Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Time Is Now for the Reds

Let me start by giving a recap of the 2011 Winter Meetings for the Reds.


That's about what it feels like happened in Dallas at this year's version of Major League Baseball's winter meetings. Reds' fans as well as GM Walt Jocketty are surely disappointed that no trades and signings were able to be completed in Dallas, but as Mark Sheldon points out, the groundwork was laid for potential deals to take place over the next couple of months remaining in the offseason. Walt has said however, that while there have been talks, there is nothing close yet. There were indeed plenty of rumors.

As Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer said, "The Reds win without playing," of course referring to the fact that Albert Pujols is no longer a member of the NL Central, after having signed with Danny Glover's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California the 31st State in the United States of America or whatever their team is called. This leads me into the point of my incessant rambling in this post, if you'll continue reading.

The time is now for the Reds. With the Pujols-less Cardinals, and the Fielder-less Brewers, the NL Central is wide open for the taking, and who better to take it back than the one and only Cincinnati Reds? This team is just two years removed from winning the division, and still has basically the same core it had that year, including 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto. Players like Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Johnny Cueto really stepped up last year also which has paved the way for the Reds to get back to the postseason and advance deeper through it in the coming years.

Last year, what was thought to be a strength of this team, the starting pitching, turned into a mighty disappointment and Walt realized it, just as the fans did. Sure they had plenty of pitchers, but none of them pitched well enough to be an ace, short of Cueto who missed enough time with injuries, not to qualify for the ERA title. That combined with the usual shortcomings of guys like Edinson Volquez and Homer Bailey, and a horrendous season from Bronson Arroyo have prompted Mr. Walt to make starting pitching a number one priority this offseason. He's not talking just any old starter either. The Reds want a legitimate ace, or at least a number two kind of a guy. Some one who can make an impact in the rotation. It started with plans that Aroldis Chapman will be moved to the rotation, although there have been some setbacks with that plan. The Reds are also trying their darndest to swing a trade with a team like Tampa to bring back a pitcher the caliber of James Shields, or perhaps Oakland's Gio Gonzalez.

The Reds have the pieces to make a trade like this happen, although it may require Walt to give away more of the farm system than that which he would be comfortable. I'm not saying sell the farm, but this organization has guys like Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, or maybe someone younger like speedster Billy Hamilton who could certainly garner the interest of other major league teams. The best chance to win however is between now and the time Joey Votto makes his exit from Cincinnati, which seems all but inevitable if he continues to be one of the best hitters in baseball because the small-payroll-Reds will probably not be able to afford to retain him past 2013 which is the end of his current contract. After that the Reds may enter a painful rebound period as they cope with the loss of Votto, as well as an aging Phillips, and what are currently uncertain situations at shortstop, third base, left and centerfields. There's no telling what could be going on at those positions in a couple of years. Maybe they'll have the best players in the whole league at those positions in Zack Cozart, Juan Francisco, and/or a number of guys who could play the outfield, or maybe they won't. There's a lot of faith being put into Cozart right now, but there's no guarantee that he will continue to succeed there. I think he can, but anything can happen. The team can worry about that when it comes though. It should worry about winning now, and a great starting pitcher (or two) could help give it that push that it needs to get over the hump.

As our fearless leader Jimmi Adair texted to me earlier today, "Reds' fans deserve a deep postseason run." I have to agree with him. I'd rather have a chance to go deep into October and possibly November in the next couple of years, while this core group is still together, than to hang on to Alonso so that there is a  replacement for Votto. There are other guys in the minor leagues like Neftali Soto who continue to develop, that could play first. It's almost impossible that anyone makes it a seamless transition from Votto. He's pretty good. That's no knock on Alonso though. I love the kid and if he ends up sticking with the Reds I will continue to root for him and hope he can man left, but he is expendable at this point and the Reds must use their best judgement to trade him and possibly a few others if it will bring back a player or two to help this team, not just compete, but win now. We the fans have had a taste of what it's like to win the NL Central now, and it's time we moved onto the main course.

I'd love to hear your opinion on the subject. Should we go all out and make a run for it or not? Tweet at me @RedlegsWriter.

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