The trade deadline is soon approaching, and when it does, the Cincinnati Reds should be selling off their marketable pieces like they are going out of business. The Reds have made it no secret that they are looking to trade players like Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart. At the same time, several teams throughout the league haven’t been bashful about letting Cincinnati know they’re interested.
Teams like the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers, and the Baltimore Orioles have all been the subject of whispers and rumors regarding their status as trade deadline buyers and interest in the Reds most prevalent players on the trade block. With the expectation that the Reds should be selling come August 1st, let’s take a look at some possible deals.
Hypothetical Reds Trades: Part One
Bruce has been the subject of speculation since he was almost sent to the Toronto Blue Jays, before a prospect’s physical made the move a no-go. At the All-Star break, and Bruce has eighteen home runs, a .852 OPS (highest of his career), and was just named as Dexter Fowler‘s replacement for the All-Star game. He is the most coveted offensive piece on the block. Yet, he has also had a down year according to his poor defensive metrics, which also make him possibly appealing to AL teams who can slot him at DH. Teams like the Blue Jays, Giants, Dodgers, and Mets have all been very poor offensively in June, with OPS of .737, .702, .690, .668, respectively.
The Royals and White Sox had shown previous attention but they are falling further out of the postseason situation every day and they have the tendency to not what to pay up for big players with the few elite prospects they have such as Kyle Zimmer and Carson Fulmer. The Dodgers showed heavy interest in Bruce but with their main focus on the back end of their rotation and with Yasiel Puig‘s reemergence, it seems less probable that the Dodgers would utilize the prospects in their top-ranked farm system just for depth in the outfield.
The Usual Suspects
That leaves the Mets, Giants, Blue Jays, and Nationals. The Mets have Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson in the outfield, but Michael Conforto has struggled horrifically and they have turned to Jose Reyes to supply an offensive boost. With Matt Harvey done for the season and Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard struggling with bone spurs, the Mets may have a lot more to worry about soon than their lackluster offense. They would also have to do a little shuffling around of positions to fit Bruce in.
The Jays would use Bruce so that they don’t have to use their more mediocre pieces, like Justin Smoak. Toronto should never have offensive problems considering their lineup, but they do. They already paid big-time for guys like Troy Tulowitzki and David Price last year, so there is a question as to whether they have the prospects necessary to get a deal done, and whether they are willing to deal for a player who would cause someone like Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion to take a seat every few days. With a bullpen that ranks 19th in MLB at 4.12 ERA, Toronto may aim to score a reliever first.
The Nationals have the 3rd-ranked bullpen in MLB at 3.17 ERA, and also rank 3rd in rotation ERA at 3.43. Their pitching if fine, but their outfield is not. Left fielder Jayson Werth has a .760 OPS and young Michael Taylor has a .638 OPS, while Bryce Harper is the clear Alpha at nineteen home runs and an .897 OPS. Harper’s defensive WAR sits at -0.1, so it’s not like the Nationals would suffer from shifting some people around in the outfield. Bruce could even be brought in to play first base, the position Ryan Zimmerman and his .686 OPS occupied before he landed on the DL.
Contending teams have to be flexible, especially the Nationals, who have a tested track record of reluctance to keep prospects in the majors (i.e. Stephen Strasburg, Lucas Giolito, and Trea Turner). The Giants outfield boasts OPS figures of .747 by Angel Pagan and .677 by Denard Span, while Hunter Pence had an .861 before he landed on the DL yet again. That caused Gregor Blanco to step in, along with his .685 OPS, as well as surprising rookie Jarrett Parker (.812). The Giants have a 4th-ranked rotation whose 3.53 ERA needs no work, but they may make some moves in their bullpen, which has struggled lately and ranks 16th in the majors in 2016 with a 4.02 ERA.
Where He’ll Land
If San Francisco makes a move, it will either be for a reliever or an outfielder. The team that is most desperate for an offensive boost in the form of Bruce is probably the Mets. However, the Nats are most likely to make a move. MLB-ready guys like Giolito, Turner, and A.J. Cole are probably off limits, but younger guys like Victor Robles, Andrew Stevenson, or Anderson Franco could be in the mix.
Five Most Likely Landing Spots: 1. Washington 2. San Francisco 3. Toronto 4. New York 5. Los Angeles
It’s almost like everyone forgot Cozart was a possible trade asset until the start of 2016. With fourteen home runs, an .806 OPS, the NL’s best defensive range factor among qualified shortstops at 4.73, the third-best defensive WAR among qualified NL shortstops at 1.4, and the fourth-best WAR among NL shortstops at 2.5, Cozart offers fantastic, well-rounded value for any team in need of infield help. Teams like the Royals, Mariners, and Tigers have been pinpointed as good fits for Cozart, but those teams have to decide that they’re willing to be buyers to make such a deal. At the moment, they’re all slipping out of the postseason picture in the AL.
Alcides Escobar has a .608 OPS, -0.1 defensive WAR, and -1.0 total WAR. That doesn’t bode well for a run at the wild card. In Seattle, the 22-year-old Ketel Marte has mustered just a .640 OPS. And while Jose Iglesias flashes a great glove in Detroit, he is sub-par offensively, with a .646 OPS. The Tigers, Royals, and Mariners all sit 3, 3.5, and five games, respectively, out of the second AL wildcard spot, and 6.5, 7, and 9.5 games, respectively, behind their divison leaders. Those teams would have to commit to being buyers to trade for Cozart.
Other teams that have been connected to Zack Cozart are the Orioles, Marlins, and Mets. While Manny Machado has been amazing at shortstop in Baltimore this season, the Orioles have had to make do with some shabby infielder offense from the likes of Ryan Flaherty (.647 OPS) and J.J. Hardy (.648 OPS). The Orioles have a great bullpen and powerful offense, but they are more likely to target starting pitchers before they seek infielders with pop.
From the Queen City to Queens?
The Mets have Asdrubal Cabrera (.758 OPS), who lacks defensive range (-2.3 defensive WAR since 2013), at shirtstop, and Reyes, who has a poor .235/.278 BA and OBP in his first four games with the Mets, newly placed at third. In addition, many scouts have serious doubts about Reyes’ arm due to his injury history and age (33). Three of his first four hits as a Met were two doubles and a home run for a .529 SLG, but that is extremely unlikely to continue considering that he hasn’t had a slugging percentage above .433 since 2011. The Mets may have big issues cropping up with their pitching, but they have been content in the past to make do with more low-key fill-in players like Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and, in this case, Reyes.
The Marlins are surprising the baseball world and their powerful division by standing just one game behind the Mets in both the wildcard race and the NL East. That’s with a struggling Giancarlo Stanton. Adeiny Hechavarria is another nifty shortstop with a dandy glove, but is also a dud on offense with a .615 OPS this season.
Other Marlin infielders, like Miguel Rojas, Chris Johnson, and Cole Gillespie, have also been poor at the plate, with OPS of .578, .629, .643 respectively. Second baseman Derek Dietrich also has a defensive WAR of just 0.1. Veteran Martin Prado, 32, is solid on defense and has good plate discipline with a .317 batting average and a .359 OBP, but lacks any semblance of power, with a .401 slugging percentage, 0.086 isolated power, and a home run rate of just 0.6%.
Where He’ll Land
Cozart is financially cheap and his contract is up in 2016, so he isn’t a gigantic risk for any team looking to add infield power and an elite glove, or put together a top-tier infield platoon. The teams that needs Cozart the most look to be Kansas City, Miami, or New York. All were terrible offensively in June with .418, .397, .373 slugging percentages, respectively. Kansas City is eager to to give its excited fan base a chance at a repeat title, and its pitching isn’t the most prevalent problem.
Miami is making a playoff push behind a young pitching staff and slugging outfielders. While they could definitely benefit from buying Cozart, they aren’t in a scrambling panic to win the World Series like other contenders, like the Mets. The Mets are attempting to make due with Reyes. They may have been able to do that when they had Harvey, Matz, and Syndergaard tossing every fastball at 98 mph. However, with Harvey out, Matz and Syndergaard battling their bone spurs, and now a quad strain pulling Cespedes out of the All-Star game, the Mets may need more than their usual duct tape to piece a contender back together.
If the Boston Red Sox were willing to give up someone like Wendell Rijo (MLB.com’s #20 Brewers prospect) in a deal for Aaron Hill, and last year the Mets traded John Gant and Robert Whalen (#21 and #26 Braves prospects) for Uribe and Johsnon, Cozart could reap high returns. That could mean anyone from Luis Carpio to Gregory Guerrero.
Five Most Likely Landing Spots: 5. Seattle 4. Baltimore 3. Miami 2. Kansas City 1. New York