Win-now focus in Cincy could mean heavy action
By Ken Rosenthal
Ken Rosenthal has been the senior baseball writer for FOXSports.com since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX.
Updated: May 13, 2008, 11:15 AM EST
Dusty Baker is a win-now manager, Walt Jocketty a win-now GM, Bob Castellini a win-now owner.
Alas, the Reds need to rebuild.
That means trading right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., left fielder Adam Dunn and any other veterans who can bring a return. It means promoting outfielder Jay Bruce and any other prospects who can make a difference. It means committing to the future, once and for all.
The Reds seem prepared to at least consider such measures; Jocketty recently asked Griffey if he wanted to be traded, according to a major-league source. Griffey replied that his preference was to stay in Cincinnati and try to turn around the Reds' season. But, he added, if the front office wanted to change direction, he would consider a deal.
Jocketty surely isn't ready to sell off parts, not with the July 31 non-waiver deadline still 10 weeks away. But Cincinnati isn't St. Louis, where Jocketty built contenders year after year. Nor is it Chicago or San Francisco, where Baker was accustomed to managing veteran clubs. To fix the Reds, Jocketty and Baker will need to adopt different mindsets. And Castellini, for once, will need to show patience.
As Johnny Cueto's recent struggles show, prospects do not always progress in linear fashion. At the same time, they need to be given every opportunity to advance. Why are the Reds waiting to promote Bruce, who has a .984 OPS at Class AAA? Corey Patterson, their most frequently used center fielder, needed to go 4-for-5 Monday night to raise his on-base percentage to .276.
The Reds are in last place in the NL Central, seven games back. Perhaps they could try to win while building toward the future, the way the Braves did when they promoted Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann in 2005. But the fact remains: Including Griffey and Dunn, the Reds have 13 potential free agents, the most of any club.
Griffey enjoys full no-trade protection, essentially giving him the right to choose his next team. However, he would not necessarily require a team to exercise his $16.5 million option for 2009 as a condition of a deal. He also is open to a greater number of teams than in the past, when his children were younger and being closer to his home in Orlando was a priority.
The Mariners, the most frequently mentioned possibility for Griffey, are last in the AL with a .579 OPS from the DH spot, yet even further out of first place than the Reds. Griffey, 38, would not be a certain cure-all -- his .717 OPS is more than 200 points below his career mark, and he has gone 63 at-bats since his last home run.
In any case, the next step for the Reds should be obvious. Their management team needs to step backward before going forward, unfamiliar as that path might be.