Nonstop games against division rivals presents an enviable opportunity for the Cincinnati Reds to rise quickly in the standings, to be sure. That’s exactly where they are at this juncture of the 2019 season, as they sit 6.5 games out of first in the NL Central and are up against a 10 game stretch against the three teams atop the division - the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals. Someone has to win those games, obviously, and if it’s the Reds more often than not, that July 31st trade deadline begins to elicit dreams of which addition Cincinnati can make to help them push for the playoffs.
Of course, that same scenario also presents the unenviable opportunity to have the season buried in a hurry, too. As esteemed Reds aficionado @WoooooTheReds (hi, Woooo!) noted on Twitter just yesterday, the range of results we could see from just the 3 games against the Cubs this week spell out just how important this series is, as a slip here and brainfart there could leave Cincinnati beyond repair.
The #Reds can leave Chicago...— Wooooo™ (@WoooooTheReds) July 14, 2019
9.5 GB (Cubs series sweep)
7.5 GB (Cubs 2-1 series win)
5.5 GB (Reds 2-1 series win)
3.5 GB (Reds series sweep)
So yes. Their division hopes are on the line the next 3 games.
For as close as it feels like the Reds are to contention - and obviously, the last 5 years of dismal play has us overtly optimistic at any chance to be so - there are only a pair of National League teams with worse overall records than them at the moment. The Miami Marlins are the Miami Marlins, last in the NL East, and the saga-filled New York Mets sit as those two teams, with even the over-the-hill San Francisco Giants tied with Cincinnati behind 11 other NL teams in the chase for the two Wild Card spots. So, stumble in these next 10 games, and the Reds aren’t just buried in the NL Central standings, but they’re mired behind a full dozen teams in the Wild Card race, a number that’s seemingly insurmountable.
It’s that latter note that’s important for the trade deadline concerns, too. Between now and July 31st, the Reds will obviously know more about their prospects for a successful end of season, but as of this moment that’s the case for so, so many other teams out there - specifically in the NL. And what do teams that think they still have a shot at a playoff run do at the July 31st trade deadline? They look to buy, not sell. In other words, not only are the Reds going to have to figure out whether they’re buyers, sellers, or hold-patters in the next two weeks, almost every other NL team is going to have to, too. And when that’s the case, there aren’t going to be many active sellers, and the number of shark-like buyers in the water if a team does go full-sale would drive the price of any meaningful piece through the roof.
In other words, it becomes hell on buyers to acquire anything without an overpay, with the price of losing out that one of the other teams in this tightly-packed bunch gets the same player you were chasing.
The quickest and best way to get out of this bind is to just simply beat up on the Cubs, beat up on St. Louis, and finally take it to a Brewers club that the Reds have flirted with thumping in their battles so far this year. Failure to do so might well pour water on the season, too, especially when you factor in how damn many free agents to-be the Reds have on their roster. Remember when I mentioned how few teams are active sellers, and that it could end up a heavy seller’s market? Well, I’m not sure there’s a team out there who, on paper, is in a better position to be a seller if need be than the Reds, and a dive further down the standings would certainly have their inbox filled with interest - and that’s a hard thing to turn down if you’re 9, 10, 11 games back in the standings.
What I’m saying, I think, is that a bad run over the next week and a half will put a lot of pressure on the Reds to be tempted to sell, and the pieces they have to offer will only add to that pressure. Someone will want Yasiel Puig badly if the Reds try to move him. Same goes for Tanner Roark, too. And the only thing that could possibly cause the Reds to end up with egg on their face at the end of the 2019 season is if they hold on to those two, and others, and still find themselves in the NL Central cellar.
So, go do that going, Reds. Go, go now, and go all next week, too. Win hard, win often, and make these pending decisions easier, would ya?