For years, I’ve followed both Jonah Keri’s and Fangraphs’ versions of establishing top-50 MLB Trade Value lists. Both annual rankings seek to provide an idea of how the baseball industry values its players, creating a sort of “absolute value” for what players could fetch on the open market. It’s a delicate balance of friendly contracts, overwhelming talent, and/or promising potential, with both Keri and Fangraphs often polling from front offices themselves to create their rankings.
While I don’t have the same sort of insider access as the other lists, I do have oodles of time to pore over player pages and a decent-to-good understanding of how front offices generally look to behave. By that second part, I mean I’m a 20-something male with a tendency to always believe he’s outsmarting everyone around him. You know, exactly the type of guy who gets put in charge of baseball teams.
What I’ve done here is rank the top 15 trade assets the Reds will hold at the beginning of this year’s offseason. Notably, (most likely to be shipped) Matt Harvey won’t be on the list because his contract is expiring and odds he remains a Red are low. Another big name you won’t see: Joey Votto. Not too many teams want to pay $145 million over the next six years to a first baseman entering his age-35 season. It doesn’t matter if he’s one of the best in the game, that’s expensive.
Ultimately, I doubt much of the list will surprise you, especially not No. 1. The rest of the top 5 I could see as being a shock, but whatever the case, the bottom line is the Reds lack uber-desirable trade pieces. Especially ones they’re actually willing to move.
Guys Who Are Too Young: Mike Siani, Josiah Gray, Lyon Richardson
I was really tempted to slip in Josiah Gray but extrapolating on 35.0 innings is foolish. He’s only 20 years old, already striking out more than a batter per inning and not walking too many people, so Gray is quickly becoming a name to watch. Just not that quickly.
Guys Who Are What They Are: Tyler Mahle, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson Sal Romano, Dilson Herrera
At this point in these guys’ careers, the league just kind of shrugs. Mahle could fetch a nice return, maybe, I guess? His recent struggles aren’t encouraging at least. Garrett loses value by not starting, Stephenson and Romano have lost value by starting ineffectively, and Herrera has been hurt forever and is nothing more than a lottery ticket now. All four could be worth something down the road, just not this offseason.
Guys Who Just Missed: Shed Long, Tyler Stephenson, Stuart Fairchild, Michael Lorenzen
I love Shed Long, let me make that clear. If Nick Senzel can somehow find a way to play short, a 2020 infield of Eugenio Suarez, Senzel, Long, Joey Votto sounds ideal. However, all of that is pipe dreaming as Long has yet to prove anything will translate to the MLB. Same for Stephenson and Fairchild, who both have Minor League sheen but not much more right now. Lorenzen just fails to register enough value from the middle of the pen, and his frequent injuries haven’t helped.
15. Billy Hamilton
Finally after much build-up and deliberation and “will this be it?,” we’ve reached the start of the list. Kind of resembles Billy Hamilton trying to get on first, right?
The thing about Billy is that he’s essentially a poor man’s Jackie Bradley Jr. except Bradley Jr. is a better hitter and has only reached his first year of arbitration, not his last. So the hypothetical poor man would probably prefer Jackie Bradley Jr. than Billy Hamilton anyway.
The idea has been tossed about ad nauseum by baseball pundits, but Billy’s trade value entirely originates from his potential role as a super-sub. Think Terrance Gore on the 2014/2015 Royals. With only one arbitration year left, Billy will likely cost the Reds $5-6 million in 2019, which is more than peanuts but no small potatoes either. Another, richer team could see value in Hamilton and trade a non-prospect or two, but considering Bob Castellini’s fondness for the centerfielder, odds are he’s ours to keep for 2019 at least.
14. Tony Santillan
The first of the Reds’ prospects to make the list, Tony Santillan has truly played his way onto the board. In 122.0 innings across two levels in 2018, Santillan has recorded a 2.43 ERA and 8.0 K/9 rate. The reason he makes the list though is not prospect shine like the Reds top four prospects have, but rather his numbers only got better when he moved up to AA.
Before 2018, Santillan was profiled to have No. 2 starter stuff by Fangraphs, if he could develop a changeup and increase his command. Well, this season he’s dropped his BB/9 from 3.9 at A ball in 2017 to 2.2 across A+ and AA. As for the changeup, Matt Wilkes wrote earlier this week:
“Santillan made significant strides in his game in 2017, particularly with his changeup, which he converted from an inconsistent-at-best offering into a pitch that flashes as plus.”
If he keeps this up, Santillan could make a Luis Castillo-like bid for the rotation next summer. For now though, he’s an intriguing piece to imagine in trades, with the highest ceiling of his potential coming into focus.
13. Anthony DeSclafani
If only he could avoid the injuries. Anthony DeSclafani has long been a serviceable No. 3 starter, and he still has two years of arbitration left. In theory, any contending team would take a flyer on him for a return similar to what the Red Sox sent for Nathan Eovaldi. It’s just, can DeSclafani’s arm hold up?
12. Tucker Barnhart
If there’s any position in baseball where it’s hard to find good help, it’s catcher. Staying behind the dish is an unforgiving job, with teams moving hitting catchers to other positions in order to lengthen their careers.
Tucker will never be described as a hitting catcher and with a Gold Glove to his name, he’s a good bet to stay behind the dish. He’s taken a step back from his breakout 2017, but he’s still posted the fifth-best catcher OBP across the league and the seventh-best OPS. And the Reds locked him up through 2021 at a relative bargain, never paying him more than $4.2 million. If Tucker can return to his 2017 production at the plate, he’d be an improvement over most of the league’s catchers at the plate while providing top-tier defense. Someone worth trading for in other words.
11. Hunter Greene
Ulnar Collateral Ligaments are delicate things. And when you throw over 100 mph at the tender age of 18, sometimes they are prone to sprain or snap. Hunter Greene was poised to rank near the top of this list until his UCL did what it is wont to do, and now Greene is shut down for the rest of 2018 with a UCL sprain. No word has been made on if Greene will need Tommy John surgery.
If his arm stays healthy, Greene has all the makings in the world to be a generational ace. But few arms stay healthy and potential in 18 year olds so rarely comes to fruition. The Reds could still fetch a decent return in a Hunter Greene trade I’m sure, but it looks a lot less promising now than it did two weeks ago.
Thanks for all the birthday wishes and kind words. I had a great day with my family and am thankful for them as well as your positive support. Thank you ❤️ https://t.co/beewV3bmDr
— Hunter Greene (@HunterGreene17) August 7, 2018
10. Scooter Gennett
Let’s play a game of selective end points featuring Scooter Gennett:
- April 23 — May 28 (127 PA): .402/.432/.726, 208 wRC+, .457 BABIP
- May 29 — Aug 7 (239 PA): .283/.349/.434, 108 wRC+, .323 BABIP
April 23 was Scooter’s lowest batting average this season, at .270, and May 28 was Scooter’s highest batting average (min. 50 PA), at .347.
It seems to me that Scooter’s world-changing numbers were largely buoyed by a 32-game stretch where NEARLY HALF OF ALL BALLS HE PUT IN PLAY LANDED AS A HIT. Does that seem sustainable? No? Well, you’re right. In all of the games since that 32-game streak, Scooter has cut his production at the plate nearly in half (208 wRC+ to 108) while watching his BABIP plummet from .457 to a much more normal, but still inflated!!, .323.
Now, if you believe Scooter profiles as a 108 wRC+ hitter (as I do), there’s still value there! It’s just Ketel Marte value, not Jose Altuve value. The Reds missed their window to deal Scooter at his peak, but some team could still reasonably deal for his last arbitration season in 2019, hoping that he hits like the May-version of himself and not every other version.
9. Scott Schebler
Unbelievably to me, Schebler still has another season of team control before he even reaches arbitration. And he’s only entering his age-28 season next year. Trading Schebler would essentially be moving a third-outfielder for all the years of his prime costing next to nothing. That’s appealing to pretty much any team, whether rebuilding or contending.
Still, Schebler probably holds more value to the Reds, but were he to be put on the market, he’d fetch more in return than many would expect.
8. Jose Peraza
There seems to be a collective amnesia in Reds’ Country that Jose Peraza is only 23 and currently a top-15 Major League shortstop by wRC+. He still doesn’t walk enough, though he is walking more than last year (3.9% in 2017 / 5.2% in 2018). He doesn’t hit for a ton of power, though he’ll end up doubling last year’s extra base hit output by the end of the year (18 XBH in 2017 / 31 in 2018). Oh, and he still has another year of team control before even hitting arbitration.
If we compare Jose Peraza over the same stretch of games I outlined above, May 28 — Aug. 7, you find something just a bit shocking. Over 256 PA, Peraza is slashing .312/.360/.444 with a wRC+ of 114 and a BABIP of .335. That last number points to the slashline not being wholly replicable, but still, it’s in line with what Scooter’s is over the same stretch and shows that Jose Peraza is good! Or at least better than we thought! In fact, he’s the better half of the double play duo!
For a less cynical comparison, let’s look to the Atlanta Braves and their uber-shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson.
- 2018 Peraza: .282/.325/.385, 90 wRC+, .305 BABIP
- 2018 Swanson: .241/.296/.385, 76 wRc+, .306 BABIP
Peraza, by all accounts, is better than Dansby Swanson, the more heralded and one-year older shortstop of the future. Swanson was the first overall pick! What I’m saying is, Jose Peraza is already good and still getting better, so there’s no need to undersell him.
7. Luis Castillo
I don’t understand what happened to Luis Castillo for the first half of 2018 any more than the next guy, but that shouldn’t downplay his talent. Castillo has pure ace stuff and is under team control for two more seasons before he hits arbitration. His last few starts have shown a return to the 2017 form that got everyone so excited.
But…who knows. He’ll be 26 next year and if it’s more of the same, most of Castillo’s value will evaporate because the potential just won’t be translating. Starting pitching is perpetually a need across baseball, so Castillo’s potential holds a lot more value than Peraza’s. Hopefully, he turns the corner and stops making mistake pitches so frequently. Right now, Castillo has promise. By the end of the 2019 season, he may just have memories of promise.
6. Taylor Trammell
And here begins the run of Reds’ prospects that should be untouchable and most likely are. To be honest, I have a blank Louisville Bats jersey and am waiting for Trammell to be promoted so I can put his name on the back. Nick Senzel is another option for jerseydom, but I’d prefer Trammell.
The thing about Taylor Trammell is that his reputation seems to have far-extended his production. He’s starting to gain notoriety around the league and in the organization as Billy Hamilton’s heir apparent, but he’s only compiled a .777 OPS at A+. That’s good but also Juan Soto’s slugging percentage was higher than that at A+ before he made the jump to the Nationals. Let me repeat: Juan Soto had a higher SLG than Trammell has OPS at the same level.
So yeah, Trammell should be pretty good one day, but he’s a long way off and definitely not the second coming of Mike Trout. Still, he’s the kind of prospect that any team will take a chance on because all the tools are there and a 127 wRC+ isn’t anything to shrug at.
5. Nick Senzel
Nick Senzel made the Fangraphs’ Honorable Mentions list, which makes it super weird to only rank him five on my list. After all, Kiley McDaniel had all the same information plus more and is generally smarter than I am.
Still, Senzel’s history of vertigo scares me, so I’m assuming it’ll scare other teams as well. He’s clearly the best prospect the Reds have and one any team will probably take a chance on, but the Reds’ bargaining is severely limited by the injury history. No one wants to trade for the next Nick Esasky, even if all signs point to the two players’ conditions being completely different.
4. Jonathan India
Immediately after the World Series concludes, Jonathan India could find himself on the trading block. He’s acquitted himself nicely across 23 Minor League games so far, compiling a .920 OPS. In his most recent stop at A-Dayton, he’s posted a 143 wRC+ across 24 PA, which just isn’t a meaningful sample size but it sounds good.
If India keeps this pace through the end of the year, his trade value may never be higher. He’ll have no injury history, a proven record of hitting professional pitchers, and only entering his age-22 season. The Reds should hang onto him because no such thing as too much talent, but still, a Swanson-esque trade for pitching is a tantalizing though.
3. Jesse Winker
Before his season-ending injury, Jesse Winker had a .405 OBP, a 128 wRC+, and a higher walk than strikeout rate. Of outfielders with at least 300 PA, Winker is third in the league in OBP behind only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. He’s not the new Joey Votto, but he’s also not-not the new Joey Votto.
Most importantly, Winker has two years left of team control before entering three years of arbitration, which means the Reds have their outfielder of the future locked up until he’s 30. Winker’s lack of power limits his shot at becoming one of the most valuable players in baseball, but he’s affordable and an above average bat on any team.
2. Raisel Iglesias
The Reds asked a king’s ransom for Iglesias at the deadline, and rightly so. Iglesias is under contract for two more seasons, both a touch under $6 million, He hasn’t had the most successful 2018 campaign, but still posts elite K/9 numbers and has a 2.57 ERA. The Reds obviously feel that they can compete if not in 2019, then in 2020 and having a lockdown bullpen has become a necessity in the postseason.
If the Reds do feel that they’re a bit further off this offseason though, someone could pay for Iglesias, though it would be more likely to see him moved at the 2019 deadline. Reliever value peaks midseason after all.
1. Eugenio Suarez
Did you really expect to see anyone else here? He’s the only Red to appear on the Fangraphs’ ranking. He’s signed to a very team-friendly long-term contract. And he’s just so freaking good.
Suarez has already put up 4.1 bWAR for 2018 and will be entering his age 27 season in 2019. Or, you know, his prime. It’s fair to expect Suarez to be a top-5 third baseman for the next two to five years, and at less than $12 million for each of those years, that’s a criminal bargain. (Jose Ramirez, Nolan Arenado, Eugenio Suarez, Alex Bregman, Kris Bryant is my ranking of third basemen if you’re wondering.)
Given the Reds’ current roster construction, trading Suarez would be Dumber than Dumb™. But he’s the one player on this team that is producing at a Major League level with little fear of extreme regression and all 30 teams can afford. The Reds have made some mistakes and had some victories during this rebuild, but Eugenio Suarez will go down as one of the greatest heists in franchise history by the time it’s all said and done.
So what does this exercise mean? Mostly, it’s a calibration for how to think of the Reds offseason. These are the guys that all 30 teams will consider valuable to some degree. Some are untouchable, most should be put on the block immediately.
It’s also meant to illustrate the discrepancy toward how fans feel for their players versus how front offices value them. Scooter is beloved in the Queen City, but doesn’t hold too much value outside of it. His contract and true talent level undercut any bargaining the Reds have at the trade table.
The Reds have the pieces to make something happen next year. They just need to put their money on the table and stop letting sentimentality get in the way.