Didi Gregorius was cleared to resume baseball activities yesterday, meaning the star New York Yankees shortstop should be back in time for their Wild Card game. Out west, Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal have been anchoring the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hold a Wild Card spot at the moment while also still in the thick of the NL West division race. And just up the road in Cleveland, both Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion have swung big bats for the AL Central division champs, combining to belt 55 dingers this year.
If you go back a full ‘generation’ in the game of baseball - a decade, or so - you’ll see something pretty distinct regarding the Cincinnati Reds. Back prior to their 2010 breakout season and first NL Central title in seemingly forever, they started to push some of their prospect chips onto the trade block to actually acquire good players, players they thought could help put them over the top and make a multi-year run. And, they did - and it worked, with the 2012 and 2013 seasons also ending in postseason cameos, with the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Ramon Hernandez, Scott Rolen, and Mat Latos all playing key parts at times in those seasons.
Those particular trades were costly, of course, and the magnitude of what the Reds gave up to get that short window open is playing out as detailed above. There are a handful of very prominent former Reds who will get to be on the biggest of baseball stages in just under a week, and every single one of them was shipped out to bring in the last real stint of winning that the Reds have been able to see.
What’s funny, though, is how the inverse of that ‘generation’ is playing out. Rather, while the former Reds prospects that were dealt to facilitate the 2010-2013 winning window are doing big damage league-wide, the former Reds that were a part of that winning window that were subsequently dealt away to begin this deep multi-year rebuild are almost all about as far from the current playoff landscape as could be.
Johnny Cueto was perhaps the biggest name moved as the Reds embarked on this deep, dark rebuild. He’s had Tommy John surgery this year, will miss most of 2019, and his San Francisco Giants club is mired in a second consecutive awful season.
Todd Frazier might have brought the Reds their biggest load of concrete for the rebuild, with Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, and Brandon Dixon coming back to the Reds when he was dealt. He’s now on the hapless New York Mets, who might well be the most lost franchise in the game today. Joining him there, of course, are both Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco, each cogs of the previous winning era who’ve found their way to a sub-.500 squad.
For a while, it looked like Mike Leake might help lead the Seattle Mariners to their first playoff appearance since the Coolidge Administration, but that fizzled mid-summer as their tenuous run differential finally righted course. He, too, will be sitting out these playoffs.
Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon, and Ryan Hanigan all played big parts of the Reds early-decade success, and fortunately the Reds landed the likes of Eugenio Suarez and Anthony DeSclafani when they dealt them. None of the three has played in the big leagues in 2018, so obviously they’re missing the playoffs, too.
Even the players the Reds let walk in free agency instead of throwing wads and wads of cash at have ended up on teams going nowhere in 2018. Choo had a rock-solid year and made his first career All Star team, but his Texas Rangers are stuck in dead last in the AL West. Zack Cozart signed a lucrative 3-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels to help put Mike Trout back in the postseason, but a torn labrum and subsequent surgery ended his year and LA again sits under the .500 mark. Bronson Arroyo, of course, signed on with the Arizona Diamondbacks after 2013, had his elbow fall apart completely, and hung up his spikes in 2017 after a brief disaster of a return to the Reds.
In fact, the only players who featured on the 2013 Cincinnati Reds who look like they’ll even have a chance to play in these playoffs are Aroldis Chapman, Tony Cingrani, and Brandon Phillips, and all three of them have even had 2018 seasons they might not want to repeat to date. Chapman landed on the DL for over a month earlier in the season, and has since been replaced at closer (for now) by former Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton. Cingrani spent over three months on the DL with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, and since returning has only logged 1-out in a pair of appearances in blowout situations, and is by no means a lock to make the Dodgers postseason roster even if they sneak in. And in Boston, Phillips willingly spent 44 games in the Red Sox farm system before finally getting called up as Dustin Pedroia replacement insurance; he homered in his first game with Boston, but has since gone just 2 for 17 in some three weeks of games, and doesn’t appear at all to be on the radar for a spot on their postseason roster.
So, as the players still wearing Cincinnati Reds uniforms wrap another 90+ loss season against the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend, it sure does seem like the bulk of the players they could have tried to keep instead of rebuilding have found ways to miss out on the 2018 postseason as well. Sure, keeping the band together and upping the Reds payroll into the stratosphere could’ve molded them together in a much different way, but that would’ve taken the kind of managerial tactics we just haven’t seen around Cincinnati in years, either. Heck, for that matter, even Dusty Baker is missing out on the playoffs in 2018, as is the Washington Nationals club he managed to take there for years prior to their collapse without him this year.