It’s a rough year for Reds fans, there’re just no two ways about it. During a recent bullpen kersplosion I indulged in a little escapism by checking in on some of the recently traded ex-Reds, to see how baseball has been treating them. I figured this might be a therapeutic exercise for RLN readers, so I put together the quick summaries below and the links to go deeper into the numbers if the mood takes you. These were homegrown guys, these were our guys, they got us to the playoffs. It’s weird to think of them still being out there, playing for other teams; but for me, somehow somehow where they all landed sort of makes sense.
Mike Leake’s story with the Reds was an interesting one. He was drafted out of college in the first round as a low-ceiling, high-floor pitcher, and after a brief stop in the Arizona Fall League, stepped right into the big league rotation. The pick was really a major success, but largely flew under the national radar. Leake was a major contributor to the three Reds playoff teams at the start of this decade, but he was never really good enough to get Reds fans excited, or for the team to seriously consider extending his contract.
So when the Reds got bad and his free agency approached, Leake was shipped to San Francisco for current Reds outfielder Adam Duvall and minor league starting pitcher Keury Mella (Age 22, 2.97 ERA at high A). Leake didn’t make much of an impact for the Giants, as he dealt with a hamstring injury and landed on the DL.
In the offseason, Mike Leake was somehow able to keep his lunch down while signing a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals (5yrs, $80M). I get it; it’s a lot of money. But I still think I’d have a really tough time signing with a team that I had a heated, and at sometimes nasty, rivalry with for the last 5 years. He was going into his age 28 season with a career 3.87 ERA in a hitters park. You’re telling me there were no other options?
Leake hasn’t delivered much for the Cardinals, pitching to a 5.10ERA in his first seven starts. Not much really looks out of the norm for Leake in terms of his underlying numbers, so his poor performance is probably just a small sample size issue, but I’d like to think its karma.
Johnny Cueto was one of the best starting pitchers in Reds history, a sure Reds hall of famer, and just a delight to watch. He came up through the system as a fireballer and developed into one of the craftiest and most talented pitchers in the league. It’s possible the Reds could have extended Cueto instead of Homer Bailey, and I’ve made no secret that that would have been my strong preference. But that ship sailed, and by the time Cueto’s free agency approached it was clear that the Reds were in no position to afford him.
He was dealt to the Royals, and despite some struggles, helped them to win the World Series, adding another accolade to his career. The Reds got three good pitching prospects in return, two of whom are in the Reds current rotation (Finnegan and Lamb). Cody Reed is currently dominating in AAA (1.88 ERA in 5 starts) and may end up being the best of the bunch.
Cueto landed a great deal in the offseason, signing with the San Francisco Giants to pitch in their gargantuan expanse they call a ballpark. Thus far, Cueto is being Cueto, pitching to a 2.97 ERA in 8 starts, but I have a feeling he’s just getting warmed up. He’s already thrown one complete-game shutout for the first place Giants, and I think we could see some more come playoff time.
AKA The Toddfather was a late bloomer in today’s baseball world, but made up time by quickly becoming a fan favorite. Despite being a first round pick he never had that top prospect sheen, but in his time with the Reds he developed elite power and well above-average defense at the hot corner, and made a couple of all-star teams. He was the Reds’ best trade chip, and needing to rebuild, they put him in play.
The trade was a controversial three-team deal, with the Reds targeting speedy, no-power infielder Jose Peraza, along with current Red Scott Schebler and AA infielder Brandon Dixon. The Trade was widely panned in the press, but the Reds got the guy they wanted and he may turn out to be a good everyday player, if not a household name.
Frazier is playing well for the White Sox (who are running away with the AL Central so far), despite a .220 batting average. He’s taking a good amount of walks, playing good defense, and has 11 HRs, and that’s basically what it’s all about. For a guy who clearly doesn’t have all the natural talent that the top stars in the league do, Todd Frazier gets a lot out of his game. I expect we’ll see him in the playoffs and miss him for a long time to come. He’ll be a free agent after the 2017 year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is extended in Chicago before he gets there.
No Red brought more excitement or controversy during the Dusty Baker era. The should-he-start, should-he-close debate (start, obviously) was as divisive as anything since Adam Dunn’s strikeouts or Dusty’s lineups in the Reds fanbase. His insanity inducing fastball, off-field arrests, and other shady shenanigans made the situation all the more surreal; and as I’ve said in this space before, I think he was the perfect symbol of the Jocketty-Baker Reds.
So obviously when the Reds decided to trade him, it all went super smoothly. No, instead Chapman was arrested on domestic violence and shooting-a-gun-into-your-own-house charges, literally as a deal to trade him (for Jose Peraza) was being announced. So that deal blew up, and another was consummated with the Yankees, at a reduced value because Chapman was facing a suspension that ended up being 30 games. The Reds got current bad reliever Caleb Cotham and AA starter Rookie Davis, who’s pitching well, along with a couple of other minor prospects.
Chapman has just returned to the field and has thrown 2 innings in New York. Do you miss him? I doubt any Reds fan will miss Chapman like they will miss Cueto or Frazier, despite the raging tire fire that is the Reds’ current bullpen. He was a hot mess. At the time, there was a “he’s our hot mess” kind of feeling, and when you’re batting your worst two hitters first and second, why not have a closer that throws 105? It made as much sense as criticizing Votto’s approach at the plate, or any of the other mind-bending aspects of what were the best Reds teams in two decades. Watching Hoover give up grand slam after grand slam is so much simpler than the sturm and drang of the last six years.
Latos wasn’t really dealt as part of the firesale/rebuilding effort, but he was as instrumental to the Reds success as anyone, so I checked in on him as well. Latos was both young and elite at the time the Reds acquired him, and for that they paid a pretty penny in the form of three first-round draft picks (Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger) and 2015 World Series winner Edinson Volquez.
Latos was dealt for current injured Red Anthony Desclafani and light-hitting minor league catcher Chad Wallach. Disco outpitched Latos in his first year and looks to be an important part of the Reds future where Latos was not, so that trade looks good. Latos went out with some unkind words about the Reds, and then proceeded to forget how to pitch, get traded (weirdly, for Jose Peraza, kind of), and finally cut. Again, karma.
Having paid that debt to the gods of baseball and etiquette, the big right-hander has resurfaced with the Toddfather’s White Sox and is 5-0 in his first seven starts with a 3.40 ERA. His underlying numbers make it look like he’s mostly getting by on smoke and mirrors (4.3 k/9), so we could see another collapse before the year is up.