The Cincinnati Reds trade deadline activity means nearly everything for the organization moving forward. The Reds currently are the third-worst team in all of MLB, are 14.5 games behind the second wildcard slot, and are twenty-one games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. With possibly the worst bullpen in baseball history, injuries to key players, a slew of talented prospects at Triple-A, and a big-league rotation of young pitchers still adjusting to top competition, it is safe to say that Cincinnati’s postseason hopes might be a couple years from materializing.
Grading the Cincinnati Reds Trade Deadline Activity
Teams like the Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and Atlanta Braves have been very aggressive in their efforts to overhaul. The success in the way an organization handles trades and its rebuilding process is subjective to every fan and baseball observer.
It is a scary thing to watch All-Stars and fan favorites leave a team one by one, especially when Reds teams of years like 2010 and 2012 had very legitimate shots to contend for the World Series. Pulling the trigger on transactions and making moves is the most obvious key to making a big league club younger, more talented, and primed for long-term contention. How well did the Reds do with that?
Front Office Aggression
Out of all of the possible deals that were thrown about involving Cincinnati players, the organization seemed to do the absolute bare minimum in terms of asset marketing. The Reds are a losing team currently occupying the NL cellar who have been operating under a self-labeled rebuilding process. The team had been linked to talks about dealing Zack Cozart, Dan Straily, Brandon Phillips, Billy Hamilton, Tucker Barnhart, Anthony DeSclafani, Tony Cingrani, Ivan De Jesus, Blake Wood, and Ross Ohlendorf. By 4:00 pm, only Jay Bruce was being shipped to a new city.
That level of inactivity is especially concerning when considering some of the other names that were dealt away. With players like Ricky Nolasco, Drew Hutchison, Francisco Liriano, Wade Miley, and Jon Niese being traded, it would seem as if buyers were open to all possibilities. This is where the Cincinnati front office failed. The idea of trading Bruce was handled with such sentiment and care that it is like the Reds forgot that there was even a deadline. The talk of a Bruce trade being inevitable made the deal seem like it was going to happen on its own, and that really narrowed the window of opportunity for additional transactions.
Teams like the New York Yankees, Brewers, Padres, and Oakland Athletics demonstrated the correct way to rebuild. You come to terms with reality: are you in or out? Is it likely that you are out for the short-term or long-term? Then you aggressively market every one of your established big-league players to any team that will listen until you get a bite. If the player isn’t a part of the team’s long-term vision, he has to be traded. Otherwise, his production was wasted on a last place season.
Take Straily for instance. After bouncing around to Chicago and the Houston Astros with little success, the Reds picked Straily up off the waivers in January. On a one-year minimum contract, Straily has produced a 3.84 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 122 innings this season. For all the contenders who were looking for a back-end starter, Straily would’ve been a nice fit and the Reds would’ve been able to smile knowing their future got a little brighter thanks to the surprising production of a pitcher they took a flier on.
Since the Reds were only able to deal Bruce, their front office aggression grade isn’t good. Due to the extreme care that was given to moving Bruce, the organization now has to wait and hope that Cozart can repeat his fantastic, well-rounded play and avoid being injured for several months, as was the case in 2015. The trade deadline is stressful, but everyone should have their calendar marked so they can play and negotiate accordingly.
Value of Returns and Quality of the Deals
Jay Bruce is a 2016 All-Star, has twenty-five home runs, a .875 OPS, and leads all National League outfielders in slugging percentage at .559.In return for that level of production, the Reds received 22-year-old infielder Dilson Herrera and 19-year-old southpaw slinger Max Wotell.
Herrera was ranked as the #4 prospect in the New York Mets organization and the #46 prospect in all of baseball in 2015, and he backs those accolades up with a .825 OPS over a five-year career in the minors. Wotell is young, but he has a 3.60 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 0.23 HR/9, and 10.58 K/9 in forty innings pitched since 2015, which earned him the distinction of being the #18 prospect in the Mets organization this season.
It is easy to look at the original deal that would’ve sent Brandon Nimmo and two unnamed lower level prospects to Cincinnati and believe that the Reds ended up with the worse return. Considering that the 23-year-old Nimmo produced a .898 OPS in two seasons at the Triple-A level, that immediate response is understandable. However, when considering that Herrera is younger than Nimmo and was far more consistent in his time in the minor leagues, and that Wotell has flashed some electric ability in his brief time as a professional, the return for Bruce as a rental looks good enough. It isn’t spectacular or a highway robbery of a trade, but it warrants some unemotional nods of approval.
The trade looks a lot worse when compared to what the Brewers, Yankees, and A’s were able to get in return for the rental players they paired together. The Brewers were able to pick up three of their top ten organizational prospects through trades, the Yankees picked up five of their top sixteen prospects, and the A’s picked up three starting pitchers who currently rank in their top sixteen prospects. Again, those kind of returns come with volume, which the Reds simply weren’t able or willing to offer at a Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, or Josh Reddick and Rich Hill type of level.
Getting Herrera and Wotell for Jay Bruce is a pretty good deal, it just isn’t exactly what most were expecting. If you are going to disapprove of the Reds trade deadline activity, disapprove of the lack of volume and hustle, not the nifty prospects that are on their way from New York.