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Sunk cost contract swaps for the Cincinnati Reds

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A Friday List

Colorado Rockies v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The best part of the baseball offseason is when the fire & brimstone pitchforks emerge to suggest that teams should get better by trading away their worst, most expensive players, an earth-shattering concept that surely nobody hath ever considered on any level at any time in human existence.

Yes yes, dump the old expensive hurt guy, someone else will surely want him - and will pay to get him!

Asshole-y sarcasm aside, it’s reached the point across Major League Baseball where teams are no longer daft enough to fork over prospects and payroll space to pick up an over-30 guy who once socked 30 homers a time or three. That said, it hasn’t yet reached the point where nary an MLB team has a contract on their roster they probably regret.

They may no longer be willing to dole out promising young (cheap) prospects to take on these kinds of players, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll unload one (or more) of their questionable deals to take on one from someone else.

Creative salary dumping - especially in the age of the luxury tax, and how average annual value on deals impacts it - has become more of a thing in recent years, the Kyle Farmer Trade [TM] with the Los Angeles Dodgers from a few years back a pertinent example you may recall. You take this sunk cost over this many years, and I’ll take back yours, and so on.

The current iteration of the Cincinnati Reds appear to have two primary goals in mind for this winter. First, they’re trying to get out from underneath as much money owed as possible, as evidenced by the cheapness with which they pursued dumping Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley. Second, they appear to not completely be willing to go with another scorched-earth rebuild, instead simply trying to get younger and build around a new core of Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, and Co.

In other words, they’d love to shed salary in a strategic way that would allow them to address it in more pressing ways - i.e. maybe don’t have ~$74 million tied up in dueling over-30 third basemen.

So, this has become an exercise in trying to find some team somewhere that might be willing to take on, say, the ~$38 million owed to Mike Moustakas and give the Reds back a player/deal they probably regret signing. And since this is filed under Friday Lists and not Stat-Colored Glasses, it’s going to be devoid of much of the reason and analysis you’d otherwise get from an article being written about a sport that wasn’t currently in the midst of a dumbass lockout.

Philadelphia Phillies - IF/OF Scott Kingery

Fresh off labrum surgery and a DFA, Kingery is still owed a bit over $15 million on the surprising contract extension he signed with the Phils prior to making his big league debut. To be quite frank, he hasn’t ever hit, and has spent so much time off the field due to COVID, the COVID-shortened season, and the shoulder issues that I don’t even know what to think about him. But, he’s owed money - less money than Moose, but for perhaps a more volatile level of expectations - and the Phillies got almost nothing from 3B last season due to Alec Bohm’s struggles.

Texas Rangers - RHP Jose LeClerc

Texas has no real bad contracts yet, since the half-billion dollars they spent hasn’t even had a chance to show itself just yet. Still, they appear to be printing money and had abysmal 3B production last year, and maybe Moose fits better there than I initially envisioned.

LeClerc was the only guaranteed contract on their roster entering the offseason, and had Tommy John surgery in March of 2021, meaning he’s likely out for at least the first half of 2022, too. He’s due $6 million for 2022 and a 2023 option buyout, though he’s got options for both 2023 and 2024 because when healthy he’s been, y’know, good.

The Rangers would probably just keep him and say ‘give us Moose because we’re a big league team who can afford to do those kinds of things.’

Los Angeles Dodgers - LHP David Price

Price is 36 and owed some $31 million for the 2022 season, so here would be one of those instances where the Dodgers could lower their luxury tax hit for this calendar year by spreading it out over two years with Moose. Presumably, there would be some suitcase of cash that would help the Reds actually afford Price in just one year, since their couch cushions aren’t that flush at the moment.

It would also reunite Price with Derek Johnson, his pitching coach from their Vandy days, and would give the Reds some veteran depth either at the back of their rotation (until the manipulated service time of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo matured) or as a swing-man in the bullpen. Price is old, but still moderately effective, after all.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers would get infield help after losing Corey Seager to free agency and seeing Max Muncy suffer a torn UCL.

Colorado Rockies - OF Charlie Blackmon

If there’s one thing the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds have in common, it’s that they have everything in common. Can’t figure out what to do, can’t figure out who to sign, sign guys anyway, and still can’t get enough of promoting from within their own front office at every turn.

Anyway, Blackmon’s an OF, and the Reds need those. Moose is an IF, and who knows if the Rockies would notice or care. Ryan McMahon can play 2B, Brendan Rogers is a natural SS, and boom, there’s your infield next to CJ Cron. That team could win the hell out of 74 games and make going to games in Coors Field fun.

Wait a minute, going to games in Coors Field is always fun. Is it just the beer? Is it because I go there despite actually being a Reds fan? I digress.

New York Mets - OF Bobby Bonilla

Taking on the chance to pay Bonilla another $1.193 million each and every July 1st through 2035 alongside the $3.6 million the Reds still pay Ken Griffey, Jr. every year (through 2024) might just be too enticing to not pursue.

No clue where they’d play Moose, though. He’d probably make a fine manager - they need one of those.