The Reds are & will continue to be a farm team for the big market teams(baseball economics guarantee it) but I think it’s possible for the “farm team” to compete with and even beat the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc. It can’t be done, however, in my opinion, by playing by the large market rules. For example, there are posters who’d trade a Bruce or a Bailey for a quick fix(a proven closer or #3 starter or a a RH bat). That approach is great for a large market team for several reasons - the acquisition might mean a World Series, the prospect can easily be replaced by an expensive FA in the offseason, and if the acquisition flames his salary will in no way hamstring the large market team. None of these facts apply to the Reds – A quick fix is very unlikely to be enough for the Reds to get to the Series.
The key for the Reds is to build and nurture a first class farm system(put our resources into scouting instead of FAs) – there is no other way unless they capture lightning in a bottle(Hamilton could be one) repeatedly. Fortunately the Reds, again in my opinion, have a great start to such a farm system. They have at least six pitching prospects as good, or better, than any we’ve had since Gullet and at least two or three position prospects in the class of Dunn and Kearns when they were in the minors. In addition there are several others who could still develop into quality prospects.
The Reds also have to be willing to let their star players go when they’ve reached a salary level a small market team can’t afford. The key here is to trade them, near their peak, to the big teams for star prospects. That means that Dunn probably cannot be retained past his option year unless he’s willing to sign well below market(which seems unlikely). I like griffey and admire his willingness to sign here below market value but if the Reds are out of the race at the trade deadline and a contender is willing to give up a top AA or AAA prospect for him, I think you have to do it.
With great scouting(majors, minors, and worldwide) leading to great drafting and acquisitions I believe the Reds can be a farm team for the big guys and still be a winner. Furthermore, if they follow this approach, I think the Reds(with their current core and minor leaque system) can be a serious contender no later than 2009