The Cincinnati Reds are a paltry 1-8 since they sent five players to the 2014 All Star Game, a historically bad start to the second half for baseball’s most storied franchise. The rough return for the Reds has pushed the team from just a game and a half out of first place to six full games behind. It has also been a skid that has seen the team go from perceived “buyers” at the trade deadline to an uncertain status.
In the last week, the Reds have been linked to Marlon Byrd and Alex Rios, two bats who would be interesting additions to teams in need of a boost into the playoffs. However, is this team really just one player away from contending for a championship? No. So then why spend the money and prospects in order to obtain such a player?
Now sitting at 52-52 on the season, it seems as though now is the time for the Reds to look towards 2015 and beyond instead of mortgaging the future for instant opportunities for success. In order for the Reds to ensure next season doesn’t play out as 2014 has, the Reds must plan carefully and thoroughly to provide more depth and skill to the team. So, how can the Reds adequately begin preparing now for the future?
Firstly, they should shut Joey Votto down until 2015. Injuries have been major obstacles for Votto over the past three seasons, derailing the former MVP from quality performances. Instead of rushing the first baseman back to the field for an uncertain playoff appearance, the Reds should ensure his health for 2015 and beyond by keeping him out of action for the season.
As we have seen, a healthy Votto can be the true difference-maker for an inconsistent Reds lineup. Additionally, the Reds owe Votto $200-plus million, and they would be wise to take great care with their long-term investment.
The team should also look to improve, not rebuild. Labeling a team as a “seller” at the trade deadline has a negative connotation and results in many assuming the team is ready to rebuild. That wouldn’t necessarily be the case for the Reds. Not only are they not in need of a complete rebuild, but some of their players are unable to be moved due to health or contract issues (Votto, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick).
With that being said, the Reds do have a few players who would command a large enough return that the Reds could build a stronger team for 2015 and beyond. Trading players like Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman would bring the Reds top prospects as well as major league talent in return for affordable All-Stars.
The Reds don’t have a top farm system, and their infield depth is horrendous. So a replenishing a system or acquiring major league talent is a must for a team looking for an identity.
On top of this, the Reds need to excite the fanbase. That might sounds impossible after hearing my request to trade Cueto and Chapman while benching Votto, yet there are ways to get fans excited about 2015. By making the right trades, Reds fans can rally around the exciting potential of new additions for 2015.
Many will say that the team will alienate fans if top-tier players are shipped away, but I don’t think that is the case. Fans have seen that the current team is unable to win the way it is constructed, as has been the case since 2010. As long as there is a visible plan that is correctly articulated to the fanbase, fans will rally behind it and show their support for 2015 and beyond.
2014 is seeming to be more and more of a lost cause, so why not get a jumpstart on 2015 as soon as possible? Fixing a flawed team will not be done overnight, and desperate teams at the trade deadline may be the perfect place for the Reds to acquire the pieces needed to become a more complete team.