The 30-37 Reds sit tied for last in the talent-rich NL Central, but the team’s white flag still hangs far from full mast, as Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer explores. President of Baseball Ops Dick Williams, who embarked on a full-scale rental shopping spree last offseason, acquiring Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, the now-departed Matt Kemp, and Tanner Roark in win-now moves intended to revitalize a listless fanbase, explained his reasoning in a series of quotes for the piece.
“Our only focus right now is to get the most out of these guys, win and improve the roster where we can,” Williams said. “Right now, we’ve got Wood and Gennett as planned additions to the team. That’s two pretty good boosts. We still feel like this is very much an upwards trajectory. The potential is there for this team, this group of guys.”
Though it’s certainly conceivable that Scooter Gennett and Alex Wood, each still at least two weeks away from returning, with the latter perhaps closer to a month or more, could be the catalysts to jumpstart a sputtering Cincinnati club into gear and overcome the team’s long playoff odds (3.5%, per FanGraphs’ latest estimate), the rational outlook has the team entering preparations to sell, a fact of which Williams is surely aware. “There will be decisions to be made,” Williams noted, with the hard-to-ignore subtext hovering.
Puig, Wood, and Gennett entered the season as the team’s three most obvious trade chips, should the team’s course head south, though none of the trio now figures to net the return Cincy was surely banking on. Puig has endured easily the worst season of his career to this point, slashing just .222/.264/.393 (66 wRC+) while flashing little of his trademark ball-hawking in right field. Though Wood’s injury isn’t of the elbow, forearm, or shoulder variety, his history in that area is checkered, and contenders are unlikely to offer much for a rental mid-rotation starter just a week or so back from a three-month stint on the IL. Gennett’s value suffers from the same malaise as does Wood’s, though second-base offense around the league has slumped a bit this year, and his left-side thump may be just the plug a team with a gaping hole at the keystone needs.
Roark has thus far been excellent for the club, striking out batters at a career-best rate en route to a sterling 1.6 fWAR in 13 early-season starts. Deeper peripheral marks are unconvinced, though, as Roark’s 7.0% HR/FB is easily the lowest of his career, and his typically-high grounder rate has plummeted to far below league-average depths at 33.5%. His mid-to-back-end track record, too, likely won’t have teams champing at the bit to get a piece, especially with just two-plus months remaining on his deal at the time of a prospective deal.
The best course of action, then, may be for the Reds to consider perhaps-discounted extensions with at least a few of their free-agents-to-be. “We’re getting to that point where at least you want to put it on the table and start to see if there is mutual interest,” Williams said, while taking care to note that there’s “no urgency” on that front. Cincinnati did gift another offseason acquisition, Sonny Gray, with a longer-team deal of his own after he’d just finished the worst season of his career, so it’s possible this back-hatch pivot was a part of the Reds’ blueprint all along.