Late July of 2015 was a pretty dark time to be a Cincinnati Reds fan. The team was languishing some 20 games back in the NL Central while less than two years removed from a 90 win campaign, and the inevitable teardown and rebuild was beginning to become ominous.
On the 26th of that month, Johnny Cueto was shipped to Kansas City for the trio of lefty pitchers whose names fewer and fewer Reds fans can even remember. Then, on the 30th, Mike Leake was sent to San Francisco, bringing back a package of Adam Duvall and the player who, at that point, was the top ranked prospect in an admittedly weak Giants system.
That player was pitcher Keury Mella, a hard-throwing RHP with a big body and frame, the kind of projectable pitching arm that was sorely lacking in the Cincinnati system at that time. At the time, it was seen as a bit of a slight ‘win’ for the Reds front office, with Leake the team’s 4/5 starter and in his final year of team control, and that was before we even lucked into seeing the production Duvall would provide as the perceived secondary part of that deal.
Four plus years later, and Mella’s days within the Cincinnati organization are officially over, at least for now. He officially became a minor league free agent this week, as did over 500 other players across the baseball landscape, as Baseball America noted in very detailed fashion. Mella is perhaps the single most notable name on the Reds list, both due to the fact that he actually had cups of coffee at the big league level and due to the hype that came with him back in his early prospect days, but the likes of Jackson Stephens, Jon Moscot, Jonathon Crawford, and Stuart Turner also stand out as names of note that are no longer within the organization.
Of course, there’s always the chance that they’ll choose to re-up with the Reds given the opportunity, but that’s far from a given. In Mella’s case, that means he could finish his Reds career with a 7.94 ERA across 17 IP, with 13 K against 12 BB in his three short stints with the big league club. If that’s the case, it’ll mark a disappointing chapter in this long rebuild, which is a sentence that is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose.
In other news, The Athletic’s Eno Sarris took a closer look at a handful of the mid-tier free agent class this winter ($$), noting that often those types of players can have just as big (if not bigger) impact on teams as the biggest name free agents of their class - at least, on a per dollar basis. One such name he breaks down is Didi Gregorius, who has obviously been linked to potentially becoming a Red again this winter in a number of locations. Sarris adds to that list, thinking that the Reds have the inside shot at signing him, too.
Leatherpants, on the other hand, suggests Didi is best suited taking a pillow contract with the Yankees for another year ($$) to show he’s fully back and healthy.
FanGraphs’ David Laurila had the opportunity to talk hitting with former Red Jay Bruce back in September, and the interview finally published today. Man, I miss affable Jay.
Finally, BA’s Joe Sheehan took a look at the dips and climbs in baseball attendance across MLB, and did so in the context of the increasing polarization among teams as either contenders or rebuilders, with few (if any) teams willing to split the middle. It’s quite the good read, and includes a shoutout to the Reds for their bold-in-the-face-of-odds moves last winter.