Each Journey begins with a single step.

Chess openings are a sequence of moves, which will help a player build up his position and prepare for the middle game. Openings are often designed protect the king, and create a strong pawn structure.

November (and October, prior to the tiered divisional playoffs) is the beginning of the baseball business season, each Major League Baseball off-season is equal to a chess game as each team in the game studies the moves of others as well as their own. We as fans and students of the game should assume that each move is tethered to a future move or strategy that was thought out prior. Sometimes you can’t see where the move is originating from and sometimes it is as plain as the nose on your face. Often the move isn’t the biggest of the season, and sometimes it shouts out that the team is heading in a different direction. Baseball expanded in the 1960’s and despite recent down seasons and the infamous 100-loss season in 1982 the Reds can look back on the last 45 years as being the most successful in team history. So in honor of the next three months of no baseball and the imminent daily scanning of the transaction wires we’re going to kick some of the Reds immediate or most shocking moves that were made after each season since 1961, one caveat in this display, only deals made prior to Christmas, and if possible the deal should be early in the off-season.

1960-1969

October 10, 1961
Gus Bell selected by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft.

1961 was the Reds year to surprise, and it was the year that Gus Bell ran out of gas as one of the Reds regulars. Appearing in only 75 games in the outfield and finishing the season with a .298 on-base percentage it was a no brainer to not protect him in the leagues first expansion draft.

November 26, 1962
Cookie Rojas to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received Jim Owens.

A two-day flush in retrospect, despite the Reds richness in the outfield throughout the 60’s the presence of Jimmy Wynn would have been nice, and the idea of the man playing in Crosley during the late 60’s is an enticing thought. Rojas departure was tempered by the emergence of Pete Rose, however an infield with Rose at 3rd and Rojas at 2nd would have been a better short term fit after Freese got hurt and then the Steve Boros experiment failed as well as the ensuing Deron Johnson, Tommy Harper and Tony Perez experiments later in the decade.

November 26, 1963
Sold Gene Freese to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Freese never recovered from his busted ankle and his best year was 4 years behind him at this point. The Reds of this era made very few post season moves of consequence. The dismissal of Freese led to another run of years that were marked a search for a third baseman

December 4, 1964
Traded Cesar Tovar to the Minnesota Twins. Received Gerry Arrigo.

Another fine infielder with multi skills moved for a junkballer. DeWitt was enamored with finding a bottom of the rotation starter and Arrigo’s 1964 season with the Twins makes a fine start-o-matic card, but not really a projection for future success. The Reds later traded Arrigo to the Mets and then reacquired him and he started 31 games for them in 1968.

December 9, 1965
Traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson.

You’ve heard it all, he was an old 30, and DeWitt wasn’t a fan of Frank’s late season game as he was quoted during the 1966 season. There had been whispers of other issues as well. But the fact is that Deron Johnson had 135 RBI’s in 1965 (he also came to bat with over 430 runners on that season) and DeWitt was convinced he could replicate that feat.

November 28, 1966
Drafted Ted Abernathy from the Atlanta Braves in the 1966 rule V draft.

A steal, the Reds have had 4 pitchers who have led the team in Win Shares for the season since Ewell Blackwell was dealt to the Yankees. Ted Abernathy was the first of the four, and his 100-inning contribution began a Reds tradition of strong middle relief with workhorse numbers.

October 10, 1967
Traded Deron Johnson to the Atlanta Braves. Received Jim Beauchamp, Mack Jones, and Jay Ritchie

Remember those 135 RBI’s that Dewitt thought could be repeated? Well he was wrong, as wrong as Dave Bristol was about Deron Johnson playing 3rd base earlier. Johnson’s .854 OPS in 1965 dropped to .658 in 1967, his presence was holding back Lee May as well as Tony Perez, his departure was two years too late, and should have occurred in 1965 instead of Frank Robinsons. But then again the man doing the dealing this time was Bob Howsam.

October 11, 1968
Traded Vada Pinson to the St. Louis Cardinals. Received Bobby Tolan and Wayne Granger.

November 21, 1968
Traded Leo Cardenas to the Minnesota Twins. Received Jim Merritt.

Howsam begins his rebuilding of the Reds. In Bob’s opinion both Pinson and Cardenas were not the players they once were with the glove or the bat, and in short they were not the guys he felt he could ride to the top. Vada had an .810 OPS as a Red (.721 league) over the next six seasons he would produce a .691 OPS vs. the leagues .705.

Both moves laid the groundwork for a future of speed up the middle on Astroturf.

November 5, 1969
Traded George Culver to the St. Louis Cardinals. Received Ray Washburn.

November 25, 1969
Traded Alex Johnson and Chico Ruiz to the California Angels. Received Jim McGlothlin, Vern Geishert, and Pedro Borbon.

Both deals above are intertwined as Johnson and Culver had both been acquired for Tommy Harper. The departure of both show that Howsam was not willing to wait on a player if he felt they didn’t fulfill the promise he held for them and it also showed that he was not afraid of admitting that he made a mistake in thinking a player might help the team. The keys to the deals were once again pitching as the Reds continued their search for quality in an army of arms. Borbon turned out to be the gem of the above transactions and from 1972-1977 Borbon averaged over 120 innings a year coming out of the Reds bullpen

Next… the 1970’s

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