Do you feel that? The tremors shaking every coffee table from Cincinnati to Bloomington are herds of fans fleeing the Reds bandwagon.
It was not too long after the Cincinnati Reds’ win on Sunday afternoon over the Milwaukee Brewers that the news broke that superstar first baseman Joey Votto was heading back to the disabled list. For anyone who has kept half an eye on this team over the past few weeks, this should come as no surprise—the man is playing on one leg.
Since his activation from the disabled list the first time around, his on-base percentage sits at .352, which is good, unless you are Joey Votto, and in which case that becomes average, and if there is one thing Joey Votto is not, it is average. Granted, he is paid to be much, much better than average.
The tricky thing about the game of baseball is the guaranteed money. Logically, most fans would believe that the more a certain player makes, the more obligated he should be to hustle down the first base line, play with all out enthusiasm, play through injury, and keep a constant smile on his face. Those that are making the league minimum (which is still a pretty darn good salary) should not be outworking the superstars. But, baseball works in exactly the opposite way you would expect.
This past off-season, Robinson Cano took tremendous heat from the New York Yankees and their fans for his lack of desire to run out ground balls. Besides the fact that it looks sloppy, not running on a baseball field just does not make much sense. On countless occasions, a fielder would stumble with the ball Cano drilled in his vicinity, just to recover in time to realize he still had ample time.
Over the past few years, Joey Votto has adopted this same tradition. To a fan base with the volume down and channel flipping between Pawn Stars, this can seem to be a lackadaisical effort from the team’s highest-paid player. What it really is is self-preservation.
Were the team to stand pat, the 2014 version of the Cincinnati Reds do not have a shot at the Postseason.
The above statement comes on strong, like too much hot sauce in your Skyline chili, but it serves as the cold truth. Even with arguably the best starting rotation in baseball, the offense has not been there consistently enough to believe this team could go on a sustained stretch of excellent play in order to claim a playoff spot.
Everyone down for Mr. Castellini, to Fox Sports Ohio broadcasters, to beat reporters, have said that there is no way Joey Votto will be anywhere near 100 percent for the remainder of this season. His latest DL stint serves as a logical one so that he can continue to recover while the club goes through the All-Star break. (For the first time since 2009, Joey Votto will not be an All-Star.)
In his super-sub role, Brayan Pena has done a magnificent job filling in for Votto at first base. Even though he has played well in limited time, Pena is not the answer. Nor is Donald Lutz down at Louisville.
There are a few baseball axioms in which I am a stark proponent of. One of which happens to be, “sometimes the trade you don’t make is the best trade of all.” I remember skipping around my living room as a snotty teenager when Homer Bailey was rumored to have been swapped for Jermaine Dye. How did that trade (or non-trade) work out? In this situation, the axiom need not apply.
Walt Jocketty has a history of making moves that build championship teams. He stole Scott Rolen away in the night, he acquired Jonathan Broxton for prospects, and he pulled the trigger on acquiring Mat Latos, the pitcher most ready for primetime spotlight.
Last week, we discussed how Ben Zobrist was a legitimate possibility for the Reds should they decide to unload something significant in order to acquire a player once of All-Star caliber. That move is wholly contingent on Tampa Bay ceasing their destruction of everything in their path.
Where a move can be that makes the most sense logically for everyone involved is with the Chicago White Sox.
It was August 11, 2008, and the Reds shipped off Adam Dunn to the Arizona Diamondbacks for what would turn out to be Dallas Buck, Wilkin Castillo and Micah Owings. Big ole’ number 44 was sent off in the night like a rusted anchor.
Maybe it serves as some irony that the man nicknamed “Big Donkey” could return to the “Big Red Machine” and be the missing cog. Even at age 34, Dunn has been having his best season since joining the Chicago White Sox (which honestly, is not saying much. His numbers have been downright dreadful). His .359 on-base percentage would not serve as a significant drop-off from what one-legged Joey Votto was producing.
The Chicago White Sox are more than likely not going to make a run at the American League Central crown under second-year manager Robin Ventura. One of the greatest players in the history of their franchise, Paul Konerko, is finishing out the final three months of what has been a brilliant career. The only issue—there is nowhere for Konerko to play. Cuban sensation Jose Abreu has lit the world ablaze down at first while Adam Dunn serves as the designated hitter.
Acquiring Dunn (a player much maligned in Chicago for the huge contract and very little reward) would serve many facets for White Sox fans. They would at the very least get something back for Dunn, who becomes a free agent at season’s end, while freeing a spot for Konerko to play every day down the stretch.
Even if Votto were to miraculously return to full health, one of the Reds’ biggest needs comes in the form of a left-handed bat off the bench. Dunn can play both first base and left field (neither position can he play well), as well as serve as a late-inning pinch-hitter. Not to mention, he is beloved by a majority of the fan base.
Going outside the organization to acquire a part-time first baseman for the remainder of 2014 may seem like an “under the carpet” type move, but the importance could mean the difference between lacing up cleats in October, or throwing logs in the fireplace while watching the Cardinals and Brewers play on national television.