The trade deadline is always an exciting time for baseball fans, as contending teams look to add the final pieces for a pennant push and non-contending clubs attempt to shape their rosters for the future. For the better part of the last decade and a half, the Reds have fallen into the latter category, and this year won’t be much different.
Some of Cincinnati’s past deadline deals have shaped today’s current roster, while others were regrettable almost immediately. Let’s look back on some of the prospects the Reds have acquired in July over the years and how they ultimately panned out:
August 1, 2016: RF Jay Bruce to Mets for 2B Dilson Herrera and LHP Max Wotell
The jury is still out on this trade, but the early returns have not been promising. Both prospects have struggled with shoulder problems and haven’t made much of an impact in the organization.
Herrera, the centerpiece of the deal, was rated the No. 4 prospect in the Mets organization and No. 46 in the league by Baseball America after the 2014 season. However, he has battled shoulder injuries for the better part of three years, which — along with a middle-infield logjam — has kept him from playing a single game in Cincinnati. He’s been fairly productive in Louisville, hitting .264/.325/.403 in 344 plate appearances. He recently had surgery to remove bone chips from his shoulder and will miss the remainder of 2017.
Wotell, the Mets’ No. 17 prospect at the time of the trade, only threw six innings with the rookie league Billings Mustangs last year before he was shut down with shoulder fatigue. The left-hander returned to the mound this year, throwing only 17.1 innings before he underwent labrum surgery. In his five starts, he allowed a 9.35 ERA and walked more batters (14) than he struck out (11) for Billings and Low-A Dayton.
July 30, 2015: RHP Mike Leake to Giants for RHP Keury Mella and 3B/LF Adam Duvall
This has arguably been the Reds’ best deadline deal of the current rebuild. In exchange for nine starts from Leake, the Giant sent their No. 4 prospect, Mella, and their No. 13 prospect, Duvall, to Cincinnati. While Mella has struggled a bit in Double-A (4.45 ERA, 3.77 xFIP), Duvall — who was considered a future bench bat and thought of as the supplementary piece in the trade — has emerged as the Reds’ starting left fielder, earning a trip to the All-Star Game in 2016. The 28-year-old has not only impressed with the bat (.250/.306/.505, 107 wRC+) but has also emerged as one of the top defenders at his position in the game, being named a Gold Glove finalist last season.
July 26, 2015: Johnny Cueto to Royals for Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, and John Lamb
It wasn’t easy for Reds fans to see the team trade away its best pitcher since Jose Rijo, but most experts felt the club got a fair return with a trio of young southpaws. Finnegan was the Royals’ first-round draft pick in 2014, starred in the World Series later that year, and was named the No. 55 prospect in the game. Lamb was a former top-20 prospect in baseball and was throwing well again after Tommy John surgery. Reed was considered the throw-in by many but ultimately became the Reds’ No. 2 prospect.
However, the deal has yielded mixed results, thus far. Lamb is already out of the organization. Finnegan successfully transitioned from relieving to starting and threw 172 innings last year, but shoulder injuries ended his 2017 campaign prematurely. Reed dominated in the minor leagues and made it to the big leagues in 2016, where he was ineffective and suddenly found himself dealing with control problems. Both Finnegan and Reed are still only 24 years old, though, and certainly have the talent to make an impact in Cincinnati in the coming years.
July 31, 2008: RF Ken Griffey Jr. to White Sox for 2B Danny Richar and RHP Nick Masset
This trade was less of a move to rebuild the farm system and more of a salary dump. The 38-year-old Griffey Jr. was in the last year of a nine-year, $116.5 million contract with an option season upcoming, and dealing the aging slugger away allowed the Reds some financial flexibility.
Neither player acquired was considered a top prospect — Masset was the Rangers’ No. 8 and Richar was the Diamondbacks’ No. 24 in 2006. Masset, however, wound up being solid as a setup man in the Reds’ bullpen for a few seasons (3.07 ERA, 3.49 xFIP), including the memorable playoff run in 2010. Shoulder troubles ultimately derailed his once-promising career, as he missed the entire 2012 and ’13 seasons and retired last year.
Richar never amounted to much with the team, appearing in only 23 games and amassing 46 plate appearances — in part due to a torn labrum in his shoulder — before becoming a free agent after the 2009 season.
July 30, 2007: RHP Kyle Lohse to Phillies for LHP Matt Maloney
In an effort to shore up their dreadful starting rotation, the Reds traded for Lohse in July 2006. One year later, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, they shipped him away. The right-hander was roughly a league average pitcher (4.58 ERA, 4.41 xFIP) in his brief time with the team, though he went on to pitch well for the division rival Cardinals and Brewers.
At the time, it seemed the Reds got a decent haul for a half season of Lohse. Maloney was the Phillies’ No. 9 prospect at the time of the trade and was named the South Atlantic League pitcher of the year in 2006. A control pitcher with a low strikeout rate, the southpaw didn’t find much opportunity in a crowded Reds rotation and was claimed on waivers by the Twins after the 2011 season. He ended his Cincinnati career with a 5.40 ERA and 4.57 xFIP in 80 innings.
July 13, 2006: RF Austin Kearns, SS Felipe Lopez, and RHP Ryan Wagner to Nationals for SS Royce Clayton, SS Brendan Harris, RHP Gary Majewski, LHP Bill Bray, and RHP Daryl Thompson
This deal was largely panned by experts and Reds fans at the time it was made, and though it didn’t work out for the Nationals either (aside from one solid year out of Kearns), the trade doesn’t look any better for Cincinnati more than a decade later. Two weeks before the deadline, general manager Wayne Krivsky shocked many by dealing three players — two of them productive position players — under team control for several more years. Kearns was in the midst of his best season, Lopez was one year removed from an all-star appearance, and Wagner was a former first-round pick who was still just 22.
In exchange, the Reds received bullpen “help” in Bray and Majewski, along with an aging shortstop (Clayton) and two other prospects (Harris and Thompson). Bray, Harris, and Thompson were all top-7 prospects in the Washington farm system in 2004, though each saw their stock drop in the following seasons. Majewski was once considered the No. 11 prospect in the White Sox system. However, aside from Bray (3.72 ERA, 4.11 xFIP across six seasons), none of the players acquired hung around long or made a notable impact.
Clayton and Harris were gone after the 2006 season. Thompson made only three starts with the club. Majewski was a damaged good when the Reds acquired him and pitched poorly when healthy enough to take the mound. He left after the 2008 season, having posted an abysmal 7.38 ERA in 78 innings with the Reds.
July 23, 2005: 3B Joe Randa to Padres for RHP Justin Germano and RHP Travis Chick
Randa was only in the Reds’ organization for half of a season, though he’ll forever be known for hitting a walk-off home run on Opening Day in 2005. The Joker was quite productive in 368 plate appearances with the club, slashing .289/.356/.491 with 40 extra-base hits, 120 wRC+, and a 1.6 fWAR. In the midst of another terrible season, general manager Dan O’Brien flipped him before the deadline for a pair of top-10 Padres prospects in Chick (No. 4) and Germano (No. 7).
While it looked like a solid trade at the time (Randa was only under a one-year contract), neither young pitcher stayed with the Reds for long, nor did they ultimately become even average MLB players. Chick never pitched for the Reds — he was traded to the Mariners for reliever Eddie Guardado in July 2006 — and logged only five career big-league innings.
Germano threw in only two games for the Reds before he was dealt to the Phillies for reliever Rheal Cormier a few weeks after Chick was traded. In total, he appeared with seven different teams over nine seasons, throwing 330 innings with a 5.40 ERA. He most recently pitched last season in the Italian Baseball League.
July 31, 2003: 3B Aaron Boone to Yankees for LHP Brandon Claussen and LHP Charlie Manning
As part of their 2003 summer fire sale, the Reds traded away a fan favorite in Boone, who went on to become a playoff hero for the Yankees. Both pitchers sent to Cincinnati were at one point considered top-15 prospects in the New York farm system, with Claussen, ranked the No. 37 prospect in baseball in 2001, being the main piece of the trade. However, the left-hander was coming off Tommy John surgery in 2002 and never fulfilled his once-promising potential.
After a rough go of things in 2004, his first full season with the Reds, Claussen took a leap forward in 2005 with an fWAR of 2.0, which would prove to be his career high. With heightened expectations heading into 2006, he was knocked around through 14 starts (6.19 ERA) before heading to the disabled list with shoulder labrum tendinitis. The injury prevented him from again pitching in a big-league game, and he was out of baseball after 2007 at the age of 28.
Manning never pitched for the Reds before he was shipped back to the Yankees for reliever Gabe White prior to the 2004 deadline. He appeared in only one season at the MLB level, throwing 42 innings for the Nationals in 2008.
July 30, 2003: OF Jose Guillen to Athletics for RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Jeff Bruksch, and RHP Joe Valentine
This is the most successful trade the Reds have made for a young player at the deadline in recent history. In exchange for free-swinging slugger Guillen, Cincinnati received its future ace in Harang. The right-hander was never a heralded prospect, reaching only as high as the No. 16 slot in the A’s organization in 2001. Despite little hype, he quickly became the Reds’ best pitcher in 2005 by posting a team-high 4.6 fWAR, the highest mark by a Cincinnati hurler since Rijo’s 5.1 fWAR season in 1992. Harang went on to start five consecutive Opening Days in Great American Ball Park, leading the National League in strikeouts in 2006 and finishing fourth in Cy Young voting in 2007.
His Reds career started to go downhill in 2008 in his age-30 season, but he stuck around long enough to reach the playoffs for the first time in 2010. Harang resurrected his career in San Diego in 2011 and pitched four more years with five different teams afterward.
Valentine was an impressive prospect (ranked No. 6 in the A’s farm system) as a reliever but couldn’t overcome control problems. He threw only 45.2 innings with the Reds, posting an ugly 6.70 ERA in parts of three seasons with the team. Bruksch, a non-prospect, was out of baseball by 2006.
July 30, 2003: RHP Scott Williamson to Red Sox for LHP Phil Dumatrait and LHP Tyler Pelland
One of the Reds’ top relievers for parts of five seasons and the NL Rookie of the Year in 1999, Williamson was shipped to Boston for a pair of lefty arms. Dumatrait was the primary player the Reds got in the deal, rated as the fifth-best Red Sox prospect at the time. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2004 and bounced back fairly well in the minor leagues but was knocked around in six starts (15.00 ERA) upon reaching the majors in 2007. The team waived him after the season, and Dumatrait only pitched 151 big-league innings before retiring in 2012.
Pelland, then the Red Sox No. 25 prospect, saw his stock rise in the Reds organization, ranking as high as No. 8 in 2005. Primarily a reliever, he showed enough promise to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2007 season, but an injury ended his career in 2008 at just 25 years old.
June 15, 2001: RHP Rob Bell to Rangers for 3B Edwin Encarnacion and OF Ruben Mateo
Once considered a top prospect with the Braves, the Reds acquired Bell in 1998. After two disappointing seasons in the Queen City, the team traded him for a pair of young Dominican players.
Mateo was at one point considered the top farmhand in the Rangers organization and the No. 6 prospect in the game. He never reached his sky-high potential, as he broke his leg in his rookie season in 2000. The Reds traded for him the next year in hopes he could still become a productive player, but he never panned out, hitting only .246/.299/.348 with five home runs in two seasons.
Encarnacion, a ninth-round draft pick in 2000, wasn’t highly regarded when the Rangers traded him away. But the 18-year-old quickly became the steal of the trade and gained recognition in the Reds farm system. In 2003, Baseball America touted his “special bat speed” and “plus-plus power.” After the 2004 season, he was named the Reds’ No. 2 prospect behind Homer Bailey and came in at No. 56 on the magazine’s top-100 list. Encarnacion got a chance to show off his skills in 2005, when he took over the third base job with the Reds after the Randa trade. While he wouldn’t reach his full potential until he exploded for 42 home runs with the Blue Jays in 2012, he put together a solid stint with the Reds, batting .262/.345/.449 with 109 doubles, 71 home runs, and a 104 wRC+ in five seasons.
Growing up just north of Cincinnati, Matt has been a Reds fan for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was often found leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 and imitating his favorite players (Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns) in the backyard. One of his earliest baseball memories is attending the final night game at Cinergy Field. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in the Dayton area. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.