Sunday, August 01, 1999

Deal shows Reds serious about winning




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Initially, the Juan Guzman trade failed for lack of funds. When the deal first was done, John Allen balked at the salary.

        The managing executive of the Cincinnati Reds was not sufficiently caught up in the pennant race Saturday night to blow his budget. He heard all the arguments on behalf of the Baltimore right-hander and required no reminders about the desperate state of his pitching staff, but he was still able to say no.

        At first.

        Even in baseball, somebody has to be the grown-up. Somebody has to match the outlay to the income and decide which expenditures constitute extravagance. Pending a permanent Reds ownership structure, that responsibility falls to Allen.

        That responsibility was something of a burden Saturday night. General Manager Jim Bowden and his abundant advisers went into the final hours before baseball's trading deadline in a frantic search for pitching after Allen vetoed the original Guzman deal.

        Because the ability to land an additional arm may determine whether the Reds can contend for a playoff position, Allen was setting himself up for a lot of explaining. But in the end, his obstinance may have led the Reds to a better deal.

A hard, but good, decision
        In getting Guzman from the Orioles for minor-league pitchers B.J. Ryan and Jacobo Sequea, the Reds also acquired an undisclosed amount of cash. Presumably, the Orioles agreed to include this to defray some of the remaining cost of Guzman's $5.25 million salary. Certainly, it made the move more attractive to the Reds.

        Juan Guzman is no Pedro Martinez. He is no Curt Schilling. He is not going to cause a run on ticker tape or champagne. Yet the Reds were looking at roughly $1.8 million worth of payments for a pitcher they probably will be renting for two months. This was a bigger bite than Allen was prepared to swallow.

        He had a point, too. Getting Guzman gives the Reds no assurance of a playoff berth, and it might leave them with nothing to show for the experience except lost prospects and a reduced profit margin. Getting him also represents a departure from the organization's professed game plan, which is aimed at a new stadium and 2003.

        Not getting him, or some comparable pitcher, may have been worse, however. It would have told Reds fans that management believes the current season to be a mirage; that a team only two games back in the wild-card race is unworthy of reinforcements; that the almighty dollar still determines most major decisions at Cinergy Field despite Carl Lindner's billions.

Everyone wanted an arm
        Reds manager Jack McKeon has been campaigning for more pitching since spring training. Saturday, with his starting rotation incurring injuries at an alarming rate, his lobbying grew louder.

        “We want to win,” McKeon said, sweating out the deadline in his office at Cinergy Field. “What we've done (to this point), you've got to keep going. Our only concern is you don't have five solid guys you can run out there.”

        Guzman can't fix Steve Avery's shoulder or Steve Parris' triceps or soothe all Pete Harnisch's assorted aches, but he is a sturdy starter who can chew up innings and supply needed rest to a weary bullpen. He pitched 211 innings between Toronto and Baltimore last season and has survived at least five innings in each of his last 10 starts.

        Given the alternatives, he's about as much pitching as any team is likely to add at this stage of the season.

        “Upper management wanted more pitching,” Bowden said. “John Allen wanted more pitching. Jack McKeon wanted more pitching. The people in this organization are dedicated to trying to win.”

        Getting Guzman says they're serious.

        Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

       



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