Photo Credit: David Meyers (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_American_Ballpark_2.jpg)
The Reds have won back-to-back games. No, that wasn’t a typo, and you aren’t seeing things. This isn’t the sign of the apocalypse...I think (I hope). The Cincinnati Reds, the same team that had an 11-game losing streak 15 games into the season, the same team that went on a 1-21 stretch from April 12 through May 5, the same team that has the 3rd worst team OPS and the worst team ERA, just won two consecutive baseball games against real, legit, honest-to-God, professional baseball teams.
Behind a huge effort from third baseman Brandon Drury and a host of other offensive contributors, the Reds overcame a 3 - 1 deficit in the fifth inning to knock off the division-leading Brewers 10 - 5 Monday night. Drury homered and knocked in three runs, continuing his strong start to the season, while starting pitcher Luis Castillo, in his first start since returning from the IL, managed to go 4.2 innings for the Redlegs. That’s an exceptional start for a Reds pitcher these days, if you didn’t know.
With Castillo back from injury, and Tyler Mahle coming off a strong start on Sunday, the Reds’ rotation may finally be able to stabilize. But the question is, does any of this matter?
In the long run, no. Even with Castillo and Mahle at their best, the Reds will not have anything more than an average MLB rotation in 2022. Hunter Greene, for all of this prodigious talent, has been downright terrible over his last three starts. Nick Lodolo, the Reds’ other top pitching prospect, has had an up-and-down season as well. As for Vladimir Gutiérrez and Reiver Sanmartin…for the sake of everyone’s eyeballs and mental wellbeing, I think it’s best we do not rehash Gutiérrez and Sanmartin.
Joey Votto, the Reds’ long-suffering superstar, remains on the 10-Day IL with an illness. Maybe he’s just sick of losing. I can’t blame him. Even with the Reds currently on their longest winning streak of the season, they would have to finish the year going 75 - 58 just to reach 81 wins. That’s a .564 winning percentage for the remainder of the year, and I just don't get the feeling the Reds are going to be winning many back-to-back games this year.
In fact, the strong play of hitters like Drury and Colin Moran only makes them more likely to be traded at the deadline. Let’s face facts here. The Reds’ front office is going to have one eye on 2023 and beyond as the rest of the regular season plays out.
Some rumors have even begun circulating that Castillo and Mahle could be on the trade block. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Both are young starting pitchers with upside, but more importantly for the Reds, they both could get a whole lot more expensive before the team is ready to compete again. Both Castillo and Mahle will be up for arbitration next year and then will be unrestricted free agents in 2024.
Perhaps the biggest move the Reds could make is moving Votto, the last vestige of former Reds’ glory. And by glory, well, there isn’t a whole lot to speak of - just four playoff appearances since 2007, Votto’s first year in the Bigs.
Moving on from Votto would sting, no doubt. I imagine it will sting worse than one of those murder hornets (remember them?). But nothing could sting worse than the idea of Joey Votto, one of the greatest hitters of his generation, never advancing even one time in the postseason. He deserves a shot at a World Series. If the Reds can’t provide that opportunity, then they owe it to their franchise icon to give him that chance.
What could the Reds get in return? Honestly, not much. Votto turns 39 in September and is still owed $25 million in 2023, with a club option in 2024. Considering he's batting .122 on the season with a .135 slugging percentage, the Reds might be lucky to recoup a long-shot prospect. Still, it would be better than wasting the remainder of Votto's illustrious career in Cincinnati playing for a team that's currently 18 games under .500.
Am I raining a bit on the two-game winning streak parade? Yeah. I guess my cynicism towards the Bengals has slowly but surely redirected itself towards the Reds. Such is the burden of being a fan in the city of Cincinnati. C’est la vie.