Holy magumbos! Yer boys in red just won five of seven from the Cubs and Brewers. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo just combined to throw 152⁄3 shutout innings with 21 strikeouts and just two walks against the division leaders. It doesn’t get better than this.
But what if it did? Yes, the Reds are still in last place in the NL Central. They will need to leapfrog four teams to take the division lead and six teams to get into the wild card. But everything is so bejabbered that they are only 31⁄2 games out. And there is plenty of reason to believe that this is real (they are only a game behind the Cubs in Pythagorean record). It is not at all unreasonable to believe that after a cold start to the season, the Reds are finally clicking.
Maybe it’s the fireworks or the parade candy or the ribs or the day drinking, but I’m feeling pretty heady at the moment. So with that, let’s assume that yer Reds are gonna be buyers at the July 31st deadline. What might that look like?
Looking over the current Reds roster, I honestly do not see a lot of obvious holes. I would argue the outfield has underperformed to date, but I still would not lobby for any reinforcements. Yasiel Puig notably started the season with a number of thuds, but there have been far more thonks of late. Since May 24, a total of 143 PAs, he is slashing .298/.350/.626 with 18 extra-base hits. Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel look like future cornerstones of the lineup and they have acquitted themselves reasonably well. Neither has hit like an All-Star, but neither is a drag.
One possibility that could make some sense is to trade for an outfielder with multiple years of team control who could fit in more cleanly come next year. The Mariners are in full-on sell mode, so it is at least conceivable that Mitch Haniger could be had. He is rehabbing from a ruptured testicle though, that poor wretched soul. But seriously, with Puig, Senzel, and Winker, as well as Phil Ervin and Derek Dietrich getting PAs, this unit is solid.
The infield is even more solid. Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto have not hit to their historical standards, but Votto has been in lock-step with Puig over the last month-plus. Since May 22, he is hitting .352/.425/.516. That is pretty much right in line with his career average. He may not be able to sustain that level for a full season anymore, but the old man can still bang.
Jose Iglesias has taken over the shortstop position and played perfectly cromulent thus far. Derek Dietrich has kept second base warm for Scooter Gennett, who is finally healthy. (Of course, he tweaked his other groin on Wednesday, but it doesn’t seem serious.)
The catcher spot could maybe use some reinforcements, if you are looking to improve something. Curt Casali and Tucker Barnhart have basically split duties behind the dish, and while Casali has been perfectly serviceable, Barnhart has struggled. His .605 OPS is about 100 points off his career average and he is currently on the IL with a strained oblique. He doesn’t look to be back in the lineup any time in the next few weeks, either.
There are a few catchers out there who could be worth a look-see. Pedro Severino has put in a good few months with the Orioles after being waived by the Nats this offseason. Wilson Ramos signed a two-year deal with the black comedy Mets this winter and is likely to be traded somewhere. The M’s have gotten quality production from Omar Navarez this season and, like Severino, is not yet arb-eligible and likely not a foundation piece for teams on the rebuild.
The pitching staff is among the best in baseball. When the Reds said they were gonna “get the pitching,” I don’t think anyone believed they could get this pitching. Luis Castillo made his first All-Star team and I have ten bucks that says Sonny Gray will join him. Tanner Roark has been exactly as solid and above average as he has always been. Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle have struggled to keep the baseball in the ball orchard, but their overall numbers are quite good. Mahle is striking out more than four batters for every one he walks, which is superlative. He is actually 13th among NL starters in K/BB. And most importantly, only one other pitcher has started a game for the Reds this season (Lucas Sims). This unit has been fantastic and healthy, which is something we haven’t been able to say since that historically great rotation in 2012. On top of that, Alex Wood is making his first rehab start this Saturday, so he’ll be back (hopefully) by the end of the month.
The bullpen, like every bullpen in the majors, could always use reinforcements. The relievers have been every bit as good as the rotation, though. Raisel Iglesias has arguably been the weakest link, which I think is the most illustrative thing you can say about this ‘pen. Iggy, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Jared Hughes, and Robert Stephenson all have ERA+ north of 115. And David Hernandez, like the true workhorse he is, has a FIP of 2.51 in 39 appearances.
They could use one more good lefty, and with Wandy Peralta and Cody Reed both on the mend, they may not even need that. Jake Diekman of the Royals, Roenis Elias of the M’s, and Will Smith of the Giants could be worthwhile additions all the same.
Look, the next three weeks or so will be everything for the Reds’ season. They play ten against the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers and six against the Wild Card-trying Rockies. If they can keep pace, it might make sense to try to add. But the bottom-line point I’m trying to make here is that they don’t even really have to. The roster as constructed is finally playing to potential and there are no glaring weak spots. All the credit in the world goes to the front office brainheads for putting it together and to the players for making it happen.
The Reds are playing fun and meaningful baseball in July, which is so much fun and that means everything to me.