Chicken Little and the Cueto Angst

Chicken Little and the Cueto Angst

We’re tired.

Tired of Joey. Tired of Jay. Tired of J.J. and Zack. Tired of Brandon and Burke.

We do not like them on the mound  (Bailey)
We do not like their swing new found  (Bruce)
We do not like them on the bench  (Skippy)
We do not like Bourgeois, he’s French

It’s been this way for awhile. The local media has run out of things to write about the core group that burst upon the scene in 2010, a year earlier than expected. For whatever reason you may personally choose to subscribe, they never lived up to our lofty expectations and now we want them gone. All except Todd Frazier, of course. He’s a god and gods are forever. Or at least as long as their slugging percentage remains above .500.

Some have been clamoring to break up the band for over a year. Many more are on the bandwagon today. “Do something Mr. Jocketty,” they plaintively wail, which has become a punch line all it’s own for some time now, if not nearly in such polite words.

Walt has been largely painted as Cincinnati’s version of Hamlet, a man alone in his castle (or Florida condo), a man of—when all is said and done—inaction. At least, that’s the prevailing narrative. But while Hamlet will talk a blue streak at the drop of a chapeau, the taciturn GM of he Reds has no use for soliloquies. He has more on his mind than “perception” at the moment and to be honest, dear reader, he doesn’t really give a damn about your perception of him or how he goes about doing his job.

When I suggested being away from the office, especially now, might not be perceived favorably, Jocketty said, “I don’t care what the perception is.”

The Reds’ GM has a history of moving cautiously at the trading deadline. Much of that almost certainly has had to do with payroll flexibility, or lack thereof. This is a different trading deadline. Mr. Jocketty isn’t buying. He’s selling for the future and it seems the owner is finally on board with the rebuild. The only question is, are they building for the near future or for further down the road. The unwillingness to deal Todd Frazier should give everyone a clue.

The angst over how long it is taking Jocketty to get the job done is baffling. Recognizing that the Reds were realistically out of the race in late May, people began calling for trades in June, not realizing that front offices have their hands full preparing for the draft and have no interest in talking trade. Even in the days leading up to the All Star break, few teams are ready to trade early with two wild cards almost assuring a dramatic flux in the standings for weeks to come. Trading early, only to watch your WC rivals struggle, is not a fan-friendly strategy. Twenty-nine other GM’s apparently agree. Take a look at the MLB transactions list. Before July 23rd, you’ll see the words “optioned,” “designated for assignment,” “recalled,” and “activated from the disabled list.”  The one word you won’t see is “traded.”

Too many have wanted the Reds to strike first. I’m not a big believer in trades that set the market. It only takes one owner determined to make a splash, one desperate GM on the last year of his contract, or one sudden and catastrophic injury to make everyone Ctrl+Alt+Delete their trade spreadsheets.

There have been an abundance of prognostications on the return for the Reds’ ace:

For Cueto, then, you’d be expecting a good but not fantastic prospect as a centerpiece. It wouldn’t be a one-for-one, presumably; around the main prospect, there would be other interesting bits.

Or this:

According to the New York Post, the Yankees would likely have to give up Luis Severino which would be a huge blow considering he is a top prospect.

Then there’s this:

In return for trading Cueto to the Dodgers, the Reds could receive …:[Jose] De Leon is pitching well in AA this season and is currently ranked as a top 20 prospect according to John Sickel’s recently published midseason Top 75 prospect rankings over at Minor League Ball. Keith Law ranked him in his recent top 25 prospect rankings as well.

Finally, Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs suggests one team has a compelling reason to go big or risk going home:

If there’s any team in baseball that should agree to pay a premium to land Cueto at the deadline, it’s the Kansas City Royals.

The media–both local and national–have used Cueto’s elbow soreness in June to suggest the Reds have waited too long. Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal sounded the alarm before correcting his error:

Since missing a start in late May, Johnny Cueto has made ten appearances and posted a 2.20 ERA. On July 7, he outdueled Max Scherzer, shutting down the powerful Washington Nationals, painting a complete game, 11 strikeout picture of domination. Last night, he shut down the Rockies in volatile Coors Field, never letting a runner advance to second base on his way to a complete game shutout. His fastball touched 95 in the 8th inning and was routinely 93 throughout the game. His previous, very un-Cueto-like start was almost certainly the function of a pitcher’s routine being interrupted by rain delay. The Reds front office knows all this. And in truth, opposing GMs know as well. Leaked remarks by team’s talent evaluators and GM’s are the poker version of “table talk.” A blatant attempt to intimidate Jocketty and drive down the price.

The Reds’ have done all the heavy lifting. They’ve targeted the players they covet from those organizations still likely to be buyers. They know there are multiple suitors out there and they know their weaknesses. Now is not the time to fold a hand early. It’s a good one. Let’s wait to see the river card.


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