The Cincinnati Reds are about to approach the most crucial offseason since Walt Jocketty took the helm as the general manager in 2008. The big question that Cincinnati fans are asking, what will Walt do? Currently the Reds have four starting pitchers who are only under control through the end of the 2015 season. Staff ace Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon are all free agents in ’15 and leaving only Homer Bailey as the sole piece locked up for the future.
The biggest concern for many is that Walt will try to fork over another huge contract to their payroll in attempt to keep Cueto, Latos, or Leake. After giving mega deals to first baseman Joey Votto and Bailey, the Reds are faced with many big tasks ahead. This leads to another big question, can they really afford another 100 plus million dollar contract? Walt has been very creative since taken over the team and has made bold moves in sending Edwin Encarnacion to Toronto to get a veteran presence in Scott Rolen. He also sent two former first round picks in Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso as a part of a package deal that got them the mentioned above Latos. Recently you saw Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs as a part of a package for one year’s rent of Shin-Soo Choo. Throw in some names like Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger, Travis Wood and now you start to see some of the sub pieces he has shipped away in order to get them where they are today.
Injuries play a key role in what has also led this Reds franchise to be where they are today. Latos began the year on the disabled list. Votto has been sidelined the majority of the year from what Reds Medical Director Tim Kremchek called a “strain” and anticipated him only to be sidelined for a couple weeks. Brandon Phillips broke his thumb and required surgery that sidelined him for a month in a half. Bailey just completed surgery today to repair his throwing arm. This is a common issue for any professional sports team, injuries happen so next man up right? Well this is the problem, they have depleted their farm systems position players and those in the lower levels are years away from helping the major league club. On the flipside of that, they have a nice group of young arms developing in class AA and high-A level. Robert Stephenson, Nick Travieso are two former first round picks out of high school who are developing into potential fillers for the future. The Reds also signed Cuban defector Raciel Iglesias and 2014 first round pick Nick Howard, both are planned to become starters for the Reds down in the near future.
Now, what will Walt do? He has to be creative and he has the pieces that franchises look for, quality starting pitching. If he trades 1, 2 or 3 starters as a package deal to fill voids in other areas then he needs to fill the hole left after the trade. Does he have the confidence in his scouts and their grades for his current arms in the lower levels? Does he try to ask Mr. Castellini for more money to try to keep some of the starting pitchers? That is the hardest question, but the bigger question is how you can regain the trust from the fans who you preached accountability to when you fired Dusty Baker and did nothing in the offseason to improve the current staff? Many times as fans they have seen the trade deadline pass and Walt sat on his hands. Just recently he allowed the Brewers to take on Jonathon Broxton and another big contract Walt signed off on to help in some way shape or form for the 2014 collapse after the All Star game. This team before the break was 1.5 games out of the National League Central lead and now they have fully collapsed.
I will give credit though, the Reds did make the playoffs three times since he took the general manager position but the lack of a playoff win leaves a bad taste for many. Walt gave the starting Center Field spot to young star Billy Hamilton, one of the bright sides of the 2014 year. Billy looks to be a young star in the making and has taken the sour tastes out of the mouths of Cincinnati and hope for the future. Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco have also had impressive years and with those three in the fold for the 2015 year it’s really time for Walt to earn his money. The other side of it also is that the industry knows what position Walt is in right now. They know he has to do something and will have to trade a strength to improve a weakness. What are do you trade? What arm do you try to keep? The word on the streets is that Latos was dangled at the trade deadline but just to gage interest as they could net a larger return in the off-season and package more with it. I would guess the best bet for the Reds is to see if Cueto would even look into a “hometown” or homegrown discount. That is hard to think of when he has pitched in the tops in the NL for the past two seasons and given the increase of salaries during free agency. This is definitely an interesting time to be a Reds fan or apart of the organization. The truth is that Walt will be one of the busiest general managers this off season and the 2015 year is going to be one of the most interesting since he has taken over. He has done it before but the players he has drafted and the scouts he has listened to have his current roster in a hard predicament. Does he have the magic that he had when he was with the Cardinals? Has he lost his touch? We all soon will find out.