2020 Reds,  by Steve Mancuso

On trading Nick Senzel for Francisco Lindor

The report this morning that the Reds have talked with Cleveland about a trade for Francisco Lindor has sent Reds fans into a frenzy discussing what kind of package would the Reds have to give up for two years of Lindor’s service. Reminder: Francisco Lindor is a Gold Glove shortstop who hits for power and steals bases. He’s projected to produce about 12 WAR over the next two seasons at a cost of $42 million in payroll. We assessed Lindor’s value in an earlier post.

Two Trade Parallels

It’s hard to pinpoint what the trade would look like from the Reds side. There are a couple different ways it could go, depending on what Cleveland is looking for. Further, there haven’t been many trades like this one, where a team is letting go a superstar player with more than a year of team control left.

Chris Sale to Boston

One parallel (hat tip to Matt Wilkes with this suggestion) might be when the Chicago White Sox traded left-handed pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December 2016. Sale was coming off five dominant years with the White Sox, when he averaged 5-WAR per season. His contract status at the time gave Boston one year of service, plus two team option years. Sale’s total salary would be $38 million over those three seasons. That’s nearly $80 million in surplus value.

Yes, there are differences. Sale is a pitcher, a left-handed pitcher. Sale was available for three years instead of two for Lindor. Lindor is a 6-WAR player while Sale was 5-WAR. But not only do those dissimilarities sort of cancel out, but Lindor plays shortstop, itself an important position of scarcity. Two years of 6-WAR Lindor vs. three years of 5-WAR Sale is as close as we’ll get to a guide.

So what did the Red Sox send to the White Sox for Chris Sale? Four prospects: Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. Moncada was a 21-year-old second baseman right on the cusp of breaking into the major leagues. He was the #1 ranked prospect in baseball. Kopech was a flame-thrower starting pitcher who drew comparisons to a young Noah Syndergaard. He made it to the Top 10-20 in many MLB rankings. Basabe was a CF who ranked #8 in the Red Sox system. Diaz was a reliever ranked #28 in Boston’s system.

Mat Latos to Cincinnati

One similar trade from Reds history is the 2011 deal with the Padres for Mat Latos. The Reds traded four players (Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yonder Alonso) for Latos. Latos had put up two 4-WAR seasons for the Padres, so he wasn’t as good relative to the league as Lindor is. But Latos had four years of team control remaining, not just two. Again, it’s a rough comparison.

Volquez was a good starting pitcher in his own right. He had served a 50-game PED suspension the previous season and made only 12 starts for the Reds. Boxberger was a 23-year-old decent prospect as a reliever. Alonso and Grandal were former #1 picks for the Reds and considered top prospects. They were top-50 MLB prospects, ranked #3 and #4 in the Reds system heading into 2012 (Devin Mesoraco was #1 and Billy Hamilton #2).

So in both the Sale and Latos trades, the return was four players. The Sale trade was four prospects, albeit a couple close to the major leagues. The Latos trade included an established major league pitcher and three close-to-MLB minor leaguers.

Drawing on those templates, what would a realistic Reds package be for Francisco Lindor.

What the Reds have to Offer Cleveland

Prospect lists are like noses, everybody has one. Let’s start with the FanGraphs list for the Reds since it not only ranks the players but rates their relative strengths. They have these players at the top of their 2019 (not yet updated for 2020) list:

Here is how FanGraphs describes each numerical category on their 20-80 system:

So they had Nick Senzel as an All-Star player; India, Lodolo, Stephenson, Greene and Santillan as average everyday major league players and so forth. Again, these ratings have not been updated based on the 2019 season.

A couple ranking systems have three Reds in the Top 100 of MLB, but in the bottom half. John Sickels of The Athletic (subscription) has Hunter Greene #52, Nick Lodolo #78 and Jonathan India #93. MLB Pipeline is in agreement, with those three players ranked #49, #56 and #93 respectively. CBS Sports has a Top-50 and Nick Lodolo sneaks in at #45. Bleacher Report has Greene at #44 and Tony Santillan in the bottom 50 of their Top-100.

You get the idea. The Reds don’t have a Top-40 prospect to headline the trade for Lindor. So any package that starts with Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Jonathan India won’t cut it.

That means the headliner of a Chris Sale-style return has to be Nick Senzel.

What is Nick Senzel’s Value?

2020 will be Nick Senzel’s age-25 season. Senzel is a recent graduate of Top-10 prospect lists everywhere.

To say that the Reds have moved Senzel around the field would be an understatement. He played 3B all of 2016 and 2017 through the AA level. In his injury shortened 2018 at AAA, he played 28 games at 2B, 14 games at 3B and even 1 game at SS. In 2019, the Reds made Senzel a centerfielder, which he played in 8 AAA games before his promotion to the Reds.

Senzel has earned 150 days of major league service time, which means he has six full seasons of team control remaining. Given how early in the 2019 season he debuted, Senzel will certainly qualify for Super Two arbitration status. That means he’ll play the next two seasons at league minimum salary and four years with the right to arbitration.

As a rookie last year, in 414 plate appearances, he hit .256/.315/.427 with 12 home runs and 14 stolen bases. His run production was 90 (wRC+) which means a rate of 10% below league average. FanGraphs put his WAR at 0.7 and Baseball-Reference at 0.6. If you combine the Steamer-Fangraphs and Marcel-Baseball Reference projections for 2020 and peg it to 550 plate appearances, you get .260/.324/.439 with 17 home runs, 14 stolen bases and run production (wRC+) of 95.

How do players like Nick Senzel project in out years? Craig Edwards of FanGraphs studied players in Top-100 rankings over the years and figured out their average WAR production, their bust-rate and rate of becoming a star player. He found that the average player in Senzel’s current FanGraphs category (60) will earn 6.1 WAR, have a 32% bust-rate and a 27% chance of becoming a star. The folks at Driveline did their own analysis, with slightly higher estimates of WAR value and found basically the same results as Edwards. That’s for an average player in the category, not Nick Senzel in particular. Senzel’s injury history and position switching creates added uncertainty.

Where Does That Leave Us?

Two clear conclusions:

  1. Nick Senzel has to be at the top of any prospects-based package for Lindor
  2. Nick Senzel is nowhere near enough to bring back Lindor

Yesterday, writers at MLB.com suggested the Reds could offer Senzel, Freddy Galvis, Jonathan India and Tony Santillan for Lindor and CF Delino DeShields. Their thinking in adding DeShields to the deal was with Senzel going to Cleveland, the Reds would need a centerfielder. They concluded this wouldn’t be enough for Cleveland. That seems right. Hunter Greene or Nick Lodolo would have to be the second player.

A Senzel-Lodolo or Senzel-Greene package would fall short of what the Red Sox paid for Chris Sale, but Sale had considerably more surplus value, albeit spread over three seasons, than Lindor.

Proposal: Nick Senzel, Nick Lodolo, Freddy Galvis and another lower prospect for Francisco Lindor.

What say you?

There are other types of offers the Reds might assemble for Lindor, including an emphasis on current major league players. We’ll look at those ideas in an upcoming post.

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[Featured Lindor image: https://twitter.com/Indians/status/1110969441418969088/photo/2]

[Feature Senzel image: https://twitter.com/Reds/status/1124332311712083969/photo/1]

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.


  • Mike Bittenbender

    I really don’t want to part with Lodolo, I think he may be special but Lord knows I could be wrong. I would be more comfortable with sending Greene or Santillan even if it meant I had to part with someone like India as well as Senzel. Am I wrong on Lodolo? I do want Lindor though

  • Phil

    How about something like:
    Dodgers get: Lindor (and get rid of Pollock’s contract)
    Indians get: Julio Jurias, Josiah Gray and Nick Lodolo
    Reds get: Seager + Pollock

    Dodgers have reportedly wanted Lindor which presumably makes Seager available. Getting out of Pollock’s contract gives them the cash to pay Lindor.
    Indians get 3 talented young pitchers that are at or close to major league ready to headline their return.
    Reds a big upgrade at SS with Seager and outfield depth in Pollock.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I like the idea and the three teams may match up as you describe. Seems a little light for the Reds though, only giving up Lodolo. Pollock is still a good player and his contract isn’t upside down, at least not yet. Reds getting Seager and Pollock for Lodolo needs to be adjusted somehow.

      • Phil

        Pollock’s contract was upside down though per Fangraphs, at least for last year. They have his 0.9 WAR as worth $7M and his contract has AAV of $12M.

        Baseball trade values site has Pollock as worth -$39M, Seager at +$57M and Lodolo +$20M (Lindor +$63M). So Reds are sending out $20M worth of value and bringing back $18M. I agree it felt like Lodolo was not enough but according to their values Reds are actually bringing in less value than they trade away. If the Reds though, had to send another prospect like Santillan or Siri to the Indians or maybe a reliever like Robert Stephenson to the Dodgers I wouldn’t hesitate.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I get that point of view. Pollock missed a bunch of 2019 which kept his WAR low. Steamer has him at 1.6 WAR for 2020, so there’s a chance he’ll earn most of his $15m next year and maybe half his $18m in 2021.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the Reds make that trade.

  • R Smith

    If the Indians trade Lindor, they are in reboot mode. Oscar Mercado gives the reds their elite defensive CF now and for the future and Lindor their MVP superstar. Go big.

    Lindor and Mercado for Senzel/Aquino/Mahle / Galvis and Hunter Greene.

    Sign Corey Dickerson in FA to play corner OF with Winker and Jose Iglesias as an infield utility player.

  • itikocitizen54

    That’s a crazy bad trade for the Reds. Reds would be giving up $26MM in value with just Senzel, Lodolo and Galvis according to baseballtradevalues.com which has been pretty accurate for some of the more recent trades. Senzel alone is worth more than Lindor. If the Reds can’t get Lindor without giving up Senzel then go for it. Otherwise it’s a nonstarter.

    The comps you list are three years old and eight years old and probably aren’t relevant anymore. A better comp would be the JT Realmuto(also 2 years of control) trade from last year where the Phillies gave up a 55 FV and a 45FV and some filler.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The Realmuto trade would be an interesting one to look at. He was a 4-5 WAR player not 6 WAR and catcher WAR is kinda unreliable. Plus Marlins caveat.

      I haven’t spent more than a few minutes on baseballtradevalues.com. But their estimate of Senzel’s value is much higher than the Edwards research shows for a player of that quality. One factor is the inflation rate on $$/WAR. Senzel’s value includes what it would be six years from now. As you say, stuff that happened or happens that far from now is hard to estimate. I think the Sale trade, which wasn’t that long ago is a pretty good comp. And a player with a value of 60 over 2 years is WAY more valuable than a player with a value of 64 over six years. Because the team will have another shortstop for those four years.

      The trade simulator site looks solid and I intend to look it over more. But it acknowledges the free agent market has changed (I’ve seen a study that the real number is $8m/WAR and holding steady the past two seasons.) and that makes a big difference over 6 years.

      • citizen54

        I agree that in general it is better to have $60MM in value spread over two years than $64MM over 4 and you are correct in that more of Senzel’s value is due to inflation, around 3%, than Lindor’s. But even taking the inflation factor into account, I think Senzel and Lindor are close in value due to the years of control that Senzel has left. You just have to decide if you value a spike in short term production over stable long term production which varies depending on how close the team is to contending for a World Series. Let’s also consider the fact that Cleveland, who I believe is better at identifying talent than the Reds are, specifically said they they wanted Senzel included in any deal which means he has a pretty good chance to be above average.

        I guess my main gripe is that I am against giving up so much talent for a two year window where, at best, the Reds have a 30% chance each year of winning the World Series. I am more of a diversify your risk kind of person and would rather have a decent shot at making the playoffs for a six or seven year window than having a great shot at making the playoffs for a two year window. If the Reds do make the trade they will no longer have the luxury of drafting in the Top 10 each year and after these two years are up, the Reds are going to have to start the rebuild all over again.

  • ScottyA

    Iglesias, Winker, India, Santillan and another prospect for Lindor (17m); would be a proposal. One large concern with trading for Lindor is the payroll cost. Lindor 17m this year with a big increase expected next year.

    I would rather have Lindor, but I would rather pay less in prospect capital and payroll capital to get Seager/pollock. No way to know for sure if a choice between the two is possible or if the Dodgers would take less prospect capital for Seager. I’m sure the Reds are trying though, exciting.

    A possible really good offense and good defensive team.

    JBJ (net+ 5.5m)/Aquino – RF
    Senzel – CF
    Pederson (8.5m)/Ervin – LF
    Suarez – 3B
    Lindor (16.7m) – SS
    Mouse – 2b
    Votto/Flores (3m) – 1B
    J Castro (4m)/Casali- C

    Would trade Barnhart for a prospect to use in Joc Pederson deal and Galvis in JBJ deal. This figures up on Fangraphs to be NL Central favorites and world series contenders. Especially if Senzel does better than their below average projection.

    Payroll is right at 150m with Lorenzen, Mahle etc. closer by committee. I think the Reds should trade Iggy to push all in on offense.

    • MiggidyMiggidy-Mike

      Finally!!! Someone includes IGGY!!! Why not a Senzel, bc they ain’t doing it without Nicky let’s be real… IGGY, and India, and Santillan, for Lindor and Deshields, or Lindor & Naquin, or Lindor and a RP… I do not see them giving up Mercado like the gentlemen said earlier, but it was wishful thinking. I think the Reds are trying to be creative, and I applaud them for that, but letting a player like Lindor slip through your fingers bc your fans have an affinity for “their guy” is a mistake. Lindor is a top 10 player in MLB… Senzel was a top 10 prospect last year… and he failed to come close to putting up the numbers fans hoped and expected. I love Nicky, I hope he has a tremendous career and becomes a star, but in a million years of practice he would not be Lindor… that’s a fact.

    • Jefferson Green

      Even if you get Deshields in return, there is still a big hole in CF for the Reds. He is Billy Hamilton at the plate with less base running and fielding production.