The Cincinnati Reds have reportedly made contact with the Cleveland Indians regarding their top starting pitchers, but is there any trade that makes sense?
If not for the full-scale overhaul taking place in Seattle, the Cleveland Indians would be the most intriguing team in baseball on the trade market. Perhaps now that the Mariners roster has been reduced to rubble, the Tribe will take the forefront.
Facing a variety of monetary limitations, the Indians have been linked to several teams regarding trades for at least one of their top starting pitchers. The latest team to jump into the mix, according to Jon Morosi, is the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds are an odd team in this equation, as they are clearly more than one top starting pitcher away from being a viable threat even to win their own division, let alone a World Series. One would think a team closer to the brink of glory would make a better trade partner for the likes of Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, but since the Reds have thrown their name in the ring, it’s worth evaluating the potential return.
Cincinnati’s bullpen strength
One aspect of the Reds roster that offers some value to the Indians is their bullpen. Cincinnati held onto Raisel Iglesias and Amir Garrett last summer despite the fact that many postseason contenders could’ve used one or both of them for the stretch run.
If Cincinnati is going to seriously consider acquiring a top-of-the-line starting pitcher, perhaps weakening the bullpen in the process is counterproductive. That said, neither Kluber nor Bauer are going to come cheap if and when they are moved, and the Indians would be wise to demand one of Iglesias or Garrett in exchange.
Garrett, a lefty, had a tenuous second half in 2018, posting a 6.46 ERA after the All-Star break. His season truly began to come apart at the seams before that, however, as he allowed six earned runs in just 10.2 innings in June.
Garrett most certainly would not be the headliner on the Reds’ side of any trade with the Indians, but his youth and team-friendly financials make him an interesting option as part of a package.
Iglesias, on the other hand, has the potential to single-handedly answer the questions surrounding the back end of Cleveland’s bullpen. He is a right-handed closer who posted a career-low 2.38 ERA in 72 innings last season. Having Iglesias as an option late in games would massively offset the departures of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller.
Iglesias is only 28 and would be a household name if not for the fact that he’s spent his young career with the cellar-dwelling Reds. There isn’t much motivation to move him or his bargain contract, but again, the Indians aren’t going to settle for a middle-of-the-road return for their Cy Young-caliber pitchers. At some point, Iglesias’ name needs to be brought into the conversation.
The Reds’ top prospect
Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez recently inked a six-year, $66 million extension–and then massively outperformed it this past season. Much like his teammate Iglesias, Suarez would command considerably more national attention if his 34-homer, 104-RBI 2018 campaign was played almost anywhere other than Cincinnati.
Should he continue to perform at such a level during the life of a contract that tops out at $11 million a year, he will turn out to be an extreme bargain for Cincinnati and is thus likely off limits in trade discussions. And so, the Indians should turn their attention to the player whose path to the big leagues is somewhat blocked by Suarez: prospect Nick Senzel.
Senzel was the second overall pick in the 2016 draft and has ascended through Cincinnati’s farm system rather quickly. His 2018 minor league campaign was cut short due to injury, and an unrelated offseason surgery figures to limit his preparation heading into spring training, but the tools are all there for Senzel to make an impact at the Major League level sooner than later.
Senzel’s primary position, however, is third base. The Reds have already begun preparing him for the possibility of a move to the outfield, a possibility that only becomes more likely in the wake of Billy Hamilton’s departure. Perhaps Senzel makes the transition smoothly and the Reds are better off for having both his and Suarez’ bats in the lineup before long.
Or they can acquire an elite starting pitcher, and send their top prospect to a team that will be in need of a third baseman if they choose to permanently move Jose Ramirez to second. Regardless of how the Reds envision Senzel’s immediate future in their organization, he, like Iglesias, must be brought into the equation if they are serious about acquiring Kluber or Bauer from Cleveland.
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In truth, the Reds aren’t a logical trade partner for the Indians this winter. There is a significant gap between them and their divisional counterparts, and neither Kluber nor Bauer can close that gap alone. Furthermore, the Indians must demand a considerable haul in return for either player, and it makes little sense for Cincinnati to part with elite, cost-effective talent as they try to build a contender in the National League.