First, let’s get some things straight. I am the farthest thing from an average Cincinnati Reds fan. In fact, I have no biased feelings towards the Reds at all. I don’t know a whole lot about them. I know Cincinnati hosted the Midsummer Classic, and trot Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce onto the field every day. In their current state, to me, they personified an awkward preteen; young and inexperienced but treated like an adult. After realizing my unfamiliarity with the Reds, I decided to educate myself on the topic. Besides the obvious players, recent trades, and team history, I have come to the conclusion that the Reds are not what they seem. They have raw, high-upside talent mixed with battle-tested veterans, which is the goal for every team. But is it too much? After all, their window of contention is rapidly shrinking with three 95-win clubs in the NL Central in 2015.
With the clean slate of 2016 upon us, the Cincinnati Reds need to make their mark. It’s a new year, with new opportunities, and a chance to change the direction of the franchise. Let’s be honest, the Reds can’t compete with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates. According to mlb.com, their Opening Day starter is projected to be Anthony DeSclafani. Yeah I’ve never heard of him either. Just kidding of course I have. But in all seriousness, the Cubs will either have Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester (both equally intimidating), the Cardinals will have a healthy Adam Wainwright, and the Pirates will have Gerrit Cole. Even when Homer Bailey is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, the Reds don’t stand a chance. If I were the GM, I would continue selling off pieces, and aim for the 2020 World Series, if not longer.
Trading Todd Frazier to the White Sox was a step in the right direction, and the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Yankees should not be the last. Jay Bruce should go, and possibly even Joey Votto. Brandon Phillips already made his decision to stay with his family in Cincinnati, ignoring the chance to win somewhere else. But hey, family comes first. Chances are that Bruce, Phillips, and Votto won’t be around when the Reds are ready to compete again, so the time is now to trade them. It won’t be easy, but with a little negotiating, there are potential landing spots for all of them.
Jay Bruce is the most likely candidate to be traded before Opening Day. Teams such as the Royals, Cardinals, Angels, Giants, White Sox, Nationals, Orioles, and Red Sox are potential fits for the power-hitting outfielder. With so many names still left on the free-agent market, interest in Bruce won’t materialize until the dust has settled, when teams start turning to their Plan Bs or Plan Cs. With one year, $12.5 million left on his contract, he’s a bargain in today’s market. It’s unlikely the Reds would rekindle negotiations with the White Sox, and the Angels would need to dump salary in order to fit Bruce into their tight budget, but the need is there for both clubs. The Cardinals and Red Sox would need to do some roster shuffling, but would no doubt benefit from his addition, whereas the Orioles and Royals could slot him into their lineup right away.
Joey Votto is a difficult player to sell, but like every HGTV show, there is hope for everything, no matter how ugly or expensive it may be. Votto has called Cincinnati home for his entire career, and from a personal standpoint, may not want to leave. But if he were to seek greener pastures, the Astros would be a great fit. They were in discussions with the Atlanta Braves to acquire Freddy Freeman, but were promptly rebuffed. Votto would be a great fit in Houston, mentoring the young Carlos Correa with his legendary plate discipline and on top of that, he would have a legitimate chance to win a World Series. Although it theoretically makes sense, it’s highly unlikely that this deal will happen.
After the rejected deal that would have sent Brandon Phillips to Washington, it seems highly unlikely that Phillips would ever want to leave Cincinnati, but I believe he should. You can buy a house and relax with your family after you retire, as the feeling of hoisting a World Series trophy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Zack Cozart, on the other hand, is a controllable shortstop that could be the perfect fit for the Padres. The free agent market for shortstops is either too expensive (I’m looking at you Ian Desmond) or downright discouraging (see Alexei Ramirez/Jimmy Rollins), so Cozart may be the perfect fit. He has a respectable glove and average bat, with the only question mark being his health. Without getting into details about potential trade packages, Cozart seems to have San Diego written all over him.
The Cincinnati Reds need to make some big moves in order to set themselves up for a future of success. Rebuilding hurts, but it is a necessary evil in order to compete. The Cubs and Astros did it, and look where they are now. Also, the Phillies are receiving good results so far, and the Braves jumped in headfirst, amassing tons of high-upside pitchers. The Royals were pushovers until their core group of talent reached MLB. Trading Frazier and Chapman was just the start. The prospects are almost here. The Reds must take action and rebuild, it’s the only thing that makes sense.