When Walt Jocketty became general manager of the Cincinnati Reds in April 2008, he didn't like what he saw.
The Reds hadn't had a winning season since 2000, finishing with 90 losses in the 2007 season. That much losing can become pervasive throughout an organization, and Jocketty saw the need to shake Cincinnati out of those doldrums.
"When I first came over here, the first thing I thought we had to change was the culture," Jocketty said. "People were used to losing and accepted it. You can't do that. We tried to change the outlook on how we approach things. We build this Major League club and this organization to compete every year, to be in contention every year. We want to be in the fight every year."
It took a couple of more years, but the Reds have done just that. They won the National League Central crown in 2010 and again in '12, and Cincinnati is postseason bound yet again in 2013.
While the Reds' outlook may have needed a reversal when Jocketty arrived, he was fortunate to inherit a strong farm system with players who were ready, or would be shortly, to help out in the big leagues. Many of those players form the nucleus of the roster that got Cincinnati to the postseason this year and will carry the club as far as it can go.
"That has always been a part of my philosophy in building a championship club," Jocketty said. "You have to have the core of your team, or as much as possible, of your organization, drafted, signed and developed within your organization. They have to carry the philosophy and ideals of your organization and mold your club. Then you add via free agents and trades to fill it out. That's how our club has been built."
Here's a closer look at how the Reds' roster was built.
Of the 25 players on the Reds' projected playoff roster (see chart), 14 are homegrown, 11 coming from the First-Year Player Draft. When Jocketty stepped into the GM office for the first time, draftees like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey and Todd Frazier were all considered top prospects. Votto finished second in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting in that 2008 season, while Bruce finished fifth. Johnny Cueto had signed as an amateur international free agent in 2004 and made 31 starts that season as well.
|Joey Votto||Draft||2002 (2nd)|
|Johnny Cueto||Int'l sign||2004|
|Homer Bailey||Draft||2004 (1st)|
|Jay Bruce||Draft||2005 (1st)|
|Sam LeCure||Draft||2005 (4th)|
|Chris Heisey||Draft||2006 (17th)|
|Devin Mesoraco||Draft||2007 (1st)|
|Todd Frazier||Draft||2007 (1st supp)|
|Zack Cozart||Draft||2007 (2nd)|
|Mike Leake||Draft||2009 (1st)|
|Billy Hamilton||Draft||2009 (2nd)|
|Aroldis Chapman||Int'l sign||2010|
Others flowed up the pipeline as well, from 17th-rounder Chris Heisey to second-rounder Zack Cozart and game-changing Billy Hamilton, also a second-round selection by scouting director Chris Buckley and his staff.
Then, of course, there was Aroldis Chapman. When the big left-hander left Cuba and became available as a free agent before the 2010 season, there was frenzy over who would sign him and for how much. Preliminary lists of teams thought to have the ability to vie for his services did not include the Cincinnati Reds.
But there they were, the victors at the end of the day, swooping in with a five-year, $25.25 million deal (along with a player option in 2015) that now appears to be one of the biggest bargains in international signing history.
That's not to say there weren't bumps along the way. It took a little while for the organization to settle on a role for Chapman, moving him back and forth between trying to start and coming out of the bullpen. The young fireballer had difficulty with things like holding runners on, and off the field, it took a little while for him to adjust culturally to life in the United States.
"We had to go a little bit more [with the deal], because there was a club that was right behind us," Jocketty said, recounting how the negotiations escalated. "I credit our scouts for doing it and also for ownership for allowing us to make a bold move like that. They trusted our judgment. It was a risk we had to take, because it was a lot of money to guarantee.
"There were some hiccups along the way, but we got through it. He's become an attraction and a big fan favorite. That's extremely important for a smaller-market club."
The Reds haven't been overly involved in the trade market, with just a handful of players on that projected roster coming via a deal. Two came back in 2006, when in a span of a few weeks, Cincinnati got Bronson Arroyo from the Red Sox and Brandon Phillips from the Indians at the start of the season.
Acquired via trade or waivers
|Bronson Arroyo||2006||Red Sox|
|Alfredo Simon *||2012||Orioles|
Their two more recent trades were closer to being of the blockbuster variety and both have paid off. In December 2012, the Reds were part of a big three-team deal that sent Didi Gregorius to the D-backs and brought Shin-Soo Choo to Cincy. He's been a key to their 2013 success as an on-base machine atop the lineup.
As important as that deal has turned out to be, the one Jocketty made the previous December was even bigger. Packaging Edinson Volquez with three prospects -- Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal -- netted Mat Latos from the Padres. All Latos has done is go 28-10 over the past two seasons while topping 200 innings in each of his two years with the Reds. Cincinnati signed him to a two-year deal prior to the 2013 season, and it has control of the 25-year-old through 2015. Getting him wouldn't have been possible if the Reds' farm system hadn't been deep and continued to develop from the point Jocketty inherited it.
"Because of the strength we had in our organization, with the depth in catching and first base, and our pitching depth, we were able to trade players for Latos, a guy we felt was key for us to be successful going forward," Jocketty said. "We needed a young guy at the top of the rotation to build around with [Johnny] Cueto.
"We took a lot of risk and a lot of criticism at the time. I told my guys we can't look back. As it turns out, I'd do it again. You have to take risks from time to time and hopefully they work out."
Acquired via free agency
|Xavier Paul||MiLB FA||2012|
|Cesar Izturis||MiLB FA||2013|
Rather than use the free agency to add big, superstar players, the Reds' acquisitions have been a bit smaller. The additions Jocketty has made have largely been role players, albeit important ones in their march to another postseason spot. Outfielder Ryan Ludwick might be the exception to that rule, having been a regular in 2012 before missing most of 2013 following a torn labrum. Jack Hannahan, Cesar Izturis and Xavier Paul have proven to be valuable part-timers in 2013, while the bullpen has gotten help from Manny Parra.