The Cincinnati Reds made a few moves at the 2020 trade deadline. They picked up some help in the bullpen and they picked up some depth in the outfield. For the bullpen the team went out and picked up reliever Archie Bradley. The 27-year-old had the 2020 and 2021 season remaining when it comes to team control, and had a career 3.01 ERA as a reliever 227.0 innings. He was quite good for Arizona’s bullpen over the past few seasons and even picked up 28 saves along the way – with most of them, 18, coming in the 2019 season.
After arriving in Cincinnati, Archie Bradley did all that was asked of him. He wasn’t asked to take the mound much, though, for some reason. The Reds had 25 games remaining on the schedule when Bradley was acquired and he pitched in just six games. He was successful in those games, allowing just one earned run and no inherited runners to score. The one run that he did allow came in a 7-3 win.
His pro-rated salary was just $632,716 for Cincinnati. The Reds also traded away two players to acquire him. Cincinnati’s #8 prospect, outfielder Stuart Fairchild, and big league utility man Josh VanMeter headed to Arizona in the deal. Fairchild has never been in the Major Leagues and has six seasons of team control remaining once he does get there. VanMeter has at least five seasons remaining of team control.
The other trade deadline move that the Reds made was to acquire outfielder Brian Goodwin. He was having a good season with Los Angeles. The 29-year-old was hitting .242/.330/.463 for the Angels in 30 games – good for a 116 OPS+ at the time. With Nick Senzel on the injured list for an unknown amount of time, Cincinnati wanted to add some depth to their roster in the outfield and traded left-handed pitching prospects Packy Naughton and Jose Salvador (he was originally a player to be named later, and was named as said player two days later) to the Angels to acquire him.
Much like Archie Bradley, he was not an impending free agent. Goodwin, according to Baseball Reference, would have been under team control through the 2022 season. The production, unlike that from Bradley, wasn’t great for the outfielder. Goodwin, who had been a league average hitter for the course of his career, hit just .163/.236/.327 with the Reds in the 20 games in which he played. His pro-rated salary for Cincinnati was $339,506.
Yesterday, the Cincinnati Reds non-tendered both Archie Bradley and Brian Goodwin. Including the playoff series against Atlanta, Archie Bradley threw 8.0 innings and Brian Goodwin had 57 plate appearances.
The Reds front office traded three prospects, including a Top 10 prospect, and Josh VanMeter to acquire two players, pay them a million dollars to barely play, then release them despite average to better than average career numbers and a year and two years of team control remaining.
What, exactly, changed in the time from August 31st when the Reds made the trade for those two, and December 2nd? The team knew what the financial outlook was on August 31st. And it certainly couldn’t be performance related given that Bradley was actually very good – granted in the small sample size that was – and he still got non-tendered.
If the plan all along was to simply acquire these two guys for one month and then just cut them – why did you give up what you did? Opinions vary, more than you may realize outside of the industry, on prospects. Some people may be a lot more favorable for a player than others, and that’s certainly going to happen among the non-elite level, top 100 caliber prospects. Every player that was traded falls into that category. Stuart Fairchild is a guy that everyone I talked to in the organization over the last year and a half was a big fan of the work he had been doing to improve his game. He had made some changes in his swing and the results showed up in 2019, and people we’re impressed with what they had seen in 2020, too.
That said, a scout that I spoke with yesterday, who was a bit confused as to the non-tender of Bradley specifically, referred to both Fairchild and VanMeter as “fringy guys”, but still felt it was weird to give up that if the plan was to simply cut him at the end of the year. If you believe that either of those guys are more than fringe roster guys, then it’s even more confusing.
With Brian Goodwin’s acquisition – Packy Naughton was rated as the #20 Reds prospect at the midseason point of 2020 by Baseball America. He was just outside of my Top 25. He had success in Double-A during the 2019 season, but Cincinnati didn’t invite the left-handed pitcher to be a part of their alternate roster camp at Prasco Park this summer. A good change up sticks out from his mostly average-ish repertoire, but he’s a lefty that throws strikes, has one above-average pitch, and had found plenty of success in the minors – there was some value there. Jose Salvador is a bit more raw, which makes sense given that he last pitched as a 19-year-old back in 2019. But he’s got a potential plus pitch with his curveball, and there’s potential for him to have an above-average fastball to go with a solid change up, too, if he continues to develop.
Cincinnati didn’t trade away “throw away” prospects in either of these deals. The level of prospect varies among the three, but all of them have plenty to like about what they were bringing to the table. And that doesn’t include Josh VanMeter at all, who if nothing else, seems like a solid option to have off of the bench (Steamer projects him to hit .248/.322/.416 in 2021) . And for that the Reds got 8.0 innings and 57 terrible plate appearances out of it.
When a team plays the “win now” card, they can be expected to give up some of the future for the now. It’s tough to see how that applies here, given that the Reds gave up some of the potential future both in acquisition and by cutting the two players they traded for that they could have retained. The organization didn’t acquire “rental players”. Which brings us back to the question of: What changed?
Yes, President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams left the organization following the season. The Reds didn’t replace him, instead just making General Manager Nick Krall the top baseball person in the organization and basically giving him the role without a new title. Was his plan that much different from that of Williams?
As I noted when recording for the Locked on Reds podcast with Jeff Carr on Wednesday night, it seems that Cincinnati may be attempting to use the “saved money” from the non-tenders to spend in free agency elsewhere. That very well could be the case, but it’s still tough to understand how the Reds wouldn’t have known where the budget would be on August 31st. Where did they miscalculate? Unless, of course, there was no miscalculation and the plan all along was to simply let these guys walk.
It’s tough to put things together when looking back at the last 13 weeks. Making the trades at the time adds up. The cost of acquisition made some sense given that Bradley had another year remaining and Goodwin had two remaining. But now that the team has let them walk away, it’s a struggle to understand and we’re left with a lot of questions and very few answers.