CINCINNATI -- The Reds invested $166 million in the offseason believing they had improved enough to not only challenge for the postseason, but to go deep into October. As Monday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline approaches, they’re not playing like that type of team.
Cincinnati’s offense -- where much of the winter spending was directed -- has disappointed. While the rotation has been strong, bullpen inconsistency has foiled some would-be wins. However, the Reds are still in the picture to make the expanded 16-team playoffs despite a tough start to this week.
An important wrinkle to this year’s Trade Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate training site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on provided video and data and past knowledge.
One Reds player believes the team already has what it takes to make a run in the final month of the season.
“We haven’t put all the pieces together in the same game consistently yet,” starting pitcher Trevor Bauer said. “But I don’t think anyone can look at the team and say, ‘Man, they just don’t have the talent or the right pieces.’ If you look at the bullpen, you’re like, ‘Well, perhaps they haven’t pitched as well as they can, but the talent is there.’ I don’t think anyone can deny that. If you look at the offense, you’re like, ‘Maybe they haven’t hit consistently yet, but the talent is there.’ You look at the starting staff, and the same conversation all the way. I don’t see a need to blow it up or to go add a ton of different pieces.”
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall will likely try to be buyers -- and definitely won’t be sellers -- because of the urgency to win. But don’t expect any of their elite prospects in the player pool to be moved to get one month from a rental player with an expiring contract.
“I anticipate the dialogue will be similar to prior years. I think it would be harder to identify large sellers,” Williams said recently. “I don’t know what the buyers will look like, what people’s budgets look like at this point. But we participate in discussions. We hope there’s the opportunity to add to or improve the club.”
What they want
Cincinnati has an elite rotation and a deep lineup. The bullpen is loaded with good arms, but it has underperformed. The bench has offered little pop in the way of pinch-hitting or late substitutions. This can be addressed by Monday.
A playoff-tested veteran reliever could solve the late-innings conundrum, serving as a setup man in the eighth inning or taking over the closer's role from Raisel Iglesias.
Under the right conditions, the Reds would be willing to acquire a rental. But if there’s a young, controllable player who can also help in 2021 and beyond, that would be more optimal.
What they have to offer
In some ways, the Reds could be buyers while also selling some of their established players. Because of the emergence of Tejay Antone, they have rotation depth in case they wanted to move soon-to-be free agents Bauer or Anthony DeSclafani. Shortstop Freddy Galvis is also a free agent after the season, and he lost his starting spot to highly touted prospect Jose Garcia, who was called up Wednesday. Catcher prospect Tyler Stephenson is waiting in the wings should the club move Tucker Barnhart or Curt Casali.
Chance of a deal
25 percent. Like Bauer, the general mood of the team and front office, despite its frustration, is that there isn’t a big need to make a drastic move. That’s because it is loaded with talent that should be more than good enough to contend. And with so many clubs in striking distance because of the expanded postseason, many will hesitate before moving talent and looking ahead to 2021.