The fans were right all along – 2022 certainly has been another rebuilding year for the Cincinnati Reds.
Right up until the 6 p.m. trade deadline on Aug. 2, the Reds were busy scooping up multiple prospects in exchange for the team’s veterans and big producers. The team’s pitching farm has been replenished and the front office slashed cost commitments, but a true playoff run likely isn’t in the cards for this season.
On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Reds continued its fire sale by sending starting pitcher Tyler Mahle to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for three prospects. The 27-year-old Mahle has been solid with a 4.40 ERA over 19 starts, and his strikeouts are reliable with 9.83 Ks per nine innings this year. He tosses the fastball about half the time and is fairly even with success against both righties and lefties. The Reds drafted Mahle in round seven in 2013 and has developed into a top asset.
In a briefing with reporters, Mahle said that the time leading up to the trade was “hectic, just like a lot of anxiety,” but he’s looking forward to being in more of a pitching-friendly park on a team with big goals.
“I’m excited to join a winning club that’s gonna go to the playoffs,” Mahle said.
The Reds will add to their roster of new faces in the clubhouse with former Twins prospects Spencer Steer, Steve Hajjar and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. Steer – who plays second and third bases – was Minnesota’s No. 7 prospect, already is at AAA and shows big offensive upside. Starting pitcher Hajjar was the Twins’ No. 18 prospect, has a 2.47 ERA in Single-A. Corner infielder Encarnacion-Strand already has racked up 25 homers on the season.
Just after Mahle’s trade, the Cincinnati Reds unloaded infielder Brandon Drury to the San Diego Padres in exchange for one prospect. Drury, 29, has been a reliable third baseman and utility infielder for the Reds since joining the team this season. His offense in 2022 has been steady and even improved at Great American Ball Park over previous seasons, slugging .520 while notching 62 runs, 96 hits, 59 RBI and 20 homers.
Like Mahle, Drury said that absorbing the rumors of his trade was distracting and difficult, but he’s grateful for his time spent in Cincinnati.
“I was excited. The Padres have a great team, and I’m looking forward to going there and trying to win a ring,” Drury said. “It’s been pretty special to have two minor-league offers coming into the season and then to have Cincinnati to give me this opportunity to come here and put my career back on track. It’s amazing, and I can’t thank Cincinnati enough. It’s been a huge turning point in my career.”
In return for Drury, the Reds receive 18-year-old Victor Acosta, a switch-hitting infielder who was the Padres’ No. 6 prospect and who originally was acquired through international free agency.
The Cincinnati Reds picked up just one player outright before the trade deadline, and that’s catcher Austin Romine. Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for cash, Romine is an MLB veteran of 11 years who had been designated for assignment the day before the trade as catcher extraordinaire Yadier Molina returned to the Cards’ lineup. Since joining the Cardinals in May, Romine had just two runs and four hits over 11 games along with a .154 average. But before that, Romine did much better for the Cards’ triple-A team, averaging .318 and getting seven hits and four RBI in 22 games. With Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson on the injured list, Romine provides some relief in Cincinnati.
The Reds’ pipeline vision
The Reds have had a flurry of trade activity with a focus on acquiring prospects, trading away veterans like outfielder Tommy Pham, starting pitcher Luis Castillo and outfielder Tyler Naquin in recent days. All trades have yielded prospects with notable upside.
The trades are the latest in a series of veteran moves the Reds’ front office has made this year, which fans had predicted would become yet another “rebuilding season” instead of a playoff run. Fan enthusiasm and trust have been waning since the Reds lost free agents like 2021 All-Star outfielder Nick Castellanos and traded away big contributors like Jesse Winker, third baseman Eugenio Suárez and pitcher Sonny Gray. Just before the start of the season, Reds owner Bob Castellini said that he wanted to concentrate on developing younger players, and the team has indeed cut payroll.
Feeling betrayed and fearing that 2022 would not be a legitimate push for playoff glory, some fans raised more than $4,000 ahead of Opening Day for a billboard urging Castellini to sell the Reds to someone who would invest in winning. That I-75 billboard and fans’ growing lack of trust in the team elicited a sharp response from the Reds’ chief operating officer – and Bob Castellini’s son – Phil Castellini who told 700 AM WLW radio that Cincinnatians essentially just have to deal with it when the team repeatedly refuses to pay for productive veteran players. Phil Castellini later walked back his comments and sent an apology note to Reds staff.
The postseason has evaded the Reds in any meaningful way in recent years. During the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Reds made it to the Wild Card playoffs but lost the first round to the Atlanta Braves without scoring at all. Before that, Cincinnati hadn’t been to the postseason since 2013.
As of Aug. 3, the Cincinnati Reds are 42-61 for the 2022 season, which puts them in third place in the NL Central and seventh-to-last in the entire MLB. Earlier this year, baseball experts had said that the Reds were on pace for a 125-loss season, the lowest for any team since 1900.
The Reds will wrap a three-game series with Miami Marlins on Aug. 3 in Florida.
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