The Brewers and Reds are maintaining “ongoing” talks about the potential for a Matt Harvey swap, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, but outside of a move to send out their lone impending free agent, is seems the Reds may have a quiet deadline. President of baseball ops Dick Williams told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon yesterday that “other teams aren’t spinning their wheels talking about players we’re not interested in moving at this point,” and there’s even been talk of Cincinnati adding pieces controlled beyond the 2018 season in an effort to return to contending next season.
Williams, in fact, confirmed as much to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic on Thursday (subscription required), plainly stating that the Reds have inquired on players they “see as fits for us in the next few years.” Rosecrans likens the possibility to Cincinnati’s 2009 acquisition of Scott Rolen as a sub-.500 team at the deadline (and takes an interesting look back at that scenario, talking to Williams, former GM Walt Jocketty and first baseman Joey Votto about that swap). “We think our window is opening up and we may not be able to wait until the offseason to acquire a player we like,” said Williams before going on to acknowledge that starting pitching is an area of need.
Of course, to simply call the rotation an area of need would be underselling the importance of bolstering the starting staff in Cincinnati. Reds starters have pitched to a combined 5.25 ERA that ranks among the 15 worst performances of any collective starting staff in Major League Baseball dating back to the 2010 season. The only Reds starters with an ERA under 5.00 are Matt Harvey, who will be traded within the next few days, and Tyler Mahle (4.53). The Cincinnati rotation ranks last in the Majors in FIP (5.30), 23rd in xFIP (4.57) and 26th in SIERA (4.61).
To be sure, the Reds have youth on their side in many cases, as none of Mahle, Luis Castillo or Sal Romano is even 26 years old yet (nor are Triple-A options Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Jose Lopez). Nonetheless, it’s still eye-opening to see a team without even one starting pitcher performing at a league-average level begin to discuss adding pieces with an eye toward contending in the very near future. And given that multiple teams in the National League Central appear well-positioned to maintain some success heading into 2019, the road back to competitive baseball in Cincinnati looks all the more difficult to navigate in the short term.
That said, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal is the latest to tweet that dealing Harvey might be the only trade the Reds end up making. Cincinnati is “inclined to keep” affordable relievers like Raisel Iglesias, David Hernandez and Jared Hughes, each of whom has been at least speculated upon as a trade candidate.
It’s not entirely clear who the Reds even have eyes on attempting to acquire. The starting pitching market, generally speaking, has a dearth of quality controllable arms available in the first place. Rays righty Chris Archer is the most prominent name with a seemingly realistic chance of being moved, especially now that the Tigers are even unlikelier to deal Michael Fulmer when he’s on the disabled list. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, of course, have been prominently mentioned, though most reports indicate that the Mets are planning to hold onto both. Clubs have been inquiring on Orioles right-handers Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, but there’s been little indication that the O’s are open to moving either. The rebuilding Royals, meanwhile, reportedly have “no intention” of trading southpaw Danny Duffy.
The field may expand when looking at players controlled only through the 2019 season (e.g. Zack Wheeler, Kyle Gibson), though should be wary of surrendering much in the way of future assets in exchange for a player controlled for just one more season, given the uncertainty surrounding their current starters and the strength of the teams atop their division.