In a division that had already taken steps forward, the Chicago Cubs will face an even tougher slate of division foes in the wake of a blockbuster trade.
As recent as yesterday, we talked about how the National League Central had notably improved. The St. Louis Cardinals went out and added Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller and the Milwaukee Brewers retain their entire core heading into 2019. Now, the Chicago Cubs may have yet another team to worry about in the division.
On Friday, the Cincinnati Reds, a team that hasn’t eclipsed the .500 mark since 2013, acquired left-hander Alex Wood, catcher/infielder Kyle Farmer outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and $7 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Headed to L.A. in the deal are right-hander Homer Bailey and prospects Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs.
For Cincinnati, the move represents the organization’s first major trade in some time – and gets them much closer to being a contender in the National League. They still lack the pitching to get past the finish line, but after a deal like this, it’s hard to imagine Reds GM Nick Krall is done making moves.
Before we dive into what these guys bring to Cincinnati, it’s important to understand the underlying motivator here – money. When it’s all said and done, the Dodgers add around $42 million in new payroll (as well as the $7 million they sent to the Reds in the deal.) Cincinnati, meanwhile, takes on roughly $7 million in new contracts, according to MLBTR.
As I noted, it’s been a while since the Reds factored into Hot Stove headlines. But in getting Bailey off the books (if you think the Cubs’ Jason Heyward deal looks bad, go look at what the Reds received from him since he inked his extension), the front office is finally moving on from the past.
“We’re not done,” Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams told MLB.com. “We still have resources to make this team better. … We intend to continue to work throughout this offseason to improve the club.
Earlier this winter, the Reds acquired right-hander Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals. He’s no ace but has the tools to slot in as a solid middle-of-the-rotation innings eater – a lost art, some would say, in today’s game.
They still need that big arm – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go after the likes of Dallas Kuechel or Gio Gonzalez in the weeks to come. But one thing is clear – the days of the Cubs kicking around the Reds are over.
Last season in head-to-head matchups, Chicago went 11-8 against the Reds. During their World Series championship season of 2016, the Cubs ransacked Cincinnati to the tune of a 12-5 clip during the regular season. In fact, the last time Chicago posted a sub-.500 record against the Reds? 2014.
You may not think this deal directly impacts the Cubs, but you’d be wrong. After watching the Brewers win the National League Central in a winner-take-all Game 163 at Wrigley Field last year, the Cubs’ road back to the top of the division has, once again, become much more difficult.