July 31 is the best day of the year. For starters, it is my birthday. More importantly, however, since 1986, July 31 has been the Major League Baseball trade deadline. After this date, in order to complete a trade, the player (or players) involved must clear waivers, a complicated system that I will not explain here, mainly because I do not understand how it works, either. For the most part, July 31 is the last day to make any key additions to your team for the stretch run of August and September.
It’s a happy coincidence that these two events fall on the same day. For a diehard baseball fan such as myself, the trade deadline is a magical time, full of rumors, wish lists, rumors, fake twitter accounts, and more rumors. For most of my lifetime, the deadline consisted of the Reds selling off veterans for young players, whom they would then unload a couple of deadlines later. So I greatly appreciate years like this one, when the Reds are the ones looking to add weapons.
A couple of weeks ago, the Reds’ wish list was clear: a leadoff hitter who actually gets on base, a cleanup hitter, and maybe another lefty. Then the Reds had to go and ruin those plans by winning 10 games in a row. Seriously, how rude. Now that they have the best record in baseball, previously struggling Drew Stubbs is the Player of the Week, and Ryan Ludwick is hitting home runs like it is 2008, things just became much more interesting.
So the question becomes this: How much stock do you put in the Reds’ recent hot streak, and is a trade still necessary?
I’m certainly not complaining (at least not seriously) about the past two weeks. The Reds are unquestionably the hottest team in baseball, and it is really fun to watch this team play right now.
Look at whom they played. Milwaukee has faded and is now 11 games under .500. Houston and Colorado are the two worst teams in the National League. The Reds should have won a majority of their games against these teams, anyway. Winning all 10 is great, but doesn’t really tell us that much more about this team. Even during the streak, the leadoff hitter, the team’s Achilles’ heel all season, had a .213 on-base percentage. We needed two blown saves by old friend Francisco Cordero, now an Astro, to avoid losing a series to a glorified minor league team.
In the past 24 hours, the Reds have been linked to numerous players. Shane Victorino, Juan Pierre, Denard Span, and Shin-Soo Choo have all been rumored to be receiving serious looks by Reds management. There were even hard-to-believe rumors that the team was chasing Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence. Wild speculation is par for the course, this time of year.
But here’s the deal. While Drew Stubbs’s recent performance shouldn’t make everyone forget his subpar first two months, I don’t see a realistic option out there that significantly improves this team. I have followed Choo with interest the past two years and would love to see him lead off. But he has played right field his entire career. If the Reds did indeed give up Stubbs to get him (the Indians are rumored to want a young major leaguer with less than three years of experience), either Choo or Bruce would have to move to center. One of the team’s strengths this year has been its defense up the middle, and Stubbs is a major part of that. The Indians would no doubt demand a ransom to acquire their best player, and it would seem like that is too much to trade for another corner outfielder.
The other options all have flaws, too. Victorino and Pierre are free agents after this season, and the Reds would have to give up some prospects for a rental player. Victorino has struggled this year, and Pierre is more of a left fielder, meaning the Reds would be replacing the power-hitting Ludwick with a singles hitter. Span is attractive because he is cheap and signed for three more years, but the Twins are demanding a lot for him. No thanks.
So at this point it seems like the best option is to keep the core of this team together and see where it can take you. Of course, Stubbs may start hitting .200 again, and this column will look foolish in hindsight. But that’s how things work at the trade deadline: You never know.
Besides, the Reds are already making at least one addition. As you may know, the team is scheduled to add a 28-year-old first baseman who’s hitting .342, gets on base a league leading 46.5 percent of the time, and won a Gold Glove last year. A player who won the MVP award two years ago and is considered by many to be the best pure hitter in the game.
Would that qualify as a major addition?