The Cincinnati Reds overhauled their rickety bullpen Thursday, getting Gary Majewski and Bill Bray in an eight-player trade that sent outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez to the Washington Nationals.
The playoff-hopeful Reds also acquired shortstop Royce Clayton, infielder Brendan Harris and pitcher Daryl Thompson from the last-place Nationals.
Clayton most likely would replace Lopez, who made the All-Star Game last year. The Reds gave up reliever Ryan Wagner, a first-round pick in 2004 who has struggled the last two seasons.
I take back everything good I’ve ever said about Reds GM Wayne Krivsky. Jim Bowden robbed Krivsky today.
This is very disappointing. Can anyone defend this trade?
UPDATE: Take a look at what Keith Law (of ESPN, formerly of Baseball Prospectus) has to say about the trade:
Do you think Jim Bowden took a little pleasure in thoroughly robbing the organization that fired him in 2003? If not, perhaps he should, because he just pushed the Reds to the back of the NL playoff queue, and in the process picked up three players who entered the Reds’ organization while he was their GM.
The Nationals were widely expected to be sellers in the July trade market, and that may still come to pass, but in this deal, they took on more salary than they gave up. In exchange for a talented left-handed relief prospect and three spare parts, the Nationals just added an above-average corner outfielder, an above-average shortstop, and a talented right-handed relief prospect. Whether they choose to keep Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez or move them for younger talent, the Nationals won this deal in a rout. …
The jewel in the deal for the Reds is Bill Bray, who was highly touted as a first-round pick in 2004. Bray has an out-pitch slider with a hard, late break to go with an average fastball and good control. He closed in college and should develop into a setup man in the majors, but the odds of his doing so this year (his debut season in the majors) aren’t great. He also has a history of back trouble, which limited him to just 40 innings in 2005.
The real problem here for Cincinnati is that the other players they acquired just aren’t any good. Royce Clayton was once a defensive whiz who would hit just enough to be a contributor, but his offense is so bad today that he makes Rafael Belliard look like Cal Ripken at the plate. Since the start of the 2000 season, Clayton has hit .258/.313/.369. And his defensive abilities have declined, much as you would expect they would for a player moving through his late 30s. As a glove off the bench acquired at no cost, Clayton is still a questionable use of a spot on the 25-man roster, but if the Reds intend to give him any of the playing time freed up by the trade of Lopez, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.
Gary Majewski has two average pitches in his fastball and slider, but no real out pitch, no weapon to use against left-handed batters, and below-average control. He has moderate sink on his fastball, which is important in Cincinnati’s home park, but isn’t enough to make him more than an 11th or 12th man on their staff. Brendan Harris is a utility player who isn’t good defensively and who has never had much patience at the plate; he’s a 4-A guy who won’t find playing time in Cincinnati with Ryan Freel, Rich Aurilia, Brandon Phillips, Juan Castro, and now Clayton all on the roster.
The Reds’ apparent strategy here — trading some of their offensive depth for pitching help — is sensible, but their specific choices here make no sense. I don’t see any way in which trading two of the top 50 hitters in the league for questionable relievers helps the Reds. The most charitable analysis would say that they’ve acquired 50-60 better bullpen innings at the cost of 400-450 good plate appearances, but given the volatility of reliever performance and Majewski’s wildness, there’s a good chance that the Reds won’t see any benefit in their pen as a result of this deal. Had the Reds traded some spare parts or even good prospects for Majewski and Bray, I could understand it, but they have probably now taken the league’s second- or third-best offense and made it merely average.
The Nationals, on the other hand, acquired a lot more talent than they gave up, and in doing so acquired the trade’s top two players, both of whom are under control through the end of 2008.
I’m sick to my stomach.