Four days ago, the Cincinnati Reds‘ approach to the upcoming trade deadline seemed a foregone conclusion. The team had won five in a row and sat in second place of the NL Central. Then a three game sweep at the hands of the 10-games below .500 San Diego Padres happened and suddenly the trade deadline doesn’t seem so clear-cut in the Queen City.
At 43-41, the Reds find themselves in fourth place and seven games out of first place in the NL Central. It’s a precarious position to be in with the deadline looming. An inconsistent season leads to an inconsistent approach to the deadline. For general manager Walt Jocketty, he must tread lightly in around July 31 to ensure he improves the team’s present and future. But what approaches should he take?
1. Don’t mortgage the future to win in 2014
One extreme for Jocketty could be to “go all in” for the season and be a big-time buyer at the trade deadline. While this may seem exciting for the season, it will be extremely detrimental to the future of the organization.
The Reds are finally rebuilding their farm system depth after depleting the majority of it in trades for players (Mat Latos, Shin-Soo Choo) and promotions to the big league club (Tony Cingrani, Billy Hamilton, Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco, etc.). In order to acquire players who would make a big impact on 2014, the Reds would be forced to trade some of their attractive prospects such as Jesse Winker, Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen.
Looking at Jocketty’s past history at the deadline, a shopping spree is hardly his tendency. The trade deadline seems to be a time when Jocketty improves a team instead of reshaping it, meaning no shopping sprees or fire-sales. So instead of expecting a complete overhaul, fans should instead be looking for an additional arm for the bullpen or decent left fielder. Giancarlo Stanton won’t be in the Reds’ lineup Aug. 1.
2. Don’t throw in the towel completely
They aren’t going to be big buyers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Reds need to be active sellers either. To gut the roster and start over would hurt the future of the franchise as much as “going all-in” at the trade deadline. The Reds aren’t great, but they aren’t bad either; they are a team that is two or three players away from being consistently very good.
The trick for Jocketty becomes finding the fine line between “all-in” and “selling”. The Reds are just good enough to not warrant selling away parts for the future. However, Jocketty must consider the future as well when the deadline arrives. Not only must he try to improve the Reds for 2014, but he must do so for 2015 as well. The trade for Scott Rolen in 2009 was less about the playoff race that year and more about the future of the Reds, and it directly benefited the following season.
3. Don’t stand pat and do nothing
Remember the Reds’ offseason before the 2014 season began? They made no move to improve the roster, and that has been indicative of their season so far. As the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline approaches, the Reds can’t afford to follow the same course of action. That doesn’t mean to do the total opposite and go on a trading frenzy, but it does mean making a move or two that can improve the team as a whole.
Aside from helping the team, making a move also instills confidence from the fans, as well as excitement. It shows that the front office is willing to take the initiative to improve the club, something that will be welcomed from fans who complained about the lack of offseason activity. It also shows the players that the front office has confidence in them — enough so that they are willing to make necessary moves to improve their 2014 playoff chances.
Making a move to improve the team also puts the pressure squarely on the players. Many of the complaints throughout the first half of the season have surrounded around Jocketty’s inability to improve the team prior to the season. In giving the team a few pieces to help improve, the success or failure of the Reds in the second half of 2014 lies directly with the players on the field.