The Cincinnati Reds have treated fans to a roller coaster of a season through the first 99 games of 2014, with some big surprises (starting pitching and Billy Hamilton) and some disappointments (much of the rest). Over the past month, I have been a big proponent of the Reds’ pursuing various trades to try and improve their shoddy offense, and we’ve covered quite a few potential trade candidates. Cincinnati has stumbled coming out of the All-Star break, though, and suddenly find themselves looking up at a slew of teams in the divisional and wild card standings. If the team can’t stanch their bleeding soon, general manager Walt Jocketty may have to consider the virtues of packing it in and becoming a seller at the trade deadline next week.
As of now, the Reds stand three-and-a-half games back in the National League Central division and three games off the wild-card pace, but there are three and five teams ahead of them, respectively. Since they’re playing the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, every loss directly drops them another game in the standings, making it that much more difficult to recover. The Reds continue to sputter along at the plate, and Jocketty has shown no urgency in trying to rectify the situation since Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips went down before the break.
If the Reds do continue to falter, then their best move may be either to stand pat or to look for some young upside in return for whatever excess value the current roster offers. The team is not awash in trade candidates who could contribute to another contender right away, but once name that jumps out is starter Alfredo Simon. Trading Simon at this point would be an extremely unpopular move, but there are a few reasons that it might be a smart one for the long haul.
At 33 years of age, Simon is in the midst of his first successful stint as a big league starter after five years in the bullpen and one mostly forgettable run in the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation. His 2014 season has the earmarks of being a fluke, and it seems extremely unlikely that he can duplicate it next year or beyond. If the Reds are out of it, now would be the time for Jocketty to cash in and make the most of Simon’s lightning in a bottle, through the trade market.
Of course, I still hope that the Reds can start winning again and begin climbing over the teams in front of them. But in order for that to matter this season, it has to start now, today, and the Reds need more offense. As Jocketty hesitates and the losses mount, hopes diminish in lock-step.