The summer trade deadline has long been one of my favorite times on the baseball calendar. Speculation and gossip run absolutely wild, the power dynamics of the league can shift seismically, folks unawares on twitter can be hoodwinked by fake accounts peddling fake rumors, and in the end the results hardly ever live up to the fevered intrigue of the run up.
Fortunately, we are just now getting into the run up, and it’s gonna be all wild gossip, seismic intrigue, and fake-ass rumors. It’s gonna be hecka fun.
As we gird our loins for the annual speculation bacchanal, let’s have a look at the Reds’ options over the next few weeks. They are in a unique situation right now. The Rebuild is on the upswing and the organization is looking to start adding talent to the core (Dick Williams expects to spend a nice wad of dough over the next several months). They have a few players on hand that could conceivably fetch very nice returns on the trade market, but there really isn’t anyone of real consequence that they absolutely must deal. So I think they are in quite an enviable position. They can make some trades or they can sit tight, all depending on what other teams are willing to offer. It’s good to have options.
So who could be on the move before July 31st? Let’s take a look. I have them here in descending order of how likely I think they are to be traded.
As mentioned above, the Reds don’t have anyone of real consequence that they absolutely must deal. They do however have Matt Harvey. Two months ago he was designated for assignment by the Mets because he had not pitched well since 2015 (mostly due to injury) and they had finally had enough of it. The Reds offered their then-backup catcher Devin Mesoraco, who had not hit well since 2014 (mostly due to injury). The teams split the money owed to them and wished the best to all involved.
And it turned out to work out pretty well for all involved, at least so far. Mesoraco has handled the lion’s share of catching duties for the Mets, remained healthy, and has even hit a good little bit. Harvey has thrown for the Reds about as well as anyone could reasonable expect of him. He has made 11 starts and posted a 3.79 ERA and an 1.16 WHIP. He has even regained the pepper on his fastball that made him a legit Cy Young candidate early in his career, getting it up to the high 90s on occasion.
The plan for Harvey all along was to hopefully accomplish two things: relieve a bit of the stress the young rotation experienced in April and build a bit of trade value to get something back at the trade deadline. He will be a free agent at season’s end and there is absolutely zero reason for him to be a Red after July 31st. Two months of cromulent pitching isn’t going to erase the previous years of injury and awfulness, so don’t expect the Reds to get a premium return for him, but something akin to what they got for Dylan Floro (a top 20 prospect) is totally reasonable.
The Yankees are in the market for a starter. Nolan Martinez is just the kind of player the Reds love, a superb athlete with limited miles on his arm. I’ve always had a thing for Gio Gallegos. “Skinny Boy” Dermis Garcia would be a quality addition to the Farmers Only crew.
Wickle Dick and I have discussed this at length the last few days. I won’t rehash it all here, so if you aren’t yet apprised of the situation, you can click the links. I think if the Reds decide to pull the trigger and trade him, they won’t do it for less than at least one top-100 overall prospect.
The Yankees and Indians could both use some help in the infield. Gleyber Torres is doing very well in his rookie year, but he is currently injured. Scooter could fill in for him until he returns and then perhaps slide over to first base. The Yanks have gotten very little so far this year over there, so that may be a pretty solid plan for them. They also have a nice stable of pitching prospects to use as currency, so the Reds could find a good deal here. I really like Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo.
The Indians have gotten disappointing production from Jason Kipnis, who used to be an MVP-caliber fella. He has declined steadily from his peak in 2015 and is sporting a slash of .219/.307/.354. He can be a free agent after next season, but if the Indians want to get the most out of their opportunity, they might wanna move on before then. I’d be thrilled with Shane Bieber, and I’m also a fan of both Nolan Jones and Will Benson.
Adam Duvall continues to be a big weirdo. His glove in left field is still of the golden variety and his ISO is still among the strongest in baseball. He is walking more and he is hitting the ball just as hard as he ever has, but his BABIP is a puny .232. A lot of folks have been preaching patience on him, thinking he will get it right any day now, but here we are.
Still, this big weirdo is making things weird. He has three years of team control remaining after this season, so he is way more than just a rental. He is a useful player even when the hits aren’t falling in, so the Reds don’t have to trade him. But with Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler proving to be superior performers, the Reds might want to make some more space for them. Conversely, the outfield rotation they have employed all season has been largely successful, so one could argue there isn’t a good reason to break that up. And Duvall’s stellar defense and right-handed power are nearly perfect compliments to Winker’s less-than-stellar glove and left-handed on-base machininess.
But looking ahead, Duvall’s home runs and RBIs are going to be rewarded quite handsomely once he goes through arbitration this winter. He’s a beautiful role player at a $600k price point, but a fair sight less so at $5 million.
As far as potential suitors go, the Indians (they’ll feature all over this dang list) just lost Lonnie Chisenhall for probably the rest of the season. Michael Brantley (God bless him) is finally back to form after what seemed like three decades of injuries, but the likes of Brandon Guyer, Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, Greg Allen, and Rajai Davis aren’t quite cutting it. As poorly as Duvall has hit this season, he would still be an upgrade over each and every one of those guys. The Diamondbacks picked up Jon Jay last month, but they could still use some right-handed power (a la JD Martinez last season). Taylor Clarke, Gabriel Maciel, and Daulton Varsho are all interesting prospects in their system.
If I had written this just a week ago, I woulda said something completely different here about Iggy. He is far-and-away the player who would bring back the most in a deadline trade. He combines the elite performance of Scooter with the controlability of Duvall, making him perhaps the best relief pitcher potentially available at this year’s deadline. He could fetch multiple top 50 prospects in return, by my reckoning.
And had I written this last week, I would have been squarely in the “trade him” camp. But the recent past has convinced me that the Reds might very well be able to contend for the pennant as early as next season. Or at least, my estimate of their ability to contend has increased enough to make me change my mind on what to do with Iggy. I think they should keep him.
But of course, they would be fools to shut their ears and tell everyone he is totally unavailable. In 2016, when the Yankees sent Andrew Miller to the Indians, he was in a very similar position to the one Raisel Iglesias is right now. The Yankees got Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier (and two others) in return. If the Reds were presented with a similar proposal, it would be difficult to say no.
And the possibility of such a proposal being presented is fairly likely, it seems. Nearly every team thirsting for the World Series this year could use an elite reliever. The Red Sox are confirmed as suitors, and Michael Chavis would give them yet another infielder just like Nick Senzel and Jon India. That would be stupid and fun. Jay Groome has been injured, but he still has a great ceiling. Tanner Houck, Brayan Mata, and “The Evolutionist” Darwinzon Hernandez are all solid pitching prospects. The defending World Series champion Astros have long sought a bullpen ace like Iggy, and if the Reds could pry Forrest Whitley from them I would be a very happy boy.
At this point in his career, we all kinda know who Billy Hamilton is. Fortunately, that means teams looking for some outfield help will likely be interested in him. Unfortunately, that means the price tag likely won’t be all that big.
Billy has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he reaches free agency, so the Reds don’t have to trade him. And as I mentioned in the Duvall bit, the outfield rotation seems to be working fairly well. And without a clear replacement for him in center field, maybe the Reds won’t be all that eager to ship him out.
But when I think about Billy Hamilton in a postseason series being leveraged as a pinch-runner, I have to catch my breath. He is a fine starting center fielder, but a contending team that can afford to use his speed and defense off the bench would have one of the most special secret weapons in baseball. And he has hit well enough of late to boost his on-base percentage to .312, so perhaps someone out there would be willing to pay a decent price for him.
The Braves have quality pitching prospects coming out of their ears. I don’t think they would miss Joey Wentz or Touki Toussaint and I’d be happy to have them.
Players to be Named Later
As has been stressed here multiple times, the Reds are not in a position where they must sell. Also, there is nothing that says they can’t actually be buyers, either. It is pretty clear that they will be in the market for a frontline starter this winter, if they don’t go out and get one this summer. The Blue Jays might decide it is time to fold up the tent and make Marcus Stroman available. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season and has an impressive track record despite a rough start to this year. The Royals are bottoming out and Danny Duffy has three years on his reasonable contract. The Tigers could look to trade Michael Fulmer and/or Daniel Norris. The Rays could shop Chris Archer and, though less likely, Blake Snell. Tony Baloney had the bright idea of hooking up with a team heavy with pitching prospects but light with position players, like the Tigers or the Braves. That would be interesting.
The Reds have a ton of potential avenues to explore over the next few weeks, and I for one will be jazzed on coffee and Reese’s Pieces and manically scouring twitter for all the fevered gossip. It’s gonna be a blast.