Linus was surprised by what his friend had just told him.
“You would trade your own dog just to win a few games?” he said.
Charlie Brown’s eyes grew wide.
“Win!” he said. “Have you ever noticed what a beautiful word that is?”
[From Make a Trade, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz, for ages 5-7]
* * *
Reds fans empathize, Charlie Brown.
We long to see rebuilding in the rearview mirror of the Next* Red Machine.
/ * size indeterminate /
Yet, the roster still has pieces that don’t quite fit. Weak spots remain. There’s the jam in the outfield. The departing shortstop. The fleet centerfielder who can’t hit or get on base. Uncertainty from the young and not-so-young on the pitching staff.
The closer you look, the more difficult it is to find satisfying solutions to these problems within the organization. Prospects are too far away or iffy. That might mean more rebuilding. Yet, the Reds have assets at peak or near-peak value that need to be moved.
Shipping off our own dog just for more prospects.
Who has the patience for that? Not many Reds fans.
Fortunately, the Reds front office can work a different kind of trade. And this post has three friendly suggestions to offer, at no cost or obligation to the reader.
Yes, we have self-imposed guidelines: (1) trade for other established major league players; (2) acquire no past-their-prime veterans; (3) add nothing net to payroll; and (4) trade no significant prospects. The offers must be realistic and fill legitimate needs for the trade partner.
We know the dilemma regarding Zack Cozart. He’s over 30, been injured, expensive to re-sign assuming the Reds could win the bidding. If you squint hard enough Cozart might make sense for the Reds in 2018. But an 8-digit annual contract would be a huge, needless risk in subsequent seasons.
On the other hand, the organization doesn’t have a suitable replacement shortstop ready. In-house options are of the square peg/round hole variety. Eugenio Suarez belongs at third. In his chances at short, Jose Peraza hasn’t quite seemed the part.
Solution: Look elsewhere for the next Reds’ shortstop.
But what major league team wants to give up their shortstop? Answer: A club that has three of them.
Trade One: Scooter Gennett to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Ketel Marte
The Diamondbacks need a second baseman. They’ve been playing Brandon Drury at second and he’s really a utility player. In 2016, Drury played mostly in RF, LF and 3B. He’s been a make-do second baseman in 2017. Drury hasn’t been terrible (93 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR), but the D-Backs could use an upgrade and put Drury back in a utility role. Scooter Gennett would be that.
Meanwhile, Arizona has three shortstops. Their starter, Chris Owings, and second-string guy, Nick Ahmed, are sidelined with broken fingers. Ahmed is expected back soon and Owings may return for the post-season. Their injuries have given Ketel Marte an opportunity. Marte (about to turn 24) was part of the Jean Segura-for-Taijuan Walker trade last Thanksgiving with the Seattle Mariners.
Marte has hit pretty well for his age (wRC+ of 93 and xwOBA of .343). He defensive rating is positive at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. He’s hit for decent power (.133 ISO) roughly equal to Tucker Barnhart. Marte has an above average walk-rate and there’s that highly promising xwOBA.
Marte will be pre-arbitration, league minimum salary in 2018 and under team control through 2021.
The trade addresses the Reds shortstop need without spending long-term big money on Zack Cozart. Marte is a solid shortstop who could become a multi-year player for the Reds. The trade is realistic. Scooter Gennett is unlikely to repeat his outlying 2017. We know that, other teams know that, hopefully the Reds understand that. The return for Gennett isn’t going to be great. An organization with a solid, second- or third-string shortstop was the target here. Arizona fits the bill nicely.
With Gennett no longer at second base, Jose Peraza plays there until Nick Senzel is ready in mid-2018. Senzel was a nationally ranked second baseman in high school and played second, short and third at Tennessee. If he has the arm strength and range to play shortstop, Senzel has a good shot to make it at second base. Eugenio Suarez can stay at third.
The Reds also have a quandary in center field. Billy Hamilton’s strengths and weaknesses are well known. The Reds centerfielder is about to reach his second year of arbitration and start to cost real money. Despite our sincere hopes, Hamilton isn’t getting better. This has been his worst year since that electrifying September call-up in 2013.
Thirty-three major league centerfielders have a higher WAR (which includes base running) than Hamilton this season, and that’s using FanGraphs WAR, the more generous of the two references. On a per-AB scale, Hamilton would fare far worse.
Again, the Reds don’t appear to have a suitable replacement yet in the organization. Scott Schebler kinda/maybe/not really fits there. The Reds could use a legit CF upgrade.
Solution: Look elsewhere for the next Reds centerfielder. Trading Hamilton, who is a fan favorite, would be controversial. The deal needs to be a WOW!
So, deep breath, here we go …
Trade Two: Raisel Iglesias and Billy Hamilton to the Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich
Billy Hamilton would be a terrific fit to roam Miami’s gigantic outfield. The Marlins also need a closer. They traded theirs — A.J. Ramos — to the New York Mets at the recent deadline. Miami hasn’t found a replacement for Ramos. Brad Ziegler has received most of the chances, but he’s 37 (!), shaky and has a bad back. That trifecta doesn’t scream reliable future closer.
Raisel Iglesias would be the Marlins long-term answer to close games. He has the added attraction for South Florida’s community of being Cuban. Losing Iglesias would be a blow to the Reds, as he may be the team’s best pitcher. But stuck in a relief role due to shoulder issues, Iglesias’s value will remain limited.
Christian Yelich came up the Miami organization as a centerfielder. Before 2017, he played left field for the Marlins – and won a Gold Glove – but he has been their full-time centerfielder this year. Yelich is average (Baseball-Reference) to just above average (FanGraphs) defensively in center, playing in a big park.
Hitting is where Yelich shines. His .285/.369/.447 overall line masks a tremendous .302/.375/.468 career line away from cavernous Marlins Park. Yelich has hit 41 homers on the road and just 17 at home. He has a well above average walk-rate (10.6%) and steals a few bags (14 this year). Yelich has been a steady offensive producer, averaging a 121 wRC+ over 4.5 seasons in Miami.
And Yelich is a huge upgrade over Billy Hamilton.
- Yelich WAR: 4.3 (FanGraphs) and 4.0 (Baseball-Reference)
- Hamilton WAR: 1.2 (FanGraphs) and 0.8 (Baseball-Reference)
Christian Yelich is 25, Billy Hamilton is 27.
Like Raisel Iglesias, Yelich is signed to a mouthwatering team-friendly contract through the 2021 season, at which point Yelich will be just 29 years old. He’ll make $7 million in 2018, followed by salaries of $9.75 million (2019), $12.5 million (2020) and $14 million (2021).
Yelich would bat first or second in a newly Price-proofed lineup and belong there.
Trading Raisel Iglesias would leave the Reds with a hole at the back end of the bullpen. While there might be able (but unproven) candidates for that job already in the organization, let’s plug the gap with one last trade.
Trade Three: Adam Duvall to the L.A. Angels for Cam Bedrosian
The Angels can afford to part with Bedrosian. They have veteran Huston Street available to close on a $10 million option next year, as well as Blake Parker who has recorded a half dozen saves this summer.
What the Angels need more than Bedrosian is a solid, everyday bat. They rank 23rd in run scoring and 26th in power. Adam Duvall would have plenty of opportunity with L.A.
The Angels could easily need a left fielder. They traded for Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers at the recent deadline and Upton has played LF in L.A. But Upton has an opt-out clause in his contract after 2017. He’s having an outstanding season (31 homers, 140 wRC+, .358 xwOBA) and young enough (just turned 30) that he’s likely to increase his total career earnings if he exercises it. Kole Calhoun (29) is a below-average hitting right fielder. Albert Pujols (37?) is the Angels DH and his production has plummeted. At some point, the club could just eat the $100 million-plus owed to him through 2021.
Cam Bedrosian is a 25-year-old right-handed relief pitcher who could slot in as a closer for the Reds. His father, Steve Bedrosian, recorded 184 saves in his major league career. A nagging groin injury has prevented Bedrosian from locking down that role for the Angels in Street’s absence.
The Angels have used Bedrosian in high leverage situations, including the 9th inning. He has recorded 6 saves in 43 appearances. In his 40 innings pitched, Bedrosian has 47 strikeouts and 17 walks. Bedrosian’s 2.73 FIP in 2017 is in line with his 2.13 FIP in 2016. Only Raisel Iglesias (2.51 FIP) is close to that in the Reds current bullpen.
Bedrosian throws just two pitches – fastball, slider – so no doubt he belongs in a relief role. He throws the fastball (94 mph) about 60% of the time.
Bedrosian will start his first of four arbitration years in 2018. He won’t be a free agent until 2022.
At first glance, a reliever may seem like a light return for Adam Duvall. But the outfielder’s offensive production has sunk at the end of 2017 and there is evidence he may not sustain his numbers. Realistically, a strong, young reliever is about all the Reds can expect to get back.
Trading Duvall resolves the Reds crowded corner outfield situation. They can put Jesse Winker in left to play alongside his new teammate Christian Yelich and right fielder Scott Schebler.
We adhered to our stated guidelines. We didn’t trade prospects. We acquired only established major league players. We didn’t bring on any past-their-prime players (or former Cardinals). In fact, the ages of our three new players are 23, 25 and 25. How about that! Yet, the trades offer legitimate value to the proposed partner. That said, there’s cushion to add a prospect if necessary to make them work.
What about not adding payroll?
The three moves reduce payroll by $10 million. Here’s a table with salary numbers that spells it out:
The figure for Zack Cozart is his 2017 salary. If the Reds re-sign him, he’d easily make twice that per year and so you could view these moves as saving $15+ million.
The trades bring in three young players, controlled through 2021, at the key positions of CF, SS and closer.
Here’s a new Reds batting order that our moves have produced:
Jesse Winker (LF)
Christian Yelich (CF)
Joey Votto (1B)
Eugenio Suarez (3B)
Scott Schebler (RF)
Nick Senzel (2B)
Ketel Marte (SS)
Tucker Barnhart (C)
Flip the first two if you want. Swapping Senzel for Winker might wait for 2019.
With the extra $10-$15 million, the Reds can shore up the bench and invest in relievers or a starting pitcher. Since we didn’t trade any of the Reds pitching prospects, those chips remain. If the front office is inclined, they could still load up the prospects fire hose and try to find a top-end starting pitcher. More on that idea and sorting out the rest of the pitching situation in a later post.
This was fun. It’s also just an exercise. These specific trade fits were found by a hobbyist with a few hours of hunting. They aren’t perfect. Imagine the moves the Reds front office can devise with a team of smart, informed people working on it every day.
But they need to be looking for the right type of deals. Established players for established players. The Reds can quit rebuilding and get to work fine-tuning.
The point is, the Reds have options for resolving difficult position questions that no one seems to be discussing. Upgrade center field. Find a real shortstop instead of forcing Suarez or Peraza into that role. Look for a solid closer in other bullpens.
And traipse through the dreary, expensive free agent market, overflowing with bleh thirtysomethings, only as a last resort.