MIAMI – On Oct. 1, 2020, less than two years ago, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell sat in the interview room and tried to focus on the positives.
The Reds had just been swept in the playoffs by the Atlanta Braves, but had the core of the team under contract for next season. At the time, Bell framed the sweep as a potential learning experience for young players like Luis Castillo, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suárez and Nick Castellanos.
“We’ve been able to have some success, taste some real success,” Bell said. “When we step back and think about a season, there’s no doubt that moving forward, knowing that feeling, knowing what it takes, the amount of effort, the teamwork, the care, the taste of that success will go very far. moving forward.”
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Now, exactly 22 months later, the core of that playoff team is all but gone. Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Kyle Farmer and Nick Senzel are the best players in the Reds’ small remaining group that was on the 2020 team, and Senzel is the only starter still in the front half of his career.
In the aftermath of that season, the Reds traded closer Raisel Iglesias for a reliever who didn’t make the team and cut another late-inning reliever in Archie Bradley. As ownership imposed payroll cuts, the Reds signed only one minor league free agent before the start of the 2021 season, left-hander Sean Doolittle.
With the likes of Votto, Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama already on long contracts, the Reds didn’t have much flexibility.
After a winning season in 2021, the Reds lost Nick Castellanos in free agency, traded shortstop Tucker Barnhart and waived starting pitcher Wade Miley. Since the Reds didn’t anticipate having a playoff roster entering spring training, it made sense for Reds general manager Nick Krall to target Winker and Suárez for prospects last March.
After Tuesday’s trade deadline, Krall said there was “no question” that this major change in the Reds’ organization began with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had to take some players out of our club over the last couple of years,” Krall said. “When we were, we looked at it and knew we had to bring it back. We looked at how our organization needs to grow through our line of players. We will continue to grow through this pipeline. This is exactly what we need to do in the future.”
Krall called the past few months “the first major steps” in rebuilding the organization through the “pipeline of players” of minor league prospects. The Reds’ rebuild really began when they traded Winker and Suárez.
Without them on the roster, only a few veteran free agents added to the fold and a slew of injuries, the Reds started the year with a 3-22 record. From that point on, the Reds followed a path that saw them move Castillo, Tyler Mahle and veterans to the roster with significant trade value.
Compared to similar players traded, the Reds received impressive returns for their best players last week. In exchange for Castillo, the Reds revamped their farm system with five players who project as high-end prospects and seven more who add depth to the system.
“You’re never done storing your device pipeline,” Krall said. “You want to continue to develop your lineup and continue to bring in quality, impressive talent. Whether it’s through a trade, international scouting or the draft. Whether it’s signing minor league free agents or major league free agents, we want to continue to stock our lineup because that’s how we grow and live. That’s where we’ll have the biggest impact.”
Because of how aggressive the Redskins were at the trade deadline, they maximized the future value of the veterans they had on the roster. With the exception of Donovan Solano and starting pitcher Mike Minor, both of whom probably wouldn’t have much trade value, the Reds traded away nearly every veteran they could realistically have.
Entering 2023, the Reds have just five veteran players under contract between the starting rotation and the starting lineup: Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Kyle Farmer, Matt Reynolds and Albert Almora Jr.
Votto has a no-trade clause, Moustakas is a part-time player set to make $16 million next year, and Reynolds and Almora Jr. are bench players. Farmer was the only veteran player on the active roster the Reds didn’t deal who could get them something significant in return, and he has an important role in the clubhouse as the Reds’ primary shortstop.
The Reds have gone all-in on the rebuild. Now, Krall said, the next step in getting the Reds closer to contention is developing the prospects they’ve acquired.
“We bring them in and we want to develop them into quality big league players and get them on the big league roster and continue to develop them there,” Krall said.
At the Major League level, the Reds are building around Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, a trio of rookie starting pitchers and Senzel. Some top prospects like Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Jose Barrero and Brandon Williamson are expected to be part of the Reds’ next contenders. After this week, the Reds look to recent additions like Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo and Victor Acosta to be part of the mix down the stretch.
Krall began his press conference Tuesday by acknowledging how difficult it was to trade two respected, high-achieving veterans in Brandon Drury and Mahle. He acknowledged that when he became the Reds’ primary decision-maker in 2020, his mindset was not to trade the core of the team.
However, due to the string of trades leading up to the 2022 deadline, it made a lot of sense for the Reds to prioritize going forward.
“We’ve talked about developing ourselves through our line of players,” Krall said. “We feel really good about what we’ve done – starting with the draft and ending at the trade deadline. We continue to improve our player pipeline, acquiring more and more players who can make an impact at the major league level.”
This article originally appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer: The Cincinnati Reds went from a playoff team in 2020 to rebuilding in 2022