To kick off 2020 former General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals Jim Bowden wrote an article at The Athletic with one bold prediction for each month of the year. It didn’t take long for him to invoke the Reds in one of his predictions. For his February prediction he goes with the Cleveland Indians trading Francisco Lindor to Cincinnati for Nick Senzel, Jonathan India, Tyler Mahle, and a player to be named later.
That’s certainly a heck of a trade. Francisco Lindor is arguably the best shortstop in baseball. He’s under team control for two more seasons, and will probably make about $40,000,000 over those two seasons. In 2020 MLB Trade Rumors projected his salary in arbitration to be $16,700,000. Lindor is a superstar and he would change the lineup for the Reds.
As far as what Cincinnati would be sending to Cleveland, that’s a whole lot of talent – both now and perceived. Nick Senzel and Tyler Mahle are both Major Leaguers. Senzel is less than a year removed from being a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball. Through July he was hitting .285/.346/.475. But he struggled in August before his shoulder became too much of a hindrance and ultimately led to season ending surgery. He’s expected to be ready at the start of spring training.
Tyler Mahle has spent parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues. He’s shown fairly big first half and second half splits for his career. In the first half his ERA is 4.24 with a 2.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In the second half his ERA jumps to 6.72 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio declines to 1.9. Figuring out the issue that’s leading to the second half slumps could go a long way towards Mahle taking the step forward from being a #4/5 starter to a reliable mid-rotation starter.
And then there’s Jonathan India. He was the #5 overall pick in the 2018 draft and has already reached Double-A. Depending on where you look, he’s rated as highly as the #2 prospect in the organization (Baseball America). During the 2019 season he hit .256/.346/.410 in Advanced-A Daytona in the first half – good for a 125 OPS+ in the very pitcher friendly league. When he moved up to Double-A in the second half his power dropped off, but his plate discipline improved as his walk rate jumped up 50% and his strikeout rate dropped off, too. He hit .270/.414/.378 with Chattanooga – good for a 137 OPS+.
The big problem with Jonathan India and the Cincinnati Reds is simple: Where does he fit? In his career, India has played third base, second base, and a limited amount of shortstop. But shortstop isn’t in his future. With Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suarez locked in for at least the next four seasons it’s tough to see exactly where the organization can play India unless they move him to the outfield – which if you’ve been paying attention (and we know you have) isn’t exactly open either.
You can make the argument both ways on this deal. It’s hard to say that Francisco Lindor wouldn’t make the Reds better in 2020 and 2021 – he’s one of the best players in baseball. He’s a difference maker. But the flip side is that you are giving up a lot of talent going the other way, and you are giving up some future years – at least in theory – for 2020 and 2021. It’s too rich for my blood, but your mileage may vary and that’s perfectly fine.
P.S. Take a look at the prediction for September.
The Reds sign infielder Matt Davidson
On Thursday afternoon the Cincinnati Reds signed infielder Matt Davidson to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He hit 33 home runs in Triple-A last season with the Texas Rangers organization, and has spent several seasons in the Major Leagues in previous years. Oh, and he’s pitched a little bit, too. Over at RedsMinorLeagues.com we took a bit of a deeper dive into the deal and how he could possibly help out the Reds in 2020.