It’s not always a guarantee that a high-profile swing and miss on the transaction market will immediately prompt seeking the next best thing. Earlier this winter, the Cincinnati Reds chased catcher Yasmani Grandal in free agency before he ultimately signed with the Chicago White Sox for some $73 million guaranteed, but the Reds didn’t - or haven’t yet, at least - simply start calling every other catcher on the market to make sure they found someone new.
Yesterday, we watched as pitcher Zack Wheeler came to an agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies on a whopping 5 year, $118 million pact, something that’s pertinent to this weblog simply because the Reds were reportedly quite in on Wheeler until the last. Showing a willingness to not only spend at that level is one tell on the Reds path this winter, but another is that it again came in the chase of a starting pitcher despite that area being seemingly accounted for already with the current roster.
In this instance, though, it does seem like the Reds might be willing to pivot to another high-profile starter despite their bevy of talented ones already in-house. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, former San Francisco Giants star Madison Bumgarner is being eyed by the Reds, too.
Reds are among teams with interest in Madison Bumgarner. Manager David Bell was in #SFGiants front office. Braves, Twins, Angels, Padres, Yankees and Phillies are other logical possibilities. @Feinsand says deal could come soon.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 5, 2019
In the wake of Wheeler’s deal, it’s expected that Bumgarner could command a deal around the $100 million guarantee mark, too, so this is no mere flirtation. Adding Bumgarner would come with the kind of lengthy financial commitment that would make him a cornerstone of not just the 2020 push, but also of the years beyond that, and that could be quite the risky commitment to a guy who’s already logged over 1800 career innings at 30 years old.
There are also the inevitable conflicting messages out there. On the one hand, there are rumors that he’d prefer to stick with the Giants, as the San Jose Mercury News noted earlier today, though there’s the obvious elephant in the room of the Giants staring at a potential rebuild and not necessarily being interested in a pricey reunion. That would seem to run counter to the long-held belief that the North Carolina native wanted to get back closer to his roots, something the Atlanta Braves (and Reds, to some extent) could certainly offer.
As was the case with Wheeler, it’s interesting to see the Reds eyeing such pricey starting pitchers when offense was the largest need to fix this winter for a 2020 run, but as was also the case with Wheeler, there are aspects to the 2020 pitching rotation that do make looking at a long-term starter make sense. Both Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are slated to be free agents at season’s end, and that’s also going to end up being some $23-25 million off the payroll for 2021. In other words, the Reds will be in a position to need to address their 2021 rotation at some point in the next calendar year anyway, and if they think they’ve found the right fit now - and that fit will help a 2020 run, too - there’s less harm in making that pursuit this winter. Unless, of course, it eats up all the money they’d allocated for hitting...
With that in mind, the Reds officially announced the signing of Mike Moustakas today, cementing him in the record books (for now) as the club’s record free agent signing. The details of the 4 year, $64 million deal were revealed yesterday by The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale, who noted that his 2020 salary would be just $12 million and that there’s a club option for a 5th year tacked on, too.
Obviously, backloading contracts frees up more spending space in the present, but it will certainly make any potential trade of him down the road that much more difficult to pull off. Of course, by 2022 there could be either the DH in the National League (the current CBA expires after 2021), or there could even be a strike that renders the tail end of the deal moot, so that’s all speculative blathering on my end. The larger point is that the Reds had enough coin to ink Moose and still throw their hats in the ring for the likes of Wheeler and Bumgarner, meaning this move will likely only end up the first of several ones of significance this winter. Over at Redleg Nation, our blog buddies looked at the current payroll in the wake of the Moose signing to highlight just that.
In other news, our Tony Wolfe looked at a potential buy-low free agent over at FanGraphs, one that might be the perfect kind of utility piece for how the current Reds roster is coming together. Cesar Hernandez was non-tendered by the Phillies this week instead of hitting arbitration for the final time at an estimated $10 million, and while the previous paragraph details just how much money the Reds have dedicated to their 2B of the future, it’s worth noting that Hernandez came up as a CF and has also spent some time playing both SS and 3B in his professional career aside from his extensive 2B work. Tone Blog broke down how his 2019 season was a far cry from what he’s done while at his best, but any inkling of a return to the form he had in the seasons prior to 2019, his switch-hitting ability, and that kind of potential defensive versatility would make the 29 year old quite the perfect utility guy for the 2020 Reds, in my very own bloggy opinion. Hell, he was still valued at 1.7 fWAR and 2.5 bWAR for his efforts last year.
Finally, the Competitive Balance picks for the 2020 MLB Draft were sorted out earlier this week, and the Reds have picked up pick #72 overall for next June, according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. Those two rounds - Round A coming after the 1st round, Round B coming after Round 2 - consist of picks given to teams that rank among the bottom tier in MLB in a combination of payroll, winning percentage, and market size, and while it certainly would’ve been nice to see the Reds luck into one of the Round A selections, getting one in Round B is still decent consolation. Remember, even though it’s not the spot in the draft where there is an automatic lock that they’ll get a future MLB star, having that extra pick will increase the overall draft bonus allotment for the Reds, meaning they could use that extra cash to help overpay for one of their higher picks.