The Cincinnati Reds just wrapped their third consecutive 90+ loss season, one that once again did so while also falling in-line with expectations. No, the 2017 Reds weren’t really a disappointment in the standings, really, since by all accounts this Year 3 of The Rebuild was supposed to look rough around the edges, albeit with young, promising talent now doing the losing instead of aging veterans waiting to be traded.
Fortunately, much of the latter half of that scenario played out true to form, with many young, controllable players breaking out in ways that should give the Reds plenty of pieces to work with this winter on the trade market. With the 2018 season long pointed-to by the front office as the year when the rebuild stops and the push to be competitive begins again, it’s worth looking closer at which pieces in Cincinnati’s system carry the most individual trade value as the Hot Stove season inches ever closer.
It’s a highly subjective process, so it’s a highly subjective list - one in which you could rightly make a case for changing in several ways. Age, team control, health, and guaranteed money on existing contracts matter as much as talent in assesing trade value, for instance, which is why 34 year old Joey Votto and the $157 million (at least) left on his deal didn’t make the cut despite him currently still an incredible offensive machine.
That said, here’s my list of the Top 10 players in the Cincinnati system as ranked by how much they could bring back in return if traded...
10) Taylor Trammell, OF - .281/.368/.450, 13 HR, 77 RBI in 570 PA at Class A Dayton
While that stat line is impressive, I’m not sure it actually includes any of the three categories in which he stood out the most. Trammell, who just turned 20 in September, bonked 10 triples, swiped 41 bases, and walked an impressive 71 times in 129 games played, showing an elite combination of power, speed, and patience that pairs phenomenally well with his ability to be a plus defender in the OF. He jumped into many mid-season Top 100 prospect lists, and looks like a steal as the #35 overall draftee from 2016. A replication of his A-ball line as he progresses higher in the minors will coincide directly with a rocket up the prospect rankings, too.
9) Scooter Gennett, 2B/OF - .295/.342/.531, 27 HR, 97 RBI in 497 PA with the Reds
If Scooter, 27, was a lock to perform every year the way in which he performed in 2017, he’d rank much higher on this list. Frankly, if that was such an expected lock, the Reds wouldn’t have been able to pluck him off waivers from the Brewers at the end of Spring in the first place. The breakout year elevates his trade value, to be sure, but even that ‘breakout’ produced just a 2.4 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR season; with just 2 years of team control remaining (at an estimated $14-15 million total), any likely regression puts him into ‘kinda pricey fringe-regular’ status, especially for teams on a tight budget. Certainly at peak value now, though.
8) Tyler Mahle, RHP - 2.70 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 1.50 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, 5.0 BB/9 in 20.0 IP with the Reds
Mahle’s age-22 season saw him rip through AA (1.59 ERA in 85.0 IP) and AAA (2.73 ERA in 59.1 IP) to make his big league debut, including a freakin’ perfect game thrown while in Pensacola. He’s known for his strike-throwing and polish despite the ugly BB numbers in his early MLB work, his results continuing to impress despite an average fastball velocity (92.9 mph in the bigs) that won’t necessarily blow anyone away. He, too, cracked many Top 100 prospect lists in 2017, and his smooth delivery and full 6 years of big league control help market him as a significant asset in the system.
7) Billy Hamilton, CF - .247/.299/.335, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 59 SB in 633 PA with the Reds
Billy played in the second most games of any season of his career (139) and set a new career high for single-season PAs, to boot (633). Staying on the field had been one of his biggest bugaboos prior to this year, but while he finally stayed largely healthy, he posted what was in many ways the worst season of his career. His 2017 was valued at just 1.0 bWAR and 1.2 fWAR, his K-rate hit a career worst (21.0%), and even his defense - which still crushed the eye test - fell off precipitously in the eyes of UZR, UZR/150, DRS, and by range factor. Now 27 and with just two years of team control remaining (at an estimated $12-13 million total), he’s looking increasingly like a known quantity at this point instead of a breakout dynamo waiting to happen. (That still has plenty of value to the right team, though.)
6) Adam Duvall, OF - .249/.301/.480, 31 HR, 99 RBI in 647 PA with the Reds
Speaking of ‘known quantities,’ Duvall backed up his All Star 2016 with a 2017 that looked eerily similar. Anothe 30 dingers and (almost) a hundred ribbies paired with a lot of swinging and missing and a paltry number of walks. His 2017, though, wasn’t eyed nearly as well on the defensive side of the ball as his 2016 season was despite an impressive 15 outfield assists in this most recent campaign. Duvall’s age - he just turned 29 - makes him less expected to truly improve on what he’s done at this juncture, while should be a 2-2.5 WAR player per year until his age begins to whittle down his skills. Still, since he was such a late bloomer, he comes with four full years of team control remaining and will make roughly league minimum in 2018, which could make him quite attractive to teams in need of corner thump who get priced out of the market for Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez this winter.
5) Jesse Winker, OF - .298/.375/.529, 7 HR, 15 RBI in 137 PA with the Reds
Winker finally, finally got his chance in the bigs in 2017 and responded with about as quality production as anyone could’ve expected. He flashed the power that he hadn’t shown in AAA Louisville while fighting through multiple wrist injuries, yet he still flashed the kind of patience and strike zone command that he’s become known for. His arm and defense still don’t profile as much, however, though there’s enough to suggest he can sniff 20 homers while being an on-base machine to help offset that. Even if that all boils down to a 2-2.5 WAR player each year, his combination of league minimum salary and full six years of team control make him a cheap, high-floor trade chip most every team could use.
4) Eugenio Suarez, 3B/SS - .260/.367/.461, 26 HR, 82 RBI in 632 PA with the Reds
Suarez played Gold Glove caliber defense (in a non Nolan Arenado world), swatted 26 homers, had the 17th best walk rate among all qualified hitters in all MLB, can still play shortstop, and did all of that while making league minimum during the 2017 season. That was good for a 4.1 fWAR, 3.7 bWAR season, and since he just turned 26 in July, there’s reason to believe he can reproduce seasons similar to this one going forward. With three years of team control and the potential positional flexibility, he’s incredibly valuable to this Cincinnati rebuild - which, in turn, makes him an incredibly valuable and enticing trade chip given some of the “other” guys currently in the system.
3) Luis Castillo, RHP - 3.12 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.075 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 in 89.1 IP with the Reds
Like Mahle, Castillo began the year with AA Pensacola after having thrown just 14 career professional innings above A-ball in his career to date. Paired with having come over from the Marlins organization last winter in the Dan Straily trade, and he wasn’t exactly front and center in the crowd of young pitching prospects the Reds had assembled during their rebuild. Hoo boy, did he ever push his way to the front, though. With the second fastest average fastball in all of the big leagues and a change-up a full 10 mph slower, he showed he’s more than ready to be a force in an MLB rotation, especially given how smooth his delivery is. Six more years of him with the Reds is obviously what we’re hoping to see (since finding another one like him is what the Reds need to find, not let go), but rest assured the return for trading Castillo would be monumental.
2) Raisel Iglesias, RHP - 2.49 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 in 76.0 IP with the Reds
Manuel Margot, among others, was moved when Boston landed Craig Kimbrel after the 2015 season. The Yankees fetched Gleyber Torres (and more) when trading Aroldis Chapman at the deadline last year. Wade Davis was nabbed by the Cubs for Jorge Soler, and we all walked away thinking that wasn’t even enough of a return for Kansas City. Even in the evolving way bullpen arms are used, there’s an established premium required to trade for the elite, back-end pitchers, and Iglesias’ continued excellence (and good health) helped show himself to potentially be one of those types in 2017. That paired with relatively cheap, guaranteed team control though 2021 could make him the most marketable relief arm available this winter, should the Reds choose to do business. It’d take a haul to do that given the rough shape of the current pitching staff, but it’d certainly net a haul that’d be worth considering.
1) Nick Senzel, 3B - .321/.391/.514, 14 HR, 65 RBI in 507 PA with Class A+ Daytona and Class AA Pensacola
Elite, consensus top prospects make the trade world go ‘round. Yoan Moncada —> Chris Sale. Eloy Jimenez —> Jose Quintana. Dansby Swanson —> Shelby Miller (ouch). Addison Russell —> Jeff Samardzija. Hell, even back in 2005, it was Hanley Ramirez being shipped from the Red Sox to Miami for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Senzel is rightly viewed as a future cornerstone for the Reds, and the #2 overall pick from the 2016 draft sure looks the part. He looks the part for every other franchise out there, too, which is why he’s the single biggest trade chip the Reds could use, should they opt in that direction. Senzel is a guy who could land in return a Chris Archer, a Christian Yelich, a Jacob deGrom, or a Marcus Stroman, and even do so without any other player on this list needing to move to make it happen.
- It’s worth noting that the rules regarding how early recent draftees can be traded have been changed since the Trea Turner PTBNL fiasco in the 2015 Wil Myers deal, therefore making draftees now eligible to be traded immediately following the completion of the World Series in the year in which they were drafted and signed. Therefore, Hunter Greene, for instance, will technically be eligible to be traded this winter instead of next June, per the new rules. However, in the two draft classes since the rule was changed, not a single 1st round high school draftee has been dealt over the winter, with only one - Blake Rutherford - changing hands at all (in a non-waiver July deadline deal). With that in mind, Greene, just now 18, didn’t make this winter-focused list despite obviously being one of the top prospects in the game, let alone in the Cincinnati system.