Based on your general disposition, you see the Cincinnati Reds in one of the two following lights: They’re a team at or floating around .500 with baseball’s worst OBP and worst bullpen ERA, or they’re a team at .500 and tied for the remaining wild-card slot.
History suggests Reds owner Bob Castellini will see the latter. He’s a competitive soul, so long as the Reds can sniff a playoff spot, don’t expect them to sell.
Still, given both scenarios, if the Reds make any deals this year, it is likely they’ll hit the market as sellers rather than buyers. They’d rather subtract payroll than add more. So if the Reds fall out of contention, the following is a short list of trades they should be thinking about.
Johnny Cueto, SP
If the Reds are selling, consider Johnny Cueto the Apple Watch. He’s the biggest trade chip the Reds have, and he’s guaranteed to bring a sizable return for any team willing to make itself an immediate World Series contender.
Any team trading for Cueto at the deadline is probably already good enough to be in contention. Cueto would make that team good enough to win it all.
His price tag is unclear. Last year, the Tampa Bay Rays were in a similar situation with ace David Price, who was also in the final year of his contract. When they finally moved Price, they received Drew Smyly, a talented MLB-ready starter (now 19-14 with a 3.23 ERA in three years), infielder Willy Adames, rated the No. 77 prospect by MLB.com this year, and infielder Nick Franklin from the Seattle Mariners, a first-round draft pick from 2009.
That’s a sizable return for the Cy Young-winning Price. Cueto doesn’t have a Cy Young, but he finished No. 2 last year in National League voting, and he’s already off to a good start in 2015.
The Boston Red Sox are a suitable match. They have the second-worst rotation in baseball and the worst rotation in the American League. They do have Henry Owens, an impressive left-hander in Triple-A. They also have a good, young left-handed batting outfielder in Brock Holt, who’s hitting .278/.388/.450 this season at the major league level.
Marlon Byrd is only a temporary solution, and 2016 is rapidly approaching for Jay Bruce, so Holt would be a natural request. They also have Deven Marrero, a 2012 first-round draft pick who is now a Triple-A shortstop hitting .291/.368/.659.
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Remember, this is only if the Reds are selling. And if they’re selling, there’s no reason to keep Brandon Phillips and his contract on the payroll. He’s having a good season by every measure, slashing .316/.343/.357, and that’s why he must be moved if the Reds are selling.
His value will never be higher.
After the Reds failed to move Phillips last year during the offseason, expect them to try again. It may not be far-fetched to see Walt Jocketty package Cueto with Phillips, though, in fairness, Phillips should be performing well enough to require a decent return—maybe a top-10 prospect, depending on how persuasive Walt can be on the phone.
It’s not just his bat. He’s healthy, and his defense is as good as ever. Phillips has become a valuable trade chip in a short time. If he can keep his production up, especially at this rate, the Reds should have no problem flipping him.
With the New York Mets‘ David Murphy hitting .210 in 100 games, the Mets could be potential suitors. Eric Sogard has been underwhelming in Oakland, so Phillips is also an option for Billy Beane, who won’t hesitate to fill a need at the deadline.
In all likelihood, moving Phillips would be more about payroll reduction and less about return.
Jay Bruce, OF
Jay Bruce is a sell-low candidate, but considering his contract is up in 2016, the Reds have to consider getting something for him if they want to rebuild.
Bruce is slashing a miserable .176/.290/.396—this following his worst career year, a year in which he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Neither his current slash line nor last year’s is remotely close to his career numbers.
If the Reds are trying to rebuild, Bruce won’t be a part of it. And he won’t bring much back—maybe a good prospect. Most people would have expected more for a talent as prized as Bruce.
Bruce is a good option to deal for on the cheap and stick in the middle of a lineup. Despite a poor slash line, he has 15 RBI, third on the team.
How valuable is the RBI stat when measuring a player’s value?
Bruce has been a memorable part of this team’s core for a long time, but with his contract nearly up, he makes for an easy trade candidate—unfortunately in the sell-low category.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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