By Mark Carpenter –
Just when you think you have the Cincinnati Reds all figured out, along comes the trade deadline to just totally mess things up. It’s like that old fisherman guy in those commercials that holds the dollar on the end of his line and then tells you,” ha, you almost had it.” That is the Reds. Best record in baseball since the All Star break, 10 wins in 15 games, hitting and pitching beginning to click together, and then comes yet another purge.
As I write this, reports are that right fielder Jay Bruce is headed to New York, but it isn’t official at the moment because of course there is the “hold up in the deal.” On top of that, reports are circulating that Zack Cozart might be hopping a plane to the Pacific Northwest this evening, and both of those moves will probably be done by the time anyone reads this.
My question is why? And the answer you see everywhere is money. When did Bob Castellini start going to the Freestore Foodbank for his meals? Where is all the Reds’ money going? Even as bad as they were at the beginning of this season, they are still putting 20-30,000 fans in the seats each night. So why not use some money to actually pay some more players. What the heck, they have already done it for Votto, Phillips, and Bailey, why not a couple of more?
Trades are an inevitable part of baseball as we all understand but the timing of these couldn’t be worse if you are a Reds fan. Consider this about the everyday eight: Votto is beginning to hit like the Votto we expect, Phillips is still a Gold Glove defender who just came off a 16-game hitting streak, Cozart is having another very solid season, Suarez has begun to hit as expected in recent games, Duvall is an All Star with 25 homers, Hamilton is having perhaps his best season as a Red, Bruce is leading the league in RBI’s, and Barnhart has turned out to be quite a surprise behind the plate.
Combine that with the return of Homer Bailey, the unbeaten Anthony DeSclafani, the unhittable Raciel Iglesias, the steady Dan Straily, the recent work of Tony Cingrani..and well, you get the picture. I am wondering why if you didn’t keep that starting lineup together and the pitching staff comes together as it seems to be, why would this team not be much more competitive next season? I guess we will never know why and we will have to wait until that time “when they are good again” as I heard over and over and over this past weekend.
Many people see the problems this season as the two-headed general manager position, with Walt Jocketty hanging on to half of a job that should have gone to Dick Williams from the beginning of the season. Rumors abound that the two of them disagree on many issues, but that is just hearsay so for the benefit of the doubt we will assume they work together like a well-oiled machine, but right now their past work is not looking so hot. Of the three “prospects” (oh that word) from the Johnny Cueto, only Brandon Finnegan has shown any flashes of promise while Cody Reed and John Lamb have thrown a lot of batting practice.
Somehow the Reds could only get a few low level prospects for Aroldis Chapman, while the Yankees were able to get the Cubs’ number one prospect. Figure that one out? Leake for Duvall is not looking too bad at the moment, but the Reds seem to be getting a reputation as “just give us something so we can get rid of these guys.” Do the fans deserve better? The Todd Frazier deal brought Jose Peraza, the man who the team can’t find a spot for. If Cozart stays, shortstop is out. Brandon Phillips is not going to sit on the bench, making $14 million a year, and if an outfielder comes from the Mets, where does Peraza go?
For the last few weeks, the Reds have become an almost interesting team to watch and maybe I am overreacting and they still will be. I still haven’t figured out their definition of “rebuild” as that seems to keep changing as time goes on. It would have been much easier to trade Bruce if the team was in that miserable pit they were in earlier in the season, but on the bright side, they are only 14.5 games out of the wild card with 58 to play. I’m sure that a lot of fans would agree with me that it would have been nice to see them keep this group together and see how the rest of this season went, but economics said no to that option. I don’t totally understand why they couldn’t keep Bruce and then re-sign him after next year, but I’m not the team’s accountant.
As for Bruce, he is a good guy and if he had to be traded anywhere, you know that my house is glad to see him go to the Mets, and the latest report has the Reds getting two pretty good players in return, that can change. As I said, you will know for sure by the time you see this column. (And now I am hearing no Cozart deal, so I may be rewriting before this goes to press.) Bruce has been the ultimate professional, a class act, and a pretty darn good ball player. The Mets certainly need offense and grabbing the NL’s leading RBI man is a good start. (And just got word that the Reds got a second baseman for Bruce. Seriously?)
In the meantime, fans will still flock to Great American Ball Park to watch the Reds, adapting again to some new faces in the lineup. For many of us though, the real interest is now going on right next door to GABP. Everyone together now, Who Dey!