Ever since his buddy Tony La Russa took over the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this season, there has been speculation that Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty might also be heading to the desert when his contract expires after this season. Don’t count on it, says Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who thinks that Jocketty wants to take care of some “unfinished business” on the Riverfront. If that’s true what exactly does Jocketty’s continued presence mean for the Reds?
Well, there are two possible scenarios:
- Jocketty signs up for one more year and goes all-in for a World Series run in 2015.
- Jocketty sets his sites on the long-term and undertakes some sort of rebuilding effort.
Given that Jocketty is 63 years old and has painted the Reds into something of a corner from a payroll standpoint, the former seems far more likely than the latter. As Jocketty himself has pointed out several times this season, Cincinnati is hamstrung by a record (for them) payroll that doesn’t figure to get any friendlier without something drastic happening.
The team dropped in the neighborhood of $114 million on payroll for this moribund season, and they have already committed $80 million to 12 players for next year before taking into account Johnny Cueto’s $10-million club option. If the Reds want to make a big push next season, then they’re either going to have to take on more payroll or move some of the existing commitments to get the hitting help they desperately needed in 2014.
In a separate piece (video), Rosenthal opines that the Reds will need to trade one of their starting pitchers this off-season, before four-fifths of the rotation hits free agency in 2016. That seems about right, mainly because Cincinnati can’t offer much else to other teams. Even on the farm, most of Cincy’s top prospects at this point are pitchers, and they can’t afford to give up any hitters.
Of course, Jocketty probably missed his best opportunity to get maximum value in return for Alfredo Simon, but that still leaves Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto. Cueto is a true ace and should bring a blockbuster return, but it would be hard to see him go. Latos and Leake are not the sure bets that Cueto is but will probably command Homer Bailey-type money on the open market, so they’re prime trade candidates.
If Jocketty wants to make one final push with the Reds, several things have to break right for him in 2015: Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips need to be completely healthy, Jay Bruce needs a bounce-back season, unexpected heroes from 2014 (Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton) must continue to produce, and Jocketty himself must pull the right off-season levers to make the most of his current pitching surplus. It seems like a tall order, and a misstep could really stack the deck against whomever succeeds the current GM.
Trade targets are likely to include veteran hitters who can play in the outfield and hit with some pop. That particular species is pretty rare right now and will cost plenty, both in terms of players shipped out and salary commitments. Those types for hitters are generally not young, either, meaning that Jocketty would most likely be looking at guys nearing, or already in, their thirties.
The next GM, then, could inherit a team one season removed from playoff contention, but bereft of starting pitching talent or help in the minor-league and with an aging, expensive lineup.
If this all sounds pessimistic, well, that’s just the kind of taste that 2014 has left in our mouths.