View Full Version : For Real Enough to Deal? --Marc Lancaster Post 7/13/06

07-13-2006, 10:15 AM

By Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter

There has been talk in Detroit lately about the Tigers going for it - doing whatever it takes to acquire an extra player or two for a playoff run.

Considering the circumstances in which the Tigers find themselves, that's an easy call to make. They haven't been to the postseason since 1987, and they entered the All-Star break with the best record in baseball, 59-29.

For a team like the Reds, though, there is a certain quandary about how to approach the coming weeks.

At 45-44, the Reds have exceeded just about everyone's preseason expectations, but they haven't been playing very good baseball lately. They begin second-half play tonight just four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the division race and one and a half games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild-card standings, but they know the price to add a key piece for the stretch run could be prohibitively high.

The Reds demonstrated at times during the first half that they could win consistently with the pieces already in place, but they also showed how vulnerable they are if things start going wrong. With so many playoff-hardened teams around them, it's difficult to envision a scenario that has the Reds hanging in until the very end without adding a player or two of significance between now and the end of August.

General manager Wayne Krivsky has had success in getting something for little-to-nothing several times already in his brief tenure, with Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips, David Ross and Scott Hatteberg the familiar examples. He hopes he did it again just before the break in acquiring Eddie Guardado (and a check for most of the reliever's remaining salary) from the Mariners for a minor league pitcher, but he can't be done there.

The Reds don't have many chips to deal away, with a farm system still barren of alluring prospects at the higher levels and few expendable players on the big-league roster that would interest other clubs.

Before Ross suffered an abdominal strain last week, a deal involving one of the other catchers seemed likely before the end of the summer, but the Reds probably will have to hang onto Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin until they see how serious Ross' injury is. Other teams reportedly covet Class AAA outfielder Chris Denorfia, and Ryan Freel likely would draw significant attention if made available, though his sore shoulder could put a damper on any such talks.

The problem is, none of those players would attract an impact player in return, and they may be too much to give up for a middle reliever or two that would help address the Reds' greatest area of need.

As for giving up someone like Denorfia, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Jay Bruce or Joey Votto for short-term assistance, that's a tough call. The aforementioned 1987 Tigers rode into the postseason on the arm of August acquisition Doyle Alexander, but Detroit probably wouldn't have suffered as much in the nearly two decades since if it hadn't given up a minor league pitcher named John Smoltz to get Alexander.

Still, there is the unmistakable sense that Krivsky will do something - maybe several things - to give the Reds every chance to capitalize on the position they find themselves in right now. CEO Bob Castellini, who seems to physically suffer during losing streaks, likely will support just about any plan Krivsky and the baseball operations staff devise for making a postseason push.

Castellini, after all, is a Reds fan. Though he was part of the Cardinals' ownership group at the time, he watched Cincinnati miss the playoffs by one game in 1999, then slide to 85 wins in 2000, then endure five consecutive losing seasons before getting to this point.

Contention at the All-Star break is not a new phenomenon for the Reds, but this is the time of year Cincinnati's teams have fallen apart since 1999. The current group did nothing to dissuade Reds fans from doom-and-gloom predictions by losing eight of its last nine heading into the break, but there is ample opportunity for a recovery.

It probably will take a new body or two from the farm system or outside the organization, and it certainly will require a return to form by the players that put the Reds in this position to begin with.

Mostly, they were pitchers. The Reds' starting rotation has surprisingly been among the league's best for much of the season, but has been slipping lately. The group produced only two quality starts in the last nine games, and both of them fit the minimum requirements for that stat - six innings, three earned runs allowed.

Even starts by Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang, which seemed to be almost automatic wins earlier this season, are no longer sure things. The Reds have lost three of Arroyo's last four starts and Harang's last two.

Reds pitchers have surrendered at least one home run in each of the last 13 games, a season-high streak that stands only four games shy of the club record. The bullpen has blown 11 of its last 19 save opportunities and holds the second-worst ERA in the National League, 5.16.

All of the other expected must-haves still apply, of course. The Reds have to keep key players healthy, cut down on errors in the field and find some consistency in hitting with runners in scoring position. But without improvement on the mound, everything else is moot.

07-13-2006, 01:24 PM
Not bad for writing this on vacation - good work Lancaster.

07-13-2006, 01:29 PM
Excellent summation.

07-13-2006, 03:00 PM
Good stuff

07-13-2006, 03:29 PM
well done.

Its a tough spot in many ways. The hope spurred by the new leadership is appreciated, but the good will could evaporate if they turn to sllers in two weeks.

Howvever, turning into a buyer and getting what you really need may prove too costly for the long term viability o fthe team.