Mark Sheldon wrote today for mlb.com that Walt Jocketty and the Reds are definitely buying at the trade deadline. Speaking only for myself, this is good news…check that, this is exceptional news. When I sat down over the All Star break to join in on the Reds Roundtable one of the questions Steve Engbloom asked the group to answer was to rate the the job that Walt Jocketty has done this year. I have been thrilled to see the moves that Jocketty has orchestrated to build the team that won the Central, last year. 2011 has not been Walt’s finest hour. It never ceases to amuse me each day when the lineup card is revealed, how many Reds “fans” trash the lineup immediately. There are thousands of possible lineups that Dusty could use but only one thing is guaranteed. Several fans will take issue to each and every possible lineup. Walt is now faced with the same conundrum. Do you try and make fans happy or do you try and win baseball games?
I am certain everyone reading this just said to themselves, “I vote to win.” So this is what we face: Sheldon’s article suggested possible trades for either Ubaldo Jimenez or James Shields. My feeling is who we trade for is almost meaningless, but we MUST make a trade. So why not find someone ready to win for the Reds?The reason is simple, the 25 men on this roster before and after any changes are made, need to know the front office expects to win now, with or without any of them. Consider the last four series the Reds have participated in. Each and every game marked a failure of one or more parts of the Reds game. During this stretch of 13 games the Reds have gone 5-8. They won only 2 of 7 one-run ballgames. They were shut out 3 times, twice by a 1-0 score. They lost the run differential allowing 52 runs while scoring only 45. Only one time did they win a game by more than 2 runs (8-4 vs Brewers on July 9). In games where the pitching was good, the hitters did not show up. In games where a few runs were scored, the pitching failed. Only two starters recorded a single win. This team has forgotten how to play winning baseball. They need an attitude adjustment.
When a trade occurs, most players who have discussed the opportunity/challenge suggest that it is business as usual. They say personnel changes are just part of the game and you win with the resources you have. This is true but consider it from the perspective of the new man in the clubhouse. If James Shields comes to the Reds will he be excited? I think his adrenaline would be pumped a bit to show his old team, if only on Sportscenter, that they made a mistake. He is currently 8-8 with an impressive ERA of 2.60. He mixes ground balls and fly balls and would be a solid arm in the Reds rotation. What about Ubaldo Jimenez? He had a strong outing against Atlanta on Tuesday and is beloved by the Coors Field faithful but he knows he may be on the move. He sports a 6-8 record and a 4.00 ERA in Denver and is only now starting to return to the form that helped him become the NL starter in the 2010 ASG.
So what would make either of these players a benefit to the Reds? The Rays are in third place, 8 games behind the Red Sox but there are leading in the Wild Card standings by a half game over Cleveland/Detroit. Colorado is also in third but are 9.5 games behind the World Champion Giants and 10 games behind Wild Card front runner Atlanta. Certainly Colorado is known for their end of year rampages but this may be more than they can handle. I would argue that Jiminez would be excited to come to Cincinati and compete in a pennant race far more than Shields would. If the season ended today, Shields is already in, so fighting tooth and nail would come as something of a let down for him.
As for what to part with, the first decision the Reds need to make is to decide how far along in the development curve Yasmani Grandal is. Next they must look to see who has the greater value to the Reds organization, Devin Mesoraco or Grandal. Couple one of these two players with another prospect or two such as Yonder Alonso and make the trade already. This season can end in success but only if the players on the 25 man roster believe they can win. The last 13 games have given me the impression that each and every player on this team is convinced they are their individual success is the only way this team wins. What we need instead is a team belief that each man has everyone else’s back and all you need to do is relax and just hit.
One last change I would make if I were in Walt Jocketty’s shoes. I would bring the Louisville Bats hitting coach Adrian “Smokey” Garrett up to the Reds and let him work with the team on their hitting skills. Garrett has done a remarkable job with the Louisville squad. No offense to Brook Jacoby, but whatever he is preaching, none of the Reds hitters are listening.
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