I love the Reds. I watch 'em on TV just about every day, and try to listen to them on the radio on the rare occasions when I can't watch. I could write about them every day if I had a mind to, but I don't: over the course of such a long season, it just doesn't make sense to put too much stock into any single game.
Likewise, I try not to get worked up over any trades or player transactions they make, even when they involve players I like, because it's something I have no control over, and once it's done, it's done. There are plenty of Reds fans who even now want to rehash the Hamilton-for-Volquez trade, which happened in 2007. That's not me. However, with all the crazy rumors flying around this past weekend's trade deadline, I read one report of a possible trade that set me off--even though it didn't happen. Reigning National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto--plus a prospect--to Toronto for Jose Bautista...are you kidding me?
Okay, first things first: there's absolutely zero evidence that the Reds and Blue Jays were actually discussing this trade; it's just hearsay and speculation. I think what really blew my mind is how many Reds fans seem to think that this would be a good trade for the Reds to make. What?
Look, I'm not opposed to blockbuster trades, again, even if I like the players leaving my team, but this is just dumb. Jose Bautista has been an amazing hitter for two seasons. Prior to that, he was completely pedestrian. Can he sustain what he's doing now? Who knows? Joey Votto, on the other hand, is an elite player (maybe I'm biased, but I'd say he's in the top 5 in all of baseball) who has been good to great since he came up. I realize there are contract differences which skew values, but still, you don't trade a guy like that for just one player, especially one who's questionable going forward like Bautista is.
Proponents of a potential Votto trade point to the fact that he's "only" signed through 2013 and hasn't indicated that he'd like to stay with the Reds beyond that point. So? Can you imagine the uproar if the Cardinals had traded Albert Pujols midway through the 2009 season because they may "only" have him for two and a half more seasons? And if they had only gotten one guy in return, and had to throw in a minor-leaguer to make it happen? That, friends and neighbors, would have blown up the Internet, and this Votto trade, had it happened, would have been just as ridiculous.
I also think it's amusing that so many Reds fans would be so quick to trade Votto when so many of them advocate for hanging onto Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs at all costs. Sure, they're good players with plenty of potential to get better, but they're not in the same universe as Votto in terms of production or consistency. It boggles my mind that they'd want to get rid of the guy who's actually realizing his potential but not the guys who may or may not ever do the same. And I don't say that to dog Bruce or Stubbs. I like them both, but they're frustrating to watch sometimes. If it was either of their names in this proposed trade instead of Votto, I'd be way less irritated. I mean, sure, I'd love to have Bautista in the lineup, but not at the cost of Votto.
If Votto hasn't signed a contract extension by this point in the 2013 season, you can talk trade then; otherwise, if you're Reds GM Walt Jocketty, you hang up on anyone who mentions him. But that's just me. If it's true that trading him was an option (and again, this is just speculation), it could be an interesting offseason.
I wasn't terribly disappointed by the Reds' lack of activity by the recently passed trade deadline. I really would have liked for them to get Ubaldo Jimenez, but Cleveland ended up paying a deep price for him. I can only imagine who Colorado wanted from the Reds. There were a couple of other players who may have made nice additions (Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence), but they probably wouldn't have been game-changers. I was a little surprised they didn't trade Ramon Hernandez so they could bring up Devin Mesoraco, but it's hard to argue against keeping Razor Ramon for a possible stretch run.
It's been a weird year for the Reds. Finally coming into the season with some real expectations after winning the National League Central last year, they've been disappointing and frustrating. Last year, it seemed like a different player was coming through for them each night. This year, it seems like a different player or aspect of the game is letting them down each night. They have a huge task ahead of them if they're going to repeat as Central Division champions. It seems unlikely, but I'm not ready to abandon all hope just yet.
With all this in mind, here's what I'd like to see the Reds do between now and the beginning of next season:
* Pick up Brandon Phillips's option, or sign him to a longer-term deal. This is as close to a no-brainer as there is.
* Make Mesoraco the starting catcher. I really like Ramon, and I have no problem hanging onto him through the rest of this season if that's how it plays out. But Mesoraco is ready, and there's no reason why he should be in the minor leagues again next season.
* Put Aroldis Chapman in the starting rotation. He's been pitching lights-out lately, albeit in short relief outings. If he can translate that into success as a starter, he'd be a monster, a huge asset alongside Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.
* Figure out what to do with the rest of the rotation. Between Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, and Travis Wood, there are plenty of candidates and plenty of question marks. I'm hoping Bronson will return to form; with his contract, he's going to be on the roster and likely in the rotation. Personally, I'd see what I could get in trade for Volquez and/or Bailey. I also wouldn't mind if they re-signed Dontrelle Willis, but I doubt that happens. And if they can make a deal for another top-of-the-line starter, they should. You can never have enough pitching.
* Find a closer. I don't know if they'll try to re-sign Francisco Cordero, but it seems unlikely to me that they'll be able to. A lot of baseball people think the "closer" role is overrated, but I remember what a shambles the Reds bullpen was in during the years when they didn't really have one. I don't think Nick Masset or Logan Ondrusek should go into this role, so they'll either need to see what else is on the free agent market or give the job to Brad Boxberger, who's I understand has been closing for the triple-A club. Chapman's a possibility, but I think that would be a waste of his talent. He needs to be a starter.
* Left field. Will it be Chris Heisey or Dave Sappelt? I like Heisey a lot, but I'm starting to think he's best as a reserve outfielder, a pinch-hitter, defensive replacement, and spot starter. If it's Sappelt, he'll slide into the leadoff spot and move Drew Stubbs down in the order. I don't think Stubbs is a terrible option at leadoff, so I'd really rather the Reds find a slugger to play left field and bat cleanup. I just don't know who that would be. Carlos Beltran would fit, in a perfect world, but he's almost definitely going to be out of the Reds' price range.
* Get something for Yonder Alonso. I don't think he can be sent to the minor leagues again next year, and even if he can, he has nothing left to prove down there. His bat would be great in the Reds lineup, but he's a man without a position. He's not going to play first base for the Reds while Joey Votto is here, and he's not a major-league left fielder. I'm sure there are teams out there that need a first baseman or designated hitter, so use Alonso to get someone who solves the closer or left field/cleanup hitter issues.
* Replace Brook Jacoby (hitting coach) and Mark Berry (third base coach). Tons of people would like the Reds to replace manager Dusty Baker; I have much smaller aspirations. I don't think Dusty is anywhere near as bad as others seem to believe. He's okay by me. And really, I don't know nearly enough about the intricacies of coaching to know if Jacoby and Berry really need to go. I just know that the Reds offense is inconsistent despite plenty of talent, which might fall on Jacoby, and I've seen Berry make plenty of questionable decisions about sending or holding runners at third base. I also know that if the Reds finish with a losing record after winning the division last year, some changes in the coaching staff are likely. I don't see Dusty going anywhere, and I feel like pitching coach Brian Price is safe too.
That all seems like a lot, but I really don't think it is. I feel like the Reds are really close, not just to being good for the Central Division, but to being able to content for World Series championships. They have a lot of fantastic pieces in place; they just need to finish the puzzle. When I look into my crystal ball, I see them sticking with the status quo for the rest of this season in an effort to win the Central again. But I think it's going to be an incredibly interesting offseason.