Major League BaseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s annual Winter Meetings will be held Monday through Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. (For those who havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t visited the Gaylord, terming this hotel a gaudy monstrosity fails to do that phrase justice. I attended a high school journalism conference at the Gaylord and found myself hopelesslyÃ‚Â lost multiple times.)
Last season, the Reds enacted bold moves at the Winter Meetings, trading Mat Latos to the Marlins for Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach and acquiring Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford from the Tigers for Alfredo Simon. At this time, the Reds appear to be big winners in each transaction.
The RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ recent track record of big December moves extends back to 2011 and 2012, when Cincinnati acquired Latos from the Padres on Dec. 7, 2011 and picked up Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians on Dec. 12, 2012. (With the trade of Yonder Alonso to the Athletics on Wednesday, all four players the Padres acquired from the the Reds in the Latos trade are no longer with San Diego.) Last month, president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty failed to label any current Red Ã¢â‚¬Å“untouchable,Ã¢â‚¬Â so additional early December trades for the Redlegs are certainly on the table.
The Reds could (and should) be active in settings separate fromÃ‚Â the trade market–where the ideal return is young position player talent–with a starting pitcher and at least one starting outfielder needed. But, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face it: the trade market is where the Reds will look to make their mark.
Who could the Reds trade?
Aroldis Chapman. The Reds closer seems like the most likely player on the roster to be dealt, and it would be a surprise if the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ brass departs Nashville with Chapman still on the payroll. MLB Trade Rumors projects Chapman, a free agent after the 2016 season, to earn nearly $13 million in his forthcoming final year of arbitration eligibility. The Reds are reported to be targeting current or on-the-cusp major league talent in return for Chapman, and reportedly strive to top the sizable package the Red Sox sent the Padres for four-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
The Astros have been connected to many of the marketÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s available late-inning arms, but USA Today reported Wednesday that Chapman tops the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wish list, with Houston owner Jim Crane reportedly a Ã¢â‚¬Å“big fanÃ¢â‚¬Â of the Cuban Missile, who recently linked up with Marc AnthonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new agency.
Jay Bruce. The RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ everyday right fielder since 2009 is entering his final season under contract with the club that selected him 12th overall in the 2005 draft. Bruce, who will turn 29 at the beginning of the 2016Ã‚Â season, is slated to earn $12.5 million next summer, and has a $13 million team option for 2017. Bruce has a limited no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to block a trade to the Athletics, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays, Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees. The Reds reportedly engaged in preliminary talks with the Orioles regarding Bruce a few weeks back. Baltimore acquired Mark Trumbo earlier this week, and although TrumboÃ‚Â can play outfield, it would seem the Orioles intend to slotÃ‚Â their new sluggerÃ‚Â at first base/designated hitter (as a likely replacement for Chris Davis). On paper, the Orioles are a poor match for the Reds because ofÃ‚Â a dearth of major-league ready position player talent at the top of their farm system.
Brandon Phillips. Coming off a semi-resurgent 2015, Phillips is under contract through 2017, as the 34-year-old second baseman is due $13 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017. Because Phillips has over 10 years in the majors and has spent the past five seasons with the same club, he has the ability to block any trade. FOX Sports reported on Nov. 11 that the Reds and Diamondbacks had discussions about a Phillips-for-Aaron Hill swap.
Todd Frazier. Frazier, who enters his age-30 season in 2016, is the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ top trade chip–if the third baseman is indeed available, as indicated by ESPN on Nov. 16. Frazier, who is coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons, is owed $7.5 million in 2016 before entering his final season of arbitration in 2017.
A young starter.Ã‚Â Much has been made of the trade possibilities of the four aforementioned names–Bruce, Phillips, and Frazier will be in Cincinnati this weekend for Redsfest–but if the Reds are keen to acquire an impact bat–or a player that can become an impact bat in short order–they may have to part with one of their young starters.
As far as the major-league arms, Raisel Iglesias–who is signed on a team-friendly deal through 2020–would seem to be the least likely of the bunch to be traded. But, would anyone be that shocked if the Reds flipped DeSclafani (arbitration eligible in 2018, under club control through 2020), Brandon Finnegan (arbitration eligible in 2019, under club control through 2021), Michael Lorenzen (arbitration eligible in 2018, under club control through 2021), or John Lamb (arbitration eligible in 2019, under club control through 2021)? None of those players are projected to be future aces.
Robert Stephenson, the Reds top prospect and a probable No. 1 or No. 2 starter down the line, is probably untouchable. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to imagine Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, or 2012 first-round pick Nick Travieso traded unless they are a part of a package bringing back veryÃ‚Â highly-regarded bats in return. But, pitchers like Keury Mella, Sal Romano, and Tyler Mahle could be available given how far away from the majors each player is and the starting pitching depth in the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ farm system.
What will the Reds primary target be in trades?
Controllable, highly-regarded, and ready/almost-ready-for-the-majors position players. This isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t news to anyone who frequents this blog or follows the Reds. That doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make CincinnatiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s thirst for this type of rare talent any easier to quench. A grand total of zero elite young position player talent was moved at the July 31 trade deadline–with perhaps the exception being outfielderÃ‚Â Brett Phillips, who was sent from the Astros to the Brewers in the Carlos Gomez trade–as teams were quick to hoard any top hitting prospects they own in a pitching-dominated game.
What free agents could the Reds look to sign?
A relatively-inexpensive, innings-eating starting pitcher. Whether this hypothetical pitcher is signed with the intention of being flipped by the next trade deadline or to stick around for two to three years, the Reds should target a starter that is capable of carrying his own weight into the sixth and seventh innings on a regular basis. Possibilities range from former Reds Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang to Doug Fister.
At least one corner outfielder. Steve covered this area pretty well last month, stumping for the Reds to ink Dexter Fowler. (I made the case for the Reds to acquire for FowlerÃ‚Â last winter.) Left field is already an open competition, and if Bruce is shipped out, the Reds will have two open outfield spots open. Jesse Winker isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ready yet, so expect movement here.
A relatively-inexpensive veteran relief pitcher. The entire bullpen canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be J.J. Hoover, Tony Cingrani, and a host of young starters-turned-relievers, though someone like Trevor Cahill, a longtime starter who put up big strikeout numbers after joining the Cubs as a reliever last season, could be a nice addition. The Reds donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to venture into a bidding war for someone expensive like Darren OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Day, but bringing in at least one (and maybe just one) reliable veteran arm could help stabilize what looks to be an inexperienced bullpen.
Who wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the Reds sign?
Any of the big fish. Zack Greinke. Jason Heyward. Justin Upton. Johnny Cueto. Yoenis Cespedes. You get the drift.