Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams chatted over a few elements of the club’s trade deadline approach with C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic (subscription link). Of particular note, he left no doubt of the organization’s intention to seek roster improvements over the next few weeks.
“We’re going to look around to see what we can do to make us better, which would put us in the buyer category,” says Williams. “We feel like we’re in the thick of the race so we think it’s important to see what we can do to improve the club,” he went on to explain.
The Reds have been much better since a terrible start to the season. But they don’t look much like a typical contender at 41-46. Fortunately, they’re far from buried due to the failure of any single NL Central rival to pull away from the pack. Entering play today, just 4.5 games separated the cellar-dwelling Cincinnati club from the pace-setting Cubs. (The second-place team in the NL West faces three times the deficit.)
It’s sensible for the Reds to continue pressing under the circumstances. They parted with some prospect capital for near-term improvements over the winter. While everything hasn’t gone according to plan, the club has little reason to pull out of the race now with a sell-off that likely wouldn’t net all that much future value.
That’s not to say that the Cincinnati front office intends an all-in approach. Williams says the club won’t “focus exclusively on this year, but we will be looking to see if we find deals that make us better.” With a determination to improve the club’s outlook now and in the near future, it seems that Williams and his staff will be most intrigued by controllable targets. (That said, he did not rule out entirely the possibility of limited rental acquisition efforts.)
If the Reds are in it to win it, then it seems the NL Central will have five buy-side clubs. The Pirates could yet pivot, or at least consider deals that improve their future outlook without stripping too much immediate talent from the roster. But they won’t be true sellers if they stay within a few games of the pace. A rapid turn from the Cincinnati org or one of its competitors could yet change the math, but it appears likeliest that the full pack will remain in the chase.
It is fascinating to consider the ways in which this dynamic will shape the market. For one thing, most if not all of the potential rental targets on these rosters won’t be put up for sale. Even if most of the teams only operate as limited buyers, all will presumably be looking into adding assets. That’ll skew the overall market development quite a bit — particularly if the NL Central teams engage in any amount of direct transactional competition or hot stove one-upmanship with their inter-division competitors.