The Cincinnati Reds sent hard-throwing pitching prospect Joe Boyle to the Oakland A’s in exchange for lefty Sam Moll and his slicin’ slider, thereby wrapping the entirety of their work on the external transaction front for the 2023 season. Yesterday’s trade deadline came, it went, and the Reds made no further additions despite being atop the National League Central division and, in theory, in a prime spot to make a playoff push.
I digested as much of that as I could quickly yesterday, and after watching Ben Lively get shelled for a dozen runs in last night’s debacle in Wrigley, I like to think I still have the same sentiments now after a couple hours of sleep. I still think the Reds don’t have enough pitching, and their decision to wait for injured pitching to simply get healthy at some nebulous point down the road is entirely too passive for any club, let alone one that has only been in this position roughly twice in the entire lifetimes of their everyday starting infield.
In perusing the opinions of others on how the Reds graded in their deadline approach, I think the age-old adage of act like you’ve been there before was front in center in their evaluation process. If you’re in first place, you have obvious deficiencies, and you have a loaded farm system, you leverage one to fix the other and - because it’s both fun and quite literally the point of this whole thing - you get what you need to win as many games as you can between now and the final out of the World Series. That’s just how teams that are in first place at the trade deadline act, yet the Reds - in that very position - did not, instead falling back on the ‘sustainability’ premise they have piped-in through the speaker system at every step of the way through this latest rebuild.
The Reds didn’t act like they’ve been here before, and instead are acting like they’re going to be back here again. That’s a bold assertion, effectively placing a higher priority on having a chance to be a first place team again than actually finishing as a first place team.
I hope they are correct in their boldness. I hope like hell they are. I cannot tell you how much more enjoyable it is to cover a winning team, to write about aspirations, and to actively seek the best players out there because the ones you cover deserve their help. That said, I can’t help but think that yesterday, and the days that ran up to it, were a missed opportunity. I think that the potential on this current team had the chance to make hearing ‘2023’ in 2031 bring the same kind of smile to our faces that hearing ‘2012’ did, or maybe, just maybe, hearing ‘1990’ did.
I used the past tense of has in that sentence, and I toggled back and forth between present and past tense several times before sticking with it. This team still has a helluva lot going for it, but it’s a team that fought and scrapped and ripped its way up the standings and right through predictions and prognostications of their ineptitude all spring and summer, and that’s the kind of club that deserved to get help. They all seem to get along damn well, but don’t act like they don’t know the ERA of the team’s fifth starter, or that their #1 and #2 have both been so hurt as to need 60-day IL stints. All teams, even good teams, know there are ways they can get better, and for them to see the front office pass on that opportunity will inevitably send them a signal. Maybe it’ll fortify them, make them realize they’re on their own and must figure it out themselves. Maybe, though, it’s going to hit them like a gut punch since they surely expected - as a first place team, after all - that they’d get a nice, shiny new piece to help them slay the playoff dragon in the end.
I wonder what Joey Votto thinks about it. After the last decade of carrying an entire franchise on his back, he fought through two gnarly surgeries to return in June, and he’s lead the team in homers and ribbies since that day - something so many fans around here always wanted him to do. He knows his days here are dwindling, and yet the goings are finally, mercifully good around here again. And then, just like that, the front office throws him no bone.
Noelvi Marte and Cam Collier and Edwin Arroyo and Chase Petty and Connor Phillips are all excellent, excellent pieces. Obtaining them has given the front office flexibility and depth, even if they opted not to use them. They’ll be pieces that present many more opportunities down the road, no doubt about it. With the exception of perhaps Phillips, though, they aren’t going to give the Reds any additional chance to hang a banner this year, as you can’t hang a 2023 banner with 2024 work. If the most recent one hanging in GABP hadn’t gathered so damn much dust, that might be a statement I’d more fervently understand. It’s dusty as all hell though, man.
Ben Clemens of FanGraphs took aim at the Reds in his Winners/Losers column about the deadline, praising the efforts of the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs while wondering why the Reds weren’t more excited to actually be back in the mix again.
Bradford Doolittle of ESPN named his own winners and losers at this year’s deadline, and he didn’t totally bury them. He did, however, wonder why they didn’t move the needle even just a tiny bit more.
RJ Anderson of CBS Sports gave them a D for their deadline work, wondering why they didn’t do anything to address the starting rotation. It’s obviously convenient to highlight stats after outlier days, but as of today, the Reds starting rotation’s ERA (5.39) and FIP (5.09) are now 3rd worst in all of baseball behind only the lowly Colorado Rockies and Oakland A’s. Yeesh.
Leatherpants at The Athletic gave out grades, too, and also doled out a D for the Reds. The Brewers got a B, while the Cubs got a B-.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello ranked the 23 best deals of the deadline, and not surprisingly, the Reds were not mentioned. I only mention this here because you’ll find that the good teams going out of their way to acquire pitching all rank at the top of Mike’s list. Those teams, you’ll notice, are trying like hell to win more games in 2023.
That’s probably enough piling on for one day, especially after the Cubs dropped a 20-spot on the club last night. I’ll exit with this, though - many of the same folks who are aghast at the Reds decisions this trade deadline are the same ones who picked them to be terrible at the outset of this season, so this is hardly a factual damnation. Maybe Nick Krall truly is an expert at zagging when the rest of the world zigs, and we’ll be rewarded down the road when those decisions pay off in spades long-term. I hope so, though this deadline will always be a tough one to get over for me.