The Cincinnati Reds added 31 year old lefty reliever Sam Moll last night, and that was it for their dealings at the 2023 Major League Baseball trade deadline.
That’s it. That’s all there was.
Despite being in contention for a division title for the first time in over a decade, despite having a trio of relievers tied for the most appearances already this year in the National League (with a fourth just one appearance short of that trio), despite Luke Weaver still owning an every-fifth-day spot in the rotation, despite Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo still weeks away, despite a loaded farm system with a glut of infielders...
...I suppose I could ‘despite’ my way through many, many things here. The reality is that the Cincinnati Reds and GM Nick Krall chose to stand pat and not augment their pitching staff, or elsewhere on the roster, at the final opportunity to do so this season.
It’s a bold call, and I get it to an extent. The price for even rental starters was enormous, with the New York Mets throwing a lead pipe into the spokes of the wheel by incentivizing a pair of NL West teams with over $90 million to take on the still lofty contracts of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. There was a glut of left-handed starters potentially on the block - Eduardo Rodriguez, James Paxton, and Jose Quintana, in particular - but adding any of them would present the Reds with potentially four lefties in their rotation once Nick Lodolo returns. The St. Louis Cardinals were dealing away pitching, but it’s always a tall task to see them and the Reds ever lining up on an intra-divisional deal of any sort.
The deeper portion of the market was effectively just Dylan Cease of the White Sox, and it was clear early on that the asking price for a guy with that much team control was very much going to be pinned to his 2nd place finish in the AL Cy Young Award voting last year and not to his lesser performance this year. And with so few other options out there, the asking price there was rumored to be obscene.
So, the Reds sat on their hands. They still have too many infielders (and infield prospects) for the number of positions available, and that’s something they’ll now carry into the winter. As it is, they’ll lean on the adage of ‘injured players returning is like a deadline addition’ as if a) the other teams don’t have injured players returning, too (see: Brandon Woodruff in Milwaukee) and b) skirt the topic of other teams (read: Milwaukee) actively adding players via trade within the last 48 hours to make them a better team today than they were last week.
It’s a long-game the Reds are playing, one that hopefully comes to fruition down the road as much as in 2023. The hope is that there will be a year in the near future where the decisions of today pan out, a year where Greene and Lodolo are healthy for the entire year and the prospects not yet up are either in the lineup in new positions or, I suppose, traded down the road for something shiny at that point.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the opportunity that has presented itself in 2023. They’re in first place in a year when the Cubs fumbled away 90 games before getting started and the Cardinals stink and sold already. The division is right there for the taking, and that wasn’t enough for the Reds to press the Reds into any additional urgency.
Prudent? Perhaps. If you just think of this as ‘year one of a rebuild after they lost 100 games last year,’ your level of patience is significantly different than those of us who realize the last full-season playoff appearance came a full decade ago and lasted exactly one game. Your level of patience is different than those of us who haven’t seen so much as a playoff series victory in 28 years, who have watched year and year and decade and decade go buy without so much as a glimmer of a chance most seasons. It’s different than those who hoped like hell the team would give Joey Votto, in what’s almost surely his final year in the uniform, the best chance to make a playoff run one more time. It’s a delicate balance, and I get that it’s the front office’s job to consider the Shogo Akiyamas and Mike Moustakas’ of the world as much of a sunk cost as the weight of the dismal last three decades of Reds baseball, but it’s their job to ignore that drought - not ours.
This was always going to be a day on the calendar circled by us for future reference whether they swung a blockbuster, or not. This was the final day they could make any alterations of any kind, and they called time on it after just Sam Moll. Now, we get to see if their decision to abdicate from their position as dealers once they were finally in the ‘buyer’ side of those transactions pans out, or not.