In case you had your Friday evening priorities elsewhere, the Cincinnati Reds sent Kyle Farmer to the Minnesota Twins in a trade last night, picking up a pitcher who’ll a) turn 26 years old next summer and b) has yet to pitch above AA. Within an hour of that trade going final, they followed it up by acquiring Kevin Newman from the Pittsburgh Pirates, sending reliever Dauri Moreta across the division in the process.
Newman, who’s 28, is slated to earn roughly $2.8 million for the 2023 season as a 2nd-year arbitration-eligible player. Farmer, who’s 32, is slated to earn roughly $5.9 million for the 2023 season as a 2nd-year arbitration-eligible player. That’s a difference of $3.1 million that would have been allocated to roughly the same position - both on the diamond and as ‘veteran presence within the roster’ - and the Reds are now saving that amount.
If you look at this from a purely bottom-line perspective - and since it’s the Reds, you cannot look at it through any other lens - this was a money-saving venture. They got younger, yes. They also got worse, at least offensively, as Newman’s the owner of a robust 66 OPS+ in 1035 PA dating back to the start of the 2020 season, a far cry from the 88 OPS+ owned by Farmer in 1182 PA over that same period.
This series of transactions shows the Reds are banking on one of two concepts. Either they’re guessing that, at 32, Farmer’s about to decline precipitously concurrent with Newman improving offensively with a move to a much more friendly home ballpark, or they’re banking on none of it mattering at all as Jose Barrero, Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, and Noelvi Marte seize the entirety of the infield as soon as physically possible.
If it’s the former, the Reds made a pair of moves last night that made them younger, cheaper, and worse. If it’s the latter, the Reds made a pair of moves that make them just younger and cheaper, albeit in a less chummy-handshakey way. What they didn’t get through either deal, though, is any better.
There’s a school out there that will suggest, inevitably, that the $3+ million they saved in the move will allow them more financial flexibility in the upcoming free agent market, a market in which they’ll be needed to address numerous obvious holes in a roster currently roped off with yellow rebuilding tape. To me, it just feels that this is the kind of marginal penny-shaving that won’t make them chase a $10 million starting pitcher instead of the $6-7 million starting pitcher - instead, it’ll go towards filling the ‘we don’t have a second catcher at all’ preexisting void. A patch for a hole they’ve long ago already dug, in other words.
That’s the level of expectation the Reds have set with their austerity, and nothing about last night’s series of moves suggests otherwise. This was them seeing an obvious opportunity to squeeze out the most possible money while keeping the bar set painfully low, and they took it.
There are 131 days until Opening Day. Where ya gonna go?