BOCA RATON, Fla. — The Reds finally are serious, finally are willing to trade closer Aroldis Chapman, right fielder Jay Bruce and possibly other pieces, too.
“We’re in a tough division,” president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said of the NL Central. “We’ve got to be realistic about it.”
The Reds traded potential free-agent right-handers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake at the non-waiver deadline, but balked at deals for Chapman and Bruce, both of whom are under control for 2016 and in Bruce’s case, 2017 as well.
“I would say probably,” Jocketty said. “We still wanted to be somewhat protective of our club last year. We had certain guys we just didn’t want to move. We started at the deadline knowing that we would gear up — ’16 would be a transition year and in ’17 and ’18, we think we could be stronger and more competitive.”
To that end, the Reds also will be open-minded on offers for third baseman Todd Frazier, who is under club control for two more seasons. First baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips, both of whom enjoy full no-trade protection, will be more difficult to move.
Owner Bob Castellini is “on board” with the need for a more extensive retooling, sources say. Chapman, projected to earn $12.9 million in his final year of arbitration by MLBTradeRumors.com, should bring a quality return. Bruce, under contract for $12.5 million in ’16 with a club option for ’17, would be a more complicated sell.
On one hand, Bruce represents a more affordable alternative to the major free-agent outfielders — Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. On the other hand, he batted .226 with 26 homers and a .729 OPS last season at age 28, when he figured to be peaking.
Either way, the Reds’ direction finally is clear. The team is fairly deep in young pitching, but needs more young position players to compete with the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates. Trading Chapman and Bruce should only help.