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 MLB.com. 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 MLB.com.

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.

30 Responses

  1. muttonlettucetomato

    Nice article. The young pitchers for Cueto will be interesting to watch and see how they develop. Duvall is interesting as well.

  2. vegastypo

    Nice review. Speaking of Byrd and salary dumps vs. player returns, what has become of the two players the Reds received from the Brewers for Jonathan Broxton?

    • RFM

      Broxton was traded for Kevin Shackelford and Barrett Astin. Shackelford has been unremarkable. Barrett Astin, 23, started the season at Daytona and pitched very well, with a 2.29 ERA in 74.2 IP and 11 starts. The numbers at that level resembled Ben Lively’s from a year earlier (although he got no attention for it). Unfortunately Astin, like Lively, struggled after a midseason promotion to AA. Astin made 14 starts for Pensacola with a 5.63 ERA and 1.617 WHIP. He ended the season with a 3.98 ERA between A+ and AA.

      Presumably Barrett Astin will move to Pensacola’s bullpen in 2016. I think it’s too early to write him off as a reliever, and so far he’s been a pleasant surprise for a salary-dump pickup. Personally I’m wondering who will have a better (if any) big league career, Astin or Ben Lively, with both of their starting careers stalling at AA.

  3. jamesgarrett

    Good article.We got good value for 3 players that were traded especially the pitchers we got for Cueto.I was surprised that the Royals gave us those 3 but we will take em.

  4. lwblogger2

    Because it’s essentially an educated guess. We’re talking about prospects here and nothing is a given.

  5. Jackson

    Thanks for taking time out to write this
    keeps our minds busy until next year.
    So…do we have the No.2 pick in the draft now?

  6. PDunc

    Thanks for the article. An interesting look at what the team received back in the trades over this summer.
    I’d be interested in seeing you update your valuations on the remaining Reds. Cozart at #4 on your list before his injury and Suarez not on the list as he hadn’t played for the big-league club much at that time, Frazier an Bruce’s values after second-half declines, Votto’s MVP level season and second-half especially, etc.

  7. Jeremy Conley

    Sorry you thought it was boring. I thought it was important to hold myself somewhat accountable when I made public predictions that a lot of people thought were going to be pretty far off, judging by the comments.

    The deal is, lots of sites have people who make predictions/projections about players, but very rarely do they take the time to go back over their predictions to see how they did. This has always been annoying to me, because there’s no accountability. If someone’s predictions are way off, I want them to own up to it, and potentially discuss how they could have done better.

    I didn’t mean for this article to come off as tooting my own horn, but I can see how it could have. For the first two trades, I was too conservative on what the Reds could get back, and I did point out how much I was off by. If I do this again, I’ll adjust the projections accordingly.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Jeremy, Any reasonable reader would have actually read the introductory paragraph to discern the intent and content of the article prior to making a comment. That apparently wasn’t done prior to posting the blatantly obnoxious deleted comment.

    • greenmtred

      I appreciated the pre-trade deadline article and this one. Neither was boring. Thanks for the good work, Jeremy.

  8. Hotto4Votto

    I am completely with you on the Byrd trade. One of the biggest issues I had with the Byrd trade was the fact that we were giving up a decent prospect for a rental player in a year we weren’t likely to contend in. It was not cost effective and it was an unnecessary move that left the payroll and farm system worse off than where it started when it was all said and done. (of course my biggest issue was that Walt went back on what he stated he was looking for to fill LF, which was a high OBP guy).

    The return for Cueto is very good. Hopefully at least two of Finnegan, Lamb, and Reed can stick in the future rotation, and the other will work in relief. Either way, for a two month+ rental of Cueto who was out the door anyway, good trade and risk/reward.

    I’m still not sold on Mella as a starter. He has some mechanical issues which will likely lead to some injury (in fact he was shut down at the end of the year because of soreness). If Mella’s not a starter and/or is injury prone this taints the deal a little bit for me. At the same time, he was the best prospect the Giants had to give, and I don’t know who else was vying for Leake’s services. I do wish Walt would have taken a lesser pitcher from the Giants and instead received a better bat. Duvall may have more to offer off the bench than I originally thought, but still at the end of the day we’re talking Laynce Nix.

    Where the rating of prospects loses some steam for me, is when we are comparing hitting prospects with pitching prospects. Right now the currency in baseball is swinging toward hitters being more prized. Very few hitters were traded for pitching at the deadline. It’s not an apples to apples comparison when we are looking at B+ pitching prospects and B+ hitting prospects. Teams are valuing hitters more than pitchers.

    Walt has stated that he is focusing on the best value and will trade from the surplus of pitching prospects to add hitting. I think that’s a foolish plan and that’s not what we’re seeing done right now. When top shelf pitchers like Cueto and Price don’t return a single good hitting prospect, I fail to see the logic where pitching prospects will return good hitting prospects. Packaging multiple pitching prospects together for a hitting prospect just drains the farm system.

    With that said, I’m hoping that Chapman and Frazier can be turned into a few bats for the Reds this offseason. If we can get the salary relief of Bruce and Phillips then that would allow the Reds to fill holes as needed, with an eye toward 2017.

    • Moses

      While it seems to be the case that the pendulum has swung towards valuing bats over pitching, it could be argued that it’s precisely the time to collect undervalued arms while at clearance prices. After all, both pitching and hitting will always be needed and the pitching-heavy/hitting-light Mets seem to be doing alright. We don’t know how all of the pitchers Walt has collected will do, but I’m all for the possibility of having 12 stud pitchers on the big league club for years to come.

      • streamer88

        This is an awesome point and in fact, sums up the essence of Moneyball. Evaluate what generates wins (top to bottom, from all positions), cross reference that with what teams are undervaluing the most and this will generate the current cheapest way to buy a win. 15 years ago that was OBP, and we all know the story. But perhaps now it is WHIP or groundball ratios, etc. The market will always be undervaluing something – maybe our front office is not as anciently barbaric in their understanding of win-purchasing as we think. *thinly smiles*.

      • MrRed

        Of course, even a broken clock is right two times a day. *thinly smiles back*

      • Hotto4Votto

        I can see your point. At the same time, how long will it take to swing back? By the time it does will all of our good pitching prospects start getting too expensive to keep? What do we do in the meantime about fixing a dismal offense? Having 12 awesome pitchers is great, but even great pitchers give up runs. If the offense can’t score more than 2-3 runs/game we’re still going to lose more than we win.

        The Mets aren’t what I’d call hitting-light exactly. 7 of their 8 regulars down the stretch have better than 100 OPS+ for 2015. Duda 132, Murphy 113, Wright 128, Conforto 132, Cespedes 157, Granderson 129, and D’Arnaud 128. Compared to the Reds where only Votto 174, Frazier 117, Suarez, 106, and Cozart 107 were above league average. I’d certainly take the Mets production in both pitching and hitting over what the Reds have shown recently.

        Right now we have 3 offensive prospects above A-ball I’d hope to be better than league average in Winker, Ervin, and Blandino, and two still have a lot to prove. YRod has an outside shot of putting all his tools together, and he’s young which gives him a better chance. But there’s not a ton of help on the way and we will have holes to fill in LF, RF, 2B, and 3B (possibly CF) before or by the end of 2017.

        So either the Reds are stockpiling undervalued pieces and waiting for the market to turn back to their favor, or their collecting pagers when the world’s moved to cellphones. Personally, I believe Walt is still acting like it’s a decade ago when young pitching was the name of the game, and he won’t be around when the tide turns again, and the Reds will suffer for a lack of offense in the mean time.

    • Jeremy Conley

      Good comments all around. The question of the relative value of pitching vs. hitting prospects is an interesting one. I’ve always tended to see value as value, and run prevention as good as run scoring. If I can get two B+ starting pitching prospects in a trade vs. one B+ hitting prospect because the team I’m trading with values hitting more than pitching, I would take the two pitchers.

      The question would be, is there some level of offense that no amount of good pitching could rescue? The Cardinals scored 647 runs this year and won 100 games. The Reds scored 640 and won 64. So I’m not convinced that the problem was the Reds offense alone. The Reds allowed 754 runs, and the Cards allowed 525.

      I would like the Reds to improve the offense of course, but I don’t think they are at the point where they have to value good hitters more than good pitchers, only because they are hitters.

  9. Shchi Cossack

    Cueto, Leake and Byrd are gone and the return for those players is in hand. Parra and Pena will be FA after the world series. Bailey, Cozart and Mesoraco are untradeable due to injuries. Votto and Phillips are probably untradeable due to their contracts and no-trade status of the contracts. Of the 15 players identified as possible trades assets prior to the trade deadline, that leaves Hoover, Bruce, Cingrani, Chapman and Frazier as possible trade assets from the major league roster.

    JJ Hoover is 1st year arbitration eligible in 2016 and produced 0.1 WAR over the past 2 seasons (-0.9 in 2014 & 1.0 in 2015). Hoover should make ~$1.1MM through arbitration. If the Reds can get a C or C+ prospect by trading Hoover, pull the trigger.

    Cingrani is not arbitration eligible in 2016 and will earn near league minimum. Both the Reds and Cingrani have been frustrated by his performance/usage over the past 2 seasons. Cingrani and the Reds would probably benefit from a change of scenery. If the Reds can get a B+ prospect by trading Cingrani, pull the trigger.

    Bruce will cost $13.5MM for 2016 and produced -0.3 WAR over the past 2 seasons (-1.1 in 2014 & 0.8 in 2015). Trading Bruce would be a straight salary dump this off season and Bruce could provide a positive return if he can return to form in 2016 and put up a 2+ WAR prior to the trade deadline since he has a club option remaining for 2017. Hold on to Bruce and cross fingers across Reds Land for a rebound in 2016.

    Chapman should make ~$12.9MM as 3rd year arbitration eligible in 2016. As an elite closer, Chapman has value for a contender, even for only one full season; putting up 4.6 WAR over the past 2 seasons (1.9 in 2014 & 2.7 in 2015). The Reds have not and will not ever utilize Chapman effectively. Maximize the possible return in an off-season trade but do not get greedy and blow the opportunity. Chapman MUST be traded during the off-season and if an A- prospect can be obtained in the trade, pull the trigger and run.

    Frazier will cost $7.5MM in 2016 and will be 3rd year arbitration available in 2017 after putting up 9.3 WAR over the past 2 seasons (5.3 in 2014 & 4.0 in 2015). Frazier is the only player capable of commanding a true quality and quantity return if he is made available during the off-season. Make Frazier available, but the asking price in return must be significant. The Reds could afford to keep Frazier and shoot to be competitive in 2017 with Votto, Mesoraco and Frazier set as the core of the lineup, but if the price is right, don’t be sentimentally stupid.

    • reaganspad

      I totally agree on Bruce you Old Cossack you. The value of Bruce is greater than that of trading him. WVRedlegs says the same thing below:

      “The market for Bruce won’t be large, and probably pretty small”

      So why trade him? Money is not that big a deal, we need outfielders.

      Mesoraco returns this year. I think Jay Bruce is worst when he is pressing and best when the fate of the team is not on his shoulders.

      As a complimentary piece, Jay Bruce may hit 260 with 30 HRs and 100 rbis for us in 2016 and his WAR will be worth his salary.

      We not only need Jay, we need to find another team that is disgruntled with THEIR JAY BRUCE, and we need to trade for that player, if he exists.

      Jay is not my favorite Red, but my paranoia is that he goes to a team next year and is not the featured player and he hits 40 HRs and 125 rbis

      When that happens, many of those same people who are so down on him will be after Walt’s head and rightfully so

    • Jeremy Conley

      Good comments Cossak.

      I can’t imagine what we’d get for Hoover, but I’d be fine with moving him for basically anything. He’s a replacement level player.

      Cingrani would have been a good guy to move last year, since he didn’t really fit in the Reds plans. Now he’s really set his value back. I don’t remember exactly where I had him in the mid-season rankings, but it was pretty high I think. Now, he’s really hurt his trade value because he failed out of the pen, after failing in the rotation. The best case for dealing him might be as a sweetener to a Chapman deal, to get a true top tier prospect.

      I agree on Bruce, and on Chapman mostly. I think the need to move Chapman is significant enough that I would probably just take the best offer. I don’t see much of an argument for holding out for a certain talent level, when he’s going to cost the team a lot, and there is a near 0% chance that Chapman will be pitching for the next Reds team that’s over .500. Like Cueto and Leake this summer, he just has to be moved.

      And then there’s Frazier. Ever since last offseason when all of this was becoming obvious to everyone but Jocketty and Castellini, Frazier has been the bellwether. He’s a great trade chip, despite a poor second half, so if you don’t think the Reds can compete in 2017, then he should be moved, and this becomes a near total tear down. If you have hope for 2017, then you have to hold on to him, because without him, that hope would go down the toilet.

      Where you stand on Frazier mostly says where you stand on the Reds in 2017.

  10. WVRedlegs

    It’d certainly be nice to get Chapman’s, Phillips’s, and Bruce’s contracts off of the books this winter. Most notably BP’s, as Chapman and Bruce only have one year left. This could then give the Reds front office some flexibility they possibly have not seen. That would account for almost $40M.
    There will almost always be a market for Chapman.
    The market for Bruce won’t be large, and probably pretty small.
    The market for BP will be even smaller.
    To help with their markets, the Reds need some things to fall their way this post-season and off-season. They need Houston, LAD, and Texas or Toronto to have disappointing exits from the playoffs with an emphasis on bullpen blowups. That will help the market for Chapman. Houston and Texas are possibilities for Bruce if the Reds can send the Beaumont Bomber home. And for BP to waive his 5/10 no trade rights.

    • Chuck Schick

      Why would the Astros want to pay Jay Bruce 25x’s what they pay George Springer? Given the ” transient” nature of Houston, I doubt anyone outside of Bruce’s immediate family even knows he’s from there.

      • WVRedlegs

        Astros will need OF help, 1B help, and LH DH help in 2016.
        Colby Rasmus is a free agent after the season. (.238/.314)
        Chris Carter is a free agent after the season. (.199/.307)
        Newly acquired Carlos Gomez is a free agent after 2016. (.242/.288)
        Jake Marisnick (.236/.281)
        Preston Tucker (.243/.297)
        Evan Gattis (.246/.285)

  11. jamesgarrett

    Chapman absolutely must be traded and at least one of the core players.I love all the core because they made us relevant but we can’t go another year and expect different results.I also am in agreement we won’t get much for a Bruce or a Phillips but we need to get at least younger and cheaper now.We won’t compete for a playoff spot so lets see what kind of prospects we can get.

  12. WVRedlegs

    Byrd got to 544 PA’s. Close but no cigar. Will he get a free agent contract at equal or greater the amount of what his vesting option would have been at $8M?
    Byrd had 156 PA’s going down to the end of the season with SF. He played alot for the Giants. It looks as if that bean ball that hurt his wrist and put him on the DL for about
    2 1/2 weeks cost him his vesting option.

    • lwblogger2

      I don’t think he’ll get $8-million for 2016 but certainly a chance he’ll come close to that. There’s also a chance someone might be crazy enough to give him 2yrs or 1 + a team option that will put him over $8-million.

    • Jeremy Conley

      If he gets anywhere close to $8M it will be from a very old school GM who doesn’t care about OBP or defense. I would assume it would also have to be in the AL, where he could DH.

      If he wants to keep playing, which I assume he does, I would bet he gets a deal from an AL team in the $1M – $2M range. At that price, with the DH possibility, he could still provide some value.

      • reaganspad

        Oh my gosh Jeremy, you just predicted that Walt will sign him:

        “it will be from a very old school GM who doesn’t care about OBP or defense”

  13. Adam M. Singhoff

    There is a simple explanation for why the Reds are focused on pitching prospects. By the time they are competitive again (if Walt is still in charge,) Robo-umps will be calling the games.