The Reds finished the 2015 season with a 64-98 record, the second worst in baseball, in last place in the NL Central and 36 games behind the first place Cardinals. They will have the #2 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.
Two seasons ago, they finished with a 76-86 record, in fourth place, 14 games behind the Cardinals. Three years ago, they finished in third place with a 90-72 record, 7 games behind the Cardinals. See a trend here? They are getting worse, and the teams above them are getting better.
They have talent on this roster, namely first baseman Joey Votto, power hitting third baseman Todd Frazier, dominating closer Aroldis Chapman, power hitting outfielder Jay Bruce and an aging second baseman Brandon Phillips, but they still finished with the second worst record in baseball this season.
Is it time to blow things up?
ESPN's Buster Olney wrote the following in a recent blog post:
Some Reds coaches won't return. Among those at the team's staff meetings, there is also a lot of sentiment in favor of a full-blown reboot along the lines of what the Astros and Cubs have done -- i.e., stripping the team down so deeply that it positions itself at the top of the draft for access to talent -- and if that carries the day through the top of the organization, some Cincinnati veterans could be made available via trade.
In a division inhabited by three organizations that appear to be set up very well for the immediate future -- the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs -- a stark tear-down/rebuild strategy for the Reds and Brewers makes a whole lot of sense. Some rival officials who've communicated with Milwaukee believe that's the path the Brewers will take as well.
If there is follow-through from the Reds and Brewers in this vein of thinking, that would mean the winter trade market would include the likes of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, reliever Aroldis Chapman, right fielder Jay Bruce (again) and perhaps other more prominent players.
It's worth repeating: It should be a no-brainer for the Reds to trade third baseman Todd Frazier, who turns 30 in February, while his value is high.
This is not the first time Olney has written about the Reds blowing things up, and we should find out in the next few weeks if ownership is willing to "tank" the next few seasons to be more competitive in 3-4 years. It is not easy for ownership to make this type of decision, as there is a lot of money involved here. That is, revenues will probably decline for a few seasons. But, it might be the right choice because the team, as constructed today, probably won't be too competitive over the next few seasons, as their star players aren't getting any younger. Bruce turns 29 in April, Frazier turns 30 in February and Votto just turned 32 in September. Votto is making a ton of money. Bruce becomes a free agent in a year, while Votto is signed long term. Chapman turns 28 at the end of February and will be a free agent after the 2016 season.
So, who should they trade this offseason?
All of them. Every last one of them. Pull a reverse Preller. Sell them all for prospects and begin your rebuild.
Who should they deal first? I would see what the best offer is for your best player, Joey Votto. He is scheduled to make $20 million in 2016, $22 million in 2017, $25 million each year from 2018-2023, and a $20 million club option in 2024 with a $7 million buyout. So, they owe him $199 million over the next nine seasons. He is coming off his best year since 2011, and was the best hitter in baseball in the second half of the season. Some team will want him, assuming the Reds take on some of his salary. I could see teams like the Pirates, Red Sox, and Astros having real interest in Votto. All three teams need a steady first baseman, and have solid farm systems from which to trade.
The Pirates could offer a package around Tyler Glasnow and Harold Ramirez. Glasnow is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, while Ramirez is a rising young outfielder. The Red Sox could offer a package around Anderson Espinoza and Jackie Bradley Jr.. Espinoza is a 17 year old pitching prospect and I am sure we will hear his name quite a bit this offseason.
The Astros could offer a package around Lance McCullers or A.J. Reed. Reed is a power hitting first base prospect who tore up High A and AA this season, hitting 34 home runs and driving in 127 runs in 135 games. Heck, the Astros need a closer as well, so send Chapman and Votto to the Astros for some combination of McCullers, Reed and Vincent Velasquez or some lower level prospects.
Again, the Reds won't get much for Votto unless they eat some of his contract, but like Troy Tulowitzki, there will be teams interested in trading for him.
Todd Frazier should bring back some high level prospects as well. Actually, he could bring back something comparable to the return that Billy Beane received for Josh Donaldson last offseason. Beane dealt Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto. If the Astros decide they don't want to deal for Votto, Frazier would make a lot of sense for them as they have Luis Valbuena as their regular third baseman. While Valbuena has some power, he isn't the player that Frazier is.
What makes Frazier so valuable is the fact that he is signed to a very team friendly $7.5 million contract for 2016, is arbitration eligible in 2017 and becomes a free agent at the end of the 2017 season. An Astros offer could be built around Reed or one of the Astros young pitchers - McCullers or Velasquez.
I would have to imagine that every team that made the playoffs this season would have interest in Chapman, either as a closer or a setup man. Since he is so cheap, and still the most dominating closer in the game, he would certainly bring back a nice return in any deal. Just look at what the Braves received for Craig Kimbrel a day before the season started. The Braves send Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres for Carlos Quention, who was subsequently waived, Cameron Maybin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck and the 41st pick in the draft.
Should the Reds go all Astros/Cubs on their fans to rebuild?
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