It’s easy to blame the Terry Francona and the Indians for the current hyper-usage state of bullpens, but blaming the 2014 Royals probably makes more sense. The combination of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland sucked any oxygen out of a game the Royals were leading in the sixth, redefining the word shutdown. It took the Royals all the way to the Series, which they lost, but the 2015 squad with Herrera, Davis, and Ryan Madson at the back eventually got the job done.
The point here being: Successful playoff teams have learned that you don’t just need a closer in the postseason, you need three of them.
When projecting where Reds closer Raisel Iglesias could be traded before the deadline, nearly every playoff contending team becomes a contender. Only a few — the Yankees, the Brewers, the Diamondbacks — have had two or three lights-out relievers since Opening Day, while a couple others — the Mariners and the Nationals — have already made moves to bolster the back end. That leaves eight (EIGHT!) potential landing spots for Iglesias, which itself leaves out the A’s, the Cardinals, the Rockies, and the Giants who are technically contending but would be shocking additions to the postseason.
Knowing the options, I wanted to find the best potential deal from each of the eight teams while following Steve’s Golden Rule of Trading Iglesias™:
Finding a smart trade match for Raisel Iglesias is hard. Minor league players alone aren't enough of a return. But teams in contention don't want to give up someone already contributing at major league level.
— Steve Mancuso (@spmancuso) June 22, 2018
I’ll assume Iglesias is worth a 1-2 WAR Major League player plus a top 15 team prospect or a top 10 and a top 30 team prospect given Iglesias’ team friendly contract and the usually overinflated closer market. In all cases, I try to be as realistic as possible given the other teams’ priorities and who they would be absolutely unwilling to part with, but I can only read so many minds. While I don’t think the Indians would ever include Mike Clevinger or Francisco Meija, I could be totally wrong and the team could be more desperate for bullpen help than they seem. All things considered, these are the smartest trade matches I could come up with.
THE BEST OPTIONS
Indians — Adam Plutko and Yu-Cheng Chang OR Tyler Naquin and Shane Bieber
Current Bullpen: Full-on Dumpster Fire
Being the most logical trade partner for the Reds, the Indians get two options. My love of Yu-Cheng Chang is well documented, but let me repeat something: A .241 FULL SEASON ISO IN AA. While he’s scuffled a bit in 2018, Chang has real power and the athleticism necessary for short. Tacking on Plutko to this deal gets the Reds a big league ready starter, even if he only has the ceiling of No. 4.
On the other hand, Tyler Naquin and Shane Bieber would be a lot of fun wouldn’t it? Given how he’s performed, I doubt the Indians move Bieber but if the Reds throw in Duvall, this could be a wonderful deal. Two Major League quality players for the Reds and a reliever who remembers what outs are for the Indians. Also, Adam Duvall to take over Naquin’s role. A win-win-neutral if I’ve ever seen one.
Phillies — Nick Williams and Enyel De Los Santos
Current Bullpen: Seranthony Dominguez can maybe do it himself?
The Phillies have one arm in the bullpen, two quality outfielders, two I-guess-if-we-have-to outfielders, and a really young farm system. Also, a surprisingly decent rotation. Depending on your feelings toward Zach Eflin, he could headline a return for Iglesias here, but I personally would rather Nick Williams. Only 24 years old, Williams has the potential to hit and hit very well. In a down year, he’s still managed a 100 wRC+, which matches his lowest full season minor league sample from 2016 in AAA. He followed that up with a 130 wRC+ in AAA in 2017. Williams has a lot of promise to be a solid MLB outfielder and luckily, he’s expendable. The Phillies can play Aaron Altherr or Dylan Hoskins in right without too much of a dropoff.
Enyel de los Santos, the other proposed piece here, isn’t just a tack on either. He a 1.63 ERA and 3.45 FIP across 13 starts in AAA. He’s the Phillies No. 11 prospect, and at only 22, has a lot of growing and adjusting left to do. This deal absolutely privileges the Reds, but if the Phillies are serious about the postseason this year, they need another arm.
Astros — Yordan Alvarez and Cionel Perez
Current Bullpen: Bad but not desperate
I can’t imagine the Astros wanting to trade Alvarez, their No. 3 prospect, but also trading for Iglesias would make the Houston squad the most complete team I’ve ever seen so who knows. Alvarez is hitting .326/.383/.609 in AA with a 158 wRC+, which just feels unfair. The Astros won’t move Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley, so Alvarez makes the most sense for the Reds to go after and the ‘Stros to see as expendable. As for Perez, he’s a Cuban lefty who’s striking out 11+ batters per 9.0 innings in AA. Oh, and he’s being groomed as a starter but there are calls to move him to the back of the pen. Seems familiar. Perez could be a steal if the Reds overlook his arm injury issues and keep him starting. I don’t have much faith in the organization following that path, but it’s worth hoping for.
NOT AS GREAT OPTIONS
Angels — Griffin Canning and D’Shown Knowles
Current Bullpen: Mike Trout is probably the best reliever on the team. I’m like 80 percent sure of that.
I’m only categorizing this as a “not as great option” because I think the Angels trading for a closer is super dumb on their part. Wunderkid Shohei Ohtani is likely done for the year. Starters include Kole Calhoun, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, and Luis Valbuena, which would’ve been decent three years ago. And the bullpen is headlined by Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian. The Halos really don’t have a shot at October is what I’m saying.
But if they think they do, then sending top pitching prospect Griffin Canning and 17-year-old Bahamian super athlete D’Shown Knowles sounds pretty good to me.
Braves — Kyle Wright and Jasseel De La Cruz
Current Bullpen: With Vizcaino hurt, the Braves best reliever is….A.J. Minter? Oof.
The Braves will make a deadline move for a reliever. There’s not much I’m certain of in life, but this I will stand by. And caramel ice cream is the best, but that’s irrelevant.
The Braves absolutely have to shore up their bullpen. The Phillies and the Nationals will battle them all year, and only two of those three is making the playoffs because I’m also pretty certain both the Brewers and Cubs will make it in. And while Arodys Vizcaino is the real deal, you just can’t give high-leverage innings to A.J. Minter in a playoff hunt.
I chose Kyle Wright here because he should be the most Major League ready of the Braves pitching prospects, but feel free to sub Kolby Allard or Touki Touissant. De La Cruz is a promising add-in, but still only in A-ball, so a bit of a toss-up there. While the Braves make a ton of sense as a trade partner for the Reds, they’ll likely need most of their starting pitching prospects before the end of the year and won’t want to deal the highest touted ones. I realize I’m talking myself out of this deal as I write, I just think the Reds can, and should, do better.
Dodgers — Yasiel Puig
Current Bullpen: The entire rotation is on the DL and Kenley Jansen can only do so much.
Okay, I know how it look but stick with me here. The Dodgers have one of the best AAA outfielders in baseball currently hitting .347/.392/.515. The Dodgers are not going to trade him. Alex Verdugo is staying put.
HOWEVER, Verdugo has nowhere to play because of the logjam of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson across their outfield. Kemp isn’t his 2012 self, but he’s having a decent year, is signed through 2019, and seems fairly unmovable. Pederson, despite early season struggles, has rebounded and is still only 26. Which leaves Puig, equal parts loved and reviled in LA, as the potential odd man out.
Would the Dodgers do this? Probably not, but putting Iglesias in front of Kenley Jansen probably surpasses the Brewers for most terrifying bullpen in baseball and replacing Puig with Verdugo really just looks like a good business decision. The deal is outlandish and unlikely, but it makes more sense than you think.
DOESN’T REALLY MAKE SENSE AT ALL
Red Sox — Jalen Beeks and Bryan Mata
Current Bullpen: Actually pretty good
The Red Sox are on this list as a potential partner because they have money to spend and are in the same division as the Yankees. Boston doesn’t truly need bullpen help, but when your the Red Sox, it’s not a matter of need, it’s a matter of want.
Should Raisel Iglesias strike the Red Sox fancy, the Reds should be demanding Beeks in return and trying their best to get Bryan Mata tacked on. The No. 15 prospect in the Red Sox system, Jalen Beeks doesn’t exactly set scouts’ hearts aflutter. With a pedestrian fastball and squint-and-maybe-it’s-there command, Beeks looks like a long-relief bullpen arm at best. But still, he’s striking out 12.12 batters every 9.0 innings in AAA while walking 2.40 per 9.0. He has a 2.88 FIP and for all practical purposes, looks like the real deal. Might as well get him starting every fifth day and see if that’s true.
Mata, the Red Sox No. 4 prospect, would be more of a flyer on a teenage pitcher with a high ceiling. Just what every Reds fan wants to hear. It definitely wouldn’t be a strong return from the Red Sox, but like I said, the Red Sox don’t need Iglesias. Beeks could turn out to be a solid MLB starter, but this deal would be a worst case scenario for moving Iglesias.
Cubs — Adbert Alzolay
Current Bullpen: Mostly hurt because putting on pants is hard
The Cubs, like the Red Sox, don’t truly need backend help and they’re in the same division as the Reds. This would be a dumb deal to make for Dick Williams, Nick Krall, and Co. That said, the Cubs do have to compete with the Brewers’ incredible pen, so adding an extra arm has probably crossed their mind.
All it should take would be top prospect Adbert Alzolay, who hasn’t exactly wowed at AAA. Alzolay has a plus fastball with a strong curve and a changeup in the making. Fangraphs has compared him to Antonio Senzatela if the changeup never comes around, but a potential 2/3 starter if it does. Given his top prospect status and the Cubs’ lack of need, I don’t imagine the Reds would get much more in a deal than Alzolay, but he could be enough.
SO WHAT TO EXPECT?
The Indians, Phillies, and Braves make the most sense to deal with for the Reds and all have good options to offer in return. The Astros could beat any Braves or Phillies offer more than likely, but also picking up Iglesias would be a luxury for them. The Angels will likely drop out of the hunt and the Dodgers won’t want to meet the asking price as long as Kenley Jansen exists.
If I were to bet on where Raisel Iglesias ends up, it’d be the Phillies. I doubt the Indians meet the Reds’ asking price given there’s no competition in the AL Central and instead rely on Andrew Miller to regain his previous form or move Bieber to the bullpen. The Braves could part with Allard, in which case that deal makes the most sense, but I don’t see that happening either given Vizcaino is a true closer. The Phillies, however, need a true closer so Seranthony Dominguez can slot as a setup man in a strong NL East.
As with any trade projection, I could be all sorts of wrong, but it all kind of makes sense, right?