but here we are. The obvious and straight-forward move is to just designate him for assignment, cut him his check, and thank him for being a Red for nearly 15 years.
But, I guess the line of thinking goes, if they could perhaps extract some value out of it, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, right? It’d certainly look better than just dropping him. So the angle is that Homer Bailey’s contract counts a bit differently towards luxury tax calculations. He is owed a total of $28 million yet, but the lux-tax total is only about $17 million for this season. That doesn’t do shit for the Reds, but for the Dodgers, who have danced with that lux tax threshold many times, it does some shit. So for them, and them only really, Homer and contract have a bit of value. They’d like to shed some money, and with Matt Kemp and Alex Wood set to make $30 million or so this season, we could have a match. Maybe the Reds add a Tanner Rainey-type to it and I really like it. If the Reds can add the likes of Alex Wood and Tanner Roark without giving up any significant prospects, I’d do a back flip. Neither is a long-term fix, but those two alone could fill in a 10-WAR improvement over last year’s rotation.
There have also been some wackier things out there involving JT Realmuto and Tucker Barnhart. I don’t want to get too far into this because I’m still confused about it and don’t know what to think, but what I’ve seen is that the Reds would send Taylor Trammell, and maybe Barnhart as well, for Realmuto. I really, really like Trammell and I really want to keep him. But if they are trading him, I don’t know if “upgrade at catcher” is the project to which I dedicate those resources.
My vibe on this is that the Reds have been talking to absolutely everyone about absolutely everything, so this isn’t a likely trade or even one that has advanced beyond an initial phone call. But that’s just my vibe.
In other news, the Rays inked Charlie Morton for two years and $30 million.
Charlie Morton breakdown: 15M in 2019. 15M in 2020. Assignment bonus: 1M if traded in ‘19, 500K if traded in ‘20 #rays— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2018
I’m a little plecked about this. Of the pitchers available in free agency, I thought Morton would be the best value. He is 35, so the commitment necessary had a pretty low ceiling. And he’s been fantastic for the Astros for the last two seasons. He’s basically a Tanner Roark kind of acquisition. I’d love for the Reds to have signed him to this deal, but I guess that’s nuggets, huh.
The Reds have also been heard talking about Marcus Stroman and Sonny Gray, a couple more rotation additions. Dick Williams says they are far from finished after the Roark trade, so keep your head up. It probably won’t happen today, but the hot stove will be simmering all winter long, methinks.