With July upon us and the Reds still lingering in Wild Card contention, the team cannot go into sell-mode, nor should they. Big name rentals like Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood play too much of a role day-to-day to consider moving and both should be prime extension candidates.
That doesn’t mean the Reds shouldn’t look to retool the roster a little bit though. As Ken Rosenthal pointed out over at The Athletic, the team still has some smaller trade potentials to explore. The Reds have a few vets whose contracts come up at the end of the season could provide nice returns for the team without sacrificing too much quality on the field before the end of the year.
In that vein, here are three potential trades of players with expiring contracts that make sense for both teams. None of these are incredibly flashy, but each provides huge potential value for players the Reds are unlikely to keep past 2019.
1. David Hernandez to the Rays for Tanner Dodson
Assuming the Reds decide to gentle shed rather than sell, David Hernandez becomes the team’s marquee trade piece. Every contender needs bullpen arms down the stretch, and the Reds have the luxury of bullpen depth from which to deal. Once the Will Smith sweepstakes ends, Hernandez also becomes the best reliever on the market assuming the Pirates stick to their plan of keeping Felipe Vazquez.
The Rays have already been linked to Will Smith, so in a scenario where that deal doesn’t work out, they make an ideal partner for Hernandez. In any deal, the Reds should at least inquire about the top names in the Rays uber-deep farm system — Vidal Brujan and Ronaldo Hernandez would be savvy asks — but the Reds should be willing to dig deeper.
Tanner Dodson, the Rays’ second round pick in 2018, makes for an intriguing possibility. Essentially Michael Lorenzen 2.0, Dodson plays both centerfield and pitches for the Rays’ Hi-A affiliate right now. Dodson has a power fastball and power slider from the mound, topping around 98 mph, and appears to have a solid set-up man ceiling. His bat leaves a lot to be desired, but even if he hits like a fourth outfielder, it allows the Reds to pad both bench bats and carry extra relievers.
Only the 18th-ranked prospect on MLB.com Pipeline, Dodson shouldn’t be untouchable even if he would be much higher on many other teams’ lists. He’s also been on the Injured List since May 24. Both the Reds and the Rays would be dealing from depth here, so at least on paper, this trade makes a lot of sense.
2. Scooter Gennett to the Rockies for Ryan Castellani, Will Gaddis, and Walking Cabrera
Oh, how we long for the days when the Yankees were interested in Scooter Gennett. With the signing of DJ LaMahieu, the emergence of Gio Urshela, and return of Didi Gregorius, the Evil Empire just has no need for Scooter anymore.
With the Reds second baseman having missed nearly all of 2019 as well, it’s fair to ask if anyone has a need for a rusty, rental middle infielder. American League teams looking for an upgrade at DH could be interested, but for now it seems the most compatible suitor would be the Colorado Rockies.
Yes, the Reds would be directly aiding their Wild Card competition, but the Rockies, at least on face value, look like the only contender with enough of a need to give any respectable return for Scooter. Scattering starts between Garrett Hampson, Ryan McMahon, and top prospect Brendan Rodgers has resulted in an MLB-worst -2.1 fWAR for second basemen. Putting Scooter in Coors Field maximizes the infielder’s skillset and lets the Rockies send down Rodgers for consistent at-bats until taking over the role full-time next season.
Realistically, the Reds shouldn’t expect too much in return. Scooter is coming off injury, is a rental player, and provides little defensive value at a defense-first position. There’s little chance the Reds get a top 100 prospect in return, but the Rockies do have a wealth of interesting flyer prospects. Ryan Castellani, the team’s 11th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, should make a nice centerpiece. He’s a big righty with a low-90s fastball who has struggled mightily this season. Intriguingly, Castellani has a strong slider with room for development and a good changeup. If he can iron out his location issues, Castellani has all the tools to be a mid-rotation starter or at worst, a Robert Stephenson-like bullpen piece.
As add-ons, the Reds should look to Will Gaddis and Walking Cabrera. Gaddis doesn’t strikeout many hitters but has shown good command so could become an interesting bullpen arm. Cabrera is only 18 and showed some pop last season. He’s got a projectionable corner outfield frame though would be nothing more than a lottery ticket right now.
3. Tanner Roark to the Twins for Nick Gordon
According to FanGraphs, Tanner Roark has been the Reds best pitcher in 2019 with 2.1 fWAR. Granted, he’s taking advantage of the site’s FIP preference and Luis Castillo’s proclivity for walks, but either way, Roark’s been effective. Even if the Reds do make a late run, with Alex Wood coming back, Roark’s somewhat disposable. Also, there’s no way the Reds re-sign him after the season.
Roark makes the perfect rental for a team in contention. What you see is what you get: The righty limits home runs and walks without striking out too many. He’s blasted the third time through the order, but a forward-thinking manager like David Bell will get the most out of him. Rocco Baldelli could too.
While the Twins don’t necessarily have a hole in their rotation, they are relying on Martin Perez who is far outperforming his career numbers and Michael Piñeda. Tanner Roark could provide some insurance.
With Roark’s bloated salary and limited potential for impact as a rental starter (he’ll get 15 starts at most), the Reds can’t expect much in return. In fact, the absolute ceiling of what the Reds could expect back would be Nick Gordon, a former highly touted prospect whose star as dimmed the past two seasons. After Gordon lit up Double-A for the first half of 2018, he stumbled at Triple-A with a 52 wRC+. He’s only moderately improved in his second go-round (82 wRC+).
But if the Twins are willing to part with Gordon for Roark, it’s a high-upside, low-risk deal for the Reds. Gordon could be the Reds second baseman of the future assuming Senzel stays in center or he could turn out like Dilson Herrera. For a pitcher the team likely has no designs on keeping, that’s a risk worth taking.