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Maybe the Reds actually did have some idea about how to approach last winter’s free agency

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one lesson that life has taught me thoroughly and repeatedly, it is that I am generally stupid and nearly always wrong. So this is one of those.

Back in March, when the historically languid free agency period of the winter of 2017-18 was nearing its end, I suggested that the Reds sign starting pitcher Alex Cobb. The only free-agent action the Reds moved on was to get solid-but-not-splashy relievers David Hernandez and Jared Hughes on (very) modest two-year deals. It seemed their entire plan for adding new talent to the roster was just that. I didn’t think it was enough. The roster was obviously thin and the market was really bearish and they clearly had the money.

Now that we are nearly halfway through the season, I thought it might be fun to take a look at these modest moves the Reds did make and compare them to the moves they didn’t make. I gotta tell ya, the early results are ebulliently vindicating the Reds’ front office. Of course, we can’t make any authoritative statements on it just yet, but try to stop me. You’re still gonna read it (please keep reading it).

Here’s a lot of numbers and shit. This isn’t every pitcher who was signed to a free agent contract this winter, but it’s a representative section of fellas who were likely within the Reds’ theoretical price range:

Relievers

NAME TEAM CONTRACT (years / millions) IP ERA FIP
NAME TEAM CONTRACT (years / millions) IP ERA FIP
David Hernandez Reds 2 / 5 23.1 1.93 2.66
Jared Hughes Reds 2 / 4.5 38.1 1.41 2.91
Jhoulys Chacin Brewers 2 / 15.5 87.2 3.18 3.81
Tyler Chatwood Cubs 3 / 38 68.1 3.95 4.92
Steve Cishek Cubs 2 / 13 31.1 2.01 2.9
Alex Cobb Orioles 4 / 57 63 7.14 5.22
Wade Davis Rockies 3 / 52 29.2 4.55 4.27
Brian Duensing Cubs 2 / 7 22 4.5 4.95
Luke Gregerson Fucking Cardinals 2 / 11 8.1 8.64 5.37
Greg Holland Fucking Cardinals 1 / 14 15.1 8.22 5.05
Tommy Hunter Phillies 2 / 18 20.2 4.79 2.27
Brandon Kintzler Nationals 2 / 10 28.1 4.45 3.65
Lance Lynn Twins 1 / 12 73.2 4.64 4.34
Jake McGee Rockies 3 / 27 27.2 5.2 4.61
Miles Mikolas MUH FUCKIN Cardinals 2 / 15.5 90.1 2.69 3.21
Mike Minor Rangers 3 / 28 72.1 5.35 4.49
Brandon Morrow Cubs 2 / 21 22.2 1.59 2.78
Pat Neshek Phillies 2 / 16.25 NA NA NA
Juan Nicasio Mariners 2 / 17 29.2 5.16 2.68
Yusmerio Petit A's 2 / 10 42.1 3.61 3.8
Addison Reed Twins 2 / 16.75 34.1 3.67 4.69
Hector Rondon Astros 2 / 8.5 27 1.67 1.87
Bryan Shaw Rockies 3 / 27 35 7.2 5.37
Joe Smith Astros 2 / 15 19.2 2.16 2.43
Anthony Swarzak Mets 2 / 14 9.1 3.86 5.77

Now, that is a lot of numbers and shit to sort through. It’s not a comprehensive dissection of value and such, but it should at the very least help me get my point across. Lemme lay it on you: nobody has performed better for less money than Hughes and Hernandez. The Cubs have gotten quality innings from the likes of Steve Cishek Sees Sea Shells by the Sea Shore and Brandon Morrow, but the Cubs are paying them about $18 million this season. Hector Rondon and Joe Smith and killin’ for the world-beating Astros, but again, they are getting paid more than $10 million combined this season.

Overwhelmingly though this list is littered with tales of good money after bad. The Rockies - the poor, poor Rockies - are spending about $35 million this season for the likes of Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee, and Davis’ 4.55 ERA is the best among them. The Fucking Cardinals are spending $25 million or so this year on Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland and they have thrown fewer than 25 innings between them with a collective ERA above 8.00. Don’t cry for them though because Miles Mikolas is probably the free agent deal of the winter. Fuck them.

Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, who were the perfunctory darlings of this here bloghole back around March, would probably have been nominal upgrades to the Reds’ rotation had the braintrust decided to follow my imminent advice. The Cobb deal looks rough as hell as of right now, but fortunately the Orioles have three more seasons after this one for it to mercifully straighten out. :deadeyesemoji:

Look, the Reds have spent something like $15 million in free agency over the last four years or so and not a penny on the kind of free agent who can have a legitimate long-term impact on the team. Scott Feldman and Drew Storen and Hughes and Hernandez are perfectly nice players and have all availed themselves well while in Cincinnati, but they really aren’t keystones of the franchise. The Reds are rebuilding through the acquisition of amateur and minor-league talent and they are doing that exclusively (so far, anyway). That can certainly be frustrating for a moron like me. This rebuild is taking forrrrrrrrevvvvvvvvvverrrrrrrr he whines, kicking rhythmically into the back of the seat in front of him.

But I think this here exercise is an important lesson in restraint and patience. Yeah, I would have cheered and it would have increased my faith in this organization had they spent $50 million on a guy like Alex Cobb, but where would it have gotten us? The Reds would have spent that money on increasing goodwill with the fanbase, not on actually improving the franchise. It’s a sugar fix when they absolutely need to be eating vegetables.

Turns out, like always, I feel a lot better right now having eaten a hearty and sensible lunch instead of scarfing a party bag of M&Ms.