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Hey, Reds: Sign Elly De La Cruz to a long-term deal NOW
Put your money where your mouth is, or something like that
I’m not going to write about the trade deadline again, I promise. Enough already, right? What I found interesting about the trade deadline, however, was the message GM Nick Krall and the Reds sent to their fans. I touched on this in my column for The Mothership this week (more on that below), but Cincinnati management essentially told us that were not interested in trying to improve the club in order to win this year, while — at the same time! — promising fans that they absolutely intend to try in the future.
We can’t improve this year’s first place team in an effort to get across the finish line. But trust us! We’ll try at some point in the future. We promise!
Anyway, that’s what I wrote about at the Magazine this week, and as I’ve already said, I don’t want to discuss the trade deadline again. But I do want to discuss a way that Reds ownership and management can calm (at least a little bit) the segment of the fan base who roll their eyes at the annual “we’ll be good in the future!” promises from the team.
The Cincinnati Reds need to sign Elly De La Cruz to a long-term deal NOW.
At this point, I don’t need to tell you how good Elly is. Yes, I can hear some of you talking about his recent slump, and it’s true that he too often swings at bad pitches, etc. etc. The kid is 21 years old. He’s not a finished product. But despite his recent struggles, Elly is still hitting .259/.311/.455 with an OPS+ of 101 (roughly league average). His speed and athleticism are off the charts, his arm may be the strongest in the league, and there’s a great chance he’s going to be a shortstop long-term.
If what you’ve seen over the first 54 games of his big league career hasn’t convinced you that Elly De La Cruz is destined to be a superstar, I don’t know what to tell you. The kid has it all. And that’s why the Reds need to lock him up to a long-term deal sooner rather than later.
Let’s get the major caveat out of the way first: it takes more than two to tango, or something like that. Elly has to be willing to sign a long-term deal, and since his agent is Scott Boras, it’s not a foregone conclusion that such a contract extension is even possible. But there are lots of reasons it makes sense for both Elly and the Reds.
Look at what the Atlanta Braves are doing. Just last year, they signed two rookies to long(ish) contracts. Outfielder Michael Harris II was 21 years old when Atlanta inked him to an eight-year, $72-million extension. A couple of months later, they signed rookie pitcher Spencer Strider, 23 years young, to a six-year, $75 million contract that will keep him with the Braves through at least 2028. Both had less than a year under the big league lights before signing their deals.
Of course, this feels like déjà vu. Anyone who's been watching the Braves isn’t surprised, right? This team has a track record – and a good one at that. Just think back to 2019. Ronald Acuña, in all his youthful zeal, locked in an 8-year rendezvous with Atlanta for a cool $100 million.* And hey, let's not forget Ozzie Albies. In that same year, he bet on the Braves with a deal promising him $7 million a year, at least through 2025.
*Acuña only had 165 days of MLB service time when he signed.
Here's the thing that really gets me: these contracts are secretly great for both parties. Yes, they're less than what the players could make on the open market ultimately, presuming they continue to perform until free agency becomes a possibility. From the player’s perspective, it provides immediate financial security, and life-changing money. Acuña spoke to that when he inked his deal:
"No, I have no regrets," Acuña said through a translator. "No one can see the future. No one knows what's going to happen tomorrow, so I'm extremely happy with the decision we've all made and I'm just excited to be here."
From the team’s perspective, in each of the Braves’ deals, they were able to sidestep the murky waters of arbitration. Honestly, everything about it is a win-win for the club.* More predictable payrolls? Check. Keeping the gang together? Double check. But above all, this strategy has a singular purpose. It's not just about numbers or contracts. It's about winning. Because that's what the Braves do: they aim to win. And if history is any indication, they're on the right track.
*I guess it would be a lose-lose for Bob Castellini’s wallet, to be fair.
Signing Elly to a similar contract would be sending a signal to the Reds fan base just at the moment when they need it the most. It would signal that the club isn’t just making the same empty promises about trying to win in the future that they’ve been making (and breaking) for the last two decades or more. It would be an actual commitment toward putting together (and keeping together) a winning team.
They already did this with pitcher Hunter Greene, when he signed a 6-year, $53M extension back in April. That was an outstanding piece of business, and the Reds need to look to lock up some of the other kids, as well. Kick the tires on contract negotiations with Matt McLain, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Andrew Abbott, et. al. See if terms can be agreed upon that will give the players some big bucks and financial security, while also providing the Reds with cost certainty. If these players don’t light up the field as expected, sure, it’ll feel like the Reds overspent (and it’ll be a windfall for the player). But if they bring the heat? Well, then these contracts aren't just bargains; they're absolute steals for the club.
But they need to start with Elly. Make Elly a Cincinnati Red for as long as he’s willing to stay. Build your entire organization around him (and Greene). Elly De La Cruz and Hunter Greene need to be the faces of franchise for the next few years.
If the Reds want to prove they aren’t just paying lip-service to a beleagured fan base, Krall needs to stop talking about sustainability, and start making moves to demonstrate a real commitment. Signing Elly De La Cruz would be a great step in that direction.
This week at Cincinnati Magazine: Reds fans are dealing with a heavy dose of realism
One week later, and Reds fans are still debating whether general manager Nick Krall’s trade deadline strategy—or lack of a strategy, depending on your perspective—was pathetic or brilliant. You can find loud voices willing to defend either of those views, with each side essentially declaring themselves to be better fans than those with an opposite opinion. It’s exhausting.
The volume on those arguments cranked up steadily over the last week as the Reds, who were in first place by a game and a half at the deadline, lost six straight and looked very ugly in the process. Cincinnati surrendered 20 runs to the Cubs in the first game of that streak, then another 16 the next night. The pitchers, both starters and relievers, struggled, and the rookies started looking like rookies defensively. They dropped into a tie with Chicago for second place, 1.5 games behind the Brewers.
As if we needed more evidence that the Reds are desperate for pitching, they sent a rookie making his big league debut to the mound on Sunday, as they tried to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Nationals. That rookie, Lyon Richardson, is Cincinnati’s 25th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He has a live arm and will likely make a decent reliever, at the very least, in the coming years. But he started this season at Class-A, and he’s made a grand total of one start above Double-A in his career. Read the rest of this week’s Reds column over at Cincinnati Magazine.
What’s Chad Watching?
I watched The Meg for the first time in anticipation of Meg 2: The Trench arriving in theaters. It’s not that I’m excited for the Meg franchise, but I’m on a lifelong quest to watch every movie made by the world’s greatest living actor, Jason Statham. The Meg was so hilariously awful, it actually made me excited to see the second one. Can it be as hilariously bad? I can’t wait!
Spoiler alert: despite my presuppositions, Meg Ryan does not actually appear in The Meg. Presumably, she’s in the sequel.
The Gunfighter, available on Peacock, was a bit of a surprise. It’s a Gregory Peck western about the fastest gun in the west, Jimmy Ringo (very loosely based on real life gunslinger Johnny Ringo), trying to escape his reputation, though no one will let him. Really entertaining. Recommended.
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