The Cincinnati Reds are currently 10.5 games back in the National League Central, a division filled with three legitimate playoff contenders. So, although Cincinnati finds itself only three games below .500—and with as many wins as the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are in first place in the National League West—it is unlikely that the Reds will be playing meaningful games come September.
The Chicago Cubs have the best record and run differential in the majors, recently added Rich Harden and have a potent offense. The Milwaukee Brewers, who have received four strong outings from recent pickup CC Sabathia, and the St. Louis Cardinals are right there as well.
Which means that the playoff drought in the Ken Griffey Jr. era will only continue.
There has still been plenty of excitement involving the Reds this season.
Some of the highlights:
General manager Wayne Krivsky, who took a chance on Josh Hamilton and then shipped him to the Texas Rangers for Cy Young candidate Edinson Volquez, was fired a month into the season.
Jay Bruce mania took on a whole new level following his brilliant first week in the majors.
Griffey hit his historic 600th home run down in Miami, becoming the sixth player in baseball history to join the prestigious club.
Volquez has been unhittable at times, posting the third-lowest ERA (2.49) in the majors. The talented young right-hander has even drawn comparisons from scouts to Pedro Martinez as he continues to miss bats (129 strikeouts) and offer hope for his franchise.
Future Looks Bright
The future, in fact, looks bright in the land of Skyline Chili, as the Reds have a strong core of young talent to build around under team control for the next several seasons. The group is highlighted by Bruce, the top prospect in the minors headed into spring training, promising rookies Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto, Volquez and perhaps Homer Bailey, if he can improve his command and finally live up to his tremendous potential.
For now, the franchise has some important decisions to make with the July 31 trade deadline looming. Perhaps the most intriguing situation involves Adam Dunn, who is among the majors’ leaders with 29 home runs but is one of the most polarizing players in the game.
Dunn, who was criticized by Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi on his radio show in June, continues to aggravate some baseball traditionalists. Critics or not, he is still mashing long home runs, striking out a lot and taking his walks to fit the description of the ultimate Three True Outcome player. The left-handed hitting slugger, on a tear right now, has reportedly drawn interest from the New York Yankees, but new GM Walt Jocketty has not received many phone calls with interested suitors for the potential soon-to-be free agent, who is making $13-million in 2008.
Ricciardi cited Dunn’s low batting average, high strikeout totals, apparent lack of hustle—a misguided statement—and poor defense as reasons not to pursue him, despite the Blue Jays' inability to consistently score runs. He is not alone in his assessment, though, as many within the industry share the same sentiment.
So, is it really a surprise that several of the contending teams currently desperate for offensive help refuse to contact the Reds to look into making a potential deal?
Perhaps the most legitimate concern mentioned by Ricciardi, his poor defense, makes Dunn a perfect candidate to move to the American League, where he can become a full-time designated hitter. Many also correctly cite that his numbers are inflated by playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. Making matters more complicated, he has a limited no-trade clause, featuring 10 teams.
However, the Yankees, who discussed the possibility of brining Barry Bonds on board in meetings this weekend down in Tampa, may make a legitimate offer, as they are expected to be without Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada indefinitely and the financial burden of his contract will not be an issue for them. New York GM Brian Cashman, however, is weary about giving up mid-level prospects, which could stall the discussions.
Despite such a low batting average, the 28-year-old left fielder has a .944 OPS, thanks to his excellent .389 on-base percentage and high walk totals (he is also surprisingly fast, so leave the “clogging the bases” nonsense at the door), and will help any offensive unit. He is also slugging .568 with runners in scoring position, cashing in on plenty of RBI opportunities. Quite frankly, as much flack as he gets, he is among the most productive offensive players in baseball. Not to mention, he has been on a tear of late, hitting 11 homers in his past 21 games.
Dunn, though, is only one of several veterans—including Griffey—whose days with the Reds are perhaps nearing an end. The Reds, in fact, have 13 players on their 25-man roster eligible for free agency at season’s end.
This has made things interesting for Jocketty, the longtime St. Louis executive who is reportedly still thinking Wild Card—which is not going to happen—and has not formally announced whether or not he will be a buyer or a seller at the deadline.
So, it will be interesting to see if Dunn, starter Bronson Arroyo, linked to the Colorado Rockies, or any other Reds will get shipped.
Arroyo has $25-million remaining on his deal and wants to stay, but his recent performance has attracted a few desperate suitors. He is perhaps most likely to go.
Griffey is staying put, perhaps Dunn as well, but if there is a way that Jocketty can improve this club with an eye on 2009, he should definitely take it.
The franchise should shift its focus towards becoming a legitimate force in the future, though several of their potential trading chips are not exactly lighting up the rumor wire. With such an excellent young core is in place, as well as an unrealistic chance for Cincinnati—which ranks 17th in runs scored and 21st in ERA in the majors and has scored nearly 50 fewer runs than it has allowed—to make a run, they should look to sell.
If the opportunity is there for them to cash a veteran in for a few promising prospects, expect some moves in the upcoming week.
Reds fans should hope someone budges, at least.