Winds of change are sweeping across the landscape of MLB rules. A group of rule changes were recently announced. Several of these changes were deferred until 2020 allowing teams time to adjust. However, note this change which is effective immediately:
Trade Deadline: The trade deadline will remain July 31st; however, trade waivers will be eliminated. Players may be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31st, but players may not be traded after that date. (from official MLBPA release cited above, italics by this author)
Yes, you read correctly. August (and September) “waiver trades” are now history.
Impact Of The End Of Waiver Trades
Simply put, teams must make final assessments a month sooner whether they are realistic contenders and then make decisions about bolstering their roster or becoming sellers. Let’s look at some examples.
Contending teams often have injured key regular or role players they expect to be back by late July or early August. In the past, they often put off until mid August the decision whether to rely on these players for the stretch run and playoffs. Now unless they have sufficient in house depth, they must make their personnel moves prior to August first.
Borderline contending teams must decide well ahead of July 31 whether they are buyers, sellers or will simply stand pat.
Teams must fully fill in and set their depth chart prior to August 1 since it will no longer be possible to obtain outside help if a player goes down to injury after July 31.
Role players or emergency injury replacement players previously acquired in August cost the acquiring team 5-6 weeks of salary. Now such players are going to cost 2 full months of salary. We do not know how this will impact performance evaluation and leveling of cost versus talent returned.
Will the changes favor buyers or sellers? Only time will tell.
How Might The End of Waiver Trades Impact The Reds?
During the just past off season, the Reds assembled a bridge team to allow them to more effectively compete immediately while internal prospects continue to develop. This strategy hinged on acquiring established veterans who did not incur long term obligations for the Reds. The plan gave the Reds flexibility to bail out if the season went south by trading all or some of these veterans for future prospects during the season. If these veterans are traded, the Reds also figure to save significant money on payroll. To this end, the Reds opening day 25 man roster and MLB Injured List contains no fewer than 7 players who will be free agents at the end of 2019. Courtesy of Cot’s Contracts, here they are:
The first 5 players are players 2 through 6 among the highest paid Reds this year (Joey Votto is #1; $25M). The combined salaries of the 7 free agents, $65.375M, represents just over 50% of Cot’s projected Reds 2019 opening day payroll.
The answer is clearly, yes, the change in the trade deadline rules may have a significant impact on the Reds.
Let’s look at some specific cases involving the Reds free agents and the trade deadline change.
Probably Going Nowhere
Is it too far out on a limb to think that of the 7 free agents, the Reds possibly are only seriously interested in retaining Puig and perhaps Alex Wood? I think not.
Yasiel Puig’s value depends on him returning to the level of play he displayed earlier in his career (13.8 fWAR in 2013-2017); but, the Reds will be patient with him, especially as long as the Puig factor plays well with fans.
As the axiom reads, a team can never have too much left handed pitching, especially among starters. Alex Wood fits here; but, he needs to get healthy and perform effectively to demonstrate he can maintain on both accounts. Of course ironically, if he is hurt, he also has diminished or no trade value. Thus one way or another, as long as his injury doesn’t turn out to be a long term chronic situation, I believe the Reds will try to hang onto Wood.
Let’s count these 2 out for now as trade candidates.
Traded If Healthy
Speaking of injury brings us to Scooter Gennett. Last season saw a soap opera about whether Gennet and the Reds were negotiating a long term deal. Gennett has already publicly expressed discontent this spring about the lack of progress toward an extension. Signs are that nothing is cooking here, especially with Derek Dietrich looking like Scooter V.2 for $2M this year and under team control (4th yr. arbitration) for 2020.
Gennett’s injury could be the Reds situation most impacted by the change to the rules. He is projected to be out 8-12 weeks from opening day. That’s late May at the earliest and pushing towards July on the long end. Noticeably, the Reds did not put Gennett on the 60 day IL. I believe this is because they want him back on the field absolutely as soon as possible to build a trade value.
Traded If the Money Works
Matt Kemp has supposedly been on the trading block since the day he joined the Reds. Kemp will make $21.675M this season which works out to $3.625M a month. His cost along with the fact other teams know the Dodgers passed $7M along to Reds toward his salary (and want their share if they take him) are probably strong reasons why he is still a Red. With new system, the Reds are going to be trying to convince someone to take 2 full months of Kemp’s salary versus 5 to 6 weeks if he were a mid to late August add on. Even if Kemp is playing well, this looks like a tough sell unless a contending team is beset by serious outfield injuries. But the Reds will try their best.
I’m agnostic about the remaining guys. If the Reds are hanging towards the edge of contention, they will probably hold onto Tanner Roark and David Hernandez. However unless the team is absolutely in the thick of things, it should be just as easy to let them go on July 31 as it would have been then or later in the prior system. If these two are pitching decently, the issue is team performance, not individual money. They are classic deadline movers. And Zach Duke? A team can never have too many lefties; but 2 others in the pen and Cody Reed at AAA should be inducement to move Duke whenever the chance arises.
A final caveat. If the Reds continue to slum along around a .400 winning percent come June 1, all bets are off. Any of of the upcoming free agents could go along with many other players. Otherwise, come August 1, remind me how well I’ve done.
Data courtesy of Cot’s Contracts and Fangraphs’s
Duke may not even make it to the end of April the way he’s going…
This is good stuff Jim, and I agree with the basic conclusions. But this is all predicated on an implicit “Reds = sellers” assumption that may or may not be valid. I’d love to see a similar post a bit further down the road assessing what a Reds as buyers scenario might look like – both for the insights themselves but also because it would mean the Reds are in contention.
Just as aside (about earlier moves/non-moves), from MLB.COM
“Royals — Billy Hamilton, CF: Hamilton isn’t just hitting .237 with no extra base hits … he is somehow fifth on the Royals in steals.”
Is there a realistic scenario where the Reds eat most, or all, of Kemp’s contract in a trade? If the team is paying that money either way would Ervin + the trade return be a better use of it?
Hold on Sliotar, that sounds strange. We have seen many a team in need of SP depth trade for below average, innings filler, starters at the deadline. Roark is more or less an average, SP3/SP4 pitcher, so he is a step up from that… with a pinch of upside with the right tweak by new pitching coach. He absolutely has trade value. He won’t bring back a top 5 prospect or anything, but a high ceiling A-ball prospect that is another teams fringe top-8 is certainly possible. No trade value is only a VERY select few SPs around the league…either injury prone or just awful, year in and year out.
All these Reds listed have trade value, of varying levels. Now, if by no trade value, you simple no “big trade” or “trades I care about” value, that might be more fair, but there will be at least one contender (likely more) that is hovering around .500, but seeing constant SP4 and SP5 blow ups holding them back, that will see Roark as a big get for their purposes.
You asked “If the Reds were in the playoff hunt, and got either of those at the trade deadline, would RLN applaud the front office, for landing “the guy” to get them into October? Feels unlikely.”
Applaud is strong, and not likely, but if we’re running out 3 above average starters and blow-up machines at SP4 and SP5, absolutely RLN and others would give it a win trade grade…provided we didn’t send back a top 7 or 8 prospect or course. Maybe a prospect that looks solid but is a bit old for the league they’re in (say a 24 year old still in high A).
I filed this away for future reference (https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/la-sp-yasiel-puig-dodgers-legacy-reds-20190414-story.html), but this article by Jim seems like a good time to broach this subject.
This extensive article about Puig in the Sunday LA Times (not by Bill Plaschke) includes this tidbit, regarding the player positioning cards the Reds are using for defense:
“Cincinnati has implemented positioning cards; early in the spring, Puig informed (outfield coach Jeff) Pickler that he knew the league well enough to position himself.”
This text does not say that Puig is ignoring the positioning cards, but earlier in the article it stated that he did so while with the Dodgers. I am hoping for the best for Puig, but don’t be shocked if we hear at some point this year that he was out of position because he wasn’t following the positioning cues from management.
I’m always amazed at the disrespect Scooter gets on this site. No derek Dietrich is not Scooter 2.0. He’s a career .760 ops. People like to say things like, “well if you take away his home starts….” or “if you take out scooter’s month of May last year”. That’s how baseball works, you can’t just cherry pick stats you wish to use. There’s a reason Scooter is an all star and Dietrich isn’t, it’s simple. Scooter is a much better player.
I listened to the podcast last week and Jason just threw out there that Scooter plays “far below average defense which makes him about as valuable as Jose Iglesias.” One simple look at the metrics can show that Scooter actually played above average second base last year. Also, I know we want peraza to be better because he’s under contract, or Iglesias and Dietrich because they’re new and cheap, or senzel or India because they’re prospects, but why don’t we just take a second to appreciate how great Scooter has been for us since he took over from a struggling peraza in 2017. He’s also the team’s favorite player, just listen to Jared Hughes speak on Jim day’s podcast about it. I believe with the amount of close games we’ve lost so far with a lack of offense, we’d be a lot closer to 9-5 than 5-9 with Scooter.
Brian, I agree with your sentiments. Scooter was #46 in all of baseball in Fangraphs Total WAR in 2018 (4.5). That came on the heels of a season in which he hit 27 homers and drove in 97 runs in 2017. I agree that had he been in the lineup so far this year, he could have helped to counterbalance the team-wide offensive slump that has been evident so far. He’s not chopped liver.
Matthew, I disagree on Peraza. He had the fourth-most hits in the NL last year, and the eye test tells me his defense has improved this year. I expect him to start to show his hitting ability sometime soon, just like the rest of the lineup.
I think the biggest problem with peraza is when he doesn’t do well, he looks soooo bad doing it. He doesn’t just make errors and pop out to the second basemen or strike out, he does so while looking like a 9-year-old trying to play with his older brothers and their friends. Just purely overmatched and incredibly small looking on the diamond. With that being said, his end of year numbers showed great improvement last year and he’s young so I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt. As long as people stop calling him better than scooter
I think that shows Bell has a very open mind! Casali has been hitting the best of all of those righty batters in the lineup, so why not let him lead off? He also saw that Votto is 5-for-25 against Kershaw with 13 strikeouts. If Votto was hitting well presently, he might be getting the start, but he hasn’t been.
Agreed. I think he’s a very valuable asset for a good team, which the Reds hope to be in the short term.
Five former Dodgers starting tonight for Cincinnati.
I would be OK with a scooter extension if the NL is adopting the DH in 2020.
Otherwise it will be a hard pass for me . Dietrich already has us saying ‘ scooter who?’
Scooters defense is painful to watch on a daily basis and will only get worse.
I believe the Reds have players to replace Gennett (Senzel), Kemp (Ervin or Trammell), and starters and relievers. Most of all, it is too early to worry about now.
Puig is closest to the dugout, the coaches were probably telling him where to play.
Platoon with five position players who were hitting under .200. Banking a lot on Castillo being at the top of his game. If good pitching beats good hitting most days, how does good pitching stack up against bad hitting? Rhetorical question.
Does R. Iglesius have options? If so, Louisville is a better place to work out his problems than is the IL.
Also, noted that Kershaw came out of extended ST and threw 7 innings. Reds starters came out of ST barely able to survive five innings. ST is not being effectively utilized to get ready; Reds are using the first month of the season, and its not working too well.
Bell did not get the team ready in ST.
The last week or so he was playing guys that will never sniff MLB games.
This cat has a lot to learn and so far he is failing miserably.
Nepotism rules in the Queen City
And now Raisel has three saves over his last three appearances striking out 9 in a row along the way.