The Reds are “open to adding a controllable hitter” this summer, according to a recent report from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link).
This bit of scuttlebutt seems mostly to reflect a few self-evident realities about the Cincinnati org’s situation. The Reds have steadily moved back into plausible contention in the National League Central and the NL Wild Card race. The club’s pitching staff has generally performed admirably while its bats have been surprisingly silent. Looking up and down the 2019 stat sheet, you’ll find a whole lot of average or worse hitters on this Cincinnati club.
Doing the math … Quite a few obstacles still separate the team from the postseason, so a present-and-future move would arguably be most sensible. Outwardly, at least, the lineup is an area for improvement. x+y = “controllable hitter.”
But does that really tell us anything about how the Reds will actually approach the deadline? For one thing, there’s still ample uncertainty in the team’s actual competitive position. It’s not hard at all to imagine the club slipping into the status of a rental seller, or stepping up to be a clear rental buyer. The Reds already invested in a series of one-year assets over the winter, so why wouldn’t they consider more if they are in relatively strong position come late July? Even if the club won’t go wild for the best rental pieces, it could certainly see value in some added relief depth and bench bats that make for nice platoon fits.
Neither is the area of need fixed in stone. Entering the year, the questions were in the pitching staff; some may yet arise. While Alex Wood has been sidelined (he’s now on the road back), the team has been quite fortunate to sport a five-man rotation unit that has taken all but one of the team’s starts and performed beyond expectations. The bullpen has been excellent but isn’t without potential questions of its own. Meanwhile, the talented slate of hitters may — some might argue, probably will — get things going in earnest. Rental bat Yasiel Puig is doing just that. Ditto Joey Votto, Jesse Winker, and Nick Senzel, each of whom joined Derek Dietrich in posting a strong past thirty days at the plate. (That includes Dietrich’s late-May burst; he has slumped of late.) Let’s not forget that Scooter Gennett is now on a rehab assignment, too.
It isn’t entirely obvious what position would best be targeted, either. You could say catcher, but good luck finding a quality, controllable bat in that spot. The outfield is far from perfect, but it looks increasingly accounted for with Puig and Winker hitting alongside Senzel. With Gennett’s return, Dietrich may need to find more of his opportunities on the grass. The left side of the infield isn’t exactly mashing, but Eugenio Suarez is a fixture at third and Jose Iglesias has provided excellent value at shortstop.
It’s always worth paying attention to indications of a team’s own assessment of its needs. But this particular early signal seems a bit too vague to have all that much informational value in divining the shape of the summer trade market. The Reds are certainly an interesting team to watch. They may well end up in a sort of opportunistic hold position, standing pat with most current MLB assets while exploring the addition of a controllable hitter at some position or another. But it seems just as likely that the club will end up simply selling a few of its pending free agents or buying a couple of veteran bench pieces.