Despite the lobbyless 2020 Winter Meetings being held virtually, there were certainly some fireworks on day one. The Cincinnati Reds continued their cost-cutting ways with the opening salvo, shipping closer Raisel Iglesias west to the Angels for Noe Ramirez and a PTBNL, while the Texas Rangers later followed with a blast of their own.
Right about midnight Monday, Texas closed a deal with the Chicago White Sox that sent ace Lance Lynn to the south siders, a deal that was centered around young pitcher Dane Dunning. Lynn, the former St. Louis Cardinals rotation stalwart, blossomed in his time with the Rangers, putting up a 7.5 bWAR season in 2019 while becoming one of the league’s best workhorses. And with just one year at some $9 million left on his contract, he seemed to 100% be on the move from the rebuilding Rangers club.
That proved to be true, and the White Sox have made yet another win-now move, following up their additions of Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel just last winter. That’s of note for Reds fans for several reasons. First, they landed Grandal despite Cincinnati’s simultaneous pursuit of their former draftee. Second, both these clubs ‘emerged’ from their rebuilds side by side last winter with big splashes in free agency, presumably with eyes on a multi-year window of contention. Third, though, is where they diverge, as though Lynn was the arm Chicago ultimately landed, apparently Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray was in their sights, too.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan had that news shortly after the Lynn trade news broke.
White Sox have been looking for a starting pitcher, and they are landing arguably the best on the trade market. They also had been discussing a Sonny Gray deal with the Reds but pivoted toward Lynn and finished it with Rangers for Dane Dunning and a prospect, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 8, 2020
That certainly seems to indicated that the Sox and Reds, somewhat mirrors of one another just last winter, are already heading in different paths.
In a vacuum, it’s worth pointing out that trading Sonny Gray right now might well be much a ‘sell high’ move, something the Reds have failed to do with star after star after star the last decade. From an overall roster management perspective, perhaps that’s prudent, especially given his cheap salary relative to his peers during this time of financial constraint across the league. This is no vacuum, however, as moving him must also be taken with the knowledge that Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are gone, as are Iglesias and Archie Bradley as part of the cull of non-tenders. Still, the idea of Dane Dunning moving as a centerpiece in a would-be Sonny deal is akin to a scenario I tried to lay out last week, that time using Chris Paddack and San Diego as the make-weight - i.e. if moving Sonny can clear salary to pay a shortstop while also bringing back a young, cheap rotation replacement, that’s a deal I could maybe get around to appreciating in the grand scheme.
(Of course, that was written before knowing Bradley would be non-tendered and Iglesias traded, further revealing that there would be much, much more cost-cutting this winter than I ever expected.)
Anyway, don’t expect the Sonny rumors to quiet down anytime soon. With the likes of the San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, and Boston Red Sox still on the prowl for quality starting pitching, there’ll absolutely be a market for him until the Reds shut down the rumors - and there’s been zero shutting down of rumors at all so far.
In other news, the Reds landed former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith, Jr. on what appears to be a minor league deal. Smith, now 28, was a former 1st round pick of Toronto back in 2011, becoming the latest 1st rounder from north of the border to ply his trade in the name of the Reds (alongside luminaries such as Asher Wojciechowski, Deck McGuire, and now Jeff Hoffman). Smith has hit a combined .238/.298/.405 in 464 PA over the last two seasons in big league action, all with Baltimore, almost exclusively as a LF. While that’s hardly elite-level production, keep in mind the Reds have lost a lot of OF depth over the last year or so, with the likes of Phil Ervin, Jose Siri, Stuart Fairchild, Brian Goodwin, and Josh VanMeter all moving on to other pastures, so this does at least address that depth problem.
Surely this won’t be the last slate of news we get from the Reds revolving roster door this week, and we’ll do our best to keep you posted of what’s next in the shuffle.