Shane Bieber is out with an arm injury, and the Los Angeles Angels have doubled-down on keeping Shohei Ohtani and making a run at the playoffs this year. The Chicago Cubs have rolled up enough wins of late to make them think they’re still contenders, while the San Diego Padres have yet to wave the white flag despite still sitting 5 full games under the .500 mark.
The New York Yankees are in last place in their division, and they’re keen to be buyers. Every single team in existence barring the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins is in search of starting pitching upgrades, while the two most accomplished names that probably should be on the trade block - Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander of the 48-54 New York Mets - are making more money this year than anyone ever (while carrying no-trade clauses on their giant contracts, too).
It’s as complicated a trade deadline from a buyer’s perspective that I’ve come across in quite some time, really. So many clubs still consider themselves in contention with the expanded playoffs, and so many clubs that seem perilously buried in the standings hold big name pieces of the starting pitching market. From the perspective of the Cincinnati Reds, that must be a little bit daunting, especially given the cost it took for the Angels to acquire Lucas Giolito from the Chicago White Sox.
Add-in that one of the very few teams who a) has publicly confirmed they’ll be selling and b) actually has legitimate big league players is the St. Louis Cardinals - a club who I really can’t see doing too much big business in-division with the Reds - and finding obvious upgrades are few and far between.
Mark Feinsand’s article at MLB.com from yesterday was the first to really lob Verlander’s name onto the trade block, as it noted that the Mets might well shop him and begin to trim back ever-so-slightly from their record payroll. Finding a trade partner for him on performance only would be the world’s easiest task, but that $43+ million salary he’s owed next year in what will be his age-41 season is a major ask of any potential team doing the acquiring. So, when a team executive suggested the Reds might be a sleeper team in that arena to Feinsand, well, we once again find ourselves wondering just how much money the Reds have (and would be willing to spend).
Could they coax the Mets into eating a ton of that money by sending Noelvi Marte and Christian Encarnacion-Strand to New York? They most certainly could. Is it at all in-line with what they’ve built over the last two years to give up that much prospect talent for a 40 year old with just a season and a half of team control? It’s most certainly not.
As they say, though, you don’t often have the wherewithal to pick which year is yours in Major League Baseball. The year, rather, picks you, and fortune has smiled on this Reds club early and often. Pair that with it being a likely swan song for Joey Votto in the team’s uniform, and the idea of simply standing pat and waiting for Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo to hopefully return 100% pronto seems foolhardy.
Maybe that means they aim a lot lower than Verlander, and try to find a significantly less proven (read: less costly) guy who they think they can squeeze more out of than he’s shown to date. Maybe they see a little bit of former life left in Lance Lynn, or see something in Alex Wood of the San Francisco Giants that they saw when they sought him a handful of years ago. The Giants, much like the Twins and Seattle Mariners, are one of the very few clubs who could deal from their starting depth while still fully intending to make a playoff push, something both Robert Murray of FanSided and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic made note of within the last day.
The Twins and Mariners, eh? The clubs that the Reds worked with to move Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, Jesse Winker, and Eugenio Suarez? Huh. Sure would be interesting to see the Reds dial them up and ask for pitching.
A weekend of games against the Los Angeles Dodgers awaits the Reds, while the first place Milwaukee Brewers are tasked with traveling to Atlanta to face the red-hot Braves. That’s the action we’ll see on the diamond between now and when the deadline comes calling, though there’s bound to be some action on the transaction ledger around the league at the very same time. Where the Reds fit into it, though, remains to be seen.
At least we know they aren’t going to be sellers this time around.