David Schoenfield wrote an article this morning at ESPN on one blockbuster move for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. Some of those moves were free agent signings. But some of those moves were trades that make up the moves for several teams. For the Cincinnati Reds, Schoenfield indeed offered up a trade. And it was a big one, involving two other teams.
In a three-team blockbuster, the Houston Astros acquire C Willson Contreras from the Chicago Cubs and LHP Amir Garrett from the Cincinnati Reds; the Reds acquire 3B/OF Kris Bryant from the Cubs and RHP Josh James from the Astros; the Cubs acquire RHP Forrest Whitley and 3B Abraham Toro from the Astros and LHP Nick Lodolo and RHP Tony Santillan from the Reds.
The Reds in this deal pick up an elite hitter in Kris Bryant and put him in left field. And they also add reliever Josh James. One of those moves is certainly bigger than the other. But let’s also look at what the Reds would be giving up in this proposed blockbuster. The only Major Leaguer moved is reliever Amir Garrett. But the team would also be giving up 2019 1st round pick Nick Lodolo and another top five prospect in Tony Santillan.
Let’s talk about where this would help Cincinnati first. Kris Bryant is a stud. He’s a career .284/.385/.516 hitter, and that’s almost exactly what he was in 2019. With an offense that struggled to score runs, Bryant would go a very long way to putting that behind them. He’s a true middle of the order hitter. He hits for a good average, he gets on base at a very high rate, and he hits for a lot of power.
With Josh James you get a right-handed reliever who misses tons of bats. In his 84.1 career Major League innings he’s struck out 129 hitters. But, he’s also a guy who walked 35 hitters in 61.1 innings in 2019 and posted a 4.70 ERA. He’s not a sure thing, but there’s plenty of upside here if the walk rate can come down just a little bit.
On the flip side of this there are some concerns. The biggest issue may be one that isn’t talked about much. Kris Bryant’s free agency date is up in the air. If you recall, he filed a grievance against the Cubs after his rookie season for service time manipulation. That case is still pending, though it’s supposed to be heard this offseason. But right now the outcome is up in the air, and that means that there’s no way to know whether or not he’s a free agent following the 2020 season (an outcome that could be possible if he were to win) or the 2021 season (if he were to lose). That’s a very big deal.
Losing Amir Garrett in exchange for Josh James is probably a bit of a downgrade in the bullpen. As notes above, there’s upside with James, but Garrett was unquestionably better in 2019 and he’s got plenty of upside, too. Both are under team control for multiple years moving forward.
The Reds are also giving up two of their top three pitching prospects. This may or may not be as big of a deal to you depending on exactly where you fall. Currently the Reds have the top two guys in their rotation locked in for the next few years. Luis Castillo is not even arbitration eligible yet. Sonny Gray’s extension takes him through 2023 (team option for 2023). Tony Santillan’s 2019 season was a down one as he battled through several nagging, but non-long term injuries during the year. Still, he’s a guy who has plus stuff and has shown a high ceiling. He entered the year as a Top 75 prospect in all of baseball.
And then there’s Nick Lodolo. He was viewed as the best pitcher in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. Very little he did after the draft showed that to be inaccurate. While his action was limited, he posted a 2.45 ERA with zero walks and 30 strikeouts between rookie-level Billings and Low-A Dayton. He’s expected to move quickly and could be ready to pitch in the Major Leagues quicker than most draft picks.
Neither of those prospect moves may matter because of what’s already at the top of the rotation. Maybe they mean something because the farm is likely going to have to eventually put pitchers into the Major Leagues. And with the Reds hiring of Kyle Boddy to help rebuild the entire process of development of pitching on the farm, you are taking two of the three highest upside arms in the farm system and moving on from them.
At the end of the day, this is just a full on thought process of fun. This is just pure speculation of one writer. But it’s a doozy of a trade and it is certainly a fun idea to debate.