CINCINNATI — When you trade away a guy like Jay Bruce for a couple of prospects, there’s no easy way to spin it.
“You know something is ultimately going to happen,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “It stinks to see it actually happen. Jay to me — you hear the cliche term, 'a pro’s pro' — that’s exactly what he was and still is.”
“It’s a little sad,” center fielder Billy Hamilton said. “He was one of the best guys on the team. It was something nobody wanted to see happen. We became real close. He was one of those guys, when I came to the big leagues, he took me under his wing.”
The Reds have been very clear that they’re in the early stages of a rebuild. That means moving players like Bruce — relatively expensive, productive players — for prospects. The Reds got second baseman Dilson Herrera and left-hander Max Wotell from the New York Mets for Bruce. Herrera is 22 and Wotell is 19.
They may be good players in the future. But Bruce is a good player right now, and he’s all of 29 years old. When you can’t keep a player like that, the club's future looks tenuous.
When it became inevitable the Reds were going to trade Bruce, I expected them to get someone who had a chance to be a player of Bruce’s caliber: an impact bat with power.
I think most fans have accepted that the Reds need to go through this rebuild. But the reality of it is harsh. Since the trade deadline last year, the Reds have parted ways with Bruce, Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman and Mike Leake, players who were the heart of the turnaround from 2010 to ’12.
The Reds have gotten some decent players in return: Rookie Davis, Adam Duvall, Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, Cody Reed, John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan.
But it doesn’t at all seem like the club is on the brink of turning things around.
Herrera was sent to Louisville, where he’ll play with Peraza. Meanwhile, the Reds' double-play combination remains Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips, two players the Reds have tried to trade. Phillips refused a trade to Washington in the offseason. Cozart was nearly traded to the Seattle Mariners Monday.
“I thought I was as good as traded,” Cozart said.
A report out of Seattle says the Cozart trade wasn’t completed because the Reds ran out of time when trying to evaluate the physical status of the minor leaguers Seattle was going to send in the deal.
Cozart, ironically, took over Bruce’s lockers, prime real estate in the clubhouse once occupied by Ken Griffey Jr.
“It was Brucie’s request,” Cozart said. “Anything for that guy. It’s weird to be over here. It’s a weird day with Bruce not being here.”
It’s hard to imagine that Cozart will be a Red for Opening Day of next year. It’s hard imagine why the Reds would consider keeping Phillips for that roster.
“We know it’s part of the business,” Cozart said. “But the business sucks. It’s tough.”
The ironic thing is the Reds have finally started to play well: they’ve won five straight series.
“I’m just going to keep saying it’s weird,” Cozart said. “We’ve been playing so well. We’re getting guys healthier, getting some better pitching..
“I feel like we’re going in the right direction. We took a little step back with Brucie not being here because he carried us in a lot of games. The ultimate goal is to win. We know management is going to do what they think is best for the club now and in the future."
“Think” is the key word there. The Reds think they got better for the future with the Bruce trade. Will they? We’ll see. But it’s clear that they aren’t as good right now as they were before the trade.