Will free agents follow Moose tracks to Cincy?

December 10th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The contract that the Reds locked in last week did more than give them a new power-hitting second baseman. It helped a club trying to be aggressive in the offseason to plant a flag of credibility at the Winter Meetings that it's serious about improving.

That means when president of baseball operations Dick Williams or general manager Nick Krall picks up the phone or sends a text, the agent or team on the other end can’t assume it’s perfunctory checking in.

“Yeah, agents know we're a legitimate option for free agents,” Williams said on Monday during the first day of the Winter Meetings. “Within reason, we've got plans we are trying to address -- multiple spots. We still have to think about how to allocate resources. We're not hitting on every name you're hearing.”

On Thursday in Cincinnati, the Reds and Moustakas signed a four-year, $64 million contract with a $20 million mutual option for a fifth year. The team has set an expectation for itself to become a contender in the National League Central in 2020.

“It certainly was appealing to us to get that deal done early, because I do think it helps with conversations with agents,” Williams said. “A free agent can say now, ‘Hey, on the whole, there's a more appealing situation here than there was before he signed.’ So we definitely factored that in, getting an impact guy on the board. It shows where we're headed and will help to help us tell the story.”

Williams and Krall are trying upgrade the lineup with potential additions at the corner outfield spots, shortstop, the rotation and bullpen. Some of the bigger names available in the outfield are and , while is the best-hitting shortstop still available.

The Reds were finalists for starting pitcher before he signed a five-year $118 million contract with the Phillies. Cincinnati also pursued free-agent catcher until he got away to the White Sox on a four-year, $73 million contract.

“The Moustakas signing was one that we wanted to make, and he was a good fit for us,” Krall said. “It's less about setting a tone and more about trying to say, ‘Hey, look, this is what we want for the offseason, and this is where we’re going to go.’”

Williams noted the feeling he and other clubs have is the Winter Meetings this year are going to be driven more by free-agent movement than trades.

“It's a time to continue conversations, but it's really hard to push things across the finish line from a trade perspective at the Winter Meetings, and I think that is a little bit of a change,” Williams said. “Free agency, I still think this is a great time for agents to have the teams and the bidders and the players in one place and seek resolution, if that's what the players are looking to do.”

A huge deal came to fruition on Monday when the Nationals and starting pitcher agreed on a seven-year, $245 million contract.

The Reds were not in the Strasburg hunt, nor will they be in the conversation with top pitching prize , who is expected to get an even bigger contract than Strasburg. Among the next-tier starting pitchers on the market are left-handers , and . Keuchel and Ryu employ the same agent as Moustakas -- Scott Boras.

Speaking generally, Williams and Krall felt it was reasonable to believe a deal could be reached with a free agent before the team departs the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel on Thursday.

“We've been active,” Williams said. “There's not one that I would say is likely to happen yet. We’re active on a lot of ones. I don't have one that's like closing in on the physical or something.”

“I don’t see anything getting announced,” Krall said, implying that a signing could get done pending the passing of a physical.

Reds manager David Bell doesn’t lead trade or free-agent negotiations, but he has been involved in the meetings. He lives in Cincinnati full time and is frequently around for discussions of players the team might want to add.

Bell also feels the buzz that the Reds are one of the clubs to watch closely this week as they could get frisky on the transaction wire.

“It's pretty obvious during a lot of the moves we've made and a lot of the public information that we're committed to winning, there's no doubt,” Bell said. “Of course, it's nice to hear that from people on the outside, but it doesn't surprise me because I know it, I'm living it and I'm grateful to be in this position to be able to contribute to it.”

Alaniz outrighted

The Reds cleared another spot from their 40-man roster Monday when right-handed reliever R.J. Alaniz cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Louisville, leaving the club with 38 players. With the Rule 5 Draft set for Thursday and teams focused on having roster space to take a player, Cincinnati hoped it could sneak Alaniz through waivers unclaimed.

“I think this was the right time to get him off [the roster],” Krall said.