2017 Reds / Trade Deadline

The imperfect science of trading for prospects: revisiting Reds’ past deadline deals

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.

47 thoughts on “The imperfect science of trading for prospects: revisiting Reds’ past deadline deals

  1. Kind of glossed over those Walt Jocketty years of head scratching and standing pat. That July 2012 trade was a real head scratcher. Getting relief pitcher Jonathon Broxton when the Reds needed a bat in a big way after Votto’s knee injury. The year of 2012, the year Jocketty squandered it all away.

    • I was trying to focus on rebuilding years in this piece, but yeah, I probably could’ve written 2,000 more words on the Jocketty years alone.

    • Who was available and who did they want from the Reds in return? How much did Jocketty have to spend?

      It’s not Jocketty’s money so I doubt he cared how much would’ve been spent….I also doubt he would’ve cared that much about the long term impact in trading their better prospects….I doubt he wanted to win the 2012 World Series any less than you.

      You do understand that a GM has an owner that sets the budget and also needs to approve all trades? Not even Theo Epstein gets to do everything he wants.

      Perhaps Jocketty royally screwed up….maybe he had no flexibility to do anything. You don’t know.

      • The best example is Marlon Byrd in 2013 whom the Pirates got off the waiver wire from the Mets for a 19 year old in A ball hitting .265 with 110 strikeouts (who the Mets turned into Jay Bruce for a year and a half) and a relief pitcher. The Pirates paid him $700,000. The Reds didn’t sign him as a free agent that off season; they let Philadelphia sign him for 2 years/$16 million. Then, after the 2015 season, the Reds went after him, getting Byrd for 1/2 a season and $4 million for Ben Lively. Ben Lively is 25 and has made 7 starts with the Phillies this year, posting what would be a cy Youngian 4.63 FIP for these Redlegs. But not all was lost. The Reds did manage to trade Byrd for Stephen Johnson. If you haven’t heard of him it’s because he is almost out of baseball.

        That’s 3 fails in 3 years with the same stinking player.

        • Yeah, when Byrd went to the Pirates and there was a position of need w/ the Reds, I was stunned. Why? Because the Pirates had the better record at the time so the Reds could have put a claim in on him first. This could have served 2 purposes:

          1) The Reds needed a LF as Ludwick had injured his shoulder. His return was planned but lots of questions about his productivity returning from such an injury were out there and he wasn’t expected back until very late in the season. Byrd would have been a very, very good fit.

          2) Not wanting to deal with the Reds or not being able to work out a trade with the Reds, for whatever reason(s), including some that Chuck mentioned, would have at least forced the Mets to pull Byrd back off of waivers, thus blocking the Pirates. Byrd played well for the Pirates and helped them continue to gain ground against the Reds.

      • I also understand that most owners leave the baseball operations up to the GM. If Jocketty had taken a plan for a trade to Castellini that would have given the Reds a better chance at that 2012 World Series, Castellini would have taken it and approved. Now I am not saying Castellini and Jocketty would have taken on any contract or bad contracts, but they had a chance to improve within reasonable cost restraints. and didn’t. It came back to haunt them.
        Notables, as painful as a few are, from the 2012 trade deadline:
        1. SF Giants obtained OF Hunter Pence from PHI for Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz, and Seth Rosin.
        2. SF Giants obtained INF Marco Scutaro from COL for 2B Charlie Culberson.
        TWO INFLUENTIAL PIECES TO SF’S 2012 WORLD SERIES WIN FOR NOTHING MORE THAN PROSPECTS NO ONE HAS HEARD OF.
        3. LA Dodgers obtain INF Hanley Ramirez from MIA for RHP Nathan Eovaldi, and RHP Scott McGough.
        4. LA Dodgers obtain OF Shane Victorino from PHI for reliever Josh Lindblum and RHP Ethan Martin.
        5. NY Yankees obtain OF Ichiro Suzuki from SEA for RHP DJ Mitchell ad RHP Danny Farquhar.
        6. PIT Pirates obtain 1B Gabby Sanchez from MIA for OF Gorkys Hernandez and a comp. bal. draft pick.
        7. PIT Pirates obtain OF Travis Snider from TOR for RHP Brad Lincoln.
        Just about any of those could have helped Cincinnti over the hump vs. SF. Not getting Hunter Pence was a very bad mistake on Jocketty’s part. What did SF spendin prospects to get a World Series in 2012? Prospecs hardly heard from again. Jocketty was pitiful. That was just 2012. Sadly it seemed a yearly event with Jocketty.

        • Yeah, Chuck. If other teams can swing good trades at the deadline, why can’t the Reds seem to do the same?

        • Tommy Joseph is the starting first baseman for the Phillies. Still a good trade for SF

  2. There are so many more busts than successes on this list it makes me wonder why even roll those dice every year? Duvall, Harang and, eventually, Encarnacion were very productive. The rest pretty much not at all, with the jury still out on Reed and Finnegan. It argues for shipping out rental players (Bruce, Cueto, Leake, etc) but not good players under team control (Kearns, Lopez). So… move Cozart if there’s a market and if he can’t be extended at manageable cost, but keep Iglesias. Please?

    • Yep, I was thinking the same as far as quality of return. Most all of these deals were salary dumps and/ or getting something, anything, for guys about to walk.

      EE and a reliever for Rolen wasn’t in here; but, that was an important one that set the stage for the Reds run from 2010-2013. Too easy to forget now that they won 90 or more games in three of those four seasons.

      • Or the Reds might have been so much better off with EE….strong enough to win in 2012 despite losing their Ace in game#1 vs. SF, and better off in prior years too

        • EE was never going to make it at 3B and he was as blocked at 1B in 2009 as Alonso was a couple of years later. As pointed out below, EE had to bounce twice more before he finally found himself and has largely been a DH

          • Yes, I agree here. I wonder what may have been with EE’s bat but one needs to remember that he was a horrible 3B. There was no DH to put him in and 1B had Votto. It was hard to see EE go. I always thought he’d hit because he showed lots of flashes of being able to and his power and plate-discipline suggested he’d eventually blossom. I have no issue with that deal though as Rolen helped this team get to the post-season and had a couple nice years wearing the wishbone-C

    • I think, especially this day in age, it argues for exactly the opposite. The way front offices are run now compared to even 10 years ago is like comparing apples and oranges. Teams now value young players who are either just in their arb years or still pre-arbitration over players 30+. The “end of the steroid era” and advanced statistics have shown that you are going to get more value out of a player in their 20s than you likely will in their 30s and so that is what front offices now value.

      Look at the more recent rentals that the Reds have done. There’s a reason two of the guys the Reds got in the trade were coming off arm injuries (Reed/Lamb) and the other one was thought of as a reliever. I’m as happy for Adam Duvall as anyone, but he wasn’t the centerpiece of that trade and the centerpiece of the trade is 23 and struggling in AA.

      Compare what the Reds got for Cueto and Leake with what the White Sox got for Sale and Quntiana and there’s frankly no comparison. Sale was signed through 2019 and Quntiana through 2020. If the Reds are serious about adding talent to the organization, their only chance is to trade players with more than 3 months of team control.

      • You’re absolutely right. Great points.

        If the Reds were to trade Iglesias, it would likely garner very valuable, but non MLB ready prospects. The organization would likely benefit immensely. My concern is that the Reds have painted themselves into a corner by specifically stating that 2018 is when they want to compete. In hindsight, they would’ve been better served by being more ambiguous and open ended around the ” compete date”.

        • That 2018 date was always a pipe dream, especially because of how they went about the rebuild, and has lead to some poor decision making. The trades of Bruce/Frazier/Chapman/Cueto/Leake have all emphasized “near MLB ready” players. They lucked in to Duvall and to a lesser extent Schebler (though he’s regressing now), but also caused them to target guys like Peraza, Herrera, John Lamb, etc.

          They hold on to Bruce/Frazier/Cueto/Cozart etc. to the very last second, wringing every ounce of value they can, and then go searching for a top “MLB ready” prospect. Why any team would trade 6 years of a top MLB ready prospect for a half year rental makes no sense. So they end up with guys who are either huge injury risks or have a glaring hole in their game the Reds “hope” they can fix.

        • Reds should have unloaded talent in 2014 not 2015. They started a year too late. They wanted to be competitive in the All Star game season which was a useless mistake.

      • mmmm…I wouldn’t hold he White Sox up as having made great trades over the last few years.

    • Everyone always brings up EE an it’s such a bad example. Yes, he EVENTUALLY became good, but not until after Toronto cut him AND he was into the free agency phase of his career. Lopez and Kearns both had one good season after leaving the Reds and were mostly replacement-level.

  3. Matt, that was very educational in showing how difficult it is to put together a winning team by trading for the “last one or two most needed players”. Results were mixed on both sides of the trades you discussed.
    Question for you, what would you consider to be the most successful trade of all time for the Reds? In terms of getting what is needed to finalize a winning team.
    Howsam’s trade to complete the big red machine (in 1973 or 1974)?

    • Within my lifetime I would say it would be Brandon Phillips, even though he came before the team was competitive, he was still a huge part of those playoff teams. And the Reds got him for Jeff Stevens.

      • The Phillips trade is a no-brainer, although I’d rank the Wily Mo/Arroyo trade up there too. Since the year 2000:

        1. Phillips trade
        2. Harang trade
        3. Arroyo trade
        4. EE trade

      • See above. EE for Rolen. Rolen faded later but was the missing piece that got them over the top in 2010 and on their way to 2012.

        The team never really got where expected following the trade for Tom Seaver (1977) but he may have been the biggest deadline acquisition in terms of player still in or near prime when obtained.

    • In terms of the caliber of player the Reds received in return, I’d have a hard time answering anything but the trade with the Astros for Joe Morgan. They had to give up the Big Bopper to get him, but you can easily make an argument for Morgan as the best Reds player of all time.

      As far as the trade that got them closest to finalizing a winning team, I’d have a hard time arguing against Scott Rolen, but that may be recency bias on my part.

  4. Matt – what a great post. Thanks for all the time you put into researching and writing this. I really enjoyed reading through it, even the ones without happy endings from the Reds standpoint.

    • Trading for prospects is a crapshoot a lot of the time unless you get one of those top-tier, can’t-miss guys. The mid-range guys like Harang can end up becoming aces, while the promising prospects like Claussen get injured and quietly fade away.

  5. I was upset about that Felipe Lopez/Kearns trade at the time. Lopez really had a monster year in 05 with 34 doubles, 5 triples, 23 HRs, and 15 steals (.838 ops). You have a switch-hitting shortstop like that in your offense then you get really get ahead of the game but he fizzled out after that. Decent utility career but no big loss.

  6. Thanks for the visit down memory (and occasional nightmare) lane. Very interesting and enjoyable read.

  7. I love the Red’s but they just don’t have people who can make good judgements about talent. No matter what happens there’s one “sure bet” (as Pete would say), the Red’s management will blow it.

  8. Great summary matt. Amazing how inconsequential that 2006 “mega-trade” was.

    • Thanks! And yeah, for as worked up as people got over it (my 12-year-old self included), it ended up being a fairly meaningless trade for both sides.

  9. ‘Member getting David Wells? ‘Member getting Juan Guzman? I miss Jim Bowden.

    • He made some other really good ones too. He also made some royals stinkers. I think for the most part, he did well trading prospects for established guys but did very poorly going the other way around. One exception was his deal for Sean Casey for Dave Burba. He also made some real stinkers, including perhaps one of the worst stinkers in Reds history, trading Paul O’Neil for Roberto Kelly.

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