Before we get knee-deep in speculation, let’s put these accounts in context. First, this is scuttlebutt season. Teams are looking at dozens of potential acquisitions, many are never genuine options. Even when teams reach the point of serious negotiations, they often fail to agree. There’s interstellar distance between today’s gossip and an actual trade.
Second, the rumors haven’t been attached to any Reds sources, either directly or indirectly. So the names might represent nothing more than the other team’s wish list. Or, the Reds could be floating unattributed hints to signal a newfound willingness to shop Bruce and Cueto. Of course, the reports might mean the negotiations are, in fact serious, and the leaks are coming from the other side but the reporter couldn’t get Reds’ tight-lipped personnel to confirm.
So, treat today’s chatter with healthy dose of skepticism.
On the other hand, speculation is fun and conjecture is all we have right now. So let’s get at it.
At first blush, Toronto would seem to be one of the last teams that needed another power hitter. They finished third in the majors last year in home runs and ISO. They also have a pretty good right fielder in Jose Bautista. But they do have to replace Adam Lind and left-fielder Melky Cabrera. Their aggressive pursuit and signing of catcher Russell Martin indicates the Blue Jays aren’t standing pat. Jay Bruce would sandwich a powerful left-handed bat between Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. And Bruce or Bautista could move to the other corner, replacing Cabrera. Jay Bruce, in fact, would be a better, cheaper bat than Cabrera and a huge defensive upgrade. It’s really quite a tight fit.
From the Reds side, the Blue Jays have something in common with the San Diego Padres — the other team linked to trade talks about Bruce — availability of young, major-league pitching. In the Blue Jays case, that’s first-and-foremostÃ‚Â Marcus Stroman. It could also meanÃ‚Â close-to-ready Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez, the top two prospects in the Blue Jays system and top-20 MLB prospects. The Blue Jays have already added pitcher Marco Estrada from the Brewers in a trade for Lind. So if Toronto wants to add Jay Bruce, they have the starting pitching depth to make a trade.
The Marlins have two young outfielders who would be of great interest to the Reds, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. They also have young pitching to trade, in Nathan Eovaldi and #1 prospect Andrew Heaney. Fresh off their signing of Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, $325 million deal, owner Jeffrey Loria says the club isn’t finished adding to their 2015 roster. The Marlins have been linked to other starting pitchers this winter, including Wade Miley and David Price via trade and Kyle Kendrick through free agency.
Keep in mind these trade ideas represent general frameworks. Just because Johnny Cueto might not be perfect compensation for Christian Yelich doesn’t mean the Reds couldn’t sweeting the pot with a prospect or two, for example. So don’t reject the possibilities out of hand simply for the failure to match-up one-to-one.
What does all this mean for the Reds?
Trading Johnny Cueto and Jay Bruce would not signal that the Reds have given up on 2015. It might, but that’s overly simplistic and unlikely.
We have strong reasons to believe the Reds won’t use this season to rebuild. First, there’s the timing with hosting the All Star game. Second is the well-reported disdain that owner Bob Castellini has for taking backward steps. Finally, it’s hard to imagine that Walt Jocketty, at age 63, would have signed up for a two-year stint that dismantled the team he had built.
As I outlined yesterday, the Reds could trade Jay Bruce for a quality, young starting pitcher to add with Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Alfredo Simon. They could trade Cueto for a great young outfielder to replace Bruce. AND with the money saved from those two moves, they could afford a second big bat for the outfield, young or old, short-term or long-term.
Would the Reds be better in 2015 with Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto, or with Marcus Stroman, Christian Yelich and Nelson Cruz — just to pick names out of the hat to demonstrate the idea. The club would certainly be much better situated in talent and payroll in 2016 and beyond.
A final word about Jay Bruce’s trade value. I’ve read several places that the Reds shouldn’t consider trading Jay Bruce because they would be trading at his low value. That’s only half-right. It’s possible that teams might be kicking the tires on Bruce hoping the Reds will sell low due to Bruce’s poor 2014 season.Ã‚Â Absolutely, the Reds shouldn’t trade Jay Bruce if they get low-balled.
But what if the Reds can get full value for Jay Bruce? Suppose a few trading partners (it only takes one) see Bruce’s 2014 as I do, an aberration caused by his knee injury, mid-season surgery and incomplete rehab. Suppose a couple teams see him as the Pablo Sandoval consolation prizeÃ‚Â and start bidding him up. In that case, the Reds should be open to moving Jay Bruce if the trade makes sense overall and they get equal value in return. But it’s sheer nonsense to rule out trading Bruce because of a presumption they won’t get enough value for him.
I love watching Jay Bruce play and Johnny Cueto pitch. I’d hate to see either one playing for another team. But I suspect that I’d grow to enjoy watching their replacements, too. In the end, while we each have our favorite players,Ã‚Â we ultimately cheer for the uniforms.
And sure, there’s plenty of opportunity for the Reds to screw this up. They could trade for the wrong kind of players. Walt Jocketty might not be able to resist the catnip that is Allen Craig, for example. Bob Castellini might not be able to bear shipping off his long-time, home-grown players and instead insist on signing Cueto to a risky, expensive extension.
But if the organization was able to pull off smart trades for Bruce and Cueto — Bruce for young pitching, Cueto for young hitting — to get more youthful and financially sustainable, while reloading, isn’t that exactly the bold thinking we’re looking for in a front office?