The Cincinnati Reds weren’t technically part of the blockbuster trade that finally went down on Sunday, but they certainly helped facilitate the process.
The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers had been engaged for quite some time on a deal that would send superstar Mookie Betts to the NL West, but after an initial three-team deal (that included the Minnesota Twins) hit the skid last week, a new framework had to be created to make the major move happen. Happen it did, too, as a reworked agreement was reached to send Betts and former Cy Young Award winner David Price to Los Angeles in a deal centered around young Dodgers OF Alex Verdugo.
Of course, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported, that deal also sent IF Jeter Downs to Boston, and that’s a name Reds fans certainly recognize.
BREAKING: The trade that will send Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers has been agreed upon, sources tell ESPN. Outfielder Alex Verdugo and shortstop Jeter Downs are among those who will go to the Boston Red Sox.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 9, 2020
Downs, you’ll recall, was drafted 32nd overall in the 2017 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, and ultimately signed for a $1.825 million signing bonus. He hit a palatable .257/.351/ .402 for the Class A Dayton Dragons in 2018 as a promising 19 year old, but while he was considered an impressive prospect, he had yet to break out to the point of being highly regarded on a national scale.
Of course, that didn’t mean he wasn’t valuable, and the Reds chose to cash in on his reputation as one of the centerpieces heading to the Dodgers in last winter’s blockbuster deal that landed Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig, Kyle Farmer, and Matt Kemp in Cincinnati. And all Downs did after moving to the Dodgers system was absolutely rake.
In 535 PA between Class A+ Rancho Cucamonga and AA Tulsa, Downs hit .276/.362/.526, clubbing 24 homers, 35 doubles, and swiping 24 bags, the kind of offense that you’d love to see from each and every position on the diamond. That he did that while playing a promising shortstop on defense, though, made him stand out in particular, and as a result he rocketed up prospect lists everywhere - he cracked MLB Pipeline’s latest Top 100 list at #44 overall, for reference.
(Josiah Gray, the other former Reds prospect included in that Reds/Dodgers deal, had a similar meteoric rise in the rankings thanks to a brilliant 2019 campaign, but I’ll save that salt for a later wound.)
The Reds, as you’re well aware, only have Kyle Farmer still around from that blockbuster, while a former 1st round pick of theirs just helped the already potent Los Angeles Dodgers pick up Betts, perhaps the game’s second best player behind Mike Trout. Sometimes, the business of baseball doles out very tough pills to swallow, and it appears this is certainly one of them. Such was the price the Reds were willing to pay to rid themselves of Homer Bailey and his contract, I suppose.
I hope Downs continues to take off and has a wonderful career for whichever franchise finally gives him his first big league chance. Regardless, his name will now forever be in the history books as being part of a deal of a former MVP and fan favorite in one of the most obvious cash-dumps in recent baseball history, so it’s again worth pointing out that yes, the Reds had him first.