Yesterday we started a feature that will break down each team's offseason. We started with the bottom-of-the-bottom: the Philadelphia Phillies. Now it's time to look at the worst team in the NL Central. Arguably the hardest division in the entire league, the Cincinnati Reds won one more game than the Phillies, going 64-98. That's the franchise's worst record in over three decades. Unfortunately, there doesn't look to be a whole lot of promise for the Reds heading into 2016.
The Free Agents
There were none. It doesn't get much easier to break this down. Other than Blake Wood and Jordan Pacheco types -- just to name a couple -- Dick Williams and the rest of the Reds front office sat out of the free agent market.
For a rebuilding team, that isn't necessarily a bad thing though. After all, the goal is to stockpile the highest draft picks possible and it is no real mystery that you do that by tanking. The Reds seem to be taking a very obvious run at that though, which is a little bit more rare. At least the Phillies made a bit of an effort on low-risk, maybe-some-reward guys like J.P. Arencibia and Ernesto Frieri type players.
If the Reds missed on free agency, then they almost completely struck out in the trade market. With Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips all seen as trade bait, the Reds have managed to part ways with the two best of those four, and have little to show for it.
Frazier was involved in a three-team trade in which the Reds acquired Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, and Brandon Dixon. Peraza seems to be the headlining prospect, but according to the newly-released Baseball Prospectus top 101 prospects list, he ranks 81st. That's just not a good enough haul for a 4-win third baseman, even if he does only have one year left under contract.
After a deal for Chapman with the Los Angeles Dodgers fell through due to his alleged involvement in a domestic dispute, the Reds found a taker for their closer in the New York Yankees. In exchange, the Reds ended up with Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis. Davis, who is going into his age-23 season, played at Double-A last year and has shown a good ability to keep the ball in the ballpark mixed with relative success at striking out and not walking batters.
The kneejerk reaction might be to forgive the Reds. After all, parting ways with Chapman was the right thing to do. However, the haul they got for the best closer in baseball seems beyond unreasonably low. There's selling low, and then there's this. In all fairness, I am glad Williams and the Reds found a taker for Chapman. However, as a baseball move, this is difficult to applaud.
Reasons to Worry
At this point, there isn't much left to worry about because all the worrying has been done. The Reds look to be a 100-loss team on paper with no real prospect of getting better. They still have Brandon Phillips making $27 million over the next two seasons. There was a time in the offseason where it actually seemed like Phillips had been traded to the Nationals, but that also fell through.
Furthermore, the Reds very little in the way of top tier prospects. Robert Stephenson sits atop their prospect pool according to Baseball Prospectus, as the 30th-best prospect in all of baseball after slipping by 14 spots.
What's weird is, with such little hope, it feels like Walt Jocketty and Williams' jobs are safe thanks to ownership. Teams like the Brewers and Phillies have shown that they wish to change. But perhaps the Reds still deserve some patience in the matter. Maybe.
Reasons for Hope
It's tough to pinpoint any particularly bright ray of hope.
First of all, Phillips isn't as bad at second base as some would have you believe. However, his bat has slipped over the past three seasons which is troublesome.
Second, scouts fawn over Stephenson's fastball which could likely make its way into the majors as early as this season.
Third, one would hope if the Reds' management has waited this long to deal Bruce, then they are waiting for the right deal. It would be a disappointment to Reds fans to see another loss in the trade market.
Fourth, Joey Votto is still one of the best players in baseball. And Billy Hamilton is an exciting up-and-comer, especially if he got on-base more. And Anthony DeSclafani had a pretty good rookie season. At least fans will be treated to watching them play. If Votto is made available -- though, it should be noted, there isn't much reason to think he will be -- he might bring back a substantial return.
In short, there aren't a whole lot of positives. Reds fans might be treated to a season of playing armchair-GM, if that's your thing. And hey, Homer Bailey may throw his once-a-season no-hitter. But otherwise, this season might be pretty tough to watch.