The Cincinnati Reds were certainly one of the most disappointing and frustrating teams in the majors last season. Offensively and defensively, the team remained one of the best in the league in each aspect. They ranked second in runs and fourth in fielding percentage in the NL. However, their pitching took a BIG step back, finishing 12th in the NL in ERA, 20th in the league overall.
So coming into this off-season, it was clear the Reds needed to make some moves. The team had a young duo to build off of in Votto and Bruce and some veterans in Rolen and Phillips. The team was just one year removed from a division title. This was a big off-season for the Reds, one that would tell fans and supporters what management was all about. With players like Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso, expendable, young prospects, the Reds had leverage to gain some serious talent.
Perhaps the biggest move to help them this off-season was by subtraction, not addition. The two teams ahead of the Reds in the division last year, the Cardinals and Brewers, lost arguably their best players in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, respectively. Then, the news of Ryan Braun being suspended for failing a drug test broke. I'm not sure if the Reds saw this as their shot, but just over a week later, the team made the move fans had waited for. They acquired a potential No. 1 option in Mat Latos, while giving up Grandal, Alonso, Edison Volquez, and Brad Boxberger.
While the deal was met with much scrutiny by the fans of the team, it showed the Reds had a mindset that they could win now. Latos had a great 2010 year and despite taking a minor step back in 2011, he was a very young player that the team had control of for a long time. By most accounts, Latos had the most potential of anyone available and bringing him in gives the Reds a dynamic one-two punch in Cueto-Latos.
Are the Reds the favorites for the NL Central in 2012?
What struck me most following the deal was when Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that they weren't done dealing and were looking for more pitching.
True to his word, Jocketty and the Reds finalized a deal for Cubs lefty reliever Sean Marshall. While they gave up a young Travis Wood, they gained what many think is the best left-handed reliever in baseball. By including Sappelt in the deal, it guarantees that the Reds will be looking for a veteran outfielder to pair with Chris Heisey in left.
All these acquisitions mean that the Reds are going all-in for 2012. With Brandon Phillips still not having agreed to an extension and Marshall scheduled to be a free agent come next winter, the lifespan of this team might be one more season. The Reds are clearing out the farm system for Major League talent.
On top of that, the interest level in Francisco Cordero has diminished and the Reds appear to be the front runners again. Bringing him back would solidify the Reds as having one of the best bullpens in the bigs.
As a fan, I'm all for it. As the old adage goes, pitching wins championships. The Reds absolutely had to upgrade their pitching this off-season and have done so significantly with the additions of Latos and Marshall. With the NL Central guaranteed to be weaker than ever, the Reds appear to be the early front-runners for the division crown. To those who complain about blowing up the farm system, I retort with "2012 NL Champs."
At a certain point, you have to turn young potential into proven talent. The Reds are doing just that and fans should be backing them, not criticizing.
Hats off to Walt and the Reds front office. You have me excited.