WTF Are the Reds and Braves Doing?!!

WTF Are the Reds and Braves Doing?!!

By Stevil, December 20th, 2016


Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips at the annual "Reds Ball", dancing with--and led by--true gentlemen, Dave Concepcion and Barry Larkin. Photo by Andy Lyons, Getty Images.

Almost exactly one year ago, the Reds sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox in a 3-team deal that brought back Brandon Dixon, Jose Peraza, and Scott Schebler. Many felt that the return was underwhelming considering Frazier's success. Hindsight makes the deal look decent, at least for the moment. But this was the start of a transition that is puzzling. Were the Reds attempting to rebuild? Are the Reds trying to rebuild?

Shortly after that move, the Reds traded Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees, after a deal with the Dodgers fell through. Chapman wasn't doing himself any favors with his off-field behavior, but the Reds settled for a return of Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda, and Caleb Cotham.

Once again, are the Reds attempting to rebuild?

At the deadline, the Yankees would deal Chapman to the Cubs for a return of Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford. You may not be familiar with many of the minor leaguers mentioned, but Torres is a highly-touted prospect, and this return was clearly better than the package it cost to acquire Chapman from the Reds. The Reds would make one notable move of their own at the deadline, sending Jay Bruce to the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Brandon Nimmo, and as insignificant as that may be, they also simultaneously managed to fail to move Zach Cozart to the Mariners, as they foolishly believed they could extort Jerry Dipoto for their top pitching prospect (and then some). We would later hear that they simply ran out of time to get that deal done. Right.

After a predictably disappointing 2016 season, the Reds decided they needed a change, which was probably at least partially inspired by the transactions that happened, and didn't happen. And so, Dick Williams was promoted from within to right the ship.

Yet here we are on the 20th of December, and the two players they desperately needed to move, Zach Cozart (3rd year arbitration eligible, last year of team control), and Brandon Phillips (14 million owed, final year of contract), are still in Cincinnati. Phillps can veto deals, but surely he's moveable if they would eat some dough.

They once again failed to get a deal done with the Mariners, and apparently couldn't get the ball rollin' with anyone else. The reported asking prices are said to be incredibly ridiculous. How ridiculous you ask? Well, Williams was forced to sit at the kids' table at the winter meetings, so I think that gives you a pretty good idea. He had Jello for desert, while the real GM's had Crème brûlée. He was lucky to get Jello.

Virtually every team expected to be in contention that was in need of middle-infield help has found an answer without Cincinnati, so he may find himself at the kiddy-table elsewhere real soon. Personally, I'm glad a deal couldn't be reached with Seattle. Despite my admiration of Cozart, I like Segura a lot better, he has more control, and answers two needs for the Mariners (leadoff hitter and SS). 

To be fair, they're not getting fleeced, but they're still shooting themselves in the foot. WTF are the Reds doing?!! This is not how you rebuild a team, nor is it how you make yourselves competitive. Maybe they'll find a way to move Cozart and Phillips, though I suspect they'll gamble and try to move them at the deadline. Whatever. Williams is blowing it, just like his predecessor.

That brings us to the Braves.

Matt Kemp posing with fans after an offseason workout. Photograph from

Last offseason we saw John Coppolella clean-out Dave Stewart in what could only have been a high-risk poker match, taking home quite a haul, with Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, and Ender Inciarte leaving the table with him, and having only lost Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier. Great rebound for the freshly-promoted Braves' GM, who had just pissed off fans shortly beforehand when he traded Simmons to L.A. for Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, and Eric Aybar. But all was forgiven fairly quick after that deal with Arizona. It appeared Atlanta was rebuilding. These moves weren't very telling of what was to come, though.

Now,  keep in mind that Atlanta had also shipped Kimbrel off to San Diego just as the 2015 season was getting started in a deal that seemed underwhelming at the time (at least, I thought so), and has proven to be virtually fruitless. They had also brought in Nick Markakis via free agency. Signing aging players; trading young ones. Was that more telling than we realized? Does Coppolella have something against dominant, young relievers? An odd fascination with over-seasoned veterans? Markakis really needed to be moved last season. That didn't happen.

But there's more.

There was the incident with Hector. Olivera proved to be a heck of an expensive nightmare in way of cash, and players (Alex Wood and Jose Peraza went to LA), and had to be dismissed somehow. But rather than biting the bullet and cutting loses with a simple DFA, he was traded to San Diego for Matt Kemp.

Matt Kemp? WTF, Atlanta?!!

They took on a ton of salary for a player Coppolella suggested was simply out of shape, and once addressed, should be a productive player again, apparently unaware that Kemp was never a good fielder even when he was in shape, and his bat was as bad as his contract. I'm sure the modeling shots of Kemp plastered all over the internet were enticing, and it's possible he saw a marketing opportunity at hand in way of poster sales. That's about the only thing that makes sense, so put your money on that, as the reason Kemp is now in a Braves uniform. However, this will prove to be a bust. 

Maybe it's just me, but if you're trying to rebuild, moving out old players with little value and significant money owed would seemingly be an easy decision to make. Instead, we've seen more semi-expensive veterans added, such as Colon and Dickey, to complement a roster with unflattering corner outfielders, and a pen that still seriously lacks depth. They may just be 1-year deals (uh, Colon's and Dickey's), and if they're good, they could always move them at the deadline if the team is sucking. But it's still a waste of time and money, because they're not going to contend, and the returns for those two specifically wouldn't be significant. Need an example of how to do things right in a rebuild, pay close attention to Milwaukee.

And then there's also the swap with Seattle for Alex Jackson, a struggling young outfield prospect, for Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Sure, they had pitching prospects to spare, but that was yet another odd move--an unnecessary move. They need outfielders for the farm, but if it were my call, I'd be trying to find those prospects in exchange for the players that shouldn't have a future there.

Congratulations, Atlanta. You've half-assed a rebuild. Payroll will be considerably higher, and you have a lot riding on odd players--and perhaps too much pressure on players like Swanson, and Smith (if he's on the roster). Not the recipe for a winning formula in the short-term, nor the long-term. They still have a wealth of pitching prospects, but they appear to be shopping for an ace with that wealth, which would seal their fate as offseason failures. An ace isn't going to be the difference. They're simply not a team built well for serious contention. Says me.

So, WTF are the Reds and Braves doing?!!

The Reds and Braves are serving as prime examples of what not to do. On the flipside, the Red Sox and White Sox are showing competence, as are the Mariners and Yankees. The Brewers are well-positioned for the future, serving as the model for how to conduct a proper rebuild. And on that note, I'll excuse myself from this rant and put in an order for vegan Crème brûlée--and I'll eat it at the adults' table...with my bib.

UPDATE, December 29th, 2016: The Reds have since done virtually nothing to move Cozart or Phillips, nor have they done anything to address their lack-luster bullpen or rotation. So logically, they promoted Dick Williams to President of Baseball Operations. Now to be fair, Phillips reportedly nixed a couple of trades last season, but the word around baseball is that he is open to waiving his 10/5 rights for a trade, but teams are hinting that Williams' asking price for each player has been ridiculous.

The Braves have since wisely inked Inciarte to a multi-year extension.


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