The Cincinnati Reds have money to spend. President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams says that the team isn’t done and is looking to make more moves. While we don’t know exactly how much money the team has left to spend, there have been some hints.
It’s clear that the Reds want to acquire a pitcher to put in the front of their rotation. They’ve been linked to Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber, who is a bonafide ace. They’ve been linked in free agency all winter to Dallas Keuchel. And it’s the Keuchel situation that seems like it could be why the Reds may be waiting on both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to sign.
Jon Morosi was on MLB Network talking about the left-handed starter and noted that the Reds and Phillies were the two teams that were in on Dallas Keuchel. But he noted that the Phillies are also in on both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Depending on if they can land one of them could change how they approach Keuchel.
If you are Dallas Keuchel and know that the Phillies and Reds are both interested, it makes sense to wait. If the Phillies land one of the two premiere free agents of the last decade, and they can also offer you a similar deal to Cincinnati, you are probably going to choose to go to Pennsylvania and play baseball. However if Philadelphia no longer has the money to come close to what the Reds can offer because they do land one of those players, that changes things up quite a bit.
That leaves the Cincinnati Reds sitting around and waiting. At least when it comes to Dallas Keuchel. They could make it all a moot point by acquiring someone else in free agency or in a trade. But when it comes to the Keuchel sweepstakes, it seems that things are in wait-and-see mode. And none of that has to do with what Cincinnati or Dallas Keuchel can control, currently.
With how slow the offseason has gone when it comes to free agents, the Reds may still be able to wait. But that may not last much longer. While trades may always be out there, free agents won’t. Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, and others, aren’t going to be there forever. Continuing to wait on Dallas Keuchel, who certainly is an upgrade over any other free agent pitcher out there, is worth it if you can land him. But if you wait him out, and he goes elsewhere, but in the meantime the other solid free agent options sign with other teams, it leaves the Reds with few options.
And really, those few options are to hit the trade market. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the trade market. As mentioned earlier, Corey Kluber is out there in that market. He’s one of the four or five best pitchers alive right now. The Reds have also expressed interest in several others in trade, including Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman. The biggest issue with trades is that you have to give up players and spend money to pay the newly acquired player. On the flip side, they usually don’t cost as much money. That wouldn’t be the case for Kluber. He is owed $17M, $17.5M (team option), and $18M (team option) for 2019-2021. There’s also a $1M buyout on either of the team options.
Depending on how the Reds feel about where they are with trade negotiations/talks, they may still be comfortable waiting. But as the options potentially dry up in both markets it could require them being more aggressive in order to get what they feel they need.
Photo of Bryce Harper used under a Creative Commons license, which can be found here. Original photo was slightly altered.