Now that we Reds fans once again find ourselves on the outside of the post-season looking in, it’s time to start thinking about how the Reds can get back into contention ASAP. Redleg Nation is going to have a ton of content dedicated to how to get the offseason right this year, and an important part of that plan will be trades. How much of a role trades will play in reshaping the Reds will depend on what the Reds can get back for their veteran players. Getting a good sense of what the Reds will get in trades can be tough because we all know that we’re biased towards Reds’ players, and that it can be all-too-easy to imagine the Reds having a team of young all-stars next year if Jocketty could just make the right phone calls.

Back before the trade deadline I put together this post ranking the Reds’ major league players in terms of the value they could bring back in a trade, based on what I thought would be a reasonable return for each player. As a sort of prelude to thinking about possible offseason trades, I’m going compare what the Reds got in the three trades that they made this season to the returns that I predicted. My goal is to get a better sense of how players are currently valued in the market, so that when we think about offseason trades going forward, we can do it as realistically as possible.

Marlon Byrd. I ranked the Reds biggest offseason acquisition from last year as the their 14th best trade asset. Byrd hit for plenty of power with the Reds, but he did everything else poorly enough that he was a replacement-level player. He was owed about $2.5M when he was traded to the Giants, and had an $8M option for next year that would vest if Byrd got 550 plate appearances.

Predicted return: I guessed that the Reds would only be able to trade Byrd for salary relief. What that means is that the team trading for Byrd would trade the Reds a player of basically zero major league value (because players generally have to be included in trades if the acquiring a team is taking on more than $1M in salary). The benefit to the Reds would be that they wouldn’t have to pay Byrd the $2.5M he was owed. What often happens in these cases is that the team looking for salary relief actually sends money along with the player they are trading, effectively paying some money to save some more money. I predicted that the Reds would have to pay $1 for every dollar they would save if they traded Byrd.

Actual Return: Marlon Byrd was indeed traded for salary relief, but we don’t actually know how much. The deal with the Giants was reported as Byrd and cash for Stephen Johnson, a 24 year old non-prospect relief pitcher in AA (not included on any top 30 lists this season). So the Reds did have to pay some money do save some money, but the amount they paid wasn’t reported. That often means it was less than $1Mil, so I would guess that the Reds were able to get the Giants to take on most of what Byrd is owed for this year with the assumption that by playing him off the bench his option would not vest. It was close, but that is how it played out, so the Giants aren’t on the hook for Byrd’s $8M option for next year.

Verdict: I was pretty close on this one, off by about $1M saved. The Reds did indeed have to pay someone to take Byrd, but maybe not by as much as I thought. If we guess that the Reds paid $.5M, they would have saved $2M, making it a 4/1 ratio of saved-to-paid dollars. The Giants were clinging to hope that they could sneak into the 2nd wild card spot at the time, and credit Jocketty for potentially saving an extra mil because of it. That said, I can’t give Jocketty too much credit, because one has to wonder about the wisdom of trading a prospect for Byrd in the first place. Ben Lively made 25 starts for the Phils AA team this year with a 4.08 FIP, which is nothing spectacular, but it’s also not bad. Ultimately, the Reds traded a middling pitching prospect and $3M for 4 months of replacement level play from Byrd and a non-prospect reliever. I think I’d rather have the minor league starter and $3M.

Mike Leake: I ranked Leake as the Reds’ 7th best trade asset. He’s now a free agent, so he was a straight half-season rental when he was traded, also to the Giants. He was owed about $3.2M at the time he was traded.

Predicted return: My thinking at the time was that the Reds could get a C+ or B- prospect for Leake. In the comments section, a lot of people took issue with my letter grade assessments, saying things like “the Reds should be able to get a top ten prospect for Leake.” I’ll take this opportunity to address the four ways primary ways you’ll see prospects evaluated: Ranking among all prospects, Ranking in a single team’s system, Scouting future value score, or Letter grades. All of these things are related and you can generally translate from one to the other, but you have to be careful not to get them confused. For example, a B- prospect doesn’t sound that good to some and got people upset that I was undervaluing Leake. But prior to this season, Desclafani was graded as a B- prospect (45 scouting future value) and was ranked as the Reds 6th best prospect (not in the top 200 overall per fangraphs). So a B- prospect very well may be in the top 10 of a single team’s prospects.

Actual Return: The Reds received starting pitching prospect Keury Mella and utility bat Adam Duvall back from the Giants. Mella was graded as B prospect before the season and currently ranked as the Reds 5th best prospect by Duval was a non-prospect throw-in, but he he’s got a ton of power, and given the Reds bench he may actually provide us with a little value over the next few years.

Verdict: I was pretty close again, off by a minus on the letter grade and however much you value Duvall. I’ll give Jocketty a little credit here too, again potentially due to the Giants need to make up ground in the playoff chase. Mella is a slightly better prospect than I figured the Reds could get for Leake, and Duvall is a nice throw-in considering how bad our bench has been the last few years.
Johnny Cueto: Johnny was the gem of the Reds trade assets. I had him ranked 3rd, but that was behind Todd Frazier (who almost certainly wouldn’t be traded) and Chapman (who I figured was unlikely to be traded), so he was really the Reds number one trade piece of the summer. Like Leake, he was a two month rental, but he was traded to the first place Royals who were hoping to get plenty of October baseball out of him as well. Sadly for fans of Cueto, he hasn’t pitched well for the Royals thus far (4.06 FIP), but at the time of this writing the Royals are tied with the Astros in their division series, so he may get to make some more starts for them yet. The Royals are paying him the last $3.3M on his multi-year deal with the Reds.

Predicted return: I discussed whether the Reds would try to go for quantity or quality if they traded Cueto, but finally decided that the Reds will go for quantity because I doubted that anyone will give up a top 50 guy (overall) for him. I guessed the Reds could get two B+ prospects and maybe another one or two B or B- prospects from a team with a deep system.

Actual Return: The Reds got three left-handed starters for Cueto, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed. Finnegan was graded an A- prospect prior to the season, but that rating was based on him starting and as he was used as a reliever all year, so I think he was a B+ when the Reds got him. John Lamb was rated a C prospect before the season, but bounced back from surgery well and now looks like he’s back at solid B level, and may have better upside than that. Cody Reed was unrated before the year, but dominated all season, and may end up the best of the bunch. At this point I’m tempted to give him a B+ as well, but he’s probably a B or B- because of a short track record, which is also reflected in his #9 ranking in the Reds system on

Verdict: I think I was basically dead on with this call, off by maybe half a letter grade over three players. In the end though, the grading on this one is just splitting hairs in the eye of the beholder. I predicted that the Reds would get 3 or 4 good-but-not-great prospects back for Cueto from a team with a deep system, and that’s what they did.

Final thoughts: This was a useful exercise for forcing myself to think like a different team’s GM, weighing the possibility of winning now vs. players that could be significant to my team’s future. It’s all too easy for us as Reds fans to overvalue Reds players and prospects because we see them all the time and see their potential. The Reds may pull off a coup or get totally robbed, because every trading partnership is unique. Each team has its own needs and assets, and a level of motivation/desperation to make a deal. I hope the Reds can maximize the value they get in trades this offseason, but these trades give us a good baseline of how MLB players are valued vs. minor league prospects in the market.