Reds buyers, sellers at deadline?
To buy or to sell? That is the magic question for Cincinnati Reds general manager Dick Williams and his staff as the Major League Baseball trade deadline quickly approaches at the end of July.
The Reds suddenly find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot for the first time in five seasons as they stand just 4 1/2 out of first place in a five-team battle for the National League Central crown.
Likely no team in baseball has as many options and possibilities as do the Reds as they have no less than five key players who can be free agents at the end of the season.
Pitchers Tanner Roark and Alex Wood, infielders Scooter Gennett and Jose Iglesias as well as outfielder Yasiel Puig all are eligible for free agency at the end of the season and Cincinnati must decide whether to trade them or hang onto them while risking the chance of losing them with no return at the end of the season.
Complicating matters is that both Wood and Gennett have been injured for all or most of the 2019 campaign perhaps decreasing their trade value a bit.
The Reds acquired Roark in an off season trade with Washington to provide experience for their young pitching staff and the veteran righty has done just that throughout the first half of the season.
Roark’s contract currently pays him $10 million a season and one could envision the Reds trying to lock him up at a similar salary for a few more years.
Wood was a key pickup in the Reds blockbuster trade in the offseason with the Dodgers but has failed to pitch a single inning in 2019 due to a back injury.
Gennett, who recently returned to the Reds lineup after suffering a groin injury in spring training that cost him almost all of the first half, is a Cincinnati native and quite popular with Reds fans.
Iglesias signed a minor-league contract with the Reds in the offseason and not only made the team but has became a vital part of the Cincy lineup.
Iglesias has taken the shortstop job away from incumbent Jose Peraza and his stellar defense and clutch hitting have drawn comparisons to the great David Concepcion.
The most interesting free agent-to-be would have to be Puig, who has quickly become a fan favorite in the Reds outfield with his combination of power, speed, defense and his fun-loving nature.
After a slow start, Puig has caught fire lately and been an integral part in the Reds recent series wins over Chicago and Milwaukee, the top two teams in the division.
Puig has plenty of playoff experience having played for the Dodgers the past several seasons and could provide a boost for a team looking for a right-handed bat.
If the Reds simply hang onto the five players and let them walk at the end of the season they would remove nearly 60 million dollars from their payroll, counting the nearly 15 million that they paid the recently released Matt Kemp.
Besides Puig, it’s hard to imagine any of the other players commanding a large haul of top prospects in trades.
Chances are the Reds will move either Gennett or Derek Deitrich, who also signed a minor league deal and is eligible for free agency in two seasons, as they have a log-jam at second base.
Gennett may be the best bet to be traded as the Reds can actually offer Dietrich arbitration in the offseason despite the fact that Miami failed to offer him a contract for the 2019 season.
Perhaps the Reds can be buyers and sellers at the same time as they look to maintain the momentum they seem to be gaining for the second half.
The guess here is that they move one of the second baseman and Wood when he gets healthy while trying to work out long term contracts with Puig, Roark and Iglesias.
One way or the other July 31 figures to be a very exciting day in the Queen City.
Mike Morrison is a sports writer for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at 740-373-2121 ext. 533.