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2018 MLB Trade Deadline: Are the Cincinnati Reds going to be buyers or sellers?

The Cincinnati Reds are amidst what could most optimistically be called a challenging season. Are they going to sell off a few pieces or are they going to go for more of a full on rebuild.

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. Make sure you come back and check out our preview of each team’s deadline plans, but for the moment lets look at what we can expect from the Cincinnati Reds leading up to the trade deadline.

Cincinnati Reds (29-45), Last in NL Central

Well, the good news here is that the Reds’ struggles are not surprising as they were widely expected to be among the worst teams in the National League in 2018. While they haven’t REALLY started trading away too many pieces to consider them in full rebuild mode yet, they certainly have the look of a team that should do so. Recent high draft picks Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene both show a lot of promise, although Greene is still a ways away from joining the big leagues.

One positive the team has going for them is that Joey Votto is still one of the best hitters in the game and he is under contract through at least 2023. If the Reds can continue to collect talent through the draft and through some trades potentially, Votto should still be around by the time they are competitive again...although there have already been some signs that he isn’t happy with the notion of being on a team that is going to lose a bunch in the near future.

Beyond that, the Reds have a few talented players (more on some of them in a second) but are an organization in desperate need of an injection of talent, especially on the pitching side. While their offense has been a middle of the road unit thanks largely to Votto and Scooter Gennett playing like an All-Star, their pitching staff ranks 29th in the league in 2018 in fWAR with 1.4 with most of the positive contributions coming from the bullpen. When one parses things further, the Reds’ rotation currently sports a -0.2 fWAR on the season which is far and away the worst performance by a rotation in the league this year.

Who could they move at the deadline?

For a team that has pretty clearly needed to rebuild for a while, the Reds have been very quiet on the trade front with only a few very minor trades over the last year or so. That SHOULD change this year as the Reds both have some players that could generate interest on the trade market as well as the fact that there is no illusion of contention that should keep them from making some moves.

Billy Hamilton isn’t a particularly good hitter, but he is among the fastest players playing the game right now and he is an elite defender in the outfield. Guys like that often become appealing for contenders looking to fortify their rosters in advance of a playoff run and it sounds like Hamilton will be available. Scooter Gennett is playing out of his mind this year with a 143 wRC+ and is under team control through 2019. He will be in high demand, but its also possible Reds fans would riot if he was traded. Raisel Iglesias is an intriguing bullpen arm that could net a decent return along with other pieces in the Reds’ bullpen which has been a bright spot during an otherwise dismal year for the Reds’ pitching staff.

There are other potential trade pieces with the Reds such as Adam Duvall, but many players have under-performed to this point in the season which limits what a realistic return would be. Unfortunately for the Reds, there just isn’t a enough talent on their roster to think that they could see a big injection of talent coming into the organization unless they are very bold.

The elephant in the room is Joey Votto. His contract is a lengthy and costly one, but it is also attached to one of the better hitting (and fielding) first basemen playing the game right now. The smart money is that the Reds hold on to him unless he just refuses to play for the team anymore, but the return for Votto would be huge for a team with a ton of holes that they will need to fill in the coming years.

Predictions

There is no question that the Reds should be sellers, but the extent of their sell-off will be telling. The team has picked in the top five of the draft for the last three years and it looks like they will do so again in 2019. Its possible with some of the college guys they have picked in recent years (Nick Senzel and Jonathan India) that they could feel like they could turn things around quickly, but they need pitching and none of their decent pitching prospects will be ready any time soon.

Trading away Hamilton and Gennett for some pitching prospects that have some ceiling and are close-ish to the majors to look towards the future seems like the smart play, but whether the team will actually do that is to be determined. The Reds don’t have a “Closed” sign in their window this trade season from the sounds of things, but they haven’t been mentioned as been connected to many teams yet either.

In short, the Reds are likely sellers at the trade deadline because the idea of them being buyers is a ludicrous notion at this point, but it is possible they won’t be as aggressive as they should be given their needs.