The current record of the Cincinnati Reds is less indicative of the team’s overall potential and more about the cavalcade of injuries sustained thus far. When writers and fans alike suggest the Reds may not have to “blow it up,” it’s hard not to agree. And anyone who’s followed the Reds on Bleacher Report may recall just how optimistic I was about a healthy Cincinnati Reds team this season.
But akin to last year, they’ve lost vital contributors and now sit five games beneath .500 and 12.5 back of first. You could say they’re just 5.5 back from the wild card, but only if you mention the seven teams sitting in front of them.
A late-season run is far from impossible, but fact of the matter is, it’s time to plan ahead instead of trying to make something out of, well, very little. Unless offseason acquisitions like Jason Marquis and Kevin Gregg are to become the norm—staple moves of the cash-strapped—the Reds must make moves to not only restock the farm at the Triple-A level, but give themselves the financial flexibility they need to sculpt a new contender.
With that in mind, the following is the list of five players the Reds should consider moving at the deadline.
1. Johnny Cueto
The obvious and best trading chip the Reds have, scouts have reportedly been in attendance (per Zack Pearson of Detroit.SunTimes.com) during his last few starts. The idea that the Reds would get very little for their ace is far-fetched. And even though he won’t command what David Price did (Price had 1.5 years of control left compared to just .5), he could still fetch one, maybe two highly regarded prospects, at least more than a compensatory pick.
2. Aroldis Chapman
There’s no need for an expensive high-profile closer for a team entering rebuild. Chapman’s exhausted the opportunity to start; he is what he is. And he’s not what the Reds need now. Some contender that’s actually entering ninth innings with leads can benefit from his services.
Chapman’s not bringing in what Craig Kimbrel did, because, again, Kimbrel was moved to the San Diego Padres, playing on a contract good for another three years. But Chapman can still command one or two of an organization’s top-10 prospects. Not to mention, the Reds won’t need to worry about paying a closer $8-10 million.
3. Jay Bruce
Jay Bruce has been on a tear. Now slashing .232/.339/.427, and with 10 home runs, he’s looking more like the 30 HR / 100 RBI guy they extended years back. Which means he’s likely to fetch a good return for the Reds.
Trading Jay Bruce relieves the Reds of over $25 million still left on his contract, which goes until the end of 2017 unless the Reds buy it out for $1 million. Because of that, and because of the caliber of prospect he can bring in (at least a team’s top-10 prospect), he should be moved before the deadline.
Easier said than done. With over 10 years in the MLB and over five with the same team, Phillips has full 10 and 5 rights, meaning he would have to agree to any suitor the Reds find. But Phillips is a competitor, and it’s hard to imagine him not wanting to go where a team is focused on winning a World Series instead of competing for .500.
Moving Phillips frees the Reds of about $27 million. Like Bruce, he’s signed until the end of 2017, but he’s already 33 years old. And if you’re thinking that’s precisely why he’s not tradable, I’m thinking that .295/.333/.697, along with Gold Glove-caliber defense, is highly desirable in today's market.
With the exception of the Boston Red Sox, the entire AL East could benefit from bringing Phillips on, and each would have the cash to do it too.
5. Todd Frazier
He’s rapidly becoming the fan favorite and is consequently a lightning rod for trade talk. Even The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Daugherty is growing attached to the slugging third baseman, recently writing in his morning blog: "Those of youse who want to Blow It Up. . . can you at least give Todd Frazier five minutes notice, so he can leave the building before it implodes?"
Keeping Todd Frazier is ideal for numerous obvious reasons. He’s a vocal leader, he has moxie, he shows that fire that everyone loves to talk about now and then, and he’s really good at baseball.
But consider this: Will the Reds’ rebuild be finished by 2017?
If not, why would it make sense to keep him instead of moving him while his value may never be higher? At the end of his contract, Frazier will be 32 years old. Considering what he’s doing, at the very least, he’s looking at Jay Bruce money.
Rebuilding properly—like the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs, etc.—is more about shedding payroll, adding big-time prospects and creating a climate of financial flexibility. Unless you think the Reds will contend next year or in 2017—and without an ace, that’s highly unlikely—why keep him?
Right now, the Reds have two of MLB’s top 100 prospects. Both are in Double-A. Both are performing like guys who will be here soon, maybe two seasons. If the Reds were to trade the five aforementioned players, imagine the climate they’ll enter. The future of the rotation already looks bright, and with the right moves and healthy spending power, the Cincinnati Reds can build Cincinnati's next contender.
But you already saw it last offseason—without the payroll, Walt Jocketty is relegated to bargain-bin diving. If fans want better than journeymen vets on the clearance rack, the Reds must reposition themselves financially by parting ways with pricey talent.
Stats and contracts courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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