Few things define a general manager's tenure with a team like his success on the trade market. It is one of the easiest ways for fans to look back and assess whether a GM was able to make their favorite team better or worse. When a trade hits it can offer incredible value, but when you trade away a future MVP candidate the disappointment can linger for seasons.
The question I want to pose today is a basic one. If you could "undo" one Reds trade since 2000 (post-Griffey trade) which would you pick? A number of factors can come in to play when assessing the success of a trade. However, for the sake of this conversation the assessments will be limited to on-field production that was sent out vs. on-field production by players that the Reds acquired while they were in Cincinnati. This means the following list doesn't take in to account:
- Draft picks the team was able to acquire when a player they received via trade became a free agent
- How money that was saved by trading a player was spent in the coming seasons
- The goals of the team at the time a player was traded
5. August 11, 2008: Cincinnati trades Adam Dunn to Arizona for Dallas Buck, Wilkin Castillo, and Micah Owings
At the time that this trade was made the Reds were 52-67, and they trailed the first place Cubs by 19.5 games. Just a few weeks earlier Ken Griffey Jr. had been sent to the White Sox, and it was clear some other big name pieces could be on the way out. The next domino to fall was Dunn who was sent to Arizona for three players.
Including his time in Chicago, Dunn would play for four other teams in his post-Reds career. In those seven seasons he would go on to accumulate a total of 3.9 fWAR. Part of the reason for that low total was Dunn's disaster of a 2011 season in which he racked up -2.9 fWAR. His best season after his time with the Reds was a 3 fWAR season for the Nationals in 2010. That year he hit .260/.356/536 to go along with 38 HR and 103 RBI.
The package that the Reds received in return basically contributed little to no value at the major league level. Dallas Buck, a right handed pitcher, never made it past AA. Owings played in ten major league games for Cincinnati over two seasons before returning to Arizona as a free agent. Castillo played in 22 games for the Reds and accumulated 0 fWAR in that time.
Clearly financial considerations were a part of this. Dunn was about to become a free agent, and it was questionable whether Cincinnati wanted/needed his limited skill set in the future. However, based solely by this standard this is one of the more disappointing trades for the Reds since 2000.
fWAR gap: 3.9
4. July 13, 2006: Cincinnati trades Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Wagner to Washington for Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris, and Daryl Thompson
This was an interesting move for a number of reasons. At the time Jim Bowden was the GM of the Nationals, and up until 2006 Cincinnati refused to deal with him. As Bill Ladson of MLB.com noted, Kearns was a player that Bowden had drafted while he was in Cincinnati. Once he made the move to Washington acquiring Kearns was one of Bowden's top priorities.
Kearns and Lopez are the ones who made this a bad deal based on performance, but it really only hinges on two to three seasons of production. Kearns' first full season with Washington (2007) ended up being one of the best of his career. He hit .266/.355/.411 with 16 HR and 74 RBI. It was also the best defensive season of his career. Following 2007 Kearns would only have one more 1+ fWAR season. Lopez had a surprising 3.6 fWAR in 2009, but he would never come close to that number again.
Majewski pitched in Cincinnati through 2008 to the tune of -0.1 fWAR. Bray stayed on with the Reds through 2012, and by fWAR he hovered just above 0 during most of his career. Clayton played in 56 games for the Reds before heading to Toronto. Harris was purchased by the Rays in the following off-season. Thompson hung around the organization through 2011, but he only made four appearances at the major league level.
fWAR gap: 7
3. December 17, 2011: Cincinnati trades Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger, and Edinson Volquez to San Diego for Mat Latos
It's hard to be too upset about this deal because Cincinnati did get a lot of value out of Latos. In 2012 he was 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA (3.1 fWAR). The following season he was even better going 14-7 with a 3.16 ERA (4.8 fWAR). 2014 was a down season by his standards, but part of that was due to lingering injuries. However, in 2014 when it became clear the Reds needed to shake things up, Latos was one of the first pieces sent out.
So what did Cincinnati give up for three seasons of Latos?
Alonso was a top five prospect in the Reds system from 2008-2011 according to Baseball America. He's hovered right at or just below 1 fWAR in most of his major league seasons, but he hasn't lived up to expectations. Yasmani Grandal has posted two 2+ fWAR seasons, and he has become recognized as one of the best pitch framers in baseball. At the time it was understandable why both players were dealt. Alonso was going to struggle to find a place on the roster because of Joey Votto's existence, and Grandal was expendable because of Devin Mesoraco.
Since being traded Volquez has pitched for San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. Last season was easily his most successful since the trade, and he even started game one of the World Series. So far in 2016 he's 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA.
The Reds definitely got value in this trade, but Grandal's development means he will likely be the piece that provides the most second guessing.
fWAR gap: 7.3
2. July 30, 2007: Cincinnati trades Kyle Lohse to Philadelphia for Matt Maloney
For many this might be the biggest head scratcher on the list. Was trading away Kyle Lohse really that big of a mistake? Part of the reason for this move was clearly financial. Lohse was set to become a free agent at the end of the season. His numbers weren't great at the time either. When he was traded he was 6-12 with a 4.58 ERA, and he had easily been the Reds most "inconsistent starter."
So what makes this a questionable trade? Lohse followed the move with five seasons of +2 fWAR. His best season came for the Cardinals in 2012. That year he went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA (3.6 fWAR). A consistently good starter can rack up a lot of value, and that's what Lohse did in the eight years of his post-Reds career.
Matt Maloney started eleven games for the Reds over three seasons. His time in Cincinnati came out to -0.1 fWAR. He pitched out of the Twins bullpen in 2012, and that was his last stint in the majors.
fWAR gap: 15.3
1. December 21, 2007: Cincinnati trades Josh Hamilton to Texas for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera
When the Reds acquired Hamilton in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft it was a low risk/high reward selection. Tampa Bay took Hamilton with the #1 pick in the 1999 MLB Draft, but personal struggles had kept him from living up to lofty expectations. As T.R. Sullivan notes, when the Reds took Hamilton had been out of baseball for three and a half years due to drug problems and time in rehabilitation.
Hamilton made his major league debut for Cincinnati in 2007. Over the course of 90 games he hit .292/.368/.554 to go with 19 HR and 47 RBI. It really was an incredible performance given his time away. So why did Cincinnati deal him so quickly? In 2010 Wayne Krivsky explained his reason for trading Hamilton. "We worried about him holding up 140 to 150 games."
In his eight seasons since the trade Hamilton played in at least 120 games five times. The then twenty seven year-old Hamilton was an all-star in each of his first five seasons in Texas. He led the league in RBI in 2008, batting average in 2010, and also won an MVP award (2010). All of that adds up to 25.5 fWAR in his post-Reds life.
Volquez found some success over the course of four seasons in Cincinnati. He was an All-Star in 2008, but he was just below league average by ERA+ in 2010 and 2011. Danny Herrera added 0.6 fWAR of value in three seasons out of the Reds bullpen. There was a little positive value here, but nothing quite like what a league MVP could provide.
fWAR gap: 20.1
Update: A few commenters noted that there are two trades that also could have been included in this list. On July 31, 2009 the Reds sent Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen (12.1 fWAR gap). However, the fact that Toronto put Encarnacion on waivers makes this trade tricky. Also, on April 27, 2007 the Reds sent Chris Denorfia to the A's for Marcus McBeth and Ben Jukich (7 fWAR gap).