Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joey_Votto_(28915859807).jpg)
“We're buying the Reds to win. Anything else is unacceptable,” said Bob Castellini at a press conference one day after the Cincinnati Reds’ sale was approved. It seems that in the twelve years since taking over, Castellini has embraced losing.
When Castellini became the new principal owner of the Reds in 2006, the Reds had not been to the postseason since 1995. In taking over for the departing Carl Lindner, Castellini promised Cincinnati that a winner would return to Great American Ballpark.
Since the MLB Lockout ended on Thursday, March 10, the Reds have shipped starting pitcher Sonny Gray to the Minnesota Twins, starting outfielder Jesse Winker and starting third baseman Eugenio Suarez to the Seattle Mariners, and reliever Amir Garrett to the Kansas City Royals. In return? Every owner’s favorite thing: cap relief.
Now, I should mention that there were also prospects included in these trade deals, but these returns were pitiful. For Gray, one of the Reds’ most reliable starting pitchers, a guy who’s been their Opening Day starter, the Reds received an 18-year old. Yes, he was the Twins first round pick last year. But honestly, so what? How many 18-year old first round draft picks have failed to ever sniff the majors? Too many to count.
In return for Winker, the Reds most consistent hitter last season and a home-grown All-Star, and Suarez, the Reds got a package of players, none of which is younger than 24. Justin Dunn, the elder-prospect at 26, has been up and down between the majors and the minors for the past three seasons and projects as a solid relief pitcher at best. You know what teams need good relief pitchers? Competitive teams. The Reds needed a reliever like Dunn last year. This year, the Reds are going to be so pathetic it won’t matter.
Today, the Reds traded Garrett to the Royals in exchange for 34-year old starting pitcher Mike Minor. Minor had a 5.05 ERA last season and will make about $10 million in 2022. The Reds already had Wade Miley. He’s 35 and coming off a season in which he threw a no-hitter and had a 3.37 ERA. The Reds could have just kept him. Instead, they decided to release him to waivers and watch as he signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs that will pay him…about $10 million per season.
It’s so utterly, completely and indescribably shameful what’s happening to the Reds’ baseball team right now. One year after finishing with 83 wins and barely, just barely, missing out on the playoffs, Castellini and the Reds’ front office decided to punt on 2022. They could have brought in players to supplement what the Reds already had in place. Instead, they liquidated their assets.
The team the Reds will field in 2022 will be a shell of the team that competed in 2021. I feel so horrible for Joey Votto. For his entire career, he has been a consummate professional. Ever since he first broke into the big leagues with the Reds in 2007, he’s been a dynamic and dangerous hitter, consistently ranking amongst the greatest active players in baseball. He’s been an on-base machine. Now, he’s stuck on another rebuilding team.
“It would be a shame for the last clinching game of my career to be in an empty stadium in Minnesota [in 2020],” said Votto in an interview on March 14. “I’m grateful for that moment but I have higher expectations to be part of other large Major League moments. That’s without question concerning to me. I’ve been in the same uniform my entire career. We haven’t done enough winning.”
I wouldn’t blame him at all if he demanded a trade. He owes the Reds’ front office nothing. There were times where his gigantic 10-year, $225 million contract he signed in 2014 looked like an albatross, especially in 2020, but he turned it around and had an excellent 2021 season. He looks primed to continue his late-career renaissance. If that man wants to play for a contending team, he should. He deserves it.
To be perfectly honest, if the Reds are going to blow up their team like this, they really should just go all the way. Ship out Votto. See ya, Mike Moustakas. Adiós, Luis Castillo. I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager even Minor will be on another team by the trade deadline.
It’s so heartbreaking to see this happen again. The Reds were supposed to be coming out of a rebuild in 2021. It’s back to square one, I guess.
Hopefully, the city of Cincinnati will not stand for this. Castellini and the ownership group have money to spend. Don’t believe them when they cry “poor.” Baseball brought in $10 billion in revenue in a pandemic season. Baseball might not be the national powerhouse it used to be, but financially, every baseball owner is just peachy.
Best case scenario? Fan outcry is so harsh and attendance is so poor that Castellini is forced to admit he screwed up with these moves. Maybe he’ll cave and sell the team. Don’t everybody hold their breath.
One of the most frustrating parts of this entire experience is it could have played out so differently. Most Reds’ fans understood that the 2022 edition was similar to the 2021 edition. That meant likely playing for a Wild Card spot. The Reds’ front office could have waited until the trade deadline, evaluated the roster and the team’s chances to make the playoffs, and sold-off then. They decided they couldn’t wait that long. No, they needed to ensure the Reds would suck all season, not just the second half.
Despite all the negativity, there still is some hope. Jonathan India is a year removed from being named NL Rookie of the Year. With backup Tucker Barnhart also out the door, Tyler Stephenson is now established at catcher. Top prospects Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo could be ready to contribute to the big league starting rotation. Maybe one of the prospects the Reds acquired in these trades can make an impact in 2022.
None of this eases the sting of losing four of the Reds’ best players in less than a week. Reds’ fans are already staring at another lost season. Just to add another kick in the shins, the Reds won’t even get to celebrate Opening Day in Cincinnati.
Reds fans deserve better. After watching the Cincinnati Bengals lose to the Los Angeles Rams in heartbreaking fashion in the Super Bowl, the Reds were supposed to be the team that kept the momentum going. Instead, they looked at the Bengals’ success and thought, “What if we went in the opposite direction?” In 2022, Reds’ baseball is losing baseball, and for Bob Castellini, that is acceptable.