Baseball

Reds Spotlight: A Little Like A Mule With A Spinning Wheel

At least the Reds weren’t boring at the trade deadline.

For a while we and others wondered what they would do about their Scooter Gennett and Derek Dietrich axis of confusion at second base. The answer was apparently to let one play like he was still hurt (Gennett) and the other to get hurt (Dietrich). So out went Gennett to the Giants, who always seem to be in the market for an underwhelming bat.

That wasn’t the headline though, and you’re not going to believe it wasn’t sending Tanner Roark to the A’s either. I know, right? This is Tanner Roark, people! The Reds gave up Yasiel Puig, Scott Moss, and much-touted prospect Tyler Trammell in a trade-a-trois to land themselves Trevor Bauer.

On the surface you get it. Puig was a free agent-to-be and unlikely to re-sign in Cincy, so cash in what you can during a season that isn’t going to go anywhere. Getting Bauer back gives the Reds a bonafide #2 starter to slot in between Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, even if everyone else in the clubhouse is going to want to throw Bauer through several walls before the end of the season. A front three in the rotation of Castillo-Bauer-Gray is pretty formidable, and can certainly be the basis for wildcard contention. It would appear that the Reds are gearing up for next year.

But are they? Bauer is only signed for one more season, so it certainly looks like the Reds want to run with the big dogs in 2020. And the pen should still have Raisel Iglesias and others to repeat being the weapon it’s been this year. But you can never really tell with bullpens, can you?

The biggest question is what the Reds are going to do, or are positioned to do, with the lineup to pair with that rotation. Because it’s hard to see what’s on the up-slope offensively for the Reds. It certainly isn’t Joey Votto. Eugenio Suarez is a fine player but not someone you’re building around, and with him having an off-year this season at 29 you wonder if this is the start of something smelly or just a blip. Certainly the hope is that Nick Senzel is that player. They would like to hope that Phillip Ervin might be, but he’s 27 already. Will be 28 next year. And he’s not even starting regularly. There’s probably still hope for Jesse Winker, who is only 25. But that’s two guys definitely yet to reach their prime, one who is definitely past it, and a bunch of questions marks.

On top of that, Trammell was their only prime prospect ready to step in next year and be something. And even next year would be a stretch, as he’s been ok in AA this year. The Padres don’t really care, they have two years to play with. The Reds? Maybe not.

They certainly have plenty of money to spend, should they choose. They have only $60M tied up next year, plus whatever Bauer gets in arbitration. But when do you remember the Reds being the settling place for a big free agent? They will clearly have needs in right, second, maybe short (though you can get away with Jose Iglesias‘s glove if you have offense everywhere else), maybe catcher. Sadly for the Reds, the free agent crop is pretty weak in the winter.

Are they destined to repeat this year, with a pretty good staff and an offense that just isn’t enough? It seems that way, unless they flip Bauer for something else in the offseason. But his value would be lower than it was at the deadline with only one year of control left. They could probably stand to get younger. Could they turn Suarez into something? Would that just be running in place?

It seems the Reds have paced their pitching faster or above their lineup, and it might keep them in the mud. Bauer could be gone in 2021, Gray to follow the year after so he could be trade bait by then, and Votto will only be older. No prospect they have looks to be making an impact before 2022. Those things can always change though, and maybe that’s what the Reds are hoping.

It’s an odd mix…which is generally considered a delicacy in Cincinnati.

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