They’re not good now, and chances are it’s going to be a while. Fans get all that, while still asking the age-old question, “How long will it take the Reds to be good again?”
Because of where the Cincinnati Reds currently reside, ensconced firmly in last place in the National League Central, and because of their announced intentions of reconstruction, the No. 1 question I’m asked these days is this: “How long will it take for the Reds to become competitive again?”
I am always tempted to answer with, “The nth of never.” Or maybe, “Not in my lifetime for my great grandson’s lifetimes.”
That, though is a bit harsh. But it is reality.
The correct answer is, “Who knows? Nobody knows. Not even The Shadow knows.”
Building or rebuilding a baseball team is an inexact science. In fact, it is not even a science. For the most part it is downright Las Vegas Luck.
Why is that? Many reasons.
First of all, to reconstruct the Reds first had to deconstruct and of that they are doing an admirable job. They have shed themselves of established players — one could even call the established stars — like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier.
And if he had cooperated and not invoked his no-trade rights, Brandon Phillips, too, would be wearing an enemy uniform. There is little doubt, too, that Jay Bruce soon will be gone and perhaps Zack Cozart.
The key, of course, is what they are getting in return. They are accumulating prospects (more accurately they should be called suspects). They are unproven. The players the Reds traded were proven. They players they received remain unproven.
Who knows if any of them or all of them or none of them will emerge from the suspect list to the prospect and to the major league list. It’s a dice roll. Anybody who knows baseball knows that not all of them will emerge.
With all the trades the Reds have made and will make, everything, or most everything, needs to go right. And when does everything go right? Seldom.
Adam Duvall, acquired for Mike Leake, might be the answer in left field. He has shown plentiful power and an unexpected knack for defense. But he is not young. He is 27 and needs to continue his stellar play for a few years while the team catches up to him.
Jose Peraza looks like The Real Deal, speed and talent. But he was acquired with the thought of immediately installing him at second base. But Phillips’ refusal to accept a deal has slowed his progress.
Anthony DeSclafani, acquired last year in a trade with Miami for Mat Latos, appears to be a steal, based on what Latos has done. DeSclafani has exhibited glimpses of pitching prowess, but remains inconsistent as he battles injuries.
The same can be said for the three pitchers acquired last July from Kansas City for Johnny Cueto — Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. Finnegan and Lamb both have had their moments, both glorious and ignominious. They are getting on-the-job training and could develop into something special.
Scouts all agree that Cody Reed is the gem in the deal and his major league debut over the weekend against Houston garnered mixed reviews. He pitched seven innings Saturday, farther than most Reds starters venture this season, and gave up four runs and six hits. Two of the hits, though, were for home runs and the Reds lost in 11 innings, 5-4. He struck out nine Astros, though, an encouraging note.
Here, though, is the major problem with a team like the Reds doing a rebuild. By the time they do rebuild and by the time some of their recent acquisitions mature and perhaps become stars, they will be eligible for free agency. And so the vicious circle starts all over again. Who can they keep and who must they let go via free agency or by trade.
And, of course, they are counting on the draft and it appears they did well this year. But it is the same thing. If Nick Senzel, the third baseman the Reds picked No. 1 this year, becomes a star in the next three or four years, another Todd Frazier, can the Reds keep him. Or will they have to start all over.
Unfortunately, that’s Life In Cincinnati — a team that strapped itself with monster contracts given to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey.
It’s a constant dilemma for the front office, which by the way was ranked 30th and last in the majors recently by The Sporting News.
Here is what TSN said in ranking the Reds’ front office last: “Cincinnati Tried to trade Brandon Phillips as far back as 2013 before his 10-and-5 (no trade without his permisson) rights kicked in, and failed to do so, and would up stuck with his contract instead of acquiring players who could help the future. Jay Bruce is still on the Reds for some reason If Zack Cozart is still there in August it will make no sense whatsoever.”
So that’s it? How long will it take the Reds to be competitive again? Only The Swami knows, and he’s lying.