No one likes to admit that they’re tanking. Rebuilding, retooling, any other term is better when talking about seasons in which teams like the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers plan on losing as much as possible.
But maybe they don’t fall into that category that right now only the Philadelphia Phillies fill. While tanking in the NBA and baseball isn’t the same, it does seem like the Reds and Braves don’t see 2016 as a season in which they’ll do too well, but like the Brewers, they’re not being aggressive in an attempt to get worse. It’s more of a transition phase, while hoping things get better after 2016.
For example, while the Reds have been trying to trade expensive contracts and players they don’t think have more than two or three more good years, they haven’t been shopping their best player, Joey Votto. Also, when making their trades, it’s been about players who can contribute in a season or two, and not looking at more under developed prospect who might have a huge upside, but are going to need a long time before they “hatch”. The plan in Cincinnati is to go back to contending in the difficult NL Central in 2017.
The Braves have also moved a few good players, but they’ve also added some players you wouldn’t think of as developmental projects. They’ve also signed Nick Markakis, A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, which means they don’t see themselves competing with the Mets and Nationals for the NL East crown, but they don’t plan on breaking any records of losing next season.
The Brewers are another team that doesn’t see their immediate future as one that’s about losing 100 games in a season. Yes, they’re trying to trade Jonathan Lucroy and are hoping someone bites on the Ryan Braun trade offer, but they’re not desperate about it. The same can be said of hanging on to Will Smith, who isn’t that difficult to move considering his favorable contract.
Is that the better approach? The Astros were awful for a few years and now seem to be headed towards greener pastures. The Phillies are currently in the business of bottoming out while planning to make big moves once they’ve assembled enough young talent, like the Chicago Cubs, who gradually waited for big bad deals to end before starting their forward motion. Some teams have taken a different approach. The Colorado Rockies have mostly been hanging on to their veterans over the years, which hasn’t gotten them anywhere in the difficult NL West.