CINCINNATI (AP) – Todd Frazier smacked one ball after another into the outfield seats as the clock ticked away, bringing the capacity crowd at Great American Ball Park to its feet for one of the best moments in the ballpark’s history.
The Toddfather delivered the drama in the All-Star Home Run Derby last July, winning it on his final swing. Now, he’s been shipped to Chicago, leaving little behind for fans to cheer.
The Reds showed their commitment to a full-scale overhaul this week by trading Frazier – the franchise’s most popular player – to the White Sox in a three-team deal that brought more prospects.
Hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman will likely be gone, too, and very shortly. It will be no surprise if any of the other remaining veterans gets shipped off as well.
“No question,” Reds director of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said. “It would be tough to trade Joey (Votto) because he’s our franchise player. But other than that, we have to approach each deal differently.”
The Reds were the talk of baseball when they gave Votto a $251.5 million, 12-year deal at the start of the 2012 season. They won the NL Central and 97 games that season, their best showing since the days of the Big Red Machine. But they lost in the opening round of the playoff to the Giants, who went on to take the World Series.
Manager Dusty Baker was fired after a wild-card loss to Pittsburgh the following season, and it’s been downhill since. The Reds finished fourth with 86 losses in 2014 under Bryan Price, and dropped 98 games last season as the rebuilding began.
No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake were dealt in July, leaving the Reds to finish the season with an all-rookie rotation that got miserable results. The last 64 games were started by a rookie, the longest such streak in major league history.
After treading water and keeping the roster virtually intact for years, the Reds realized it was time to start from scratch.
Who’s next to go?
Votto’s contract makes him difficult to trade. He’s owed $199 million through 2023, with his salary set at $25 million each season from 2018-23. Votto walked a club-record 143 times last season and can expect more of the same with few other threats in the lineup.
The Reds have already tried to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips without success. He makes $13 million next season and $14 million in 2017. He was eighth in the NL with 173 hits last season, but had only 12 homers and 70 RBIs.
Right fielder Jay Bruce batted only .226 with 26 homers and 87 RBIs. He’ll make $12.5 million next season, and there’s a club option for 2017 at $13 million with a $1 million buyout.
Once Chapman is dealt – the Reds are talking to several teams – there’s nobody left on the roster with significant closer experience in the majors. And the rotation remains the biggest problem with its lack of experience. Homer Bailey had Tommy John surgery during last season and isn’t expected to be ready by spring training.
The Reds will likely invite a lot of veteran free agents to spring training to try to cobble something together. In the meantime, they’re looking to deal.
“We’re going to continue to look at ways to improve the team, ways to continue to build for the future,” Jocketty said. “This is a transitional year for us and we expect a lot of progress.”