Last Thursday, Jon Morosi of MLB Network stated that the Reds are searching for a young, impact hitter with some team control left in his contract, to be acquired before the July 31st trade deadline. While a young, controllable hitter is likely near the top of every team’s wish list, a batter with this profile seems to be one of the few things this Reds team is missing to truly push them over the top. It’s widely agreed upon that this team’s offense has underwhelmed so far in 2019, but it’s easy to see how an impact bat added to a lineup that seems to be heating up AND is getting Scooter Gennett back any day now could really push this team into turbo mode.
So which young, controllable hitters should the Reds be going after? First, let’s make some rules. We won’t be looking for players over the age of 28. That defies the ‘young’ part of the equation. We also won’t be looking for players with less than three years of team control, which – you guessed it – goes against the ‘controllable’ part of the equation. We’ll also limit our search to the two ‘roles’ that are most easily improved on this team. Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez have the corner infield spots locked down for years. There’s a logjam at 2B, and could easily be Nick Senzel’s job for the rest of his career starting next season.
This creates a need in the outfield and at Shortstop. In an outfielder, we’re looking for a right handed hitter who can play all three positions and platoon in LF with Jesse Winker until he proves he can hit left handed pitching just as well as he can hit right handed pitching. This hitter will take over either in RF if/when Yasiel Puig leaves to test the Free Agency waters this offseason, and/or in CF if/when Nick Senzel is moved back to his natural home at 2B. Shortstop, while not a need, is the easiest position to upgrade in the infield. Jose Peraza has shown promise, and Jose Iglesias has been a revelation in 2019, but both players have flaws that prevent them from being considered slam dunk every day Shortstops.
The obvious oversight here is Catcher, where Tucker Barnhart has been struggling, and Curt Casali hasn’t been deemed good enough by the front office to take over. Upgrading at Catcher currently is an extremely difficult task if we’re following our criteria above. Most (if not all) young, controllable Catchers are starring on teams firmly in the playoff hunt, and thus unlikely to want to trade away their valuable assets. So, for now, we’re sticking with Tucker and Casali.
Alright – now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s get down to business!
Again, we’re looking for candidates who preferably are right handed, and can play all three outfield spots.
Clint Frazier, Yankees
This is the name everyone has been throwing around in relation to this specific Reds rumor. When the Yankees traded for Edwin Encarnacion last week, they sent former top prospect Clint Frazier down to AAA. Frazier was a casualty to the Yankees’ outfield logjam more so than his own production – in fact, his wRC+ of 118 would be the second best mark of any Reds hitter if he played in Cincinnati. He can play all three outfield spots, bats right handed, and is more than capable of taking over Puig’s spot in RF after this season. He’s controllable through the 2023 season, which means he’d be a Red for quite a while.
It’d take a lot to get Frazier, but that’s likely true for everyone on this list. He makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider the lack of Yankees pitching, and the Reds seemingly tailor made match in Tanner Roark, whose contract ends this season. Frazier is the quintessential player for this role.
Michael Conforto, Mets
Heading across town, we land at the Mets and Michael Conforto. Although he’s a leftie, he’s a career 125 wRC+ hitter who can play all three outfield spots with ease. His production is very similar to that of Eugenio Suarez, but with a slightly better eye. He’s controlled through 2021, and is 26 years old.
Probably their best position player at this point, Conforto would be a tough get from the Mets. However, they’re once again slipping in the standings in the NL East, and have a long road ahead as the Nationals, Phillies and Braves are all getting younger and better. It would behoove the Mets to consider trading Conforto to the Reds, especially if a young piece like Taylor Trammell is coming back to them.
Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
Hoskins is far from our ideal Outfielder – in fact, it’s kind of a stretch to call him an Outfielder at all. After being forced out of his natural 1B position, Hoskins was sent to the Outfield a few seasons ago, and let’s just say he hasn’t won any awards out there. He’d likely be relegated to playing strictly Left Field, either introducing a permanent platoon/timeshare with Jesse Winker, or forcing Winker to RF full time. This would domino into either keeping Senzel in CF for the time being, or creating the need for a new Center Fielder should Senzel move back to 2B. He’d be able to fill in for Votto on his off-days as well, but that’s hardly enough reason to bring a guy with this track record in via trade.
So, a bit of a headache to get him into a Reds uniform. But would it be worth it? The power numbers would certainly play in Great American Ballpark, owning a .520 career SLG and a .267 career ISO. He gets on base at an elite level (.371 career OBP), and is still somewhat young at 26. He’s under team control through 2023.
The rules for our Infield candidates are a little less stringent than our rules for finding good Outfield candidates. This is a good thing, because finding a clear upgrade at Shortstop over the duo of Peraza and Iglesias is a lot harder than finding an Outfielder to fill an essentially empty position starting next season. Let’s take a look at a few options:
Eduardo Escobar, Diamondbacks
Escobar will definitely be the oldest player on this list, but he’s also by far the easiest target for the Reds to acquire. While Shortstop is no longer his primary position, he started 20 games at SS for the Twins in ‘18 and committed only one error, so he’s still capable. The Reds wouldn’t get Escobar for the glove, though. Since 2017, Escobar has hit for a more than respectable 112 wRC+, hitting 61 home runs (including 17 already in ‘19) and 83(!!) doubles.
The biggest issue, again, is the age. Although he’s under contract through 2021, he’ll become a Free Agent at 33, which is definitely older than you want out of your starting Shortstop. But you can’t argue with the hitting, which would only serve to improve at GABP.
Trea Turner, Nationals
The Nationals are, like the Reds, in an interesting middle ground between buyers and sellers. They’re quite a way back in the NL East standings, and have the formidable Braves and the talented Phillies ahead of them. I would never write off the pitching staff in D.C., but if they decide they’d like to be sellers, Turner is a natural option to sell for a haul.
Turner (25) is under team control through 2022, and is still young at 25. He’s been a very solid Major Leaguer since his debut in 2015, sporting a career 112 wRC+, which is absolutely spectacular for a Shortstop. Turner’s calling card is his speed, having stolen 30+ bases in every full season of his career. He’s also got some pop in the bat, and his defense is good enough to start every day. He’s still young enough that his prime is ahead of him, which will likely drive up his price a bit should the Nationals decide they’d like to sell. He’d be a definite upgrade over Peraza, and would slot in nicely at the top of the Reds lineup.
Francisco Lindor, Indians
Let’s dream for a minute. We all know Lindor is one of (if not the best) Shortstops in the league. The price to obtain him would be astronomical, likely creating more holes in the Reds lineup than his presence would fill. We’re talking names like Senzel, Winker, Trammell, Suarez…and a package lead by some of those guys might not even get it done.
Still, whispers make their way around the internet. The Indians, despite playing some pretty good baseball all season, have been seemingly buried in second place by the surprising Twins. Are they willing to part with Lindor? What would it take to get him? Would it be worth it for the Reds to try?
I’ll just throw out some numbers here. 83 HRs, 123 wRC+, 15.3 fWAR. Those are Lindor’s numbers since 2017 – playing some of the best defense at Shortstop in the league. Also, look at that smile! If you thought Scooter Gennett and Derek Dietrich have charmed Reds fans, imagine Frankie Lindor smacking leadoff HRs at GABP like it’s going out of style. He’s the type of player you lock up for the rest of his career – and, since the Indians haven’t done it yet, maybe the Reds should.
Alright, that’s enough dreaming for one day.
Who do you think the Reds should target at the deadline? Should they even be buying at all? What would it take to pull off some of these trades? Sound off below!