CINCINNATI -- If you’ve been watching the baseball’s league championship series, it’s hard to go an inning without seeing a former Red involved in some capacity.
The left side of the New York Yankee infield is made up of Todd Frazier and Didi Gregorius, both former Reds. Aroldis Chapman is the Yankee closer.
Los Angeles Dodger third baseman and walk-off homer hero, Justin Turner, is a former Reds farmhand. Tony Cingrani got a couple of outs Wednesday night in the eighth for the Dodgers, while throwing to Yasmani Grandal.
The discarded players fall into two categories: Those traded when the Reds were trying to win now (Gregorius, Turner and Grandal), and those traded when the Reds were trying to rebuild (Frazier, Cingrani and Chapman).
It’s easy to see how Gregorius, Turner and Grandal could help this current Reds team. But, at the time, it made sense to depart with all three.
“We had a window to win,” Reds scouting director Chris Buckley said. “Nobody in our group wanted to give up those guys. But we had some depth. That’s what a team like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh has to do. You’ve got to go for it.
“It’s hard to win.”
Turner, Gregorius and Grandal each helped bring players that were key to a good run from 2010 to 2013. The run didn’t result in the winning the big prize, but if the Reds hadn’t made the moves to try to win it all, fans would still be wondering why.
Turner was the first to go. He was traded, along with the late Ryan Freel, to Baltimore for catcher Ramon Hernandez before the 2009 season. David Ross was the main catcher in ’08. He struggled after a breakout year in ’07.
Hernandez was an upgrade, especially offensively. The winning season in 2010 -- the Reds’ first in nine seasons -- doesn’t happen without him.
Turner was a seventh-round pick in the 2006 draft, Buckley’s first with the Reds. Turner had solid years in the Reds system, hitting .338, .307 and .298, but he hadn’t shown the power he later developed.
Turner didn’t really blossom as a hitter until the Dodgers got him at age 29. His slash line in 318 games pre-L.A.: .260/.323/.361. His slash line in 519 games as a Dodger: .303/.378/.502.
Grandal was the next to go. He went as part of the blockbuster five-player trade with San Diego in December 2011. The Reds got Mat Latos for Grandal, Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso and Brad Boxberger.
That looks like a steep price in retrospect, but the Reds needed top-of-the-rotation help to get over the hump in 2012. Latos provided it.
“We were up 2-0 on the Giants” in the 2012 playoffs, Buckley said. “And Homer (Bailey) pitched really well in Game 3. It’s really hard to win ..."
Gregorius was the last to go. He was part of the three-team trade that sent him to Arizona and brought Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds in December of 2012.
Choo had a terrific year in 2013. The Reds don’t make the wild card in ’13 without him.
Gregorius is the one of the three who would really fit into the Reds' current plan. He’s 27. He’s coming off a year in which he hit .287 with 25 home runs and drove in 70. He’s a very good defensive shortstop.
Gregorius, like Turner and Grandal, did not develop into a top player on his first stop after the Reds traded him. He was so-so for Arizona, but he became an offensive force with the Yankees.
“Didi is a real pull hitter,” Buckley said. “Yankee Stadium is the perfect place for him.”
Buckley is glad to see the players he drafted/signed flourish. It’s impossible to predict some things in baseball -- like that Turner would go from journeyman to MVP candidate in his 30s or that Gregorius would go from a single-digit home run guy to hitting 25.
But Buckley thought they’d develop into talented players.
“The one thing we’ve drilled to our scouts is that makeup is the separator,” he said. “We all know what a good swing or a good curveball looks like. The hardest thing to know is makeup.
“These kids all have agents. They’re coached to say certain things, so it’s hard to know them. We give them psychological tests to measure drive, competitiveness. Kids like Justin Turner, Todd Frazier and Grandal all were through the roof.
“Didi speaks four languages. He’s very intelligent.”
So Buckley’s watching the postseason with a sense of pride, but also with some sadness. Turner was signed by scout Jeff Barton, and Gregorius was signed by scout Jeff Taylor. Both died of cancer within the last three years.
“They were young men,” Buckley said. “It’s very exciting to see your players do well. But it’s kind of sad. I miss those guys.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.