On Tuesday night, the Reds acquired Trevor Bauer from the Indians in a blockbuster deal that involved Taylor Trammell, Yasiel Puig, and Scott Moss. We’ve already broken down the trade and Bauer’s profile, as well as the right field situation moving forward without Puig. Now, it’s time to breakdown Trammell’s inclusion in the deal.
The 21-year-old was, of course, the Reds’ top prospect per most publications. Giving him up was surely not a decision the front office took lightly.
Trammell was a supplemental first-round pick back in 2016, taken 33 picks after the Reds drafted Nick Senzel second overall. While he didn’t get the hype of Senzel, Trammell wasted little time before he started turning heads with his plate discipline, speed, and power potential.
Here are his minor league stats to date:
Despite impressing at the plate in his first three seasons, Trammell has taken a downturn this year. He had only a .686 OPS at Double-A Chattanooga, which is low but above average in the pitcher-friendly Southern League (average .678 OPS). His 107 wRC+, while above average, doesn’t exactly stand out either. Trammell’s plate discipline has only gotten better, as he was tied for first in the Southern League in walk rate (14.2%). But the power has really fallen off for a second straight season. His slugging percentage was .450 in 2017 and fell to .406 last season. It’s at .336 this year, below league average (.363).
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen touched on this in the aftermath of the trade:
“What Trammell has yet to do is translate what looks like above-average raw power in batting practice to in-game power production. He hasn’t really developed much feel for pulling the ball with power, and remains more of a gap-to-gap hitter and baseline slasher who takes a lot of balls the opposite way.”
If the Double-A struggles caused the Reds to doubt his ability to become a future star, perhaps that made them more willing to part with him while his value was still high. However, he’s currently ranked No. 30 in MLB Pipeline’s top-100 prospect list, so it’s clear that his stock hasn’t taken an enormous tumble among scouts and minor-league analysts. Trammell hasn’t even hit his 22nd birthday yet and is nearly three years younger than the average Southern League player. He’s far from a finished product.
Defense may have also played a role in the Reds’ willingness to give up Trammell. Senzel has quickly acclimated to center field. Trammell certainly has the speed and range to play the position, but it may be occupied at the major-league level for the foreseeable future unless the team moves Senzel back to the infield, which seems unlikely at this point. Additionally, Trammell’s biggest weakness is his throwing arm, which plays better in left field. The organization relegated him to left field duties in 2019, with Jose Siri getting most of the playing time in center in Chattanooga.
If Trammell’s raw power doesn’t ultimately show up in games, he clearly wouldn’t be as valuable in a corner spot. That said, most available scouting reports expect the game power to start appearing sooner or later.
Even with Trammell’s slightly diminished prospect pedigree, did the Reds get enough in return? They certainly got a talented player. When he’s on, Bauer is among the best pitchers in baseball, although he hasn’t been consistently dominant. The Reds only get him for a year and two months. In today’s trade market, team control is highly coveted. Rental players don’t have as much value as they once did. When teams give up top prospects, they typically want players in return who will be around for a while. Some notable trades of top prospects in recent years:
- Lewis Brinson for Christian Yelich (4 years of team control)
- Sixto Sanchez for J.T. Realmuto (2 years of team control)
- Justus Sheffield for James Paxton (2 years of team control)
- Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech for Chris Sale (3 years of team control)
Considering the additional pieces the Reds had to throw in, there’s certainly a strong argument that they overpaid for limited team control. The trade also undeniably weakens the farm system and potentially the long-term outlook of the team in favor of a short-term asset.
There are two clear sides to the argument, and both have merits. If Trammell produced in Double-A the way he had in lower levels, there’s a good chance the Reds wouldn’t have parted with him at all. Did the Reds sell while his value was still high, or did they give up on him too soon and sell low? Only time will tell.
At this moment, my personal opinion is that the Reds overpaid. I’m not a proponent of holding onto prospects forever. They can be valuable assets in acquiring proven major-league talent for a team ready to compete for a World Series. But prospects can also be valuable building blocks for years of competitive teams. It’s a delicate balance that isn’t as easy as the Astros have made it look. This is more of an “all-in” move than we saw with the acquisitions of Puig, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark prior to this season. It solidifies an outstanding starting rotation, but I’m not convinced the offense is playoff-caliber in its current iteration.
That being said, the Reds will have the opportunity to continue building on this trade to build a legitimately competitive roster in 2020. With so much money coming off the books, Bob Castellini can’t afford to be cheap now. The Reds had a record payroll of $129.1 million to begin this season. They only have $57.5 million currently committed for 2020, plus a $3 million option on Jared Hughes. They’ll also pay Bauer a large sum in arbitration. But they’ll have plenty of cash to spend. The Reds have to be aggressive in free agency to address needs in the middle infield, corner outfield, and catcher. That could ultimately make giving up their top prospect for a pitcher with limited team control worthwhile.
What are your thoughts on giving up Trammell, RC+ readers?