We are fast approaching that time of year where the front offices in organized baseball get really busy; the trade deadline is here. As of this writing, there hasn’t been that big trade that changes the trajectory of the season. Perhaps teams are waiting and biding their time, seeing what the other teams do first.
With the inception of the Wild Card in Major League Baseball and the expansion of the playoffs just a few years ago, more and more teams can begin to think that they have a legitimate shot to make the post-season. As of this writing, 18 of 30 Major League Baseball teams are within five games of a place in the post-season. Clearly, there are a lot of teams that are considering adding that one final piece of the puzzle to get their team over the top.
Absent from the list is our own hometown Cincinnati Reds. All of the writers, bloggers and knowers of all things baseball are considering the Reds as “sellers” — a team that is willing to part with their high-dollar talent in exchange for cheaper (and hopefully younger) talent that will take the team farther in the future.
And these professional prognosticators believe that the Reds have some serious talent. First and foremost are starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. Last year, Johnny Cueto became the first Reds pitcher since Danny Jackson to win 20 games in a season; this season he seems to be just as dominant. Mike Leake is a promising young pitcher who seems to be getting better with each passing appearance. The problem is that both pitchers are in the last year in the contract and considering the big dollars going to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, well, there just isn’t enough money to go around.
But more than just the two starting pitchers, other players are grabbing the attention of scouts around the league as well. Aroldis Chapman is a dominant closer that consistently throws in excess of 100 miles per hour. Jay Bruce has heated up and is getting attention. The list goes on, Brayan Pena, Tucker Barnhart, Todd Frazier; they are all targets of a trade deadline deal.
So the big question isn’t necessarily why these guys are being targeted, but how can a team with such high-quality talent is doing so poorly?
To the defense of the Reds, they are finding themselves on the short end of the standings in the league’s most competitive division. By most accounts, the St. Louis Cardinals are a top-tier team. The Pittsburgh Pirates have also made themselves known as extremely competitive over the past few years as well. Finally, the Chicago Cubs are showing signs of life. All three of these teams are winning more than they are losing and they are all in the same division as the Reds.
Now, I will fully admit that the next baseball team I manage will be my first, but any team that has talent that is being sought out by other teams must have other issues that pure statistics can’t explain. Perhaps it’s an issue of a less-than-optimal manager. Bryan Price, the team’s current manager was thrust in the role after Dusty Baker, who led the Reds to the playoffs two consecutive years, was either fired or quit.
Mr. Price is seen as congenial in many circles, but exhibits some on-the-clock behavior that is, well, a bit odd. Earlier this season, Mr. Price was giving an interview to a newspaper reporter and in answering question went on a five-minute diatribe in which he used the queen mother of dirty words 77 times. To his credit, the word was used as a noun, adjective, verb — pretty much everything except a preposition or a pronoun. Then later in the season, Mr. Price was thrown out of a game in Cleveland as he was exchanging the line-up card before the game began.
Perhaps I am being too difficult on Mr. Price. You can only work with the talent you have. Yet, there are plenty of major league teams that believe this team has talent, serious talent.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]