This week, we’ve explored a few different ways that a few of the more ambitious teams in baseball can make a few moves to, y’know, make them more capable of winning baseball games during the 2021 season. We’ve looked at the Los Angeles Dodgers, the obvious juggernaut the game has these days. We looked at the upstart San Diego Padres, possesors of perhaps the most electric young core in all baseball. We also looked at the Tampa Bay Rays, home of winning in spite of other business models and the savviest move-makers the game has today.
We looked at all three through goggles of jest, of course, because good teams in this monopolistic baseball world get better at the expense of their peers who choose not to be ambitious. We like rooting for, and writing about, the ambitious teams in this sport.
We don’t yet know if they’re going to play a full 162, or 144, or 120, but we do know all 30 clubs are going to be on the field playing ball next year at some point. Here’s a novel concept - how about trying to win as many of those as possible? On top of that, how about making that, more than anything else, the top priority for a change?
With that in mind, here are three things the Cincinnati Reds can do this winter to actually present themselves as a baseball team first, and investment vehicle second.
Do not move P Sonny Gray or 3B Eugenio Suarez to simply subtract payroll
The idea of making any players off-limits is silly. The idea of trading one, or both, of Sonny and Geno isn’t outlandish.
It’s simply a matter of making the returns dictate the dealmaking, not the bottom line.
If you’re the Reds, and the Padres offer you MacKenzie Gore for Sonny, you might well make that move. If the White Sox offer up Tim Anderson, you make that move. They won’t, but you would.
Sonny Gray and Eugenio Suarez are not the most valuable players in the game today, but they are damn, damn valuable. And on the relatively cheap contracts under which they play, they are incredibly valuable overall pieces. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more valuable ones out there - and if you can find one, you can make that move - but that doesn’t mean they should ever be the ones that simply have to come off the books because you’ve invested in less-wise ways on the rest of the roster.
Plan on building your house around these two. If Cousin Eddie knocks on your door with Rick Hahn tied up and wearing a bow and says you can take Tim Anderson, well, then you can start shopping for a new house. But don’t you dare downsize unless that happens. Not this way, not with them.
Do not move P Luis Castillo
There’s some sort of cruel irony that the three Reds players we’ve seen linked to repeated trade whispers this winter are all players the Reds actually landed via trade. Despite the repeatedly dismal returns, in hindsight, for the core players traded away from the previous era of decent Reds baseball, each of Sonny, Geno, and Luis Castillo represent the beacons of that bunch.
Sonny came in a prospect deal, but you get what I’m saying. All three of these were steals the Reds picked up, so to see them be the ones presumably on the block adds an extra air of frustration aside from the fact that, y’know, they’re pretty much the best players the Reds have on the roster.
You just don’t find new Luis Castillos very often. You don’t. You don’t trade them when you have them, either, especially not when you’ve built up an epic layer of pitching tutelage around him to let him continue to prosper. You sign the Luis Castillos of the world when you have them, especially given his age and lack of a huge signing bonus existing in the bank, as I touched on earlier this offseason.
On top of that, he’s still cheap, damnit. He’s not breaking anyone’s bank. He, at his age and talent, is what small-market teams that try to win baseball games are built upon, and moving him - even for the moon - just seems downright diabolical.
Identify a good big league shortstop, and stick him in our giant Cincinnati Reds stocking
It’s both a blessing and a curse that the Reds are perhaps the MLB team single most devoid of big league shortstop options at the moment. Every other team projects to have better in-house production at that position right now, for the most part, and that’s a indictment in many ways.
On the other hand, there has perhaps never been a similar wealth of available options on both the free agent and trade markets than there is right now, and striking to land one is absolutely, categorically what these Reds must do to give any indication that they’re trying to, y’know, win some damn baseball games in 2021.
The Chicago Cubs are tossing buckets of water out of their canoe. The Pittsburgh Pirates stabbed a knife in their own inner tube and completely abandoned ship at the first sight of whitewater. The St. Louis Cardinals are barely treading water, while the Milwaukee Brewers haven’t even wanted to wade out past ankle-deep. The entire damn division is right there for the taking, staring this club in the face in a way not this obvious in a generation. All it takes is a few bucks to make it happen.
Get one. Commit to one. And pay the man to do it. That’s precisely what the cheap steals of Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suarez, and Luis Castillo provide you with the opportunity to do.