The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando. That’s where the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings take place next week. Front office personnel, player agents and reporters gather for five days, beginning Sunday.
Think of the winter meetings as the sport’s offseason starting flag. It’s a ritual more than a century old. The convention used to be an essential, once-a-year opportunity for baseball executives to talk with each other, a practice that seems quaint in a world of 24/7/365 communication technology. Still, front offices do take advantage of the proximity and get things done.
Last December in Maryland, the Reds didn’t do much other than pick up catcher Stuart Turner in the Rule 5 Draft. Against the odds, Turner stuck and now he’s an important piece of the Reds organization.
But doing next-to-nothing felt a whole lot better than the Opryland Fiasco of 2015. Remember Aroldis Chapman? The Reds went to Nashville intent on kick-starting a significant roster turnover. They had a trade all worked out with the Dodgers on Day One. It had even been leaked by a baseball insider. Then reports of Chapman’s domestic incident landed with a thud and torpedoed the deal.
It was easy to place blame from the Reds perspective: Chapman’s bad behavior, the unfortunate timing, old-school grinding by the Walt Jocketty front office and foot dragging by ownership. The stunning collapse of the trade seemed to rock the Reds executives. They came home with nothing accomplished other than a boardroom full of black eyes.
[On the other hand, the rumored headline return from the Dodgers in the Chapman trade was … Jose Peraza. So, with world-class hindsight, eh.]
It turns out we only have to go back one more year – to 2014 – to find the winter meeting template for the Reds brass to use in the Magic Kingdom. That was the convention when the club traded Mat Latos for Anthony DeSclafani and Alfredo Simon for Eugenio Suarez. Whether the front office moved the pair of starting pitchers for financial reasons, out of skepticism about their future performance or based on general disgust, the outcome was nothing short of terrific. DeSclafani and Suarez were ready to make significant contributions.
Dick Williams and his staff need to follow that playbook again if possible. Turn veteran players at peak value into meaningful pieces for 2019 and beyond.
I’ve outlined my blueprint for the club’s roster management heading into the 2018 season. Here are three specific examples of trades that would accomplish important goals for the Reds. Those are the types of moves the Reds should look to make.
The Reds should go to Orlando open — wide open — to trading Adam Duvall, Scooter Gennett, Billy Hamilton and Raisel Iglesias. Those players may not repeat their 2017 performances or represent injury risks. Beyond that, the Reds need to make room for Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel.
The team could trade Gennett in June when it’s time to call up Nick Senzel. But if the Brewers’ former second baseman reverts to his career numbers, the ones that got him cut by Milwaukee last spring, he’ll lose any trade value. Possible suitors for Gennett include the Angels, Mets and Blue Jays among others. Beyond creating major league space for their top prospect, the Reds need to get Dilson Herrera regular playing time at second base before Senzel’s arrival. Wouldn’t it be terrific if Herrera could establish trade value? If not, the Reds lost 1.5 seasons of Jay Bruce for nothing.
The San Francisco Giants are trying to acquire Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Reds should continue to work on the rumored trade of Billy Hamilton to patrol the Giants expansive outfield. How about Hamilton for SS Christian Arroyo, who may or may not be in the rumored Stanton deal? Ken Rosenthal wrote yesterday that Hamilton is drawing more interest than any other Reds player. Hamilton, for example, would have been a great fit for the Seattle Mariners who instead traded for Dee Gordon. Gordon is older, a lot more expensive than Hamilton and has to learn how to play CF.
The Reds should shop Raisel Iglesias. Shut-down relievers, particularly those who can pitch more than one inning, have outsized value in this market. The Reds could acquire a substantial piece of the future for Iglesias. They can’t get hung up on a player that fills the 70-inning role of “established closer.” Instead, the Reds front office should exploit other teams who are.
For that matter, the Reds should entertain moving Wandy Peralta. Too many analysts assume Peralta is a lock for success in the Reds bullpen. That’s not that way the vast majority of relievers work. After April, Peralta was 4.25 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 4.53 xFIP with a 6.79 K/9 and 3.74 BB/9. He’s a compelling regression candidate. If the Reds can find a contender willing to pay a good prospect for a LOOGY, the Reds should jump at it. Always be trading relievers, especially for years when you aren’t expecting to contend.
Who should the Reds target while in Disney World?
Their next centerfielder and shortstop. A young relief pitcher who isn’t a closer but projects to become one.
What moves should the Reds avoid?
The front office can’t repeat their biggest mistake of 2017. They shouldn’t acquire a mediocre starting pitcher on a major league contract. Conventional wisdom is light years behind the smart play on this. The Reds do not – do not – need to find an innings eater. The team is at a point in the rebuilding cycle where pitchers like Scott Feldman, Tim Adelman and Bronson Arroyo consume valuable starting opportunity.
The Reds have Luis Castillo, an optimistic Anthony DeSclafani and a healthy Homer Bailey. They should use the last two rotation spots to tryout and offer major league experience to a bunch of talented young arms.
They should hold off on acquiring a front line starting pitcher. That’s a move better left for next offseason or possibly the July trade deadline. There’s no point in wasting a year of that pitcher in 2018 as the Reds work their way back to contention.
Further, they shouldn’t acquire a veteran bullpen arm. The Reds have plenty of in-house options. Kyle Crockett and Kevin Quackenbush are new names to throw on that pile. The Reds should focus their resources on 2019. Searching for consistent bullpen value across seasons is playing whack-a-mole.
The Reds are heading into their second year with Dick Williams in charge. It’s been reported that the Reds’ President doesn’t seem eager to move starting players or Iglesias. That’s exactly what he should be saying to beat writers. Any other public position would be negotiation malpractice.
Teams don’t have to make their moves during the winter meetings. In fact, the Reds have finalized many of their best deals right after the convention. Todd Frazier was traded a week after the Chapman debacle. Shin-Soo Choo was acquired in 2012 just after the meetings ended. Dan Straily for Luis Castillo took place in mid-January. But even if no trades are struck next week we’ll get some clues about Dick Williams and his front office. Orlando isn’t a deadline. But if done right, it’ll be the much-awaited dawn of a Reds era of winning.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.