Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Rebuild and Abandoning the Middle Path?

The Reds have (reportedly) committed to a tear down and a rebuild. Everyone is now (reportedly) available. The page has (reportedly) been turned at long last.

This qualifies as good news. Even the most starry-eyed optimist has to admit that this team isn't configured to win, especially in light of the divisional competition. The Cubs are only going to get stronger. The Cards are the Cards. The Pirates aren't aging out yet.

Quite clearly, changes must be made. MUST. BE. MADE. The Reds have aimlessly wandered the middle path between contention and rebuilding for too long. In the face of the inevitable end-of-days, they elected to dance the night away rather than face the looming specter of reality.

They held on to their fading reality until the wee hours of the morning. There's something oddly endearing about that, but the party is now over. Night is giving way to day and the rising sun is revealing the truth to all. Not even those who have chosen to be starry-eyed optimists can now deny in the harsh light of day the carnage strewn about the landscape. Hopes dashed here, best intentions fractured over there, and organizational dreams of success strewn about and trampled under foot like confetti from good times long since over.

It's time for sober, unflinching reality. The bill has come due and the good times have ground to a halt. It's time to get to work and clean this mess up. It's time to get rid of the stragglers still passed out on the coffee table and in the hedges. It's time to sweep away unrealized dreams and start anew.

The Reds had a good run. Fans may not appreciate it now, but they should. It's disappointing that this team never reached, much less won, the World Series. In hindsight, it all peaked and crashed on one swing of the bat by Buster Posey. We didn't know it at the time, but when Ryan Hanigan dejectedly hung his head as the ball arched up and into the left field seats at Great American Ballpark, he was hanging his head for all of us. That was our last, best chance for a World Series. We let it slip away.      
Now, we start over.

At the trade deadline, the Reds started the process. They at least recognized that 2015 was a lost cause and started trading impending free agents. So, we'll look back before we look forward and we'll do it quickly because the Reds are ready to move.

That said, the first thing the Reds need to do is figure out who they want to be. They need to develop a plan for roster construction before they break ground on construction itself.

1. Pick a rebuilding timeline and COMMIT TO IT!

Pure intent and full-on commitment can be the difference between success and failure.

While the Hot Stove is sizzling with news that the Reds are making everyone available, it remains to be seen what type of rebuild they envision. There are two different paths to take, quick or total.

A quick rebuild would basically mean trying to build around Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce while they are still in their peak years. A total rebuild would mean moving on from Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce.

Oddly, everyone else is either too old (Phillips) or too young (Hamilton, Mesoraco) to be much impacted by either type of rebuild.

For me, it comes down to whether the Reds are going to deal Todd Frazier. If they hold on to the Todd Father, then the rebuild needed to focus on upper level minor league prospects or young MLB talent. If they deal Frazier, then they can also target younger prospects.

Money is to baseball operations what velocity is to pitching: the more of it you have, the greater your margin for error. In those terms, the Reds aren't quite Jamie Moyer, but they clock in somewhere around Bronson Arroyo. Basically, the lower your payroll, the fewer misses you can afford to make.

Not only do the Reds not have much margin for error, but they also can't afford to roster surplus assets. To get back to being a contending organization they need to sync-up the productive years of their assets. It doesn't do them any good to bring assets who are 3-4 years away, because Joey Votto and Frazier will be in real decline by the time those types of assets are established and productive. Failure to sync up asset productivity just ensures that they will be consistently average for the foreseeable future. They may avoid valleys, but they also limit their chances of actually reaching the summit.

Sync it up, Walt!

2. Target Disciplined Hitters

One of the interesting things about last offseason's trades was that Walt seemed to really target disciplined hitters. Guys who could control the strike zone.

To recap, Walt landed Chris Wallach in the Mat Latos trade. He then landed Eugenio Suarez in the Alfredo Simon deal. Suarez hasn't shown it as much at the big league level, but in the minors he showed flashes of being able to control the zone and produce high walk rates.  I wonder if Walt recognized a deficiency in the system and took steps to address it.

This past draft, Chris Buckley, Senior Director of Amateur Scouting, made the statement that, when it comes to position players, he targets athleticism and up-the-middle players. Personally, I'd rather have a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of disciplined hitters. I wonder if Walt agrees with me.

I am hoping that Walt prioritizes acquiring disciplined hitters. If he does, then it might be evidence of his recognition that Chris Buckley doesn't focus on players with that type of offensive profile. As it stands, it's fair to wonder whether such a trade approach is necessary to compliment Buckley's draft philosophy.

Regardless, this team needs tougher outs in its lineup, which means fewer guys willing to give away outs and flail away at pitches.

Does the organization need to fill in through trade the gaps inevitably created by Buckley's draft approach?

Final Thoughts

The Reds now seem willing to tear it down and start over. It remains to be seen to what extent they will, but it seems like ownership and front office are finally on the same page and recognizing that the end-of-days has arrived.

This is an important and interesting offseason for the organization. If they do it right, then bottom of this cycle might be fairly shallow. If they flounder about, then they could be looking at a long, sustained period of irrelevance.

While I want an emphasis on disciplined hitters, the most important thing is intent. The organization needs full blown commitment to a plan. No more half measures or middle path, just complete and total buy-in to a clearly established plan for rebuilding. The competition is too intelligent, focused, and committed for us to find success without matching their efforts.

It's a huge offseason for the organization. The clean-up starts now.

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