Rumors churn. Speculation rises. Teams pull off deals that seemingly put more pressure on fellow contenders to do something dramatic to make a statement. History has shown us that not all trades made right before the trade deadline pay off, but, simultaneously, they do often inject some new blood and excitement for teams that need it.
A LOT of speculation has been surrounding what the often-silent Walt Jocketty may be scheming as General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Many of us have no clue other than what the pundits have shared, and their expertise is based primarily on what is being heard through the grapevine. Other deals of late might be more insightful for what other top teams are doing, though.
The Reds most viable NL Central opponent pulled off a deal that might not be the end of their transactions. When the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt for Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros without sacrificing a lot in return, the initial thought in my head is “that’s a statement move” … but not necessarily what I expected the Pirates to do. There was a time I considered Wandy an underrated arm simply playing for less-than-stellar teams, but his numbers, especially this season, have pointed to a pitcher in decline. His strikeout rate is down, his ERA is up (not all his doing, of course), and he’s on pace for the most hits per nine that he’s given up since his first couple years in the league. How he fares pitching more games in pitcher-friendly PNC Park remains to be seen, but I don’t consider this a “slam dunk” given that anything swings in the Pirates favor in the race (yet). I still believe the Pirates most benefit from another bat (who, exactly, I don’t know). If (or when) they make that move, I might be more scared from the implications.
The team that has been unexpectedly quiet, in my opinion, is the St. Louis Cardinals. Their offense is more than potent, and what has held them back more often than not this season is lack of pitching depth. One right move for a quality arm could change things for this critical rival beyond belief, BUT the ability to find a good arm at this stage (when most are playing for other contenders) is going to get tougher as some arms have already started to move across leagues (see – Zach Grienke to the Angels just last night).
Speaking of Grienke (and following the Reds sweeping them only a short week ago), the Brewers have clearly waved the white flag on the 2012 season. The NL Central is effectively down to a three-team race (of which, before the season started, most would have guessed those three would been the Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers, respectively). How rapidly the Brewers have faded is really not that much of a surprise, but, as I speculated back in June during a Milwaukee series the Reds also took at handily, I’m wondering if other pieces on that squad (i.e. Rickie Weeks or Corey Hart, among others) are ripe for the picking. I’m in no way suggesting any other NL Central team would pluck them, but I won’t be shocked if other NL non-divisional teams might.
In a round-about way, I was considering talking about some of the other MLB trades that have been happening and what significance they might have, but the actions of squads like the Miami Marlins clearly show who are sellers about now. The Astros selling intra-divisionally was slightly surprising yet, considering their move to the AL West is imminent, less impactful in the grand scheme of things. Seeing the Mariners move a clearly declining Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees (in what has to be a payroll move, and not a bad one necessarily) makes minimal sense for the deep-pocketed New York bunch, but what they do is their business. So …
What are the Reds going to do? What *aren’t* they going to do? Jim Bowden, our “fearless” former leader at GM who was known for more than one reclamation project back in the day, does his analyzing for ESPN these days … and speculated specifically this on Twitter:
Reds continue chase of Span, Pierre and Victorino
I’m fairly certain we’ve all heard those three names – Denard Span (of the Minnesota Twins), Juan Pierre and Shane Victorino (both of the Philadelphia Phillies) – in the general rumor mill for quite a while. Bowden had made a preceding tweet only a few deals earlier that ONE of those guys was “definitely” going to be added to the Reds. But at what cost? Victorino can walk after the season – a true “rent-a-player” – and has been mentioned specifically in a deal that the Reds rejected for a Victorino-Ondrusek one-for-one discussion. I like the big man, having velocity and control that only seems to improve with time (despite a recent outing that everyone was a bit upset by). On the surface, Victorino could really benefit from a change of venue and may really excel on a team like this one … however, despite being a premiere player of the past handful of years, are his best days behind him? He’s having a career-worst year to-date but has career numbers (even up to last season) that are awfully likable. I’m of the “thanks but no thanks” sentiment that Juan Pierre is really worth much of anything at this stage of his career, despite having “okay” numbers this season as a Phillie. If I had more faith in his defense (and only playing LF in the past few years after being a CF for many years prior), I’m not totally against the idea. The best name of the three, in my opinion, is Denard Span. Span is the youngest (28, versus 31 for Victorino and 34 for Pierre) and is just showing signs of coming into his own. His career OBP is best of the three (and healthiest this season as well), but he’s guaranteed to hit for minimal power and also strikeout at a minimal rate to go with it. Why the Reds’ front office convened in Denver the past couple days does make one wonder … why Denver? Is there ANY possibility of something happening with the Rockies? Carlos Gonzalez would be far too costly (one has to imagine), but Dexter Fowler would look awfully good as a Red. I won’t go any further into that speculation (as most of us are just dreaming with any possibility there), so we’ll just stay focused with the “knowns” and not the “unknowns”. The more the Reds win, though, with the pieces already here the less that it feels like a move *has* to happen. A tried-and-true tablesetter would be a great thing for this team. Get that guy on base, put a BP in between him and Votto (when he returns), get Ludwick cranking in that four hole … it feels like a more dynamic offense. And, the crazy thing of it all, it’s not like this team can’t already score runs in bunches.
We shall see what moves (if any) the “puppet master” pulls over the remaining couple days. That may be the topic for conversation by Tuesday night.
Continue the conversation with me on Twitter @JDRentz.