Monday, December 19, 2016

A Reds Fan's Christmas List

Danville, Kentucky -- Sometimes, it's hard to criticize those you love. Pete Rose won my heart with his reckless slides, lunch-pail mentality, and gritty home-plate collisions. I'm a huge fan of Pete Rose, so I'm willing to overlook his questionable gambling decisions. I'm a big fan of chicken tenders and onion rings, so I'm willing to overlook that my unhealthy intake of cholesterol is slowly killing me.

Folks, I'm a life-long Cincinnati Reds fan. It's easy for me to play armchair General Manager and give advice to the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Dodgers from the comfort of my favorite booth in my local Chilis. I don't care about their players like I care about my own team. But it's much harder to criticize the Reds, a team that has taken me to both euphoric heights and melancholic lows. I want to believe in my heart of hearts that Dick Williams, the Reds' new GM and successor to Walt Jocketty, understands the strengths and weaknesses of this Reds team well enough to make well-informed and competent decisions, but my faith has been shaken by the gross mismanagement of this once-proud franchise in recent years.

The Reds need a new direction. On their current trajectory it may take a decade for them to compete for the NL Central crown again. There's no sign of the Chicago Cubs' reign of terror ending any time soon. The cheaters from St. Louis have made some saavy moves this offseason, and with Cardinals Devil Magic™ on their side it is likely that any remaining roster holes will be filled by anonymous farmhands that unexpectedly become All Stars, à la Aledmys Diaz. This confluence of factors could leave the Reds locked in the basement unless radical changes are made.

This Christmas, I don't want a Playstation, a new Baseball Prospectus, Applebee's gift-cards, John Wayne DVDs, or expensive liquor. All I want is for the Reds to win again. Luckily, I know exactly what needs to be done to right the Reds' ship and restore glory to this franchise. My strategy might be bitter medicine or a difficult pill to swallow -- I for one routinely ignore warnings from my doctor that I should take my anti-cholesterol medication -- but it's absolutely what's needed to make the franchise competitive again.

Here's this Reds fan's Christmas wishlist:

1) A Trade That Sends Joey Votto to the Toronto Blue Jays

Folks, as someone who loved every minute of Joey Votto's 2010 MVP campaign, I feel totally comfortable saying that it is time to cut ties with him. Joey looks like he's fed up with the situation in Cincinnati; you can tell by the sullen look in his eyes that he's lost the passion he once had for the Redlegs and Great American Ballpark. Votto's contract has become an albatross -- his $225 million contract won't expire until 2023, well into President Trump's second term. Votto has become a one dimensional player: good at clogging the bases with his "plate discipline" and "OBP" but not the dynamic offensive player the Reds need.

It's time to send Joey across the border to his Canadian homeland. The Toronto Blue Jays are a perfect trade partner for the Reds. Bringing Toronto native Joey Votto home would be the most exciting thing to happen to Canada since the blockbuster R.A. Dickey trade. In addition, the Blue Jays will be in dire need of a slugger like Votto given that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are likely to depart Toronto and sign elsewhere. Fortunately, the Blue Jays have some players that could help the Reds compete in the short term as well. The Reds should start by asking for Troy TulowitzkiFrancisco Liriano, and Jason Grilli in return.

Tulo -- a two-time gold-glover and perhaps the most sublime defensive shortstop in the MLB since Derek Jeter -- would solidify the Reds' shortstop position for years to come. In the meantime, infielders Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez could be converted to play first-base and third-base, giving the Reds sterling defenders around the diamond. It's a match made in heaven.

Francisco Liriano would give the Reds the starting pitching depth they desperately need. It's been no secret that the Reds rotation has been a bigger disaster than a Chipotle restroom since the misguided Johnny Cueto trade and the departure of Mat Latos. The Reds had a historically abysmal pitching staff last year. They even set a record for the most homers allowed in a single season. Only three starting pitchers threw more than 100 innings for the Reds, while only two threw more than 150 innings. That's a recipe for overworking an already soft bullpen. Fortunately, Liriano has thrown more than 160 innings in the past four seasons while posting a good ERA as well. Franky Liriano was a 16-game winner as recently as 2013. He'd easily plug into the top of the rotation and bring respectability back to the Reds' pitching staff.

Jason Grilli would instantly improve the horrific Reds bullpen. In 2015, Grilli amassed 24 saves with the Atlanta Braves; the Reds have had absolutely no stability in the closer role since they foolishly traded Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees in the biggest ripoff since the Corrupt Bargain of 1824. He'd be the cherry on top of what is already a great deal for the Reds. Do it, Tricky Dick Williams!

2) The Return of Jay Bruce

The Reds offense just didn't look the same after the New York Mets fleeced Cincinnati for Jay Bruce last season. They stranded so many runners in scoring position, mostly because of Votto's phobia of putting the ball in play. Folks, it's hard to score runs with men on second or third when Joey Votto only cares about drawing walks and getting to first base. It breaks my failing, decrepit heart to know that not all of Jay Bruce's 33 HRs and 99 RBIs in 2016 came in a Cincinnati uniform. Some analysts have suggested that the Mets might make Jay Bruce available. For the right price, the Reds should absolutely be in on him.

3) Joey Bats

Free agent dinger-machine Jose Bautista would not only give the Reds a formidable middle-of-the-order bat; he'd give the Redlegs what they need most: swagger. Folks, this Reds team had no personality last season. There's plenty of blame to go around for their 94-loss 2016 campaign, but let's not forget the lack of fire that the Reds showed sometimes. Joey Bats is the perfect guy to light a fire under this Reds team. He plays with gusto. Just imagine 42,000 screaming Reds fans on their feet after a titanic 450-foot no-doubt moonshot from Mr. Bautista. No team wins without a little attitude. For his star-power alone, the Reds must secure Bautista for 6 years and $150 million. Get it done, Dick.

4) Catcher Insurance

Folks, catcher Devin Mesoraco used to be one of my favorite Reds. I remember watching all 25 of his dingers in 2014. Devin might've been the best catcher in the NL Central not named Yadier Molina, but he's been perennially injured since then. The Reds need some insurance in the event that he is injured for an extended amount of time in 2017. The Reds could attempt to lure grandpa David Ross out of retirement; that would give the Reds privileged insights into the inner workings of the World Champion Chicago Cubs rotation. But the obvious solution is to bring Brayan Pena back, who was recently DFA'd by the Cardinals. Brayan had great chemistry with all our pitchers, and was a fan favorite during his tenure in Cincy. The Reds should have never let the emotional rock of their team go to their divisional rivals. I dare you to read Pena's tear-jerking expose on his defection from Cuba and tell me the Reds shouldn't sign him. Right this wrong, Mr. Williams.

5) Big Pasta

One of the only good moves the Reds made last offseason was bringing back Alfredo Simon to shore up the rotation. Unfortunately, the move didn't pay off exactly how the Reds wanted it to. Simon started only 11 games and pitched only 58.2 innings, thanks to injuries. It was a low risk move: Simon was only signed to a 1 year, $2 million contract. It's time to for the Reds to get a second helping of Pasta. Sign him to another 1 year deal. The last time Pasta was healthy, he won 15 games with the Reds in 2014 and 13 games with the Tigers in 2015. Pasta is only a couple years removed from being an All Star with the Reds.

When healthy, Pasta's eephus is meaner than Dick Cheney on a hunting trip.

What do the Reds have to lose by signing him? If he stays healthy and things go right, he has the floor of a back-end innings-eater and an All Star ceiling. It's a no-brainer.


The Reds are not as helpless as the biased mainstream baseball media would have you believe. Ken Rosenthal and the gang have already penciled the Cubbies in for another World Series victory, but with an aggressive offseason the Reds could put themselves right in the thick of things in the NL Central. Dick Williams can never undo the cataclysmic decisions to trade Cueto and Chapman, but he can restore a winning culture by bringing bonafide, proven major league talent back to Cincinnati.

The time for rebuilding is over. The Reds already have young stars like Billy Hamilton, Brandon Finnegan, and Eugenio Suarez to lead the team into the future. It's time to cut the dead-weight like Votto and give Cincy's young-guns a real supporting cast of productive veterans like Joey Bats and Tulo.

Every year at Christmas, Americans face a choice. They can take the easy way out and get their loved ones a candle or an Amazon gift card. Or they can go big. Reds General Manager Dick Williams faces a similar choice. 2016 could be another year of irrelevance for the Reds, another year of "trusting the process" and tanking. Or 2016 could be the year where the Reds push all their chips to the center and try to take the mighty Cubs head on. I know which one I'd rather unwrap on Christmas morning. Give Cincinnati the gift of winning, Mr. Williams.