CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Reds are pleased enough with the current direction of their club that they didn’t feel obligated to unload players at Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline for the sole purpose of unloading players.
The Reds made a calculated deal involving left fielder Adam Duvall but apparently resisted whatever interest there might have been in right-hander Matt Harvey, closer Raisel Iglesias, center fielder Billy Hamilton or anyone else.
“We’re pleased with the performance we’ve seen in the middle of the summer,” said Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams. “The winning vibe and the winning culture that has been present recently is something we’ve been looking for. We see this as a club that is competing with the best teams right now. We don’t want to do anything to disrupt it.”
As they embarked on a nine-game, three-city road trip beginning in Detroit, the Reds under interim manager Jim Riggleman owned a 26-15 record since June 10 – best in the National League and third-best in the major leagues -- and had won 13 of 18 against first-place clubs. That doesn’t, of course, erase an 8-27 start during which they fired Bryan Price, or a current last-place standing in the NL Central.
The Reds aren’t declaring this painfully long rebuilding process to be over, but perhaps for the first time since it began they weren’t sellers at the deadline. They also weren’t buyers looking to enter into the Chris Archer sweepstakes, but Williams did say the club set parameters related to what kind of return they required in exchange for Harvey and didn’t budge.
“He’s a free agent at the end of the year," Williams said. "We understand that and are open to moving him if the appropriate deal comes along. You can’t execute a good trade if you put yourself in position of feeling like you have to have one done by the end of the day.”
The Reds didn’t have to trade Harvey on Tuesday, although many assumed they would. They can still deal Harvey this month, it just becomes a bit more complicated through the waiver process. If he is claimed off waivers, the Reds can work out a trade with that team or just pull him back. It is assumed that Harvey would clear waivers.
If he is not traded by the end of the season, Harvey likely will test the free-agent market meaning the Reds would get no direct return.
In truth, the acquisition of Harvey from the New York Mets on May 8 already has served its primary objectives: give catcher Devin Mesoraco a place to play more regularly and to help stabilize the Reds’ starting rotation which at the time was in disarray.
For Harvey, coming to Cincinnati gave him an opportunity to prove he was healthy and could be a durable and effective starting pitcher. He has done that and more. Harvey is 5-4 with a 4.44 ERA in 14 starts since joining the Reds, but 4-1 with a 3.82 ERA in his past seven outings, mostly against legitimate postseason contenders.
By all accounts, Harvey also has been a positive addition to the Reds clubhouse and a solid influence on the young pitchers, in stark contrast to his prior misconduct which gave New York tabloids six years of fodder.
Harvey was seen high-fiving Reds teammates at Comerica Park once Tuesday’s trade deadline passed without a deal.
"I'm very happy," Harvey told MLB.com. "I know coming over here, there was all the talk about getting flipped right away as soon as things came back. To be on the other end of that where they want me here, it's nice to know that."
With Harvey sticking around, the Reds will use a six-man rotation for the time being. The outfield has a new look, too.
Late Monday night, the Reds announced the acquisitions of outfielder Preston Tucker, and right-handed pitchers Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler from the Braves in exchange for Duvall.
There didn’t seem to be much widespread interest in Duvall who, despite his 15 homers and 61 RBIs, has struck out 100 times in 370 plate appearances. The Braves expressed theirs in late June during a three-game series against the Reds in Atlanta and the talks progressed from there.
“We had them on our board for a while as a team that was interested in him,” Williams said.
Duvall, 29, batted .205 in 105 appearances for the Reds this season with an on-base percentage of .286, which was eight points lower than his paltry career OBP. Duvall is, however, a pure power hitter and an adept left fielder, ranking fifth in the National League with seven assists.
Trading Duvall accomplishes a few things from the Reds’ perspective. First, it resolves the season-long issue of rotating outfielders, although that is not an issue at the present time with Jesse Winker out for the season and Scott Schebler on the disabled list.
Winker had surgery on Tuesday to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder but is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
“When we look to next year, we see Winker and Schebler as corner outfielders that we think are going to have a lot of success in the major leagues,” Williams said.
The Reds also got a decent return for Duvall, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season while freeing up some money to invest in other parts of the team.
With the injuries to Winker and Schebler, Tucker has been slotted into the major-league outfield immediately. He joined the club on Tuesday night in Detroit.
Tucker, 28, hit .256 with 10 doubles, four homers and 22 RBIs in 62 games for Atlanta. He is batting .272 this season against right-handers including all four of his homers, while hitting just .143 against lefties.
Tucker is primarily a left fielder, so he’ll step in for Duvall and right-handed hitting Phillip Ervin will get some more playing time until Schebler returns from his rehab assignment.
Where Sims and Wisler fit long-term is less certain, but both have the potential to start or relieve. They both were assigned to Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday.
Sims, 24, has been one of Atlanta's top prospects since he was selected 21st overall by the Braves in 2012. He spent most of this year at Triple-A Gwinnett where he went 4-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 14 starts and one relief appearance. Last season, Sims combined for 176 strikeouts and 59 walks in 173 innings between Gwinnett and Atlanta.
“We see Sims as a guy who is a three-pitch pitcher, fastball, breaking ball, changeup, three pitches that we think can compete at the big-league level,” said Reds General Manager Nick Krall.
Wisler, 25, spent most of this season at Gwinnett, where he went 4-4 with a 4.37 ERA, in 13 starts. He struck out 65 in 70 innings with just 14 walks. He made three starts and four relief appearances for the Braves, and Krall indicated he could serve either role for the Reds.
So, the trade deadline passed with a whimper, something Williams believes is a good thing.
“We’re trying to do the best of both worlds, keep a winning team in place but at the same time look down the road and begin to plan for the future,” Williams said. “We have been trying to keep an eye on next year, but also this year is important.”