All the talk about trading the fab 4/5; going after an ace pitcher; etc, etc, gets me thinking about how will the Reds ever be able to create sustainable long terms success given free agency, arbitration and the fact that Cincy is a relatively small market (eg they can't compete with NY, Chicago, LA, etc.) So how can a small market team like the reds sustain long term success. It appears they are the verge of being a very good team. If folks like Bailey, Cueto, Bruce, Hamilton and Votto (along with a few other lesser names) come through the Reds could be a very very good baseball club. But how can they sustain that talent level. They will not have the money to keep all those players once they reach free agency and they can't afford to go out and buy players to fill holes quickly. The key in my mind it to keep the minors chock full of high quality talent. These would be my sugesstions, most of which will fly in the face of old school baseball.
1.) Find and hire the very best scouts in the business. Pay them double what they would otherwise make with other clubs so they'll stick around (they don't make sh*** so it wouldn't add significant amount of money to the expense side of the balance sheet) While they're at it, treat them with some dignity and respect. Scouts are still the guys that have to identify prospects in order to keep the pipeline full of top quality young players to fill the holes when the current group of studs leave becasue they can make a lot more money in free agency. We need to find those diamonds in the rough so to speak, the 5-15 rounders that won't require million dollar signing bonuses...remember we're a small market club without a $100 million payroll.
2.) Hire a whole staff of stat heads to supplement what the scouts bring to the table.
3.) Hire someone who can keep the people in #1 and #2 from killing each other and can respect and make sense of what each has to say.
4,) 1-3 identify the players, now the pipeline if full. Now, find the best minor league coaches to develop these players. Guys that have a passion for teaching young players how to play the game and to realize their potential. Not just coaches that have been around the game for 30 years becasue they don't have anything else they know how to do. Pay them double what they would make elsewhere to keep them around too. Minor league coaches and managers don't make sh*** either so paying them more doesn't increase the expenses much either. They're torn away from their families for 10 months out of the year, make accomodations so that can be mitigated to some degree. Coaches are human too; if they're happy they'll work harder and be more passionate about they're work which will translate into better trained players.
5.) Create better living conditions for minor league players. AA players make on averagea about $1850 per month from which they have to pay all their normal living expenses, clubbie dues, union dues, bats, gloves, shoes, etc. I know it's a collectively bargained agreement so to speak...or at least its the "Uniform minor league contract". Changing salary levels would be tough without agreement from all the other major league clubs but that doesn't mean the Reds can't subsidize meals and housing. Maybe even hire a nutritionist to help the players eat better and sustain themselves better through a 142 game season. If the players are in better health they'll perform better. Old school baseball believes in letting the cream rise to the top naturally; the toughest survive so to speak. That's a bunch of bunk. Homer Bailey signed a $2.3 million signing bonus, he's living a lot higher off the hog than a 15th rounder that signed for $15 grand. The likilihood of a low round player surviving the grind for 4-6 years is diminished by the false ceiling baseball places on them. Given that the difference between a AA or AAA guy and a Major leaguer is so slight, I believe there are a lot of guys who never reach their potential because they can't afford to do the things they need to do to reach that next level.
All of this isn't intended to be a commentary on how baseball operates, although it probably sounds like it. Its intended to point out that a club like the Reds could do some things differently within their economic restraints, with their minor league system that could help them sustain long term success at the major league level. It would just require some out of the box thinking.
So there...someone tell me I'm full of ....whatever.