The Reds are looking for a new left fielder in 2015. Some are free agents (Friday post). Other options are members of another team so the Reds would have to trade for them. This post is the first of three about those trade targets.

In general, trade targets are younger than free agents, but not always. They also come with widely variable team control (and thus cost). It’s often said that you trade contracts, not players. A player with five years of team control has a vastly different value calculation than a player with one year of team control remaining. Potential trading partners for the Reds have different needs. Some are looking primarily to dump salary, some mainly want prospects, and some are seeking starting pitching.

First, housekeeping:

Performance criteria: Two posts last Wednesday explained and quantified criteria the Reds should use when looking for a new left fielder — on-base percentage (OBP) higher than .330, a walk-rate (BB%) at or above 8 percent and decent extra-base power (ISO) of .120 or better. The trade targets identified here generally follow those guidelines.

Table glossary: The statistics below for OBP, BB%, ISO and wRC+ are based on projections (Steamer at FanGraphs) for the 2015 season. DRS stands for defensive runs saved and the player’s 2014 data from playing outfield. fWAR 14/15 is their WAR (wins above replacement) as estimated by FanGraphs for 2014 and projected for 2015.

Team control: A team controls the player for six years of service time once he is called up from minor leagues. In the first three years, the player is guaranteed to be paid at least the league minimum salary established in the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union. In theory, the team could pay the player more than minimum, but that’s entirely up to the team, the player has no additional rights. Most players work for league minimum for three years, which is around $500,000. For the next three years, players have the right to binding arbitration if they don’t like the team’s offer. After six years, the player and club can either negotiate an extension or the player can file for free agency. Players can, of course, sign extensions with their club at any point during team control.

Candidates: These posts focus on relatively realistic trade targets, taking into account the needs of trading partner clubs and the constraints faced by the Reds. Many “face of the organization” players aren’t included because they won’t be traded. Examples: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley etc. Also excluded are trading partners that need hitting and have surplus pitching. So no Seth Smith (Padres) or Lucas Duda (Mets).

Chavez Ravine Traffic Jam

The Los Angeles Dodgers 2015 outfield situation makes the 405 Freeway look like a sparsely filled parking lot. To push the metaphor beyond the legal speed limit, half the cars in the lot are used luxury models, in various conditions; two are sparkling-new performance cars; and one is economical, functional, but uninspiring.

Veterans Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are signed to large, long-term contracts. Yasiel Puig is one of the most exciting players in the game. Scott Van Slyke appears solid, but doesn’t have much of a major league track record. And prospect Joc Pederson obliterated AAA last year and may be the best of the six overall.

So yeah, the Dodgers will clearly be looking to trade one or more OF this offseason. They’re also deciding whether to fire Ned Coletti, their GM.

KempHitting: Carried Dodgers in the second half. .309/.365/.606 and .297 ISO after All-Star break. And BABIP (.339 during that time is below Kemp’s career average). Big bounce back from injury/recovery in 2013 and first half of 2014. If healthy, strong offensive upside.

Defense: Brutal. Resisted playing LF with the Dodgers. Limits his WAR.

Contract Status: Contract runs five more years, with AAV (average annual value) of $21.5 million

Conclusion: Hard to see this match working. Kemp’s remaining contract is enormous. His strong second half will make Dodgers more hesitant to trade him, although he’s unhappy playing LF and no chance he’ll play CF for them going forward. Only way a trade with Reds gets off the ground financially is if the Reds package Brandon Phillips with Johnny Cueto.


Hitting: Fading offensive output. Severe platoon split (Either is left-handed).

Defense: Played across outfield, including pressed into service in CF, which is where most of his negative defensive numbers come from. Solid arm and range for LF.

Contract Status: Contract runs through 2017 at AAV of $18 million.

Conclusion: Dodgers will be shopping Ethier, including picking up much of his salary in trade. Could be platoon partner for Reds in LF. Wouldn’t cost the Reds much in players or salary. Probably could get Ethier for second or third-tier prospects. Hard to see the Reds signing on to three-years of Ethier’s continued decline, even if cheap.


Hitting: Doesn’t meet criteria for OBP or BB%. Stole 23 bases. Hasn’t been elite offensive player since 2010 with the Rays, although 2014 was best season since then. Only 370 plate appearances.

Defense: A bit above average in LF, his primary position.

Contract Status: Contract runs through 2017 at AAV of $20.5 million.

Conclusion: See Ethier, plus $2.5 million/year. No chance.


Hitting: Great OBP and BB% skills to go with elite power. Only 24, so reason to expect improvement.

Defense: Relatively neutral, with strong arm and so-so range. Played RF and CF.

Contract Status: Cuban defector. Signed contract through 2018. Salary is $4.5 million in 2015 and grows by $1 million each year, topping out at $7.5 million. Will probably earn $30-40 million in value annually. Might be most valuable contract in all baseball.

Conclusion: Reds would have to start with the names Cueto and Chapman and go from there. Hard to see Dodgers trading Puig given value. Maybe as trade-and-sign for Giancarlo Stanton, but that doesn’t help the Reds.


Hitting: Elite numbers (.425 OBP, .584 SLG) in AAA, although he’s old for just starting in the majors. Right-handed bat. Projection for 2015 skeptical of his 2014 BABIP (.394) in 246 PA. Van Slyke is a little short on OBP but .324 is still above average. Hard to know where he stands in relation to prime age.

Defense: Plays both corners and a little 1B, so decent flexibility.

Contract Status: Cheap. Five years of team control, two years before arbitration begins. But already 28 years old.

Conclusion: Best trade match with Dodgers from Reds side, although that’s not saying a lot. Van Slyke is one of John Fay’s favorite suggestions. If the Dodgers can move Ethier and Crawford salaries, Van Slyke would be their fourth OF behind Kemp, Puig and Pederson. This move for Reds would be cheap (salary) and relatively long-term. Likely would take Leake to get him, possibly Simon. Wonder what Dodgers would say if Reds offered BP straight up for Van Slyke.

Atlanta’s Dynamic Duo

Coming off of a disappointing 2014, Atlanta fired Frank Wren, their general manager. They’ll be looking to make significant changes for 2015.

Two of their best outfielders, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, are outstanding hitters. They are potential trade candidates because both have just one year remaining before reaching free agency. It’s possible Atlanta will negotiate contract extensions with one of them, but not likely both. Atlanta may decide Heyward and Upton are too valuable to trade, even if they are lost to free agency, like the Reds did with Shin-Soo Choo. But it’s possible that Atlanta will look to move one or both prior to 2015 (or maybe at the trade deadline), judging the trade returns as more lucrative than the compensation picks.


Hitting: Projection likes him for huge bounce back season. Experience leading off but also power to hit lower in lineup. Power declined the last three seasons, but still well above average.

Defense: Can play CF. Elite defense, range.. Maybe best defensive player in baseball. DRS not a typo.

Contract Status: Somehow Heyward is still only 25 years old. Free agent at 26. Signed for $7.8 million in 2015 (will earn north of $30 million in value). New GM might explore extension, but Heyward will demand top dollar.

Conclusion: Think the Shin-Soo Choo deal. One-year rental. Heyward’s poor 2014 at plate may make Atlanta more likely to deal. Could acquire for impact prospect, or established major league player with multi-year control plus second-tier prospects. Braves not desperate for pitching, but straight up swap for Johnny Cueto might prove of interest to Atlanta.


Hitting: Elite, right-handed power bat. Slumped in September. Entering prime age. Solid walk-rate. 25+ homers. Stolen bases have dropped to single digits past two seasons. Middle of the order hitter.

Defense: Played LF primarily for Braves in 2013 and 2014. Neutral-to-slightly-poor defense.

Contract Status: $14.5 million in final year of contract. Free agent in 2016.

Conclusion: See Heyward analysis. More power than Heyward, less defense.


Tomorrow, Free Agent Trade Targets, Part 2