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Winter Meetings Rumors: Could Dodgers and Reds swing another blockbuster?

Reading the Day 1 tea leaves from San Diego.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Here’s an unverified, mostly complete list of players sent from the perennially relevant Los Angeles Dodgers to the perennially irrelevant Cincinnati Reds to play the outfield over the last few seasons:

Yasiel Puig

Matt Kemp

Jose Peraza

Scott Schebler

Brandon Dixon

Somehow, that list doesn’t feature Kyle Farmer, either, despite the fact that he played every single infield position in 2019 - and pitched.

The point here is, I think, that while the Reds and Dodgers have been very amenable to making deals over the last few seasons - Dylan Floro, anyone? - the results of them on the Reds side of things haven’t exactly been rosy. In large part, the failure of the Reds to land any true cogs from LA in these deals is precisely why at this very moment they’re still on the search for outfield upgrades, so it would certainly sound rather odd if the two dove into further negotiations about yet another big-time blockbuster deal.

Of course, the Dodgers still have a plethora of outfield options at their disposal despite shedding that previously mentioned crop of players, because unlike the Reds, they’re apparently allowed to actually have nice things. Lots of them, really. And as they ramp up their pursuit of some of the top available players on the open and/or trade market this winter, there’s an idea out there that they might look to offload some of their current cogs to facilitate such transactions.

The source here can be politely described as being often off-piste in his analysis of things, but this is one of the first bits of rumordom we’ve heard leak out from the MLB Winter Meetings currently taking place in San Diego:

Flanking reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, both Joc Pederson and A.J. Pollock were the other most regular participants in the Dodgers outfield during the 2019 season, but the emergence of Alex Verdugo, the presence of Chris Taylor, and uberprospect Gavin Lux creating a positive logjam on their roster, it’s no surprise the LA is willing to listen on two of their higher-paid performers. Heck, even Kike Hernandez has seen ample time in the outfield in his career despite spending a large part of 2019 at 2B for them, but again, he appears to be more on the fringe of the future of the Dodgers now that the younger crop has begun to emerge behind him.

If you’re the Reds, well, it’d be quite difficult to simply ignore the Dodgers this time around despite the misgivings of the previous deals, especially given the lack of great outfield fits on the free agent market. The question, of course, would become what the asking prices were.

Pederson is pretty clearly the best of the bunch at this juncture of their respective careers, as the 27 year old just socked 36 homers and posted an impressive 127 OPS+ in 2019. His OF defense has never been regarded as superior, by any means, but he’s generally been plenty decent out there in his career, and has a wealth of experience playing in CF beyond just the corner spots. That led to a roughly 3 WAR season last year, but the issue with Joc is that the 2020 season is his final one under team control. While his arbitration estimate (courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors) is a palatable $8.5 million for 2020, it’d be hard to envision the Reds being willing to give up another array of prospects for a 1-year rental the way they did with Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray in the Puig/Kemp deal from a year ago, and that might well hinder their ability to chase Joc.

As for Pollock, he’s entering his age-32 season fresh off yet another injury-plagued slate. Over his last six seasons, these are his number of games played, respectively: 75, 157, 12, 112, 113, 86. That’s hardly the model of consistency that any team is looking for, much less a Reds club with few givens in the OF and a pair of slated starters in Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker who are coming off injuries of their own. Add-in that he’s under contract for a bludgeoning $55 million over the next 3 years, and any deal involving him would almost certainly end up the Dodgers just trying to dump some cash. The Reds can palate that, which is still a funny thing for me to type after all these years, but that’s quite the steep risk - even though Pollock has admittedly thrived when actually healthy during that six-season span I mentioned earlier. He is the owner of an .823 OPS in that time with a Gold Glove to his name as a CF, after all.

Odds are this is nothing more than the Dodgers doing the obvious here, meaning they’re willing to discuss moving some of their fringe players in order to facilitate time for their younger, cheaper ones that might be just as good. In the outfield, that means Pederson and Pollock for now, but what would become incredibly interesting is what would become of their infield if their reported pursuit of top free agent Anthony Rendon is to be believed. It’s certainly a longshot that they’d land him in the first place, but doing so would cause the kind of ripple-effect across their roster that paired with the emergence of Lux could create the incredible trade depth - one that MLBTR speculates could even lead to All Star SS Corey Seager being on the trade block.

If any of that came to fruition, it’s at that juncture that the Reds would probably be salivating again at a potential Dodger castoff, but for Seager I certainly couldn’t blame them. What we do know now, though, is that for the second consecutive winter both the Reds and Dodgers appear poised to make some major waves on the transaction front, and while the initial listings don’t appear to make sense for both in the same deal, we know for certain the two front offices know each other quite well.