I have always been fascinated by the strategic thinking of the Krivsky FO, and by its self-discipline to stick by that strategic thinking. The main thinking is to fill need and to manage payroll both short and long-term, sometimes at the expense of talent
Take the very first trade: WMP for Arroyo. WMP was a tough one to surrender-- his ceiling was MUCH higher than Arroyo's -- and moreover Arroyo seemed in decline. But the Reds OF was its surplus, its pitching in shambles, and the Reds held to their strategy. And in this case, the correct soldier was enlisted, and the correct one was mustered out.
it's been similar since then. Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez were the most talented parts of a big trade for need-- cheap, young, ready relievers.
Longterm, cheap pitching will always be a need (or at least is always easy to trade to fill other needs). And because we are willing to deal more talent to fill needs, we often demand that the other team kick in a cheap young arm (Daryl Thompson, Daniel Herrerra), preferably one with a lot of options, who might be useful later. Bowden always had to get more than the other guy up front, so that he could crow publicly, and traded off young arms to get that done.
Biggest offseason acquisitions are no longer high profile 5-tool OFers as Bowden would have acquired regardless of need. Instead, we grab a middle defender because we have no defense, and a closer because we have no bullpen. Highly logical moves.
Josh Hamilton, an immense talent, was dealt for a bigger need: young, cheap pitcher.
Bowden had to "win" all deals, talent-wise. Often he did, without actually helping improve the team very much. Krivsky seems compelled to address the next shortcoming and is willing to come up far short in the talent department.
We have even seen the "need" approach at the organizational level, where the biggest needs have been filled in two consecutive drafts: defenders at CFer and catcher, preferably those with power potential, righthanded bats, and speed, were the need going in. Voila-- we essentially traded our drafting position to fill those needs in Drew Stubbs and Devin Mesoraco. Probably these were not the best available players at those particular draft slots, and we acted with self-discipline to ignore some prettier players. I have to admit that I don't particularly admire drafting for greatest need over greatest talent, particularly in a draft where picks can't be dealt. I mean, when you apply the principle of need over talent at this level, it doesn't seem to be just a philosophy for this front office-- it's bordering on an obsessive compulsive disorder.
And finally, remember how Bowden had to grab talent as soon as it appeared, had to fill all roster spots, couldn't drop anyone, and as a result ran out of money early in the year, had players running out of options, and kept whining about the trades that he could have made if only the budget were higher and the players that he couldn't keep because he couldn't clear the roster-- like it was all such a complete surprise to him that he was in this mess that he was supposedly overseeing?
Krivsky always seems to save a bit of money for a rainy day, his players have options, he doesn't let contracts almost expire until he finally unloads them, and he doesn't seem to try to stash players. I'm sure that the ownership change helps, but doubt that's all of it.