Although the Reds’ offseason has consisted primarily of cutting payroll, general manager Nick Krall suggested to reporters this afternoon that his focus will now shift to adding to the roster rather than subtracting (Twitter link via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com). Specifically regarding sought-after right-handers Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, Krall stated: “I don’t see us moving any of those two players.”
Cincinnati’s offseason kicked off with Krall ominously stating that the organization needed to “align our payroll to our resources.” Those comments came in conjunction with the decision to waive Wade Miley and his $10MM salary following a strong season and to trade former Gold Glove-winning catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Tigers.
Following the lockout, the Reds traded veteran right-hander Sonny Gray to the Twins and attached third baseman Eugenio Suarez (still owed $35MM) to All-Star left fielder Jesse Winker in order to get the Mariners to take on the remaining salary. Cincinnati acquired prospects in both those post-lockout deals — pitchers Brandon Williamson and Chase Petty most notably — but the broader takeaway was that those trades trimmed nearly $50MM in payroll off the books.
There has indeed been something of a shift in philosophy today, as the Reds took on more than $7MM in salary when they flipped Amir Garrett to the Royals in exchange for veteran starter Mike Minor. They’ve also agreed to a $4.5MM deal with veteran infielder Donovan Solano. The moves certainly don’t make up for the losses of Miley, Gray and Winker, at least in terms of competitive expectations, but they do at least push back against the teardown narrative that had formed.
While some will wonder whether this is mere posturing, it’s rare for an executive to make public comments of this nature only to later walk them back. It’s possible that a team could simply overwhelm the Reds and force them to part with either Castillo or Mahle, both of whom are controlled via arbitration through the 2023 season, but it now seems likelier that they’ll open the year in the rotation alongside the newly acquired Minor.
If Castillo and Mahle are indeed off that market, that’s music to the ears of the Athletics, who surely won’t be making any such public declarations regarding lefty Sean Manaea and right-hander Frankie Montas. The A’s have already traded Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt as they look to trim payroll and stock back up on young talent, and it stands to reason that with heavy interest in both Manaea and Montas, further trades will follow suit. Subtracting Castillo and Mahle from the market only reduces the supply of available starters on the market and enhances Oakland’s bargaining power.