With the trade deadline approaching at the end of the month, it’s likely that trade activity will begin to pick up around the league shortly.
Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams stated yesterday that the team plans to participate in discussions at the deadline, but what does that mean in a shortened season?
#Reds Dick Williams: "we plan to participate in discussions" at the trade deadline— C. トレント・ローズクランズ (@ctrent) August 19, 2020
Given that there will only be about a month’s worth of games left after the deadline before the postseason, any new addition won’t have a ton of time to make an impact. Add on the uncertainty that the 2020 season is even completed because of virus concerns, and that means we likely won’t see as many trades of pure rental players who will be free agents after the 2020 season. While those type of trades can’t be ruled out, the prospect packages going the other way in return would undoubtedly be less than a normal season. It would be fair to speculate that not a single top-100 prospect in the league will change hands in exchange for a pure rental this year.
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, often referred to as “Trader Jerry” for his penchant to make trades, stated earlier this week that he expects to see more “young player for young player” trades this year. This idea stems from the likelihood that teams won’t be as willing to make large payroll additions due to the current situation. It was also noted that teams could use the deadline as a chance to get a head start on their offseason shopping list.
Very interesting point today from Jerry Dipoto in his conversation with @JimBowdenGM and @Jim_Duquette on @MLBNetworkRadio: Dipoto said he expects we'll hear "rumblings" of young player-for-young player trades across industry leading up to Trade Deadline. @MLBNetwork (1/2)— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 16, 2020
By that logic, the Reds have a few young Major Leaguers that could be of interest to teams, including outfielders Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino, and pitcher Tyler Mahle. They also have a strong prospect core highlighted by Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene, among others.
The real question is what type of upgrades would make sense for the Reds. There seem to be three primary areas of need, as well as some areas of lesser need.
While Freddy Galvis has been solid for the Reds this year, posting a 124 wRC+ and 0.6 fWAR so far, an upgrade isn’t out of the question. Galvis is also a free agent after the season, so a move now could be made with 2021 in mind as well.
Especially if SS prospect Jose Garcia isn’t expected to be ready for the Majors by Opening Day in 2021, adding a shortstop that would be under control through 2021 (or beyond) could make a lot of sense. As far as pure rentals go, potentially available options would include Didi Gregorious and Andrelton Simmons, neither of whom are definitive upgrades on Galvis. Marcus Semien would likely be an upgrade, but he’s unlikely to be made available with Oakland in first place in the AL West.
Among shortstops with additional club control beyond 2020, five names have previously come up as potential Reds targets: Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Xander Bogaerts. The former two are likely off the table in deadline talks as their teams are in contention and likely would wait until the offseason to consider deals. Correa is unlikely as well, though it wouldn’t be a total shock if the Reds were able to pry him away by sending MLB talent back. That leaves Story and Bogaerts.
The Rockies and Red Sox are at very different places right now, with the Rockies as fringe contenders while the Sox bring up the rear in the AL East. Each could be available in the right deal.
Story is under control through 2021, and would provide the Reds with a huge short-term boost while not blocking Jose Garcia. He’s slashing .291/.360/.573 with a 131 wRC+ and 1.1 fWAR in 2020, and also brings great defensive skills. The only real knock on Story has been his home/road splits since he plays half his game in the hitter’s paradise that is Coors Field.
Still in the thick of contention in a tight division, a slide by the Rockies in the next couple weeks could determine Story’s availability. The Rockies have long been rumored to be interested in adding young pitching, so the Reds could dangle a package headlined by young pitching prospects or possibly even Mahle or Tejay Antone to entice the Rockies to move Story.
Bogaerts is under control through 2025, though he does have an opt out available after 2022. He’s due to make $20 million in each of the remaining seasons in his contract, so money could be an obstacle if the Red Sox don’t send any cash in the Reds’ direction.
There’s no denying the offensive talent though, as Bogaerts slashed .309/.384/.555 with a 141 wRC+ last year and currently has a 126 wRC+ in 2020, though with just 0.7 fWAR. The knock on Bogaerts is subpar defense, though the Reds haven’t seemed overly concerned about defense in recent years.
A return for Bogaerts would likely be dependent on how much of the contract a team was willing to take on, though the Sox could try to “buy” better prospects by throwing in some cash. The Sox may also have some added urgency to deal Bogaerts at the deadline, as he’d stand to pick up a no-trade clause in September, lessening the chances of a future deal.
The Reds’ bullpen has been nothing less than a hot mess so far this year, though our Steve Mancuso recently pumped the brakes on the concern over the bullpen. Regardless, the Reds — like many contenders — would benefit greatly by adding a reliable back-end arm to the bullpen.
Finding specific bullpen targets at the deadline is always tough, but one obvious name that comes to mind is the Red Sox’ Brandon Workman. Workman is a pure rental, and it’s likely he could be acquired for simply a lottery ticket type prospect. That’s likely true for all rental RP on non-contenders, so the Reds could certainly take a look at one or two of those.
The Royals’ Josh Staumont, the Blue Jays’ Ryan Borucki, and the Tigers’ Tyler Alexander stand out as high K% relievers, though only Alexander has a walk rate better than league average. On the other end of the spectrum, the Royals’ Ian Kennedy and the Giants’ Tyler Rogers stand out as pitchers with stellar walk rates, albeit with less impressive strikeout numbers.
The Reds’ bench is another major need. The Reds’ bench, outside of Matt Davidson, has struggled mightily in 2020. Kyle Farmer has a 61 wRC+, Phillip Ervin has a 42 wRC+, Josh VanMeter has a -3 wRC+, and Travis Jankowski has a -49 wRC+ (yes, you read that right).
The Reds should look to add at least one bench bat, who would likely take the roster spot of Jankowski. That could be done simply by replacing Jankowski with Aristides Aquino, as our Matt Wilkes has suggested. It could also be done via trade.
Ideally, the Reds should target a left-handed hitting equivalent to Matt Davidson, and this is another case where a pure rental may not be a bad idea. Acquiring a rental would come at a much cheaper cost than a player with remaining control, and could help solidify the Reds’ bench. As for replacing Jankowski’s speed and defense, Michael Lorenzen could step in as a late inning pinch runner and defensive replacement in games where he is not pitching.
Unlike the other Reds’ needs, the most likely solution for upgrading at catcher is already in-house with prospect Tyler Stephenson. At the same time, you can’t help but wonder if Phillies superstar catcher J.T. Realmuto could be made available. He’s a free agent after the year, so if the Phillies fell out of contention and didn’t like their chances of re-signing him, perhaps they’d want to get something in return.
For the move to make sense for Philadelphia, they’d have to acquire a package they think exceeds the value of the compensation pick they’d receive if Realmuto rejected a qualifying offer. It may not make sense for a team to trade more than that for one month of Realmuto, but it’s impossible to rule out.
This one is probably the biggest long shot of the Reds’ trade possibilities, but it’s impossible to simply ignore Realmuto given how good he is. He’d be a real difference maker for a month, and a trade could give the acquiring team a better shot at signing him long-term after the season.
Wait, what? The Reds’ rotation is already stacked with Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Anthony DeSclafani. They have depth for the fifth slot in Wade Miley, Tyler Mahle, and Tejay Antone.
Think back to earlier when it was mentioned that teams could begin their offseason trade shopping early, and remember that Bauer and DeSclafani are both free agents after 2020 and may not return. That, coupled with the fact that there’s one obvious star and another promising young pitcher squarely on the trade block, leaves open the possibility the Reds could acquire someone with 2021 in mind.
The aforementioned star on the block is Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger, who was recently sent down to the alternative site as punishment for breaking the team’s COVID protocols and going out on a road trip. Joining him there was Zach Plesac, the other promising young pitcher alluded to in the previous paragraph. The rift that they caused in the Indians clubhouse will likely lead to the team entertaining trade discussions on both, and the promotion of top prospect Triston McKenzie further backs up this logic.
Add in the fact that Clevinger is best friends with Trevor Bauer and there’s an obvious fit there for the Reds. Naturally, you’d have to be comfortable believing that Clevinger would follow the protocols this time around and not negatively impact the clubhouse, but his talent is undeniable. He’d provide a huge boost down the stretch for the team and would allow Wade Miley to be shifted to the bullpen full time for the rest of the year.
If Bauer walks, Clevinger could slot in near the top of the Reds’ rotation in 2021. At the same time, he could also increase the likelihood of Bauer re-signing, and a rotation of Gray, Castillo, Bauer, Clevinger, and whoever the fifth is would almost unquestionably be the best in the league. The prospect cost would sting, but it could make the Reds an even more serious threat.
Other targets could be available across the league, but Clevinger and Plesac stand out as the only two that are certainly available. The Reds could also potentially deal Bauer or DeSclafani at the deadline as well, if they acquire someone to fill their slot.
While it remains to be seen how aggressive the Reds will be at the deadline, they undoubtedly have an abundance of options to improve their team for both 2020 and 2021. Finding trade partners may be a little tougher than recent years, but Dick Williams and Nick Krall have shown willingness to be creative to get moves done.
[Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III]