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Redleg Trade Review: Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez

July 13, 2006: The Cincinnati Reds trade Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner to the Washington Nationals for Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris, Gary Majewski and Daryl Thompson.

The 2005 Reds team was a team of transition. Following the 2004 season, all-time great shortstop Barry Larkin had retired, and Felipe Lopez had moved into the shortstop position. They had replaced most of their starting pitching staff as Jose Acevedo and Cory Lidle had been traded, and Paul Wilson only made nine starts in 2005 due to injury. Ramon Ortiz, Luke Hudson, and Eric Milton joined holdovers Aaron Harang and Brandon Claussen.

The 2004 team had three starting pitchers with ERAs over 5.00, but that didn’t improve in 2006. Three pitchers again had ERAs over 5.00, with two over 6.00, but the Reds relievers and defense held on enough to lower runs allowed by 18. The big difference in 2005 was that their offense improved by 70 runs, or almost one-half run per game. The Reds’ offense featured a set of four slugging outfielders, Ken Griffey, Jr., and youngsters Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Wily Mo Pena. The team also had smooth swinging first baseman Sean Casey at first base and an offensive minded shortstop in Lopez. This team averaged over 5.125 runs per game, allowing almost 5.5 runs per game.

Reds general manager Dan O’Brien was fired in January of 2006, and replaced by Wayne Krivsky who went about working on upgrading the starting pitching again for the Reds.

Deciding to deal from a position of strength in the outfield, Krivsky traded Pena to the Red Sox for starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, giving the Reds a formidable one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Arroyo had his best major league season in 2006, going 14-11 with a 3.29 ERA, leading the league in starts and innings pitched. Harang also had one of his best seasons, going 16-11 with a 3.73 ERA and leading the league in complete games and tying Arroyo for the lead in starts. Their relief corps was piecemeal by nature. Eight different relievers earned saves for the Reds in 2006, led by David Weathers‘s 12. By the all-star break, the Reds pitching staff had improved, decreasing their runs allowed per game to 5.20.

On offense, the Reds made some major changes. In addition to trading Pena, they dealt popular first baseman Sean Casey to the Pirates and replaced him with free agent Scott Hatteberg. They dealt for new 2B Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion was now the third baseman. With all the changes, the Reds maintained their same run scoring average as the previous season, 5.03 runs per game, but were still allowing 5.20 runs per game. The Reds were 45-44 at the all-star break, four games behind the first place Cardinals.

The Reds targeted their starting pitching and bullpen for additional improvements. In the month of July alone, the Reds acquired starting pitcher Kyle Lohse and veteran lefty relievers Rheal Cormier and Eddie Guardado. They also made what is sometimes called “The Trade” in recent Cincinnati lore…they dealt starting right fielder Austin Kearns, starting shortstop Felipe Lopez, and relief prospect Ryan Wagner for relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski, infielders Royce Clayton and Brendan Harris, and starting pitcher prospect Daryl Thompson. They had also recently acquired veteran infielder Juan Castro as the Reds vowed to improve their defense and pitching. The Reds felt positioned to make a charge at the Cardinals.

It didn’t work. The Reds were first place by percentage points over the Cardinals on August 24, with a 67-61 record, but went only 13-21 down the stretch as injuries, the lack of offense, and the defense/pitching just couldn’t keep up. The pitching improved slightly, dropping from 5.20 runs allowed to 5.10 runs allowed per game. However, their hitting fell through the floor with their runs scored per game dropping from 5.03 to 4.12 runs per game, nearly one less run per game. Their post all-star record was 35-38, giving them an overall record of 80-82, finishing third, 3 1/2 games out of first place.

With the Reds, Kearns had an .843 OPS and Lopez compiled an OPS of .749. Kearns’s OPS was .810 with the Nationals in a tougher hitting atmosphere. Lopez’s Washington OPS was .720. Clayton was Lopez’s replacement in Cincinnati as Krivsky was looking for more defense from his shortstop. However, Clayton’s defense wasn’t any better than Lopez’s, and his OPS was .619. Ryan Freel took Kearns’s spot in the outfield and posted an OPS of .762. As for pitchers, Majewski’s ERA was 8.40, Bray’s was 4.23, Lohse’s was 4.57, Cormier was 4.50 and Guardado went on the DL. Harris and Thompson were sent to the minor leagues.

Since that time, the principles have had mixed results. Austin Kearns has had injury troubles and has never regained his rookie year form. In the three years since that time, his OPS has been over .650 just once. Lopez did not hit well in his 1 1/2 seasons with the Nationals, but has hit well with the Cardinals (.964 OPS), Diamondbacks (.775), and Brewers since then (.903). Reliever Ryan Wagner did not pitch well and has retired from baseball.

Majewski, Bray, and Thompson all battled injuries since coming to the Reds and have pitched a total of 180 innings for the Reds between the three of them over three seasons. Clayton was released and played 77 more major league games before retiring. The Reds traded Harris to the Devil Rays and is now with the Twins, and he is playing well to this day. He’s batted .286, .265, and .261 as a starting infielder for the three years since leaving Reds.

19 thoughts on “Redleg Trade Review: Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez

  1. But if you mention Brendan Harris to people who are in-the-know, they almost always say he sucks. Riiight.

  2. I don’t know what happened to Kearns. As you note, he had a good 2nd half with Washington (his OPS+ w/Washington, which adjusts for ballpark, was 114 compared to 110 in Cincinnati.)

    He also had a good 2007 with Washington. Played 161 games, OPS+ of 103, and above average defense.

    He’s been quite bad 2008-09.

  3. This is the trade which many use as their rallying cry to disdain everything recent about Cincinnati baseball. Krivsky dealt from a position of strength (offense) to add value where it was needed (relief).

    Majewski is to Reds fans what Steve Bartman is to Chicago. He’s a scapegoat. Very few people recall that Majewski had a 2.93 ERA in 86 IP the year before. Most impressively with his stint in Washington, Majewski only gave up 8 HRs in 162.1 IP. He was only 25 and looked like a 7th/8th inning guy.

    Bray had been the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft. He was pitching very well in the minors before the trade. He posted a 12.79 K/9 average with a 45:9 K to walk ratio. I remember the debate being whether he could be a very solid left handed closer, or be converted to a starter.

    Those were, at the time, to very solid players.

    Many Cincinnati fans overvalued Kearns, and still do. In 2005, Kearns hit a pedestrian .240/.333/.452 in 387 ABs. Known for pretty decent defense as well, Kearns had a UZR/150 of just 0.9 in 2005. With injuries, inconsistency, and arbitration years approaching, it made sense to deal him. His 2006 was much better, but it was far from great.

    Lopez has been one of the worst defensive shortstops, statistically, since entering the league. He was having a career year, both offensively and defensively when he was dealt in 2006. This was a great sell high move in my opinion. He has never come close to touching 23 HRs again, and never sniffed 44 SBs again.

    The thing that bothers me most is the absolute ridicule this trade gets because most assume the Reds could have gotten more. In the end this deal favored the Reds. Bray and Thompson still have careers in front of them and remain the only real assets for either side.

  4. The thing that bothers me most is the absolute ridicule this trade gets because most assume the Reds could have gotten more.

    No, the Reds could have gotten bullpen arms without sacrificing so much offense. They (and other teams) proved this in deals made in the summer of ’06. Even Krivsky admitted that he overpaid.

    As far as Majewski goes, that was classic sell high by the Nats, especially given their knowledge of his arm problems that season. I’ve still never heard an answer as to how the Reds didn’t know about that, given that the Reds and Nationals had the same team doctor (Kremcheck.)

  5. This trade remains a “flash-bulb memory” for me. I was living in Iowa at the time and my older brother called to see what I thought of the trade… which was the first I had heard of it. I was so irritated at the time. It’s definitley one of those “what would have been” situations if the trade never went down. I do take some comfort in knowing that Kearns never became the star we thought he’d be. I could always take or leave Felipe Lopez. Here’s to hoping Bray and Thompson become valuable, as noted in post #3

  6. I remember I went to the game against the Rockies that day, (redeemed my Valentine’s day present). The usher told me as he was wiping off the seats that Kerns and Lopez were gone. Sad day, but what else could we have done. Brought back Esteban Yan again? If only everyday Eddie wouldn’t have gotten hurt that year, *sigh.

  7. This is the trade which many use as their rallying cry to disdain everything recent about Cincinnati baseball

    PS. I think that honor has easily passed to Patterson Taveras and Baker.

  8. I agree w/ David… I never bought into Kearns was going to be a star. He had zero power for a RF. We desperately needed bullpen help at the time and MajicMan and Bray were supposed to provide that immediately. I’m still a huge fan of Bray’s. When healthy he is a stud lefty. He just can’t stay healthy. We gave up nothing in this trade and with Thompson and Bray we could still get value.

  9. Before this season, I actually thought we would do good by re-signing Lopez and playing him at 2B, moving BP to SS. I guess we can still do it fo next year.

  10. Don’t know why it even matters anymore, but here’s tonight’s lineup (sigh):


    Dickerson 9
    Taveras 8
    Votto 3
    Phillips 4
    Balentien 7
    Rosales 5
    Hanigan 2
    Janish 6
    Bailey 1

  11. Why is it so difficult to play an outfield of Gomes, Dickerson and Balentien? I swear, Patterson must have given Taveras the same naked pics of Baker’s daughter Patterson was using last season to stay in the lineup.

  12. GregD – well we may both be wrong. I heard on the radio that the Brewers are talking trade with Bill Hall. Reds are interested. Arroyo for Hall anyone?

  13. Every once in a while, I remember that Taveras signed a 2-year, multimillion dollar deal and will be here, in the lineup every day, at least until the ASB next year, and I get really depressed because:

    1) Without Volquez, they have 2-3 question marks in the rotation next year.

    2) They still don’t have any offense.

    3) There is no way they will contend for anything until at least 2011, and that’s being generous.

    Why am I a Reds fan? What’s the point?

  14. I still think to this day the reasons why those three were traded:

    1.) Lopez was lazy, sucked defensively, and had worn out his welcome. He was a cancer to the team. I fully believe that to this day.

    2.) Kearns arbitration numbers were getting WAY too high for a player of his production. He would have been traded at some point to get relief of his contract.

    3.) Wagner was a pain in the butt and his violent arm motion meant he wasn’t going to be around for a long time.

    I still think they could have gotten a better haul, but they hit the panic button in order to try to stay close. It failed miserably.

    Ironically, arguably the player who has performed the best since the trade was Harris, who nobody wanted to give a chance to.

  15. We greatly overpaid on this deal.

    1) As a 22 year old, Kearns had very good power for a RF…his slugging percentage was .500. Votto’s last year, at age 24, was .506 and he plays 1b which is a more important power position. The year we traded Kearns his SLP was .492 at the time of trade. Anyway, outfield was not a point of strength at that time…we already had dealt Pena, and Ryan Freel was entering his decline phase…and was truly the most overrated player on the Reds.

    2) Lopez was not good in the field…however, he was playing ss…we should’ve switched he and Phillips then; in fact, I thought we would…and his bat seems to keep hitting even today…

    3) No one expected Harris to play as well as he has. He’s not an all-star, but he and Lopez would’ve really helped this year’s team, too.

    4) Wagner should never have been drafted in teh first round (never draft relievers in first round) and was also brought up too soon as a marketing ploy.

    5) I thought Bray would be good; frankly, he’s now a forever question mark

    6) Majewski was bad scouting and bad homework…

    7) Thompson was hurt when we got him; he’s been hurt since we got him, and he’s hurt now….that should tell us something…

    8) The Reds had minor league relievers they could’ve used; we used 33 pitchers in Louisville that year….

  16. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Brewers GM claimed to have several parties interested in Bill Hall. This guy is owed $10 million next year and can’t hit .200. The article went on to speculate that the Reds were interested and that both Arroyo and Harang had passed waivers.
    I can’t believe any team would trade much more than a bag of used baseballs for Hall and only if the Brewers picked up most of his salary. If the Reds make a deal like this, “The Trade” will look like a steal in comparison.

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