McCoy: Reds continue to cut payroll with Gray trade

Right-hander joins veterans Wade Miley, Tucker Barnhart as casualties of rebuild

Another trade by the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday gave a clear indication of which direction the team is headed this season and it is due south.

The official release says the Reds traded veteran pitcher Sonny Gray to the Minnesota Twins for an 18-year-old pitcher, a No. 1 draft pick.

The real story is that the Reds traded $10.17 million for an 18-year-old prospect, Chase Petty, Minnesota’s first-round pick last year.

What it really means is that the Reds continue lopping dollar signs off the payroll. It means they are enveloped into another so-called rebuilding program, something they seem to do every five years or so.

And it means that fans will pay premium ticket prices to see a non-competitive team this season. Fans don’t care that much about years down the road, they care about now, especially because you can’t spell rebuilds without r-e-d-s ... over and over and over again.

ExploreReds to open season on the road

The Reds permitted the Chicago Cubs to pluck pitcher Wade Miley off waivers, meaning the Reds received nothing. But they dumped a $10 million salary.

And they traded catcher Tucker Barnhart for minor league infielder Nick Quintana, slicing another $7.5 million off the payroll.

General manager Nick Krall put the positive spin on the deal, but it was easy to read between sentences that money continues to be a major issue with the team.

“We felt this was a good baseball deal for us,” he said. “Chase has a good chance to be a high-end pitcher for a long time, a chance to be a high-caliber starter or reliever. Time will tell.”

A chance. And time will tell. Indeed.

Petty pitched in all of three games for five innings to a 5.47 earned run average for Minnesota’s rookie league team after they drafted him out of high school last July.

“For us, it is making sure that we’re doing what we can to make the best long-term organization that we can, that’s possible,” Krall added.

Long-term. That’s one way to look at it, but it addresses nothing for the now, for the short-term.

Now the real story.

“Obviously, payroll has been an issue the last couple of years with some of the moves we made,” he said. “We do feel this is a real good baseball move for us. We’re really excited to get Chase Petty.”

But how about the now?

“It is a loss in the rotation,” he said about Gray. “We are going to look to fill that, whether it is internally or externally. We’re still looking at the trade market, still looking at the free agent markets.”

With Miley and Gray gone, two-fifths of last season’s starting rotation is gone, leaving Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Vladimir Guerrero.

Most likely, with payroll the issue, the team will look more internal than external. Krall mentioned prospective starters, all with minor league backgrounds: Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Reiver Sanmartin, Graham Ashcraft and one pitcher from last season, Tony Santillan.

“We do have a handful of younger guys that are competing for spots,” said Krall. “We’re excited to see where they are and what they can bring. We’re looking to improve this club in any way we can.”

In any way they can?

“With regards to our upper-level talent, we have guys who are major-league ready, they’re getting there, and it is in the back of your mind when you are doing this,” Krall added.

Miley put up the team’s best numbers last season with a 12-7 record, a 3.37 earned run average, 163 innings and a no-hitter. Gray, beset off-and-on by injuries, was 7-9 with a 4.19 ERA over 135 1/3 innings.

The Twins drafted Petty out of high school with the 26th overall pick last July. He pitched for Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, New Jersey.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-hander was New Jersey 2021 Player of the Year after posting a 1.48 ERA in 68 starts and struck out 99 in 48 2/3 innings for his three-year prep career.

But if he succeeds, always a big but for a high schooler, he is four or five years away from finding his way to Cincinnati.

“From a long-term perspective, we made this trade because we really like Chase Petty,” said Krall. “To get an impact talent, that’s something we’re trying to do … get more and more of it.”

Krall was asked Saturday if the club had an interest in bringing back free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos and he said, “We have not been in contact with his representatives.”

With what the Reds have done so far for the immediate future, it is more subtraction than addition. And it certainly doesn’t have the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs quaking in their spikes.

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