by Matt Wilkes

Analyzing the decision to trade Taylor Trammell

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:

Scouting reports have deemed him an ideal future leadoff hitter and potential All-Star with a natural feel for the game thanks to his athleticism.

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.

My Thoughts

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?

Matt Wilkes got hooked on Reds baseball after attending his first game in Cinergy Field at 6 years old, and he hasn’t looked back. As a kid, he was often found imitating his favorite players — Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns — in the backyard. When he finally went inside, he was leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 or keeping stats for whatever game was on TV. He started writing about baseball in 2014 and has become fascinated by analytics and all the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Columbus. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.

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Sean Lahman (@seanlahman)

The Bauer deal is just like the Dodgers trade, a short-term move for a team that isn’t competitive in the short term. Getting players for one year is great if you’re a playoff team hoping to go deeper into the postseason. It doesn’t make any sense for a team that, if everything goes right, is gonna be at .500 in a tough division.

It’s great that the team has money to spend, but they had money last year and didn’t sign anyone. They have *never* participated in free agency in a meaningful way. It’s the only way to add talent (besides the farm system). When you trade, all you;re doing is swapping talent… not actually adding.

Steve Mancuso
Admin
1 year ago

Welcome to RC+ Sean. I think you’ll like it here. And of course, your writing would be welcome. We compensate our writers (based on revenue). It may not be a lot, but it would pay for a few cold beverages of your choice.

I’ll be surprised if the Reds don’t make a major bat acquisition for 2020. Could be through trade or free agency. I guess the plan for the rest of 2019 is to see how Winker (vs. lefties), Ervin, VanMeter, Peraza and Aquino do.

Armo21
Armo21
1 year ago

I am OK with the trade if the Reds do what you say, add to the offense and I would also say the Reds need to add to the Bullpen for 2020. Because they should have a rotation that (dare I say) can win in the playoffs.

If the extended look at Aquino RF and Vanmeter 2B show theses prospects are legit, Reds may have in-house replacements for Puig and Scooter.

I like Jose Iglesias as a defense first SS, guy can flat out pick it and the bat is good enough – IMO.

Catcher would then be my target in the offseason and add a veteran in RF for insurance, although not sure who targets would be for these 2 positions.

I Loved watching Puig play, really good in the field and on the bases (made a lot of plays with his arm and legs), everyone in the clubhouse seemed to like him. Complete opposite of his reputation and I was pleasantly surprised. The bat was too inconsistent for me. Too many AB’s that he looked like he was guessing. I was all for signing him beyond 2019 and now that he is gone, I don’t miss him.

Reds need a solid arm or two in the Bullpen. I like R. Iglesias, Lorenzen, Reed, Sims, Garrett—would prefer another lefty and RH option.

Next two months will be interesting to see how the Kids do. Reds have to give these two an extended look now and hopefully, they are for real.

Steve Mancuso
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Armo21

Agree with all of this except Jose Iglesias. And with that I agree partly. He’s a whiz at SS and teams can accommodate a weak bat there. But they’ll need to bolster the offense elsewhere. If they come up with a big bat – and you mention the right positions to look – then talk to Iglesias. But I’d be wary of anything more than 2 years.

Matt Habel
1 year ago

I loved Trammell and am not a huge Bauer fan but am still ok with a bit of an overpay here. They had the opportunity to build a really good starting rotation and they went for it. After the past 5 years I am certainly not going to be upset about that.

Jefferson Green
Jefferson Green
1 year ago

I agree that Trading Trammel feels like an overpay, but I’ve come to appreciate the Reds’ situation a little better after a little time to analyze it more strategically. The Reds have not been able to attract FA starting pitching. Whether it is the small home ball park or the team’s World Series chances or just the town (and franchise’s) relative obscurity to many around the country who don’t value flyover territory, the team is at a disadvantage trying to add bigger pitching talent on the open market. By adding a strong arm for the next year – and having at least a little bit of an inside track to land him for 2021 on his first FA one-year deal (thanks to the QO system), the team can more realistically look to spend on hitters who can make a difference. Not only will a big power bat appreciate GABP, but coming to a team whose rotation is anchored by Castillo, Gray, and Bauer gives a player hope that his bat will help them to the post-season with a realistic chance of success. Lastly, Trammell could have wound up working his way up to the show here, but a line drive hitter with speed is punished a bit by GABP’s confines, and he would have probably been behind Winker and Senzel (and perhaps others like JVM, Ervin, and more), so a trade had some likelihood at some point, and the Reds made that point happen now.

Sandman
Sandman
1 year ago

I think we overpaid. If Trammell’s regression is permanent then maybe not. Plus, I think it weakened our offense are least temporarily (here’s to hoping that Van Meter and Ervin and Aquino continue to mash).

Steve Mancuso
Admin
1 year ago

Part of the calculation is what do the Reds get on the backend of Bauer’s contract. If they make him a QO and he agrees, that’s another year of Bauer. If he turns down the QO, the Reds get a pretty good draft pick in compensation. That player likely won’t be ready as soon as Trammell would be and may not be as good, but you never know. Remember, if there’s positive value in having Bauer next year, the future player acquired doesn’t have to be as good as Trammell. Finally, if the Reds aren’t in contention next year and Bauer pitches well, they might be able to trade him at the deadline for a player similar to Trammell.

So we can evaluate the parts of the trade and conclude that the Reds paid a lot. But the return isn’t final yet so it’s hard to reach an *on-balance conclusion* about whether it was an overpay.

Love the conversation. It’s a really interesting issue.

Mark Elliott
Mark Elliott
1 year ago

This is a “sell tickets” trade… Reds per-game ticket sales are up 12% this year, and the last two months of the season are looking to continue that trend. Doesn’t matter if this trade makes them competitive this year, or next. It makes them look like they are actively trying to be competitive, and that sells tickets. And some experts saying things like “The Reds don’t need Bauer to be great, though. They need him to slot between Castillo and Gray and be good, A 2021 rotation of Castillo, Bauer, Gray, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle is going to win some games.” (Joe Sheehan, Sheehan Newsletter) and “If they can improve at shortstop, add another outfield bat and improve their overall defense, they should be ready to be serious contenders next year and this trade will have a lot to do with it.” (Jim Bowden, The Athletic.. and yes, I know what’s a Reds fan doing paying any attention to this clown.)

Brian Thomas
Brian Thomas
1 year ago

In thinking about next season and the money the Reds should have to spend in the off-season, I think they should offer Yasmani Grandal a big contract and bring him back to Cincinnati. Adding his bat to the lineup would be a game changer and wouldn’t cost anymore top prospects.

Steve Mancuso
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Thomas

That sounds like a good idea to me. Would be a huge upgrade. Could either use Tucker Barnhart as the backup or trade him.

Jefferson Green
Jefferson Green
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Thomas

Agreed. I was surprised that Grandal didn’t break the bank last winter, and I hope that repeats itself again so the Reds can land him. Catching of any quality is difficult to acquire (or develop, for that matter).