In poker’s Texas Hold ‘Em, a player can push all his chips into the pot on one hand and say, “All in.”
It is do-or-die. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
It appears, in their own version of Texas Hold ‘Em, the Cincinnati Reds are all in for the 2020 season. But instead of holding ‘em, the Reds are gathering ‘em.
For several years the Reds have ignored the high-price tags of free agents, preferring to spend their money and long term contracts on their own players — Joey Votto and Homer Bailey. And it hasn’t worked, as six straight losing seasons, including five straight last-place finishes, can attest.
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Suddenly, CEO Bob Castellini has unlocked the vault, killed the moths, and Reds executives Dick Williams and Nick Krall have plundered. They are spending the money on free agents — $164 million on two outfielders, an infielder and a starting pitcher.
It is virgin territory for the Reds. If nothing else, even if it fails to produce a championship, it has the team’s fan base excited, almost giddy.
Even some of the national baseball writers and broadcasters are labeling the Reds as contenders to win the National League Central.
That’s what spending $164 million on four players will do, even if they seem to be putting most of the free agent money into an outfield egg basket.
After signing Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year $21 million deal, they signed outfielder Nick Castellanos to a four-year $64 million contract on Tuesday. Curiously, though, he has an opt-out clause permitting him to leave after one season.
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Castellanos most likely wants to see if the Reds are contenders and/or is leaving it open for a bigger pay day if he has a monster season.
With that kind of money, it is assured that Akiyama will play center field and Castellanos will play left field.
That leaves one spot for Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin, unless the club plans to use a six-man outfield.
Aquino was an August demon and a September dud. So which is he, really? If he doesn’t play solidly during spring training he could end up in Triple-A to start the season.
The Reds also signed infielder Mike Moustakas to a four-year, $64-million contract. He will play second base. The Reds also signed left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley to a two-year, $15-million deal.
That leaves Nick Senzel out in the cold, right? There are reports that Senzel is being dangled as trade bait. Could the Los Angeles Dodgers be interested in a package for shortstop Corey Seager? Right now, Freddy Galvis is the anointed shortstop. He is a top-shelf glove with a suspect bat and Seager would be an upgrade that would make the Reds formidable.
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What would make them even more formidable would be the acquisition of shortstop Francisco Lindor. Ever since last season ended, rumors abounded that the Cleveland Indians were listening to offers for the highly talented Lindor.
And at one point, it was reported that the Tribe put a deadline on a deal for Lindor and told teams, “Make your best offer.”
Nothing happened. Talk died. Then the Indians said Lindor would open the season as their shortstop. But could the Reds dazzle them with an offer — Nick Senzel, Jonathan India and Tony Santillan along with a couple other lower level minor leaguers?
If the Reds truly are allin for 2020, they would make a deal like that, if Cleveland cooperated.
The only weak spot right now is the bullpen, somebody to go with Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson. Can they trust Raisel Iglesias as the closer after his mostly abysmal 2019?
An upgrade is needed and Senzel could be part of a package used to add some bullpen strength.
Stay tuned. After spending $164 million on four free agents, the next move probably is a trade. Both Williams and Krall say the Reds are not done digging for gold.