What an offseason. Make that two.
The Reds front office has finally delivered to its fans The Next Good Reds Team™ and we’re ready.
Before look forward, let’s throw a few shovels of Great American Ball Park dirt on the disastrous Rebuild-Reboot-Retool and pronounce it the utter failure it was. Turns out, in the local case “strip-it-down, build-it-back-up” has little to show for itself.
Sure, 90-loss seasons produced the draft picks that got Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene. Credit Rebuild for Luis Castillo, although every deal with that Marlins clown show comes with an asterisk. Acquiring Eugenio Suarez for Alfredo Simon wasn’t really part of the Rebuild. That was a standard industry swap between two teams hoping to contend in 2014. The Rebuild came up with Brandon Finnegan, Dilson Herrera, Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza and the four Yankees for Aroldis Chapman.
Instead, the 2020 Reds have been built by aggressive trades, disciplined non-tender decisions and $140+ million of Bob Castellini’s money. And all of that was built on the foundation of a modern front office and coaching staff.
It took way, way too long and not one, but two terrific off-seasons.
Last year, the Reds front office made four trades for starting pitchers. It signed Sonny Gray to a significant contract extension. The new coaching staff for pitchers, armed with data and technology, produced swift and large gains in development. In a single year, the Reds cut more than 100 runs off their Runs Allowed total from 2018 to 2019. The pitching staff jumped from #21 out of 30 in xFIP to fourth.
But one excellent offseason wasn’t enough as the Reds offense slumped badly. The night the Reds 2019 season came to its merciful conclusion, we knew for this offseason to be a success, the front office would need a daring and aggressive Get The Hitting plan that matched the audacity and success of Get The Pitching the previous year. That, and spend every last available penny of Castellini’s money and then some.
Well, in signing Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and now Nick Castellanos, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The front office didn’t rest on its pitching laurels, either. It brought in starter Wade Miley and traded for swingman Jose De Leon. It signed several new relievers (Justin Shafer, Josh Smith, Tyler Thornberg, Nate Jones) to compete for a spot in an already strong bullpen. As a further investment in cutting-edge pitching instruction, the club hired Kyle Boddy, founder of Driveline Baseball, this offseason. Boddy will spread data-driven teaching throughout the organization.
The past few years, mentions of The Next Good Reds Team have been nervous jokes, even mocked with the trademark symbol. Truth is, the Reds were never really close enough to being good to talk about it seriously. But hey, look. There’s a suitable team here now, at least one worthy of earnest conversation.
Yes, there are many more decisions to make and moves to execute. What’s the solution at shortstop? What about the Castellanos opt-outs? Aren’t Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani leaving in a year? Doesn’t this club still need more help in the bullpen? And so on.
When Walt Jocketty, Bryan Price and Jim Riggleman were the ones figuring out what to do, questions like those would rightly engender waves of anxiety.
But that changed with the partnership of Dick Williams and David Bell and their dynamic synergy. Bell’s hiring in October 2018 unleashed a seismic pulse of positive change through 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, including buy-in at the top. The organization is now pulling in a modern, unified direction. Sure, they’ll make mistakes. And good moves don’t always work out (see Wood, Alex).
But Williams, Bell, Nick Krall and their staffs are earning the benefit of the doubt they’ll get to smart, informed answers. One might even say they are the next good Reds team, because they’re already here.