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.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner of RedlegNation.com and RedsMinorLeagues.com and as you guessed it, passionate about the Cincinnati Reds and baseball in general. He's been writing about baseball since 2006. You can also find some of his work at The Athletic where he writes about the Reds farm system. You can keep tabs with him on twitter @dougdirt24. He can also be reached via email here.

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52 Responses

  1. James H.

    If I were GM, I’d pass on Dallas. Price is too high, and too many years awaiting regression. Wait for someone better…

    Reply
  2. Matt Hendley

    I still dont know why wade miley and gio Gonzalezs names are being thrown around like they are good. Brice and Manny do need to hurry it up though its not like they havent gotten offers.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      I think that, generally, it’s because Miley has time with Derek Johnson and had success with him last year in Milwaukee (small sample size alert), and Gio Gonzalez for similar reasons.

      Reply
  3. Brandon Taylor

    I couldn’t agree more Doug. My best guess is option 1 for the Reds is Keuchal and waiting on the big 2 is exactly what he is waiting on. I think the Reds would love to have Kluber and I’m sure prefer him but the asking price is such that Keuchal is option 1.

    If that is the case and the Reds don’t land Keuchal and still decide the price is too much on Kluber, I’m kind of hoping they just stand pat with the rotation. The one exception might be if you could roll the dice cheaply with Buckholtz. Perhaps they could use the money not spent for an in season upgrade of someone with some team control beyond 2019.

    I wish option 1 was Kluber because I think Kluber would make them a preseason wild card contender. I’d be willing to pay a steep price for that but alas we really don’t know how steep the price is unless he ends up traded somewhere.

    Reply
    • Rob

      I don’t know why we haven’t traded for Kluber. Wouldn’t the Indians accept winker/trammel/Mahle ? Is that too much to offer?

      Reply
      • Matt Hendley

        Gross overpay….winker and trammell should never be in the same trade. Mahle/trammell should do it. If the Indians dont take that they aint trading him

      • scottya

        That seems to be what the Indians are looking for. A “at least one Major League Outfielder”: Winker likely or Schebler maybe, A “young starting pitcher with major league experience”: likely Mahle, Reed or Romano and a top prospect.

        Winker, Mahle, India or Greene and another prospect for Kluber might do it. If we had signed Grandal or Keuchal instead of Roark, I’d be all for this as we would be contender’s for the playoffs from here on for the foreseeable future.

      • greenmtred

        At least for now, Trammel is the heir-apparent at another important position of weakness. Winker is potentially the Reds’ best hitter in a few years, and I doubt that Kluber– with Winker and Trammel gone and Puig and Kemp probably gone after 2019–makes the Reds a serious contender.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I agree greenmtred. Trading Trammell and Winker severally weakens the future of the Reds OF. They’d basically have Ervin and Schebler to begin 2020. And while I like both those guys, I like them a lot better as options #3-5 in the OF, not the top two. Maybe Siri is ready, but that seems a bit optimistic to think he’s ready to take over a full time role to start 2020. The Reds can’t rob Peter to pay Paul in any trade scenario or they’ll end up just spinning their wheels.

      • JoshG

        if the Indians would do that .. I’d take it

      • LWBlogger2

        It’s probably very similar to the “ask” from the Indians. If I’m the Reds, I balk at it. It’s giving up 11 years of cost controlled OF talent, 6 of which may be with a quality MLB CF. It’s also giving up a SP with 5 years of control and mid-rotation potential. I’m fine giving up some of that talent for Kluber but not all. In which case, I probably wouldn’t be able to “get the pitching” if “the pitching” is Kluber. If he was younger or 1st year arb eligable (so less expensive) then I’d be a lot closer to parting with that kind of talent but Winker/Trammel/Mahle is too much for Kluber in my book. He’ll be 36 in his 3rd year of control and very well may not be better than Mahle at that point.

    • jon

      I think it’s way to early for the reds to be trading top prospects. Go the free agent route please!

      Reply
  4. Jbrat22

    I think at this point I would save the money, hang onto the prospects and roll the dice with the rotation we have.

    According to mlbtraderumors, free agent SP class next year includes the following:

    Top of rotation guys available:
    Bumgarner (30)
    Cole (29)
    Mikolas (31)
    Sale (31)
    Verlander (37)

    Middle rotation guys:
    Gray (30)
    Hamels (36)
    Moore (31)
    Odorizzi (30)
    Porcello (31)
    Ryu (33)
    Wacha (28)
    Wheeler (30)
    Alex Wood (29)

    Reply
    • Hotto4Votto

      They could hang onto the money, but they’ve sort of done that the past few years and have indicated they’ve done so they can boost payroll when they’re more competitive. Everything they’ve done to this point indicates they want to be more competitive. This year they’ve said they’re going to push payroll past what it’s been before and that there are still moves left to make. It would be hard to take the front office seriously if they renege on those statements. I mean I guess technically they could spend a couple million more and go past the $115m that was their previous high mark. But that would feel disingenuous from everything they’ve publicly stated. After all the statements in the past year or so that have come out only to be walked back by someone else in the organization, the Reds can ill afford to not follow through.

      Also, at the moment the Reds have $55m+ coming off the books between Gennett, Puig, Wood, Kemp , Roark, and Hernandez. Even accounting for built in raises and ARB raises the Reds will have excess of $40m (at least) to spend on 2020 free agents. That seems plenty to address several needs. There’s really not much reason to hang onto the money. There certainly incentive to spend money, especially if they want to continue to establish good will with the fans.

      Reply
      • Jbrat22

        honestly I just don’t think Keuchel is worth spending $20 million for 4 years, and I don’t see a significant upgrade left on the free agent market. I’d love for them to spend money, but I still want them to be smart smart about it. Paying premium prices for aging talent isn’t really a good long-term plan, and I’d like to see what they have in Mahle and Reed, who are both still young and more than capable. If they won 80 games last year then I’d say go spend the money, but I’d like to see what they do this year, then be more aggressive in that free agent pitching market next year.

        Unless I’m mistaken, the only statement made about money came from Castellini about having a record payroll. The exact payroll estimate of $130 came from the media. Williams has talked about making more moves, but has never said what kind of moves. I love what they’ve done so far, I just think they’re one year away from being a major player in the free agent market

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        I definitely see Dallas as an upgrade, compared to what we had last year. Now, how much? And, do we want to pay for it? That’s another thing.

        I would pay for it. For, if I was the GM, I would want to at least look to give the fans something to cheer about pre-season. I mean, this is the 150 anniversary season. I’d go at least one season with Dallas. I mean, we’ve upgraded our starting rotation already, but I don’t believe enough to contend. And, two like Miley and Gio I don’t believe will do it.

      • Hotto4Votto

        JBrat – I’m not sure Keuchel is worth it at that price either. It’s always going to be about the last year or two that will determine it. I wasn’t suggesting the Reds spend the money on him, per se, just that they go and spend the money to improve the club somewhere as they said they were going to do instead of sitting on the money and calling it a day. As far as significant upgrades, Keuchel and Pollock would both qualify in my mind on paper. Of course considering healthy, cost, and years would factor into it, but they’re both upgrades to what we’ve put out on the field or what we have in house to headline a rotation or play everyday in CF. I also agree we’re not one player away from truly competing. At the same time, if they add that player this year, they have one box checked for next offseason and still a lot of money to spend on other areas. It would narrow the scope of what they need to do to be in a position to contend.

      • greenmtred

        It’s a good point that the moves the Reds have made this off-season indicate that they’re aiming for a significant short-term improvement. Short-term as in 2019, after which most or all of the new acquisitions will be gone. I’m not enthusiastic about signing aging veteran pitchers, but if being better in 2019 and re-shuffling the cards for 2020 and beyond is their strategy, then an older pitcher who would help right now makes a sort of sense.

    • lwblogger2

      Yep. The pitching market is deeper next off-season.

      Reply
  5. Ron Payne

    I think the Reds have a legitimate shot at signing Dallas Keuchel regardless of what the Phillies do.
    It’s just a matter of how deep they want to dig in their pockets. I would like to have Keuchel, but I wouldn’t be upset if the Reds decide to pass on him.
    The problem with waiting for next year’s free agent class is that you’ll have the same scenario. There will be big name pitchers, in their 30’s, that want big contracts.
    Hopefully, the Reds can come up with a package of players (excluding Senzel and Trammell) that can land either Kluber or Bauer.
    I just think guys like Gray, Stroman, Gonzalez or Miley aren’t much of a step up from what they have in-house.
    I still think there is going to be one more major move coming. (Signing Keuchel, trading for another big name pitcher, acquiring Realmuto, another center fielder?)
    Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    Reply
  6. Old-school

    In another slow FA market, there is precedent for paying high AAV but not paying for contract length. The Phillies did that with Jake Arrieta past year.

    Sign Keuchel to ~ 3/60 with an opt out after 2 years.
    Sign AJ Pollack to ~ 3/50 to play CF.
    Move Senzel to 2b .
    Trade Gennett for a top notch bullpen lefty and a Top AA pitching prospect. SF Giants?

    Payroll is at $140 million. Playoff ready team. Prospect capital preserved.

    Reply
    • Colorado Red

      Do not want Pollock, To many injuries.
      Doubt Dallas accepts 3/60, love it if he did.

      Reply
      • JoshG

        I like Pollack, just at no where near the rumored price

      • lwblogger2

        Yeah, no Pollock unless they can about steal him. Dallas Keuchel is looking for 5yrs at $20-million+ AAV. You’re right, no way he signs for 3 and 60. I think he’ll land about 4 and 84. I don’t think the Reds need to play there for him. I’d go 3 and 66 or 4 and 76 and I think that falls short

    • scottya

      I like it. That team could surprise to the upside and surpass 90 wins.

      Reply
      • Matt Hendley

        And a no on scooter till july

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      Honestly, I’m not worried about our CF. Our weakness for the last 4 years has been pitching, especially starting pitching. We need that. Our offense from CF will definitely be better. I believe our defense in CF will be “serviceable”.

      Reply
  7. Optimist

    The issue with Keuchel is probably the mismatch – he’s at the top of the Reds list, and the Reds are likely at the bottom of his list. Sure, money can bridge the gap, which adds to the waiting. Best course may be to go with Miley/Gio or the trade route – much more controllable and less $ risk. Also, next year is better to extend the budget into contention territory – this year remains get to .500 and/or trades at deadline.

    Reply
  8. Adam

    Personally I would I think there best option is to sign Pollack that would allow them to trade Trammel I see no value in Kuechel. I think Pollack is a greater value Kuechel is going to be cheaper and would give them a surplus of outfielders……….Kluber but I personally like Micheal Fulmer

    Reply
    • Amarillo

      Pollock hasn’t had a season of 500 at bats in the last 3 years and has only done that once. He is only somewhat above league average with the bat. I honestly think we would get a lot more production out of a Senzel/Puig platoon in Center then Pollock would give us.

      Reply
  9. Mcfly0913

    I’m guessing the Reds are thinking they can flip either of Puig, Kemp, Wood or Gennett at the trade deadline if things aren’t looking good. So if they miss out on an ace this offseason there’s not a lot of incentive in signing a mid-tier starter at this point.

    Reply
  10. Matt Hendley

    Not the point right now to trade for an aging pitcher or a regularly hurt one. Same about bad pitchers who had good years. Dallas could slot his way in as an ace this year and move down the rotation in future years. Many of the pitching prospects have had more then enough tries at proving what they have (Stephenson, reed) time to set up the bullpen with some of them and get rid of the rest
    Come july if the season goes south there will be a new crop of prospects.

    Reply
  11. scottya

    Now that Grandal is off the board. I’ve changed my mind and I’m hoping for a trade for JT Realmuto and a signing of Dallas Keuchal or a trade for Corey Kluber.

    Realmuto + Kluber makes us a central division contender immediately. Realmuto + Keuchal makes us a wildcard contender immediately.

    For Realmuto it sounds like it would be Barnhart, India & Long type of haul. We would have the top offense in the NL. I hope this happens, it may require Trammell instead of india, I’m torn on that trade.

    Reply
    • Corky Miller

      Totally agree. Realmuto in this lineup is scary.
      Winker LF
      Realmuto C
      Votto 1B
      Suarez 3B
      Gennett 2B
      Puig RF/CF
      Schebler CF/RF
      Peraza SS

      Reply
  12. CI3J

    The thing about Keuchel is, he’s 31. This is his “cash in” contract that players like him get once in their career. They toil through their late 20’s on arbitration/1 year deals to get to this big payday. The Reds have to be willing to pay (and probably overpay) to get him, given Cincinnati is not a “premiere” destination right now. This also means the Reds are very likely going to be stuck with a bad contract in a few years as Dallas will probably want a minimum of 5 years.

    It depends on if you think it’s worth it. Do you roll the dice and hope Keuchel can still put up positive results in years 3, 4, and 5 when he’s 34, 35, and 36 years old? Because that’s essentially what it comes down to.

    I’m a bit torn myself, because if Keuchel is what it takes to push the Reds into “contender” status, it’s almost worth it to keep the prospects that would have otherwise be traded for Kluber. Then the hope is by the time Keuchel starts declining, the Reds will have someone ready to take over his role while he becomes a (very expensive) #4 or #5 starter. Basically, Homer Bailey all over again, but if the cards are played right this time, it could be much more successful.

    Reply
    • Hotto4Votto

      In general I agree with your assessment. I’d rather see them sign Keuchel than give up the prospects it would take to acquire Kluber. But also feel torn and don’t see it as the most ideal situation because of the last year or two could get pretty rough. One point of clarification though, Keuchel just turned 31 on New Year’s day. So a 5th season would cover his age 35 season. He wouldn’t turn 36 until the offseason after year 5. Not that it makes a ton of difference, but a little. Personally, I still wouldn’t go over 4 years though unless the 5th had a vesting option based on innings/performance.

      Reply
    • greenmtred

      I think it’s important to keep the top prospects. The Reds will have lotsof holes to fill after 2019, and that will be harder to do with Trammel, India, etc. gone.

      Reply
  13. Scooter Rolen

    I don’t know how trusted or reliable the projections on B-R.com are, but Alex Wood is actually projected to be a better pitcher next season than Dallas Keuchel – while being 3 years younger. AW at 3.45 in 2019, DK at 3.71. Even if projections are not reliable enough, it’s worth noting that Wood had a lower ERA and FIP last season than Keuchel. The major concern for Wood compared to Keuchel is the innings pitched – and even Keuchel has had health concerns in the past (2016-17).

    I would love for Reds to get Keuchel at the right price, but overpaying seems like the wrong move. Maybe the Reds could look into extending Wood?

    Reply
    • scottya

      This is why I’m fired up about 2019. The b-ref numbers project the Reds a bit better than the fangraphs. Fangraphs has us at 4.32 era, bref is closer to 4.20 The Rockies gave up 745 runs last season at 4.33 with an average defense. I can’t imagine the offense as currently constructed doesn’t score more than 745 runs, By my figuring the Reds score 750-780 runs as currently constructed.

      If we add keuchal the Reds staff projection will drop into the 4.2’s with fangraphs and 4.1’s with bref.

      Add JT Realmuto and the offense improves a lot.

      Reply
    • LWBlogger2

      Keep in mind that Wood is projected in the NL, playing in Dodger Stadium and that Keuchel is projected in the AL, playing at Enron, er I mean Minute Maid. The enviornments factor into MARCEL (baseball ref’s proj system) if I’m not mistaken.

      Reply
      • scottya

        Fangraphs updated Wood when he was traded from a 3.65 ish to a 4.00 presently (GABP). Marcels doesn’t update upon trades.

        I would think that Keuchal’s fangraphs projection as a Red wouldn’t rise nearly as much with the DH in the American League. I hope we find out.

  14. scottya

    Phillies are confident they will get either Machado or Harper. The prevailing thought has been what else can they afford if either signs there, but it would seem like a time to add more “crazy money” and go ahead and sign keuchal.

    My guess; if the Phillies drop out that Keuchal is the Reds for the taking and that may be one of these new swellopt contracts. 3 years 60 million, player can OPT OUT AFTER THE 3RD YEAR, or the Team is obligated for the 4th year (probably 4 yrs 80 million). If the team elects they can add year 4 and 5 at similar price, which would be a 5 year 100 million. So the Reds are for sure on the hook for 3 and 60, but likely 4 and 80. Let’s do this! And lets add Realmuto.

    Reply
    • Chris Miller

      Agree Adam. I think Kuechel is a huge cost that isn’t worth it. I’m warm on signing Pollack, because I think the guy is awesome if healthy. Personally though, I’d rather sign Scooter, keep him at 2nd, and use Senzel in CF. Does anyone think that he’s not at least better out there than Choo was? The guy on the hill that I want the MOST is Kluber. I’d offer Schebler, Trammel, and one of our AAAA pitchers, not named Mahle. I think Mahle is going to be a solid #3. I’d like to think that this gets it done. Mahle and Winker are two players that I would not deal.

      Reply
      • Chris Miller

        Not sure what happened. I was responding to Adam, but somehow everything got shuffled, and my post ended up down here.

  15. Old-school

    Looks like Phillies might get Harper. That should fast forward matters . Pitchers and catchers report in T-30 days.

    Reply
  16. Mason Red

    Wouldn’t it be great if the Reds were in the conversation to sign Harper? But being that type of franchise is light years away.

    Reply
    • David

      I actually think it is more likely that Harper ends up in LA (Dodgers). They didn’t just clear out a lot of payroll space with the Reds to sign some nobodies.

      Reply
      • Matthew Hendley

        while I would agree with you, it seems they are doing their best to botch it up. Rumor is that Harper will sign this week. all signs point towards philly. I personally don’t care Manny is bound for the Chisox and as long as ST louis and the Cubs stay away I’m ok with it.

  17. B-town Fan

    Another free agent starting pitcher is off the board, Holland has resigned with the Giants for about 7mil for one year with an option, he looked like a good choice with some upside the Reds could have signed, and not given up any prospects and he seemed to want to come here. There aren’t many options left. I’m not to hip on Miley or Gio Gonzalez. Gray is going to cost too much in prospects for a 1 year player, since the Yankees want pitching, Mella and a lower level prospect maybe but giving up Santillan would be stupid for Gray. It’s looking more and more like Keuchel or nobody and Keuchel seems like a low probability.

    Reply
    • LWBlogger2

      Holland had a great rebound year but I don’t think he was a good fit for the Reds. He was pitching in a tremendously pitcher-friendly environment in San Fran. He also gets road games at LA and SD. Now, he goes to Denver and Arizona but those parks only represent 25% of his starting opportunities. I also don’t know if the same 1yr/$7-million would have gotten it done for the Reds. Something to be said for not having to move. That said, I don’t think we’re talking millions and millions more for the Reds to have done it, if they wanted to. I just don’t think they wanted to and I am inclined to agree.

      Reply

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