The Cincinnati Reds have been on a thorough search for pitching for years, it feels like. Decades, even, if you care to consider that they’ve never once had a Cy Young Award winner.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres have been in rebuild mode for as long or longer than the Reds, and while they haven’t exactly entered ‘win-now’ territory, they have been looking for their long-term answer at 3B for awhile now, especially since their experiment with Wil Myers fizzled out last year.
Up in Cleveland, the Indians have managed to sit atop the AL Central for several years now, and while they do still seem poised to continue that reign, they’re looking to move some money around to help keep their payroll in check. And Cleveland, in case you haven’t noticed, is chock full of dominant big-league starting pitching.
If three teams have obvious needs and they all are well aware of those facts, is there any chance a blockbuster could go down? According to The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, that seems to be exactly what the Padres are thinking - and they’re looking to both Cincinnati and Cleveland to potentially make that happen.
In their search for a third baseman, the Padres have explored three-team trade possibilities, including one that would send Corey Kluber to Cincinnati, sources tell @Ken_Rosenthal and me. No is deal close.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) January 15, 2019
The Reds, of course, have been tied to Kluber all offseason, and have top prospect Nick Senzel currently blocked at 3B by All Star - and recently extended - Eugenio Suarez. That certainly isn’t new to Padres GM A.J. Preller, as San Diego has eyes on Senzel as the potential return that could send Kluber to the Reds, Lin added.
San Diego’s interest in Kluber is primarily to flip him, sources say; he does not fit the Padres age-wise. Pads struggling to line up with trade partners. If they could get Kluber, they likely would want top Reds prospect Nick Senzel, whom Cincinnati does not want to move.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) January 15, 2019
That the Reds absolutely do not want to move Senzel has been rather apparent for awhile now, and that that seems to still be the case. Moving a consensus Top 10 prospect who is MLB ready at potentially three (or more) positions is a tough thing to do for any franchise, let alone one with consistently middle of the road payrolls that doesn’t appear to be a legit contender right this minute. Still, picking up Kluber - the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner - would instantly give the Reds the top of the rotation starter they have long sought, and it’s that kind of shiny prize that just might have the wheels in their front office noggins spinning at a great rate.
The interesting question here, though, is this - what if the Reds were to consider moving Eugenio Suarez instead of Senzel in a deal to land Kluber?
Suarez, obviously, just had a monster 2019 on the heels of a great 2018 and a favorable contract extension. He is now inked thorugh potentially the 2025 season for a max of $76 million, and just turned 27 years old this past year. In fact, you could realistically make the argument that his production and team-friendly contract might well even be more valuable than the 33 year old Kluber’s 3 years of team control at some $52.5 million, which means the Reds could even potentially extract an additional piece from either San Diego or Cleveland in a deal that would involve Suarez.
And, if you consider the Suarez/Kluber move to be more or less cash-neutral - more overall guaranteed money to Suarez, more immediate money due to Kluber - that could well allow the Reds to continue to explore more pitching additions and still be within their estimated ‘record’ payroll range for the 2019 season. Senzel would take over 3B for Suarez, Kluber would top the rotation, and the Reds could conceivably still pursue Dallas Keuchel - and a Kluber, Keuchel, Luis Castillo, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark starting rotation is the kind that would actually, finally look like a strength on paper for the Reds.
Either way, this sure seems like something that would require each of San Diego, Cleveland, and Cincinnati to part ways with significant pieces, likely with Cleveland ending up with big-league ready OF pieces or legitimate bullpen help, which both appear to be serious holes on their roster at the moment. Since the Padres might well have those kind of pieces, the concept of this blockbuster does at least have some legs - provided that each of the three teams is willing to sign off on such a major, franchise-changing move.