I wrote this in another thread, but I guess it pertains more in this one.
The Reds are a good team with quality 'core' players today. But, should they lose any 2-3 starters to injury or ineffectiveness - should they lose Chapman to injury or ineffectiveness or should they lose Votto to injury or an unexpected decline in OBP and OPS - they will be in for a rude awakening. The Reds lack depth to make up for it, and lack payroll flexibility to do anything about it.
This is where the Cardinals have the Reds outsmarted. They lost Carpenter, Garcia to injury for basically the year and Westbrook to injury and ineffectiveness, they let Loshe walk in free agency and yet, they still had Wainwright, Wacha, Miller, Lynn and Kelly, with Carlos Martinez waiting in the wings.
They lost Motte to injury, then Boggs to ineffectiveness, and Mujica rised to the occasion. Once he became ineffective in September, Rosenthal stepped in and was better than all of em. Carlos Martinez snuck into the 8th spot.
Lose Skip, plug in Matt Carpenter. Lose Pujols, plug in Berkman. lose Berkman, plug in Craig. Lose Craig, plug in Adams.
This is the vision that Bill DeWitt, John Mozieliak and Jeff Lunhow had when they restructured their organization's drafting and development in 2003.
Jocketty wouldn't go along with it for some reason.
Yes, he was great at trading for and or signing expensive free agents and depleting the minor leagues to win "now". But one way to look at it was to say that he was really good at generously spending the owners money.
Jocketty was firm in his belief that the minor league production was completely secondary to major league results. The Big Club was all he was worried about. He used Memphis AAA as a way to stock questionable depth in case of injury to the big club. Instead of having young, 22-25 year-old-prospects taking at bats and pitching the innings, he stocked it with veteran MLB fallouts and career minor leaguers who were easy to call up and down on the 40 man roster.
In 2007, the Cardinals were 1 year removed from Jocketty's "lucky" World Series. I call it "lucky" because the Cardinals finished 83-78. They had a good team, but it was heavily reliant on some aging veterans and a starting pitching cast that had no depth beyond its first 5-6 options. Sound familiar?
They started 31-16, but when Mulder went down, went Marquis went bananas, 16 loses 6.00+ ERA, when Ponson got fat, they had nothing that was ready to take over. Anthony Reyes, a questionable prospect, was the only thing from the minor leagues that they could call up.
Their AAA team was stocked with former major league players, desperately clinging to a hope of remaking it in the big leagues. Other corners of that clubhouse was stocked with 5-8 year career minor leaguers who hadn't ever been good enough to make it, but were getting valuable at bats at AAA for some reason.
But when nothing from the minors worked out, they had to trade for Jeff Weaver, who was 3-10 with an 8.00 ERA with Anaheim, where they play in a pitchers' ball park. Jorge Sosa, 13 or 14 losses picked up off the scrap heap.
This was a Cardinal team who had just won 5 of 6 Division Titles and was coming off back to back 100 win seasons, still had their 'core' together and yet they fell to an 83 win team.
The next year they fell to a 75 win team.
What DeWitt had predicted had come true. The lack of drafting and development from within had created dead end for the Cardinals. Rolen was getting hurt more often and couldn't be counted on, but was taking up a lot of payroll. Edmonds was approaching his mid 30s. He wasn't the same player he was when he was hitting .300 with 40 homers, 100 runs, 100 RBIS a .400 OBP and the best CF defense in baseball. He wasn't doing that anymore, but they were paying him like one.
They had no plan to replace anyone, because Jocketty had spent all the money they owner was able to put in and he had contributed to the diminished farm system that was ranked last in all of baseball.
DeWitt fired him and went with Mozieliak, Lunhow and they went full steam ahead with their plan to build from within, with the financial flexibility to pay a few key core players that have the guaranteed production, character and leadership to be worth it. The rest of the team wasn't going to be filled with free agents, scrap heap pick ups, and by trading away cost controlled minor leaguers for expensive veteran free agents to be. It was going to be filled the players drafted and developed to play the Cardinals way, and players who earned it through their results and minor league production, not where they were drafted or their expected potential. And, they'd be cost controlled for up tp 6 or more years.
They went with that plan.
The Reds went with the Walt plan.
The Reds had the 2nd best ranked minor league system when they hired Walt. Which basically is another way of saying "arguably the best" in baseball.
The Cardinals were dead last.
Walt was good on his promise to be who he was. He's given the Reds a chance to win "now" with no promises about the future. He's done a great job of spending the most money the owner can allow, while depleting the minor league system and hoping like hell that the Gods shine down on the Reds and keep them healthy and productive. Because their is no backup plan.
Bryan Anderson, Skip Schumacher. These are the backup plans.
The Reds are in the same position today that the 2006-2007 Cardinals were in, but only worse. The Cardinals had already made a move to disrupt Jocketty's applecart three years earlier when he made the staff changes at the drafting and development level and increase their scouting and programs in Latin America.
They fell hard in the win column in 06 and 07. They went from 105 wins in 04, to 100 wins in 05, to 83 wins in 06, to 75 wins in 07.
The Reds are in the same position as the 06-07 Cardinals were under Jocketty. The only difference being, Castellini's plans are to ride it out with the Jocketty way.
Bill DeWitt, on the other hand, had already steered the ship in a different direction. Firing Jocketty was just the last remaining obstacle from making their plans come to fruition.
What is Castellini going to do with his scouting, drafting and development and how it relates to their major league payroll from this point forward?
That is the ultimate question.
If Jocketty is in the future plans, I don't see it having a happy ending.