It was a busy Friday night for the Reds. Right after announcing that they’d traded Kyle Farmer to the Twins, the team announced it acquired shortstop Kevin Newman from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Dauri Moreta.
Newman gives the Reds an immediate, cheaper replacement for Farmer. If the Reds don’t give José Barrero the starting shortstop job — which is possible given his dismal MLB performance — Newman will be the competition. Newman also has experience at second base and should back up Jonathan India. Matt Reynolds, who is out of minor-league options, may now become expendable with another middle infielder in the mix.
While there are several differences between Farmer and Newman, the biggest one as far as the Reds are concerned is cost. Newman is entering his second year of arbitration, just like Farmer, and is projected to earn $2.8 million in 2023, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Farmer is projected to earn $5.9 million, which means the Reds will save around $3 million by making the shortstop swap.
There’s a reason Newman is cheaper, of course. At one point, he was a top-100 prospect in the game after being the 19th overall selection in the 2015 draft. But he hasn’t panned out, barely coming in above replacement level in his five MLB seasons (career 2.0 fWAR). The 29-year-old is well below average at the plate, carrying a career 77 wRC+ in more than 1,600 career plate appearances. He ranks 301st out of 315 qualifying hitters in wRC+ since 2018. Newman doesn’t hit for much power (career .096 ISO), and his plate discipline is poor (career 5.2% walk rate, 33.7% chase rate). Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t hit the ball hard, either. From 2019 to 2022, he ranked in the bottom 7% of the league in average exit velocity.
The only way in which Newman stands out at the plate is that he rarely swings and misses. Newman has a career 11.7% strikeout rate, the ninth-lowest mark among all qualified hitters since 2018. He has the 10th-highest contact rate (87.1%) over that time.
Essentially, Newman is José Peraza at the plate. Here are their careers side-by-side:
For what it’s worth, Newman is coming off his best season since 2019. He hit .274/.316/.372 with a 94 wRC+ in 309 plate appearances during his final season in Pittsburgh, essentially the same numbers Farmer put up in Cincinnati in 2022 (.255/.315/.386, 91 wRC+).
Newman’s performance in 2022 may have been somewhat driven by good batted-ball luck. His .322 batting average on balls in play was well above his career average (.286). However, he seemingly made a change that helped lead to a better BABIP. By raising his average launch angle, Newman hit more line drives than ever. Only five players with at least 300 plate appearances had a higher line-drive rate than Newman (25.9%), including Donovan Solano.
Despite that, though, Newman was still a below-average hitter because he still didn’t hit the ball hard or draw walks.
Newman’s lefty-righty splits are another point worth noting. He has a career 93 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers and a dismal 71 wRC+ against right-handers. His career strikeout rate against lefties is just 7.4%. In 2022, the splits became even more dramatic as Newman’s BABIP was over .400 against southpaws.
- vs. LHP: .361/.404/.433, 140 wRC+ in 104 PA
- vs. RHP: .230/.271/.340, 70 wRC+ in 205 PA
Defensively, Newman is a bit below average. In over 2,500 career innings at shortstop, Newman has been worth -9 defensive runs saved and -8 outs above average. He had -2 DRS and -1 OAA in 2022. He has just under 800 innings at second base with a career -1 DRS and -4 OAA.
By trading Moreta, the Reds aren’t losing a hugely valuable player but they do shed some bullpen depth. After getting a cup of coffee at the end of the 2021 season, the 26-year-old threw 38.1 innings with the Reds in 2022. Some major struggles with the home-run ball early in the year inflated his numbers as he finished with a 5.40 ERA, 4.02 xERA, and 4.38 xFIP. However, Moreta did pitch well after returning from a minor-league demotion midway through the season. From June 19 onward, he had a 2.92 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and 3.90 xFIP in 24.2 innings.
Featured image by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire
One good thing about trading for Newman is that when the Reds play the Pirates, he can no longer be the walk off hero. He did it once this year, and I’ll never forget his two run 9th inning HR off Raisel Iglesias in Pittsburgh that turned a Reds win into a loss a few season ago.