We Want All The Smoke

After a week of the MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas that included a constant stream of rumors involving the Reds, Vice President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall walked away having made one deal. They acquired 32 year old righty starter Tanner Roark from the Nationals in exchange for volatile and highly regarded (though unproven) fireball relief prospect Tanner Rainey. Roark has pitched over 180 innings 4 of the last 5 seasons and added 3.4 WAR for the Nats this past season – a value that would have been the best on the 2018 Reds and far better than the -1.5 WAR that our $120 million investment Homer Bailey provided. Roark is a welcome addition to the rotation and a clear upgrade, but still not quite the splash many Reds fans were hoping for in a year that owner Bob Castellini insisted we would go “get the pitching”.

And then it happened. Arguably the biggest blockbuster of the offseason and the biggest Reds trade since they brought Ken Griffey Jr. back home so many years ago went down Friday afternoon. Could it have been a more perfect trade? Williams and Krall laid the groundwork during the Winter Meetings for a perfectly crafted trade that allowed them to rid themselves of Homer Bailey and the $28 million owed to him, while acquiring three former all-stars that all go down in the books as massive upgrades for our Redlegs. Oh and the Dodgers also gave us a check for $7 million? Not bad. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp reuniting with hitting coach Turner Ward and lefty starter Alex Wood getting the chance to pitch near the top of an improving Reds rotation will be quite the sight to see.

The cost was two pretty highly regarded prospects that in all likelihood would never have been integral parts of this “run”, though very well may become solid major league players. We give up Jeter Downs, our #8 prospect and a promising young middle infielder, but a guy who was stuck behind Nick Senzel, Shed Long, and Jon India. I speculated earlier in the offseason that Jon India would make a great trade chip, and still might, but getting rid of a middle infielder makes a ton of sense for us – they just have way less value to us considering our logjam. Josiah Gray, our #12 prospect and a guy we picked up in last year’s comp round who only committed to pitching full-time within the last couple years, was at least three seasons away from cracking the Red’s rotation. Given our history developing pitchers (though I desperately hope it improves), I’m fine trading away anybody not named Hunter Greene. I also am very high on Tony Santillan but that’s a discussion for another day.

As could be somewhat expected, the national reaction on this trade is somewhat muted as far as the Reds go. Most of the reaction points towards the Dodgers dumping salary and getting rid of their outfield glut to potentially sign free agent outfielder Bryce Harper. As The Athletic’s Reds writer C. Trent Rosecrans noted – a lot people not as obsessed with getting rid of Homer Bailey as Reds fans might be are somewhat confused by this trade. The Reds added three more players in their final year of team control before free agency to go along with Roark, also in his last year. National media thinks there is no way any of these guys sign back with us next year. They’ll go get a big payday for a big market. The Reds don’t sign big name players. They win 65 games and become forgettable. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong, but Reds fans are excited because for at least one season, a very much improved and very exciting team will be taking the field in Great American Ball Park this year. A fan base struggling to find its identity, especially in a year where a new Major League Soccer franchise will be lacing them up over at venerable James Gamble Nippert Memorial Stadium, needs excitement. Yasiel Puig’s big bat and even larger personality gives the Reds fans something to cheer for, before even considering the chance at adding many more wins to their record. Whether we sign any of these guys beyond this year or not (can’t imagine Dick won’t at least try), this club got way better in 2019, and qualifying offers after this season could provide as many as 4 additional compensation round draft picks – the very rounds we got Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs – not bad!

Cespedes Family BBQ – a national baseball account that works with MLB and @Cut4 yesterday said that all these additions still only put the Reds on the fringe of even being considered for the race for the second Wild Card spot. Really? Still? I am as biased as they come but that’s insane to me. Barstool Sports’ Jared Carrabis mentioned in his blog covering the trade that Matt Kemp would “rather play for a contender” and that Puig likely won’t reach his full potential in Cincinnati, “At least, not with the direction that franchise is headed in.”

Like the triggered snowflake I am, I got mad online when I read his blog and couldn’t help but publicly respond. Four straight seasons of 90+ losses will do it, but what the Reds have been building has gone largely unnoticed. This offense is as formidable as any in the National League, and thats before you even consider that younger guys like Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker, and Jose Peraza will continue to improve and build on their development as hitters over the last couple seasons. I’m genuinely not sure if there will be an every day starting spot available for 34 year old Matt Kemp, even given his resurgance last season, though I’m thrilled about his bat coming off the bench in a big situation or being able to spell lefty hitters Schebler and Winker when a southpaw takes the hill. Where will Nick Senzel play? Who knows! But I can’t wait to find out. This Reds team is a young team filled with under-the-radar talent in the field and at the plate and with a bullpen and rotation I predict will take massive strides forward thanks to the acquisitions made so far and the guide of new pitching coach Derek Johnson. These guys love to play the game and they want to bring winning back to this city so badly, and this could finally be the year they do that. You know who agrees with me? Amir Garrett.

Amir was active on Twitter yesterday, as were the likes of Tucker Barnhart, Sal Romano, and probably others. They addressed the continued doubters and pumped up Reds fans echoed their sentiment in the replies. Amir is one of my favorite Reds and seeing him get in the mix on Twitter is awesome – the dude loves his team and is confident that he’s a part of a winning franchise.

This kind of fire both on and off the field is the stuff that is going to bring winning back to Cincinnati and I can’t wait. Alex Wood and Tanner Roark add a lot to this pitching staff, but it’s the guys already on the staff like Amir who are truly going to make or break this season. This Reds team has been frustrating to watch in recent years, and doubt has been heavy both here at home and nationally. At one point in the past that non of us millennials can recall, beyond the stories told to us by our fathers, the Reds were the powerhouse. The Reds were the team given the benefit of the doubt. The Reds were the team that free agents desperately wanted to sign with. Our generation is ready to support that kind of team. Dick Williams and Nick Krall, under the eye of Bob Castellini, are guiding the franchise back in that direction, having already executed two masterful trades this offseason, to build on their history of fantastic signings or trades in Scooter Gennett, Luis Castillo, and the like. I could write a full blog (and probably will) detailing how underrated and quietly ingenious our front office has been, and if the Reds took the field today with the roster as it currently has been built, I’d be tremendously excited. But I’ll leave you with one last tweet from Reds beat writer John Fay quoting Dick Williams’ post-trade presser.

We’re not done! Imagine this team still adding the likes of Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber? There likely would still be doubters to the Reds chances of competing in the NL Central, one of the toughest divisions in baseball. But, in the words of Amir Garrett, “We want all the smoke!”

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