On December 11, 2014, the Cincinnati Reds officially started to rebuild. Unable to contend for another spot in the playoffs in the previous season, they decided to start making moves. They made two trades that day, sending Alfredo Simon to Detroit for Eugenio Suarez and trading Mat Latos away to Miami for Anthony DeSclafani. Seven months later, they sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals and Mike Leake to the Giants and The Rebuild became The Reboot. In the four seasons since the Latos and Simon trades, they have won no-more than 68 games in a given year and have finished last in the National League Central each year. Finally, after 5 straight losing seasons, the front office promised that they were going to improve the team. They’ve held up on that promise so far, and they’ve done it by making all of the right moves.
When the Reds hired manager David Bell back in October, the two promises made by owner Bob Castellini were that the Reds would have a record payroll and that they would “Get the Pitching.” With no other details than those two statements, it was hard to imagine what the Reds had planned for the offseason and how much it was going to cost. Dallas Keuchel was (and still is) the top free agent pitcher on the market and the Cleveland Indians were possibly shopping Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Would the Reds go all-in by signing a former Cy Young winner to a big contract or trade away some of their best prospects for a Corey Kluber type? While that question has yet to be answered, and looks more and more likely that answer is a “no”, they have made some impressive moves to improve their starting rotation.
The first move of the offseason happened in December, as the Reds acquired Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals. Roark, while an improvement to the rotation, wasn’t exactly what we all thought when we first heard “Get the Pitching,” but it was a decent acquisition anyway. Next came the blockbuster. The Reds acquired Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and Kyle Farmer from the Dodgers for Homer Bailey and two minor leaguers. The Reds made another improvement to the starting rotation in Wood, added one of the most electric players in baseball in Puig, and got Homer Bailey’s massive contract off the books. Now we’re talking. Lastly, they acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees (and effectively signed him to a very reasonable 4-year, $38 million extension with a year-5 option) for Shed Long and a competitive balance pick in the 2019 draft.
Not only did the Reds come through on their promise to spend money and improve their starting rotation, they did it at a time when seemingly nobody else is trying to make these improvements. Seriously. February is only a few days away and two of the top five players in baseball still remain unsigned along with the best relief pitcher in baseball and the 2015 American League Cy Young winner. While that brings along a different conversation for a different day, it still shows how the Reds have gone against what most of the league has been doing this offseason and have made themselves competitive with the rest of the division in the process.
The upside to all of these moves is that they have done them without a massive overpay and have dealt from positions of depth, making a solid improvement to the team without giving up their top prospects. While it would have been great to see a guy like Shed Long in a Reds uniform at 2B in the near future, he is exactly the type of prospect you need to deal to make a serious improvement given the plethora of other middle-infield options. Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray might become solid major league players, but the likelihood of those two making an impact on the immediate future of the Reds is slim-to-none, so it was okay to see them go. They have also kept the door open for Nick Senzel to get plenty of meaningful plate appearances this year, most likely in center field, holding down the fort until Taylor Trammell makes his way up in 2020 or 2021.
All of that being said, there is still work to be done. They probably need to add another bullpen arm before the season and it wouldn’t hurt to add a true center fielder. I realize that statement comes immediately after saying that Nick Senzel could be patrolling center field, but the truth is that they still don’t know if they have Billy Hamilton’s replacement since Senzel has yet to play the position. The Reds will also have decisions to make about a lot of players, either at the trade deadline or next winter. All of the new acquisitions outside of Sonny Gray, including Scooter Gennett, are in the final year of their contracts. They will have possible trades to evaluate if they aren’t competitive and will have to decide who to extend a qualifying offer after the season. While they need to get the most out of these players on the field in 2019, what they get from them before they move on is just as important.
This has been the most exciting offseason as a Reds fan since 2012. They have finally put forth the effort to field a competitive team and end this rebuild. While they still have an uphill climb to compete in a division as tough as the NL Central, it’s relieving to know that they have a fighting chance. These moves may not make a difference in how they finish in the division, but at least they finally tried.