Last week, Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs took a (very hypothetical and pretty arbitrary) look at the Aroldis Chapman trade scenario by the numbers, and we all missed it because we were too busy drinking with high school classmates that we can't really stand in anticipation of Thanksgiving turkey. However theoretical the article is, the end result is a pretty interesting read.
In short, it attempts to put a realistic target/value point the Reds can expect to acquire in a trade for Aroldis Chapman. Using that baseline, what should the Reds (and Reds fans) be expecting in return for Chapman from some of the teams that have been "checking in" over the course of the offseason?
Some caveats: This isn't going to be your definitive end-all-be-all Chapman trade dossier. Chapman's trade market is fairly unique, as he's the type of talent that is certainly going to get front office types up in arms and irrational, but also only has one year of control left. If the Reds would've been in the position to trade him two or three years ago, the sky would've been literally the limit. That's obviously not the case anymore. I can't predict how smart/dumb personnel people in other front offices will be in this scenario, nor how irrational the Reds might be in their asking price.
That's why we're using Sullivan's article as a "realistic" baseline. As he notes, if the Reds could've gotten what the Padres received for Craig Kimbrel, should they have taken it? Probably. But the speculation is that the "Reds listened to Boston's pitch but required more than what was offered for Kimbrel," not received for Kimbrel. We could be splitting hairs with that language.
First, we'll take a look at what the Los Angeles Dodgers might be willing to part with for the services of Aroldis Chapman. The Reds have said they "want" young, nearly ready or currently major league ready talent. Well, sure. Every team wants that. I'm sure there are a lot of teams, at this point, telling the Reds to want in one hand and... you get it. But, we'll address the names.
Yasiel Puig, OF
This is the obvious name, because he's both young and not only ready, but seasoned. The Dodgers have been rumored to be growing tired with their once budding superstar, and another questionable incident with Puig continues to fuel the speculation. Puig turned in a disappointing 2015 campaign, due mostly to injuries which caused him to participate in only 79 games. On top of that, Yasiel is notoriously a bit difficult to deal with, and apparently didn't speak with former Dodger manager Don Mattingly toward the end of the 2015 campaign.
So, sure, Puig is wearing thin on Dodger brass. Then again, the tools and talent that Puig possesses are extremely apparent; tools and talent that you don't just dump because he's got an attitude. Not to mention any deal for Puig now would be dealing at a point of weakness for the Dodgers, and selling at his lowest point. The Dodgers front office should be smarter than that.
Honestly, personality difficulties aside, a one for one, Chapman-for-Puig trade would be a coup for the Reds and seems unrealistic without knowing just how fed up the Dodgers really are with Puig. And, Reds fans should know, sometimes personality difficulties with young, Cuban defecting potential phenoms can end up a bit overblown.
And so, none of the other major league suspects make a lot of sense for either party. I'm sure the Dodgers wouldn't be adverse to dealing Andre Either or Carl Crawford, but both are too old and too expensive to float the Reds boat. Joc Pederson's struggles and weaknesses are certainly legit, but they're not giving up on that kind of young talent for one year of a reliever. Scott Van Slyke always seems like a trade target, but a 30 year-old left fielder doesn't scream the "young, major league ready" profile the Reds are seeking. He seems like the most realistic target if the Reds are hellbent on getting someone who can help in 2016, but, then again, the Dodgers outfield logjam isn't nearly as real as it used to be.
Corey Seager, SS; Julio Urias, LHP
I suppose they could try.
Jose De Leon, RHP
We're reaching the top of the potential scenarios in this one, and I still think it's pretty unlikely that the Dodgers come off De Leon for only one guaranteed year of Chapman. As Sullivan notes in his article, a top 10-15 prospect at pitcher is basically where we top out, and even then it's in the "kinda-crazy-but-not-impossible" category.
De Leon is a 2013 24th rounder who basically came out of nowhere. From MLBPipeline:
De Leon wasn't on any prospect lists before last summer. Then he was named pitcher of the year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, which he led with 77 strikeouts and 12.8 whiffs per nine innings. Completing his breakout, he had 42 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings at low Class A Great Lakes, where he fanned 14 in one game to break Clayton Kershaw's franchise record.
Woah. Whatever adjustments the 23 year-old made, it worked. The kid now has mesmerizing stuff. He's still a couple of years away and hasn't pitched over 100 innings in his professional career, but his star is ever rising. Even as pitching rich as this organization is, Jose De Leon would be a stellar get.
Grant Holmes, RHP
Sticking with pitchers, and moving into the more realistic portion of this piece, former 2014 first rounder Grant Holmes is currently the 5th and 6th ranked Dodgers prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively, and also currently sits at #58 on MLB.com's overall prospect list, while Baseball America expects seven or eight of the top Dodgers prospects to end up in their 100. So, Holmes is sitting right around realistic value, at least according to our thought experiment.
Drafted out of high school, Holmes features a fastball that can reach 100 mph and an impressive breaking ball, and a change that should come along as he advances. There are some questions about his body type and physicality (MLB.com describes it as "relatively short and stocky."
This past season, Holmes struck out more than 10 per 9 innings pitched but walked nearly 5. His ERA finished at a very good 3.14.
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF; Alex Verdugo, OF
I suppose you could throw Jose Peraza into this group of likely offensive targets, but its likely that his price tag is too steep to get for Chapman (ranked #24 overall by MLB.com), and he's the top position prospect in the organization, non-Seager division. He also figures to be factoring into LA's plans at second base with the rejection of the qualifying offer by Howie Kendrick and the free agency of Chase Utley (not to mention Chase Utley being Chase Utley). Peraza doesn't really hit, and while a lineup featuring the speed of Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza seems cool, someone has to hit.
I'm sure the Reds would be willing, but he doesn't really fit the holes that the Reds have right now.
Bellinger: The Dodgers' 2013 4th round pick, Bellinger struggled a bit and stumbled to a slow start to his professional career, OPSing just .698. He bounced back in 2014, OPSing .826 in 2014 with a swell .352 OBP. The Dodgers took notice, and allowed the youngster to skip right on ahead to advanced A.
Apparently, they pushed the right button. Bellinger mashed 30 home runs in 2015 after hitting only 4 in his first 400+ professional at bats. Baseball America's Ben Badler had this to say in his Dodgers top prospect chat:
The Cal League does inflate his numbers, but there were legitimate, underlying reasons for Bellinger's power surge beyond playing in a hitter-friendly environment. Some of it is just natural strength progression where he's finally filling out that lanky frame, but a lot of it was the mechanical changes he made throughout the course of the season that I wrote about in his report. Is he going to be a 30-plus home run guy going forward? Probably not. But it's legit plus power and a swing that's conducive to tapping into that power in games.
It'll be interesting to see how he plays in the outfield; first base seems to be his primary position, which may present itself as an obvious problem for the Reds. But, if he can hit enough to be a productive left fielder, the Reds should be very interested.
Verdugo: Los Angeles selected Verdugo 62nd in the 2014 draft, and many thought that it was to be a pitcher. Verdugo made it known that he wanted to play everyday, however, and the Dodgers reversed-Reds him (that is, didn't insist on making him pitch).
Verdugo finished his first professional season batting .353 and moved on to low A in 2015. The numbers suffered a little, but Badler explains that his stock is up from last year (despite ranking lower in the system overall).
He's a good hitter, certainly better than what a lot of scouts expected coming out of high school and what he showed in the first half because of the mental and mechanical adjustments he made during the season. The power development is a question mark, and one he got himself into trouble with this trying to manufacture that power with his mechanics rather than stay within his line-drive approach that works well for him, but I think there's enough there for him to be an everyday player.
He's got the instincts to make it in center, though is probably best suited in right.