Larry David doesn’t look as if he would know which end of a baseball bat to grip, but his TV show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” fits perfectly into what the Cincinnati Reds did Friday night.
They acquired four players from the Los Angeles Dodgers, including two high-profile outfielders in Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. They also added left-handed starting pitcher Alex Wood and back-up catcher Kyle Farmer.
Sounds good, right? No, sounds great.
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To the delight of nearly every Reds fan, Homer Bailey is gone. He was part of the trade, enabling the Reds to dump the $23 million they would pay him in 2019.
In addition, they sent a couple of mid-level prospects, infielder Jeter Downs and 18-year-old pitcher Josiah Gray. And the Dodgers tossed in $7 million.
The knee-jerk reaction from fans, for the most part, is to shout their enthusiasm for the deal from the top of the Carew Tower in downtown Cincinnati.
And that’s expected. The Reds finally did something and they did it big. Yes, they are better today, much better.
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But take a deep breath and take a step back. Other than Wood, who is 29 and a mid-rotation pitcher, there are caveats involved in the deal.
This is not a trade that should be considered part of the rebuild. Puig, Kemp and Wood are in their free agent years and can walk after the 2019 season. Kemp already makes $21.5 million. And Puig is eligible for arbitration and is projected to make $11 million. Wood is expected to make $9 million in arbitration.
Even the Reds’ Dick Williams, president of baseball operations, said during a press conference that the trade was a deal that makes the team better “in the short term.”
And he said, “We are not done.”
While fans are ecstatic that the addition of Puig and Kemp add significant firepower, don’t be shocked if the Reds trade Kemp in the not-to-distant future.
The Reds are still in talks with the Cleveland Indians about acquiring pitcheer Corey Kluber. The Tribe needs outfielders and Kemp could end up in Cleveland and Kluber in Cincinnati. Maybe, maybe not.
Now that would make the team much, much, much better. It still needs pitching, pitching, pitching.
What makes the deal palatable for now is that the Reds have, at least for one year, a player worth paying to see in Puig.
He is not the superstar he started out to be six years ago when the Dodgers signed him out of Cuba. He only hit .267 with 23 home runs and 63 RBIs last season.
Puig, known as “The Wild Horse,” is exciting. He plays hard, he wears his emotions on both sleeves. He likes to kiss his bat for good luck at home plate. Yes, he has a whole of of Kahn’s hot dog in him.
New Reds hitting coach Turner Ward was Puig’s coach with the Dodgers and they reportedly had a special relationship, and he might be able to harness some of Puig’s over-emotional exploits.
Puig is a right fielder and the Reds need a center fielder. Reds general manager Nick Krall said, “He can play center field. He has the athleticism.” Williams, though, said Puig is a right fielder and pointed more toward Scott Schebler moving from right to center field.
And if the Reds do keep Kemp and play him in left field, what happens to Jesse Winker? He is certainly more part of the future than Kemp, who is in the waning years of his career and probably would leave anyway after next season.
With the Reds losing fans by the droves the last four years during their last-place exploits and in need of something to draw fans other than bobbleheads and Barks in the Park, this deal seems to be a short-termer, something to inject a year’s worth of excitement while the team continues to rebuild with younger players.
The Reds could offer Puig a long-term deal to keep him, but would he take it and would it be enough money? Turner said he talked to Puig the day of the trade, “and he is unbelievably excited to come to Cincinnati.”
Will he be as excited at the end of next season when he is a free agent?
Wood, the left-handed starter the Reds were looking for, is not a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. In fact, the Dodgers demoted him to the bullpen last year.
The Reds still need that stopper atop the rotation to climb out of last place in the difficult National League Central against Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis. The Cardinals are loading up again, acquiring first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and relief pitcher Andrew Miller.
That’s why it is fine and dandy for Reds fans to be excited about the team doing something positive for the short haul, but it is also wise to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
The Reds are trying and trying hard. Give them credit for that.
And they did do something nobody thought they could do. They shed Homer Bailey. That is improvement by elimination.