As spring training inches closer, Reds’ fans have plenty of anxiety about the team that will take the field on opening day at Great American Ballpark.
Following a tumultuous 2015 season that saw Cincinnati finish with a 64-98 record, the Reds have decided to make significant changes — gone are power-hitting third baseman Todd Frazer and the “Cuban Missile” Aroldis chapman.
Frazier was traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of the three-team trade. The Reds acquired three prospects, second basemen Jose Peraza and Brandon Dixon, and left fielder Scott Schebler.
Following Frazier’s departure, Cincinnati sent Champan to the New York Yankees for four prospects; right-handed pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis, third baseman Eric Jagielo, and second baseman Tony Renda.
While Cincinnati parted ways with its two lone All-Stars from 2015, Reds’ announcer and Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman understands the offseason moves.
“When you lose 98 games, you don’t have any choice,” Brennaman said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Times. “If they had gone any other road but the road they’re traveling, they would not have been true to themselves and they would not have been true to the fans. As painful as it might be for people who follow this baseball team, I would certainly hope they would be understanding enough to realize they couldn’t continue going on the path they were traveling.”
Over the last five seasons, Cincinnati has won 90 or more games three times. However, the Reds never advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
“The core group of this ball club had existed for four or five seasons, and for whatever reason, as a group they could not accomplish what this team’s goals were — and that was to get deep into the postseason,” Brennaman said. “Not necessarily winning a world championship, which obviously is the singular goal of every team when it begins the season if it has the talent, but at least get into the postseason and play more than one game.
“And so when you have the kind of year like this team had in 2015, you have no choice but to do what they’re doing.”
Brennaman can sympathize with Reds’ fans who were emotionally distraught when Cincinnati traded Frazier, who won the 2015 Home-Run derby held at Great American Ballpark.
“I understand the fans. I know how much of an outcry it was when they traded Todd Frazier because he’s such a fan-friendly player and people could relate to him but I’m in favor of trading everybody,” Brennaman said. “I’ve been down this road before. I was broadcaster for a team that lost 100 games in 1982. So I understand what this is all about. But to fall in love with players and say, ‘Oh no, we can’t trade him.’ Yeah, you can trade anybody when you’ve lost 98 games.”
There are three contracts that Brennaman believes are crushing the Reds financially — Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey.
Votto signed a 10-year, $225 million in 2012, at the age of 31. Also in 2012, Brandon Phillips signed a six-year, $72 million contract. In 2014, Homer Bailey signed a six-year deal worth $105 million. And unlike football where team’s have the ability to release players and avoid paying part of the contract, all baseball contracts are full guaranteed.
“These were decisions made at the top of the baseball operations and from ownership,” Brennaman said. “They’re the ones that made the decisions and quite honestly, the decisions were not good ones.
“I know the decisions were born out of a desire at that time to keep people around with a feeling that if we add to this group, then it will bring the kind of success that we’re striving for but it didn’t happen that way.”
While Brennaman would be in favor of trading Votto, he believes his current contract makes him untradeable.
“And now, I think Joey Votto is untradeable because of his contract,” Brennaman said. “There’s going to be a year coming, either next year or the year after that, where he’s going to make $25 million in one year. And a team in a market this size cannot afford to have that kind of a contract but they gave it to him. So, now they’ve got to live with it and now I don’t think you could trade him because of how much money is in the contract and how long the contract exists.”
It’s noting against Votto, Brennaman just believes no player is worth a 10-year contract worth a couple hundred million.
“They haven’t invented a player I would do that with because I think more often than not, as successful as that contract might be in the first few years, where you’re really getting killed is the last couple of years of that deal because of age and other factors that might come into play; a player isn’t as productive as he was and enjoying the success he was that prompted you to give him that contract.”
While the Reds will most likely endure another long and treacherous season, Cincinnati has replenished it’s farm system, which should help the organization sustain long-term success — at least that’s the goal.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.