I wrote a column two months ago, right when the Reds’ season was starting to cross over from its earliest stages into that period in mid-spring when we’re able to partially gauge what a team is and whether it will be in a position to add pieces for a playoff push or unload players and essentially concede defeat.
I opined that by the time the season reached the July 31 trade deadline, the Reds would be sellers. The team entered the season with modest outside expectations and then subsequently lowered them by losing eight of their first nine games, so I had little faith it was going to play well enough to put the front office in a position where adding players to aid a mad dash to the postseason was the only option. It was admittedly not the most cheerful take, and I’ll own up to hating myself a little more than usual for being the guy rushing to remind everyone that the Reds were probably not going to be as good as everyone had hoped.
The piece was edited, published, responded to, and since it’s tweeted at me every time the Reds win consecutive games, it was bookmarked. Which, great. I’ll admit though, that not long after it went live, I felt a little uncomfortable with what I’d written. It wasn’t that I feared ultimately being wrong – as a Reds fan, I badly wanted to revisit the topic later in the summer and take everything I’d written back. It was that the more I thought about the notion of the Reds being buyers or sellers, the more I thought about how much more nuanced the discussion would likely be as the deadline drew closer.
The Reds were probably never going to be buyers in the way we’ve come to define championship-hopeful teams that add whatever pieces at whatever cost. They also weren’t going to be sellers in the way we’ve long positioned non-contending teams. Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams was never going to spend blindly the way I did on Prime Day this year, but he wasn’t going to be unfurling banners outside Great American Ballpark touting his team’s liquidation sale either.
Fast forward to now, with less than two weeks remaining before the deadline. The Reds are not completely out of contention, yet not wholly in the hunt either.A 2-4 post-All Star break road trip has them planted alone and rather firmly in the basement of the NL Central, where they have resided by themselves for most of the season. Their record probably is an incomplete indicator of how well they’ve truly played, and few teams this season have been as interesting to watch and follow on a daily basis. But the one thing the Reds might be league leaders in is besides one-run games is grey area. The Reds are better, they’re just not good enough. They’re OK. Decent. They’re not quite as good as some would try to convince you when things are going well, yet not the stumbling, inept outfit others would portray them as when they aren’t. They’ve been just good enough to command attention deeper into the summer than usual, just not enough to make anyone look at the standings and believe they’ll be a factor in the fall.
The Reds are difficult to characterize amid a close jumble of National League teams that have done little to distinguish themselves from the others. The Reds can’t be buyers. They don’t need to be sellers.
What they can be, and what they need to be, is smart.
To read more, go to The Athletic.
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