With a trade of Brandon Phillips appearing unlikely after a pair of offseason misfires to the Diamondbacks and Nationals, Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart are the two remaining Reds regulars who can elicit a few decent assets from another club. The cases of Bruce and Cozart are similar for three reasons:

  • Control Both players are under team control through 2017 before hitting the open market. Bruce has a team option of $13 million ($1 million buyout) for 2017, while Cozart’s last year of arbitration is in 2017. Last month, the Reds and Cozart avoided an arbitration hearing by reportedly coming to terms on a one-year, $2.925 million contract.
  • Personal incentive In 2016, the 28-year-old Bruce must prove that his poor showing from 2014-15 is not the new normal, but instead was a two-year abnormality shrouding an impressive stretch from 2010-13. And for Cozart, he needs to prove that A) his pre-injury offensive performance in 2015 was a sign of things to come and that B) he remains an impressive defensive shortstop in spite of his age (30) and his recovery from tearing a tendon and multiple ligaments in his right knee last June.
  • The writing’s on the wall Due to the youth-based direction of the club, Bruce and Cozart are extremely unlikely to receive contract extension offers from the Reds. It makes too much sense for Bruce and Cozart to move on and for the Reds to obtain whatever value they can for two regulars.

Now, on to breakdowns of both players…

Jay Bruce

Let’s begin with a table to show how things have changed for the Reds’ right-fielder:

BB% ISO OBP wRC+
2010-13 9.9 .227 .338 120
2014 8.1 .156 .281 78
2015 8.9 .209 .294 91
Career 9.3 .215 .319 107

Over the past two seasons, Bruce’s walk rate, isolated power, on-base percentage, and total offensive value (when adjusted for league average and park effects) have regressed appreciably from his elite 2010-13 form and from his career marks. The 2014 and 2015 campaigns are concerning trends for a player who hasn’t yet reached 30. In fairness to Bruce, 2014 can be filed away as a lost season due to the former first-round pick playing through a knee injury. Last year, Bruce at least exhibited improvement across the board.

GB% FB% HR/FB Pull% Hard% BABIP
2010-13 36.2 43.6 16.8% 43.8 35.8 .309
2014 45.2 34.0 15.3% 48.9 32.9 .269
2015 37.0 44.2 13.3% 46.8 35.4 .251
Career 38.4 42.0 16.4% 45.2 34.3 .287

There are both positive and negative developments when it comes to reviewing Bruce’s batted ball numbers and other statistics. On the bright side, Bruce trended back to his career norms in virtually every category listed above last summer: he stopped hitting the ball on the ground as much (GB%) and instead put the ball back in the air (FB%), and he hit the ball with more authority (Hard%).

However, Bruce’s home run-to-fly-ball rate (HR/FB) sunk for the fourth consecutive season in 2015, and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) receded for the third year in a row. Bruce continued to offer at more pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing%) than he did during his peak years and for his career, a distressing shift for a player with a long swing, especially when combined with the fact that Bruce has struggled over the past two years against fastballs.

Back in November, FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris dove into the BABIP conundrum that is Jay Bruce. Sarris deduced that infield shifts were not the overriding factor in Bruce’s BABIP woes, but Sarris did determine that Bruce began driving the ball into the ground over the second half of last season, noting that Bruce’s line drives were turning into ground balls. A closer look at Bruce’s first half/second half splits from 2015 highlights that concerning development:

GB% BB% ISO OBP Hard% wRC+
2015 1st half 34.7 12.2 .214 .341 37.3 115
2015 2nd half 39.4 5.2 .203 .242 33.3 65

Post All-Star Break, as Bruce pounded the ball into the ground, his walk, power, on-base, hard-hit, and overall offensive value numbers nosedived. For whatever reason — age-related decline, his knee acting up, disappointment at either being on the trade block or not being moved to a better club, bad luck, etc. — Bruce labored in the final months of the 2015 season.

Conclusion

Bruce — who can block a trade to the Athletics, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees — could have (and in retrospect, probably should have) been shipped out at the trade deadline last July, as both his trade value and personal performance suffered through the end of the season. This offseason, concern over Bruce’s struggles from 2014-15, his overall inconsistency, and a slow-developing outfield market depressed his trade value.

It was wise of the Reds to hold onto Bruce this winter. After all, his value can’t really sink any further, and though the outfield market will sort itself out by spring training, if Bruce enjoys one of his patented hot streaks sometime in June or July, he can be traded while smoldering and when injuries and other things (teams rising and falling) happen to create openings.

Protected by a near-peak Joey Votto and a healthy Devin Mesoraco — and to a lesser extent, Phillips and Eugenio Suarez — Bruce should have enough lineup protection for a potential rebound season. In order to do that, Bruce will need to regain his walking eye, keep the ball off the ground, and hope that more of his hard-hit balls turn into extra-base hits and that more of his fly balls become home runs.

Zack Cozart

Cozart is a much more simpler case at the dish than Bruce. Unfortunately, that’s not much of a compliment to his abilities as a hitter. Up until his freak knee injury last June, Cozart was enjoying his best offensive stretch since joining the Reds in 2011.

BB% ISO OBP wRC+
2015 6.5 .201 .310 104
Career 4.8 .130 .284 77

Again, pre-injury, Cozart had experienced improvement across the board. But is that improvement sustainable?

GB% FB% HR/FB Pull% Hard% BABIP
2013 50.3 31.6 8.1% 44.3 24.6 .285
2014 44.6 37.7 2.5% 47.5 22.9 .255
2015 38.6 42.2 12.9% 47.9 25.4 .258
Career 45.1 36.4 7.5 46.1 24.1 .274

After a miserable 2014, we can see that Cozart adjusted and strived to both lift the ball in the air and to pull the ball. This strategy orchestrated a power surge; after registering just 27 extra-base hits in 543 plate appearances in 2014, Cozart tallied 20 extra-base knocks in 214 plate appearances last season. While Cozart’s home run-to-fly ball rate is not sustainable — he isn’t Miguel Cabrera, after all — we should not expect too much of a drop-off: the University of Mississippi product’s plate discipline statistics over the past two seasons display little variance from his career averages, and Cozart seems to have found a simple strategy that works for him: be more selective at the plate, attack fastballs, and take advantage of his pull power.

Perhaps more importantly, Cozart needs to show the Reds (and potential suitors) that he can still play shortstop at a high level. In spite of his career-long offensive issues, Cozart’s defense has prevented him from being a below-replacement level player; among qualified shortstops from 2012-15, Cozart is tied for second in Defensive Runs Saved and is third in Ultimate Zone Rating.

Conclusion

If Cozart proves that he can still stick at shortstop while minimizing his regression at the plate, he will be on track for his second 2+ fWAR season, a level he was slated to reach in 2015 prior to his injury. Though the Reds had no other option but to hold onto Cozart this winter while he rehabbed, if Cozart is productive (and healthy) once trade season comes around, the Reds should not hesitate to move him while the iron is hot.

Join the conversation! 66 Comments

  1. Player valuations. Isn’t this the largest gray area in the Reds organization? Didn’t we hear all winter how Jocketty and Company were constantly overvaluing their own players in trade negotiations?
    Absolutely no confidence in Jocketty doing the right thing concerning Bruce and Cozart. Jocketty would screw up a one-car funeral procession.
    The returns the Reds received from the Frazier and Chapman trades show that the Reds front office doesn’t do player valuations on other teams very well either. Jocketty and the Reds received pennies on the dollar for those two trades. Peraza will be the only one obtained in that group that will eventually amount to anything close to a regular. And the jury is still out on him. Rookie Davis might also amount to a 25-man roster spot.
    The Reds went into a re-build/re-boot with a GM/President of Baseball Ops that had vertually no experience in doing such a thing, and the results were a mind-numbing failure.
    The next Reds re-build has to be in the front office from top to bottom. No more paper overing the walls with neptoism hires and get some real baseball people in the front office.
    2012 was the year Jocketty failed to go for it.
    2013 was the year Jocketty failed to go for it again. The face on Big Bob in Pittsburgh.
    2014 was the year of injuries.
    2015 was the year of MANY front office bad decisions.
    2016 will be the year of…..who knows.
    With Jocketty still on board it isn’t a question of failure. It is a question of just how much front office failure there will be in 2016. With the re-build off to such a rocky start, the amount of front office failure in 2016 is sure to be high.

    • You are neglecting the fact that the Yankees and White Sox/Dodgers were only trading for one year of Chapman and Frazier. Steamer has Chapman projected at 1.4 fWAR and Frazier at 3.4 fWAR in 2016. After deducting the Chapman’s 2016 salary, around $13MM (1.6 WAR) Chapman’s surplus value is actually -.2 fWAR. Even assuming that Chapman produces 2.6 fWAR in 2016 the Yankees would only be getting 1.0 fWAR in surplus value. So if Davis et all produce at least 1.0 fWAR in value over the life of the Red’s team control, the trade would have been worth it.

      The same could be said of the Frazier deal. Frazier’s 2016 salary is around $8MM or 1.0 WAR, so his surplus value is around 2.4 WAR (3.4-1). I think Peraza alone is going to be worth at least 2.4 fWAR during his rookie contract. Also, look at the returns the Reds received for Latos and Cueto. WJ may have some faults but he has done pretty well in his trades.

      • Agreed, Citizen. I like your breakdown of this.

        • Even with 2 years of Frazier, I agree with your sentiment.

          The Reds didn’t get fleeced as some fans think. Could the Reds have gotten more at some other point? Possible. But they didn’t, and the trade wasn’t all that bad.

      • Frazier is team-controlled for two years, not one. He also plays 3B which is a position of huge scarcity, especially on this year’s market. He also plays good defense and offers position flexibility since he can play at 1B and LF. Frazier was a huge trade chip.

        • Okay so lets add another 3.2 WAR for 2017 in value. That gives us about 5.6 WAR in surplus value. I still think Peraza alone is going to provide that much in value.

          Defense is already included in WAR but you are right in that 3B is scarce and that he can play other postions, although when he plays 1B and LF his bat doesn’t provide as much value as when he plays 3B.

          The Reds might have been able to get a little bit more due the lack of other options at 3B and I would have liked to see the Reds get someone with a higher ceiling than Peraza but the Reds didn’t get shafted like some people say. I think the front office panicked a bit when the news about Chapman came out and they were forced in their minds to make some kind of move.

      • When did teams start trading WAR for WAR? I thought it was players and contracts that were traded. (wink)
        Whatever the circumstances are/were surrounding the Chapman situation, the whole thing was handled very poorly by the Reds front office. Very poorly. From not trading Chapman last July, to the mockery that came at the Winter Meetings from trying to trade him before news broke of his domestic gun play indiscretion. The Reds acted like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar after trying to trade him and then wilted into the backdrop of the Winter Meetings with a gaping wound in the credibility department. They should have been determined and agressive in their approach. But no, they tucked their tail between their legs and went and hid for the rest of the Meetings.
        Then the Frazier trade saga was a disappointment in the return the Reds got. It is reported the Reds got for Frazier exactly what the Reds would have received for Chapman, if that trade had gone through. Two years of Frazier at 3B is worth the same as one year of Chapman at closer? No. That was confusing. It was an odd trade.
        How many Reds fans do you know that applauded the two trade returns and were genuinely excited about them?? The trade returns were panned locally, regionally, and nationally.
        Time will tell if those two trades and the returns will work in the Reds favor. Hopefully they do. However, my opinion only, there should have been a good SS in one of those trades, Anderson from CWS or Jorge Mateo from NYY. Or go elsewhere to make the trades. Going into 2016, there isn’t much to be excited about with those two trades, other than Peraza and Rookie Davis. I have no quibbles with the Cueto and Leake trades. With 20/20 hindsight, maybe the Leake trade should have come at the same time of the Simon and Latos trades.
        I have some cautious optimism for 2016, for the players and coaches. But not much in the front office getting something decent back in any trade of Bruce and/or Cozart. I’m afraid they will sell way too low on Bruce.

        • If Chapman and Frazier were worth more than the Reds received then why weren’t the Reds offered more?

          Chapman pitches 60 innings per year…..he’s fun to watch…..but he pitches 60 innings per year….that just isn’t worth much. Frazier is not extremely expensive, he was coming off his best year and yet there was a “limited” demand for his services. Why? He’s not a bad guy…he’s not injury prone. Yet, his market was limited.

          There is no evidence that they could’ve received more for either player than they did….none.

          Lastly, why would anyone care if the fans or the media think a trade was bad? Most fans don’t know anything. They think the Reds should trade Billy Hamilton for Mike Trout and use unicorn dollars to sign every free agent. ….and even the most respected baseball journalist are often wrong.

          • In the case of Frazier the Reds front office obviously loved Jose Peraza. Maybe they were offered more from other clubs based on how others would evaluate it. Many analysts thought the package the White Sox gave to the Dodgers in the deal was better. I’m sure the Reds had a chance to accept that.

        • The guy who called me from the Reds season ticket office was desperately trying to convince me that those trades were good ones. It was almost comical. I could see some of his points in regards to the Chapman trade but that package the ChiSox gave the Dodgers was better than what we got from the Dodgers for Frazier. That just wasn’t a good return for a deserving AS 3B with power, and two years of team control left at a decent salary. He tried to convince me that one of the big reasons the Reds were so bad in the 2nd half was Frazier being awful and that the Reds were lucky to get what they got. Told him I didn’t buy it and that the Reds had a lot more problems than Frazier being bad.

    • Because the Reds received young players–prospects–in the Frazier and Chapman deals it’s much too early to judge. Jocketty has not done badly as a trader, and a rebuild is, by definition, going to result in trades of established talent for young, unproven players. Time will tell.

      • This is true. We won’t REALLY know until the young players develop or don’t develop.

    • I agree with everything you said above. The Reds should be honest with their fans. They made bad decisions regarding contracts, and their “small market” status. The mode they’re in at this point is ridding the team of large contracts, while losing enough games to garner high draft picks. This will enable their farms clubs to regain value, and hopefully some of these “draft picks” will come together at the big league level at the same time. Hopefully, these “high draft” picks will be under club control long enough to make the Reds good before they have to part with the talent because of contract negotiations. The Astros were able to retool in 10 years. They rid the club of big contracts in a few short years. Had a couple of veterans, coupled with some high draft picks, and boom they were very good a year ago. The Reds however, are stumbling out of the gate regarding this “rebuild”. Selling desperately low in the Cueto, Leake, Frazier, and Chapman trades while not being able to move Phillips and Bruce, along with the crippling contracts to Votto and Bailey are proof of stumbling into their rebuild. The Reds will trot out revisits to past champions, have many “Bark in the Parks”, Bobblehead nights, and of course the “Pete Rose Reds Hall of Fame Induction” to keep their fans interested this season. Unfortunately, this will not keep even the most zealous Reds fans at bay. I don’t feel as though “rock-bottom” has been hit. 90+ losses are going to be the norm for the next few years, and hopefully the Reds will rid themselves of their real problem…. Walt Jocketty.

  2. Great article and the data really tells the story.I would like to think that both players have something to prove and if they do get off to a good start then their value should go up.I say should because it really comes down to what you can get for them and we didn’t set the world on fire with the Frazier/Chapman deals.I do feel that we will get more at the trade deadline then during the off season because teams who have a chance in July to win it all will give more.So let hope both light it up early and some team sees one of them or even both as that one piece that puts them in the playoffs.I will say I agree with WVREDLEGS in that as long as Walt is in the building he will mess it up because he hasn’t shown me anything.

  3. I would have liked for them to have just found a way to have gotten Cozart off the books over the winter. I understand the situation was a delicate one and that just nontendering him would have also been bad business in several ways.

    However Cozart is not part of the future and now they are jacking around a guy who might be (Suarez) and probably holding back another guy (Peraza) who better be part of the future just to try and get a better return on Cozart. And in the end they are probably only going to get a slightly larger bucket of batting practice balls than if they would have found a team to take the risk the risk on Cozart’s recovery by sending him away along with half of his projected salary in return for a low level prospect.

    • A little birdie told me that the Reds don’t see Suarez as a SS. I am hoping the source is wrong because I think that’s giving up on him way too soon.

      • And the “little birdie” doesn’t work in the Reds org. He himself is speculating and going on rumblings he’s heard.

  4. Thanks for the article and good information. Bruce’s numbers last year are very similar to his numbers from 2010-2013 with a few exceptions. Notably the HR/FB ratio being lower and the BABIP being really low for him. Seems a little unlucky. Of course the poorer plate discipline will lead to a lower BABIP as you swing at balls you won’t be able to hit as well. There is certainly a case for optimism in that he’ll return to form. I think getting another year removed from the knee injury will help as well.

    • Bruce put up 5+ WAR in 2013. If he is producing at that rate toward the middle of this season and the offered return on him doesn’t measure up, the Reds could do worse than trying to extend him because there is no obvious replacement for him currently thriving in their farm system.

      • I don’t disagree, but the same could have been said for Todd Frazier. If Todd goes, then everything not nailed down needs to go, too.

        • To me the difference is that Bruce is cost certain through 2017 but Frazier figures to really shoot up for 2017, especially if he is not rolled over into a multiyear deal that starts in 2017. Because of this and the fact Frazier is at an age tipping point for decline at his position, the time had come move him

      • I don’t hate the idea of extending him. But I would like to see some adjustments made in the BB% to be really keen on the idea. The major difference between Bruce and Frazier is their age. Frazier’s age never made him an ideal candidate for an extension in my mind.

        • Frazier is less than 14 months older than Bruce.

        • 14 months on the wrong side of your prime years can make a big difference. Especially when you’re talking extensions that will take them into their traditional drastic decline years.

        • Bruce turns 29 in April, if the Reds do extend him, what would be the optimal number of years of the extension?

        • Personally, I wouldn’t extend any position player past their age 35 season. 1B would be the one exception as it is less demanding on the defensive side. Bruce will be 30 when his current deal, including the option, is done. So an extension would start at his age 31 season. A 4-5 year extension would probably be about as far as I’d go. A 5 year extension would end when he is 35.

          With Frazier, that would mean only a 3-4 year extension, max. I think by the time he hits FA he’s looking for a longer deal. I don’t blame him. Most big name FA’s are signing 5-6 year deals. Someone will likely give that to him. And he may be worth it. I just don’t think it would be smart for the Reds to really go beyond a 3 year extension when the guy is starting the extension years at age 32.

          I know it’s only a year, but we’ve seen players in that 32-35 age range drop off a cliff from a performance perspective never to get it back. Another aspect, is that Bruce has been getting paid at or near his value for the past 3-4 years. The extension bought out 3 of his FA years. Frazier is still arbitration eligible next year and then will hit FA. He’s never made the money Bruce has made, and will likely want to cash in due to it being his last real opportunity to do so due to his age.

  5. Sign Dexter Fowler and deal Bruce when he goes on one of his 3 week heaters. I don’t know why they won’t look at Fowler? He’d prob jump at 3 years for $35mil or whatever? Choo is the only decent leadoff man I can remember in the last 20 years? I don’t know how you play Bruce in one corner and then platoon Duvall/whoever in LF unless you want to break the alltime record for Ks? Someone has to have some on base skills somewhere?

    • Fowler would cost the Reds a draft pick, in the compensation round, coming in around #30 overall. Most people would prefer to see the Reds rebuild through the draft than make win-now moves like acquiring Fowler.

      • I don’t know? Houston didn’t need a long rebuilding plan and don’t the Reds want to do something while Votto is stil in his prime? Fowler is only 30! I guess they could go on the 6 year plan and deal Votto too….become the Cleveland Browns of baseball?

        • Weeellll…if 10 years is not a long rebuild (as was the case with Houston), then I’d hate to see what a long-term rebuild looks like!

        • While Houston hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005, I’d say their “rebuild” started in 2010 when they traded away Lance Berkman and a handful of other vets. They had the 9th highest payroll in the league as recently as 2009 and entered 2010 in the top half of the league in payroll.
          Their payroll bottomed out in 2013 and has been increasing since. The longest I’d say you could claim they were rebuilding is mid 2010 through 2014, 4.5 years.
          Whether you call that a long or a quick rebuild I guess is subjective.

        • Johnny Manziel at first base, then?

    • Working from 3 premises:
      1. The Reds are currently a 70 win team ( per Baseball Prospectus)
      2. Jay Bruce has virtually no trade value and a solid month won’t change that fact.
      3. Fowler would cost 12 million per year

      With Fowler they may be a 75 win team. That allows you to finish 25 games behind the Cubs and 15 out of the Wild Card. Why would anyone do that?

      A 70 win team likely draws 2-2.2 million…a 75 win team draws about the same the same. Why would you add 12 million in payroll with virtually no possibility of making the playoffs and little possibility of creating the incremental revenue to pay for the contract?

      When they’re ready to compete,there will be another Dexter Fowler to sign. He’s like a gas station on Colerain Avenue

  6. Well…now’s the time for the veterans still around to play like veterans. Start ’em…and if Bruce and Cozart (or Phillips and Meso for that matter) don’t produce in a month, not more than two, start your rookies. You aren’t going to get anything better for them than the Reds could get for Chapman and Cueto.

    • And what hotshot rookie catcher do the Reds have in their system ready to replace Mesoraco? The guy they drafted last year is still in rookie or A ball. The only reason to not play Mesoraco would be that his surgery was not successful in returning him to being able to function as a catcher.

  7. I could agree with Bruce getting an extension if he puts up the numbers to warrant it but at some point in time real soon the Reds must decide who is or isn’t part of the rebuild.The longer it drags out the more difficult it becomes because the unknowns start blocking the knowns such as in the case of Phillips.In addition you never really find out what guys can do on the big stage and you may miss out on trading for guys that don’t fit for guys that do.Trying to remain competitive while rebuilding is really really tough to do for even the best ran organizations so it really is time to fish or cut bait.I personally believe you go all in like the Astros did or you end up being like the Phillies.

  8. Extend Jay while value is low, hope Zack recovers value to trade by mid year.

  9. Baltimore is still interested in Bruce. I wonder now that they’ve signed Davis to a big contract, and are reportedly willing to cash in a draft pick to sign Gallardo, if they would pay a better price for Bruce because of a “win now” mindset. Not that their farm system is stacked in players that fit the Reds need, but I’m sure something could be worked out. Reyes, the 3B in their system is an intriguing target.

    Also, the White Sox are looking for a LH OF. Maybe Bruce + a pitching prospect could land that SS (Anderson?) they were targeting in the Frazier trade.

  10. I’m cautiously optimistic for Bruce to have a decent start to the year and rebuild a bit of value. His BABIPs the last two seasons have been dreadfully low. In 2015, his xBABIP was .307, and actual was .258. The research I’ve seen seems to suggest a heavily shifted player doesn’t lose more than 10 points or so on BABIP… so, even with that taken into account Bruce was about 30 points low. Fingers crossed…

    Cozart, on the other hand, I think has seen his last useful days. Any small decline in his range will erode a large portion of his value and he’s never been a decent hitter for more than a month or two at a time. Lightning would certainly have to strike for Cozart to be worth much at this point.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with you on Bruce and have my fingers and toes crossed. I disagree a bit with you on Cozart. But it may take an injury to a contending team’s SS to help spike his value. As long as his glove is still there and he hits decently (for him), I think a heavy offensive team like Toronto (Tulo)or Detroit (Iglesias) or the Mets (Cabrerra) or the Nats or any other contending team has a major injury at SS with no reliable backup, they will be calling the Reds up on Cozart.

    • Pretty much a double lightning strike is needed for Cozart to have any significant market value this season. Not only does he have to hit better than he has over any extended stretch of his career (recall he was already seriously regressing last year when injured), he also has to demonstrate he can still play acceptable defense.

      Given what we’ve seen of guys coming back off injury, to attain either of these objectives within the relatively short order of 4 months (the portion of the season before the trading deadline) is somewhat to very unlikely, let alone achieving both of them..

      • Spot on regarding Cozart. Rebuilding his trade value to what he was still does not make him worth much. Bruce, on the other hand, could establish some value if he rebounds to pre-2014 levels.

        • Thus my comment above about the right thing to have done with Cozart was to have found someone else willing to take the risk on his recovery by sending enough of his projected salary along to make it a no risk thing for the team taking him.

  11. Trade Bruce to Baltimore for Trey Mancini and be done with it.

    • I don’t see any indication Mancini plays anywhere but 1B Where would the Reds play him in a year or two when he is ready to come up and Votto still has 5-6 years on his deal?

      • Don’t get me started on why I think it makes the most sense to trade Votto now or sometime over the next year. Most disagree with me on these sites, but that’s okay

        • How does trading Votto make the Reds better now or in the next few years? Just curious as to your thoughts on the topic.

        • First, rebuilds almost always take longer than you plan for because more often than not young players don’t play up to your hopes. Very few young players outperform league averages in their first year or two in the major leagues. While Iglesias is a little ahead of this wave, the best wave of young pitching talent (Robertson, Reed, Garrett, Trivieso, Davis, Romano) for the Reds won’t arrive in Cincinnati until late 2016 or 2017. But, given what I said earlier, you can’t really expect this pitching to outperform the league until 2018 or 2019 once they’ve gained some experience and adapted to the league. Our positional prospects probably lag even further since Blandino, Ervin and perhaps Jagielo will start in AA this year, and aside from Winker the Reds positional prospects have a few more questions about just how good they will be which gets me to my next point. Second, it’s become obvious that Votto is the only player right now who can bring back top prospect talent in a trade. We have disappointed with the Frazier and Chapman trades, and we will likely be disappointed with a Bruce trade whether now or in July. However, Votto would be very different and would be our best bet to bring back top young talent to truly jump start our rebuild (think Bird, Judge and/or Mateo from Yanks; Alford, Urea and/or Pentacost from Jays or Moncada, Devers and/or Benin tend from the Red Sox). Third, while a lot of people think Votto will hold up well over the life of his contract and produce more than he is being paid, his injury record already makes that assumption very suspect and a potential big risk for the small market Reds. Lastly, given his age and his 2015 performance, his value in a trade will likely never be higher than it is now. If the Reds won’t easonably be competitive until 2018 or 2019, 2016 is the time to trade Votto.

        • I think you’re forgetting a large part of the trade calculus, REDSFANINPITT… unless the Reds paid a large part of Votto’s remaining contract, he’s unlikely to bring back any top talent, let alone a guy like Moncada who the Sox already paid something like $60M for the pleasure of signing.

          If the Reds wanted to pay down Votto’s deal, it would be akin to them simply buying a prospect from someone. Votto, IMO, has positive trade value to a contender, but it’s not as high as you are suggesting, I think.

    • Why would the Orioles trade a player projected to be better than Bruce for Bruce? It would take the Reds 30 seconds to make that trade but why would Baltimore? No one is going to trade a valuable hitting prospect for a guy in his 10th year, who is making 12.5 million per year and happens to be at the nadir of his career.

      It would be like the Reds trading 2007 Jay Bruce for Richie Sexson.

      • It all depends on how badly they want Bruce. Mancini is pretty much just a 1B. However, now that they have signed Chris Davis signed long-term. They don’t need Mancini. He is not an elite prospect. He is generally considered a #7 – 12 prospect on the various Orioles prospect lists. He has not been on any top 100 lists. I think a Bruce for Mancini trade would be reasonable given Bruce’s whole career’s work up til now.

  12. bruce to baltimore for 3 minor leaguers per wbal-tv. dont see it on twitter though

    • If that’s true, all 3 of those guys must be lottery tickets or organizational filler.

  13. No mention on wbal website. Wish they would want Phillips instead.

    • Probably another over zealous sports caster. I don’t see anything anywhere else.

  14. If Bruce goes to Baltimore, they only have very few hitting prospects. Reds will most likely not get one of their top hitting prospects like Mancini. If the Reds want MLB ready talent, or near ready, they should turn their sights on to RHP Mychal Givens for Bruce. I know, another P. Nice arm and throws smoke.

  15. Haven’t seen any talk of a Jay Bruce deal actually done, but this was from last night:

    FEB. 11, 9:37pm: Cincinnati thinks that the O’s do have the young talent needed to put together a deal for Bruce, Jon Heyman tweets. Baltimore will probably add at least one additional bat, he adds.

    But this other thing from two days ago caught my eye in its ranking of the Orioles’ farm system:

    “Baltimore would be hoping that adding Bruce would be a move akin to the addition of Nelson Cruz two years ago, one that would come with little short term cost and risk with a chance to place a slugger in a dinger friendly park at an age where he still has peak performance left. But as Rosenthal notes, the Reds may be asking for more in return that the Orioles have stashed in their minor league system. Just this week, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Baltimore’s system as the fourth worst in all of baseball, and that’s with a pair of injury-prone pitchers highlighting the system. If the Reds were to move Bruce at this point, they’d likely want a bat in return, and that’s something the Orioles system just doesn’t boast.”

  16. For the record, I’d be thrilled with Bruce in Baltimore. I can’t lose in that deal because the Reds get something and Bruce still plays for my 2nd favorite team.

  17. Don’t discount Houston out of any Jay Bruce trade talk. Gattis is out at DH for awhile. Gomez is on a short leash and Springer coming off another injury. Bruce for OF Andrew Aplin.

  18. Let’s put a trade for Jay Bruce in perspective with what we know was being offered back in July when he was very hot. Jay Bruce = Zach Wheeler with a Tommy John recovered elbow. As I review Zach Wheeler, his stats before the injury are very comparable to Anthony Desclafani and this was when Jay Bruce was on one of his hot streaks. Jay Bruce would likely not bring a healthy Anthony Desclafani back to the Reds right now or in July of 2016. Jay will not bring back a Jomar Reyes or probably not even a DJ Stewart by themselves. If we are talking about multiple prospects, then I doubt any are in the top 10 of the Orioles system. Mancini, at best, but probably more likely some combination of Mike Yazstremski and Christian Walker if they are just looking for position prospects. Again, I doubt that this changes materially in July. Even in 2010-13, Jay Bruce was a good but not great player. He was barely an all-star twice.

  19. I still don’t understand the urgency in trading Bruce. Cozart, I get. There are potential replacements already in stock. But Bruce is still under control for two years, still under 30, and still, I think, capable of being a better than average right fielder here. Certainly, better than anyone else currently in the system. His decline seemed to synch with his knee injury two years ago. If you recall, he was having a pretty decent season to that point. The Reds, as Price now admits, rushed him back. It took Votto until last year to recover from his. I admit to being a Bruce fan, and perhaps I am delusional, but I still think he can be a “build around” piece, along with Mesoraco and Joey.

    • Im right there with you. We have enough holes on this team, particularly in the outfield, without creating another. Jay is streaky. We all know that. But he is a plus defender, and defense rarely slumps. I say we roll the dice with him at this point. Maybe down the line somewhere when he gets on a hot streak he will bring in quite the hall. But I would not worry about that now. Even with the low expectations we have for this season, we still have to play the games. He might be a pleasant surprise this season.

      • Patrick Jeter:

        If Votto is expected to significantly outperform his contract over next 3-4 years when teams like the Blue Jays, Yanks, Red Sox and Astros see their wining window being wide open, then they will be willing to trade elite prospect talent in return. Moncada is the only one of those I would consider a stretch. They know what they are likely getting with Votto but not with the prospects.

        • At first base, I see Votto out performing his Contract. His Eye/hitting approach will not deteriate and his salary against the cap will only get better..

      • I see it as a two sided problem where Jay Bruce is concerned. On the one hand they do not an apparent replacement for him in the pipeline; but on the other he is only under team control thru 2017 which is likely a year before they can hope to seriously contend. So, as things stand now they look to be a year late and short for an RF in 2017. I think that means they go on and shop him but not feel compelled to move him for scarce return, especially since in a a worst case scenario they can buy him out at the end of the 2016 season and save $12M against 2017.

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