The Cincinnati Reds have acquired infielder, and 2022 American League All-Star Santiago Espinal from the Toronto Blue Jays. Cincinnati is sending right-handed pitcher Chris McElvain to Toronto in return.

The 29-year-old joins the Reds on a day in which they got a whole lot of bad news about infielders in the organization. Matt McLain is going to miss the start of the season and may need shoulder surgery. Edwin Arroyo, the 3rd rated prospect in the farm system, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery earlier today, too – cutting down once again on the infield depth that the team seemed to have an abundance of just three weeks ago.

Back in 2022, Santiago Espinal made the American League All-Star team and hit .267/.322/.370. He was coming off of a good showing in 2021 when he hit .311/.376/.405 in 92 games for the Blue Jays. Things went backwards in 2023 as he managed to hit just .248 with a .310 on-base percentage, and saw his power drop off some as he slugged just .335 with two home runs in 93 games.

Espinal has played second base, third base, and shortstop in his four big league seasons – all with Toronto. Injuries and the suspension of Noelvi Marte left the club with no one on the 40-man roster capable of being a true back up option at shortstop for Elly De La Cruz. The Reds, likely after hearing the news on the shoulder of Matt McLain, started making phone calls to see who was available. As someone with experience all around the infield, Espinal makes plenty of sense for the club who now can have him back up several spots around the infield if needed.

Adding Santiago Espinal to the 40-man roster puts the club at 41 players. That number, however, includes Noelvi Marte, who doesn’t count towards the roster while suspended.

You can see his career stats here.

Cincinnati is sending minor league pitcher Chris McElvain to Toronto to complete this trade. He was the club’s 8th round draft pick in 2022 out of Vanderbilt. The 23-year-old posted a 3.75 ERA last season while splitting his season between Single-A Daytona and High-A Dayton. He walked 41 batters and had 87 strikeouts in his 96.0 innings pitched. McElvain was not rated among the Reds top 25 or 30 prospects by any of the reputable outlets.

You can see his career stats here.

84 Responses

  1. Oldtimer

    Good trade. Reds have a history of late spring trade acquisitions. Brandon Phillips for one. Sean Casey (I think) for another.

    • DaveCT

      Will Benson, April 12, 2023, as well, though not yet in the same tier.

      • MK

        Think they actually acquired Benson in February but was completed during Spring Training when the lhp Hajjar completed the deal as the Olayer to be Named Later.

    • Melvin

      Didn’t we trade our opening day starter for Casey that year or am I not thinking correctly?

      • Melvin

        That was hilarious at the time since we had no pitching to begin with. The Jim Bowden philosophy.

      • MK

        Saw David that day when he stopped at his parent’s home in Springfield to tell them the news. He was obviously very up set.

    • Mark S

      Sean Casey was for our “to be” opening day starter, Dave Burba. A March 30th trade. He went with 45-25 over the next three years with Cleveland.

    • RedBB

      Ya…hard not to like this trade. Sucks with McClain going down but to give up basically nothing for a former All-Star with several years of control left. Surprised the Blue Jays couldn’t get more for him. Plus he’s a plus middle infield glove. Win…

  2. VaRedsFan

    Top prospect and standout shortstop Edwin Arroyo had a season ending labrum surgery on Wednesday. The Reds have high hopes for his future in the big leagues, but things could be a bit delayed following the unfortunate news. this might delay his debut for at least another year or two.

    • Erik the Red

      Agree he could be delayed for 2 or 3 years now. These shoulder surgeries seem to take another year after starting back on the field to get back to normal.

      • MBS

        That’s obviously very bad, but he is also very young. If he makes the big leagues in 2, or 3 years he’ll be 22, or 23.

  3. DaveCT

    The second savvy move by Krall in a week. Justice Wilson was the other.

    Espinal may start a bunch at 2B.

    • JayTheRed

      Completely agree. 2nd great move like you said. Not sure if Krall gets all the credit for this move. I find it interesting our current GM gets credit for nothing online on this page or other Reds sites.

  4. DaveCT

    Silver lining: Left shoulder.

    But don’t tell Edwin that. Such a bummer.

    • Tom Diesman

      That was the first thing I checked when I heard about this as well. In the same vein, C. Trent Rosecrans noted this on the Athletic:

      “Though Arroyo throws right-handed at shortstop, he is ambidextrous and pitched left-handed in high school, hitting 90 mph off the mound as a lefty.”

      That’s just crazy talented there.

      • DaveCT

        The second thing is labrum vs. rotator cuff.

  5. MBS

    Espinal seems like the exact type of player we needed following the McLain news. He’s someone who can give us back some depth, and flexibility, and I don’t mind hearing that he was an Allstar 2 season ago.

    Let’s hope for a speedy return for McLain, but a guy like Espinal has a role on this roster even once McLain, Marte, and Friedl return.

    Good job Nick

  6. Jedi Joey

    The extensive injury news tells me that the black cloud has moved fully from Paycor Stadium to it’s normal position over Great American Ballpark in time for baseball season. Sickening! I do like this trade though. Hope he can last more than a couple of weeks.

  7. LDS

    Not much power, doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, but has a .273 career average. More importantly, he young enough to have some unrealized upside. Won’t get the Reds to the World Series, but should help keep them from falling through the floor. Solid move by Krall. Now find a CF’er that better than the inhouse options.

    • 2020ball

      In house options for a starter or a stopgap? Theres plenty for the latter, who you think is available as a starter is gonna be a pretty limited list. Benson fraley, and stu can cover the spot just fine for a month.

      • LDS

        Not going to be a short time. Friedl by Memorial Day will be lucky. Maybe 5-6 weeks for the bone to knit, a couple of weeks rehab and then a short Louisville stint. And that’s if things still look uncomplicated when he’s reevaluated in a month.

      • DaveCT

        LDS, would it be cool or what if Espinal has an all-star first half?

      • LDS

        @DaveCT, I’m at the point that any Reds player having an All-Star 1st half would be cool.

    • Jason Franklin

      I think Dunn would be a great inhouse move and probably better then most of the guys Krall could/would trade for. Or Hurtibise. Either. I wonder when Sal Stewart makes the team? If McLain is out for a long time, could he make it this year? He has a great eye. Walks a lot. Would be the oddball on this team.

      • Jason Franklin

        I just noticed he is still so young. That dude has a good future if he keeps it up. Maybe if he were 22-23 then the Reds would call him up. They prefer to let them be groomed for a bit.

      • Pete

        Jason, I’m curious did you have an opportunity to watch a lot of the Reds minor-league games last season? The reason I ask is you and I seem to be the highest on Blake Dunn. Fortunately I was able to watch nearly all games that he played last season. I’m wondering if it takes seeing him everyday to realize the great potential that he has. I pray that he takes off to begin the season in AAA and they have to bring him up in short order. This offense is going to need his bat and they will his glove in centerfield.

        At the beginning of the year, I thought the Reds had the potential to win 95 games. I’ve adjusted that to 82 at this point maybe 81. But the stock is dropping. The pitching will have to pick up a lot of slack at least until star break.

    • JayTheRed

      Very little power over his entire career but watching him the past 3 years. This guy can be very clutch and has good on base skills. Patient hitter does not strike out too often.

  8. RedsGettingBetter

    Espinal could considered as José Iglesias kind of player, He brings good defense and could do some damage offensively especially singles, walks and frequent contact with not much pop…

    • TR

      I prefer players who get on base, which usually bothers the opposing pitcher, rather than those who swing for the fences and rack up a lot of strikeouts.

      • JayTheRed

        Espinol is that type of player. He is fun to watch, and his glove is very solid.

  9. DataDumpster

    As a lot of use wondered why Nick Krall was acquiring infielders to some (apparent) excess while laying short on some obvious SP and other more immediate needs, maybe the “we know things” mantra subtly hints at the analytics being done on the Red’s player’s medical charts in real time! Is it possible they have access to this data and can do deep dives on who is most likely to get injured, etc., etc. We are not measured this way because of various laws but maybe it works differently in this business. One way or another, “The Bull” has anticipated a lot of unknowns (to us) and has been prepared to deal when an analytic yellow flag has surfaced.
    I suppose this is a big complement for Nick but I don’t know what’s really going on. The result though is that he is setting up David Bell to succeed whether he can seize the opportunity or not.

    • VaRedsFan

      So you’re saying they can’t get infield depth AND SP’s?
      It shouldn’t be an either/or situation.

    • Hotto4Votto

      To be fair, of all the AAA infielders that were signed, (Mathias, Gonzalez, Harrison, Kemp) none were thought of well enough to actually serve as depth to start the season and the Reds desperately needed depth. So if they “knew things” regarding injuries why didn’t they sign depth they would actually use other than keeping the bench in Louisville warm? Why cut Barrero unceremoniously if they anticipated the unknowns accurately?

      • Jimbo44CN

        Checked the box from last nights game with Texas. Barrero, 0 for 3, 2Ks, BA 125. Sorry but the dude just cannot hit. Don’t need him, and I say that with sadness as I had such high hopes for him.

      • Justin T

        Because they didnt. Im not sure ive ever seen anything from Mr Krall that shows him anticipating anything. Telling Harrison he wont make the team weeks before they needed to and the timing of Barreros release reflect that.

      • greenmtred

        Krall stocking the team with extra infielders and pitchers could certainly indicate that was was anticipating injuries.

    • AllTheHype

      “Laying short on some obvious SP”?

      We have 7 ML quality starters (and an 8th that is mostly ready – Phillips) and only need 5.

    • greenmtred

      Those would be impressive charts if they could anticipate the likelihood of getting injured by diving for a ball.

  10. Matt McWax

    While I feel good about all the depth in the organization, this string of bad news has made me really lower expectations for the season. It’s not really a question of the Reds having talent, it’s a question of them having enough talent to compete with the most talented teams. If guys like Hunter Greene, CES, and EDLC really step up, it could happen but having your two most valuable hitters from last year with injuries and two top prospects being out of the mix really adds pressure.

    • AllTheHype

      Injuries happen and the pitching is mostly intact. McLain and Marte will be back. I don’t see a reason for pessimism.

      • JayTheRed

        If McLain needs surgery, we won’t see him this season.

      • greenmtred

        Pessimism is lurking just outside my door, ATH. Friedl, McLain and Marte won’t be back until the season is well underway, and they were all expected to be key contributors. So their absence transfers a good deal of pressure to a smaller number of players, most of whom are young and relatively untested at the MLB levels. There is something to be said for provisionally lowered expectations. My attention will be divided for awhile: after my UVM Catamounts beat Duke tomorrow, I’ll be raptly following their march to the Final Four.

  11. Jeremiah

    I agree Matt McWax…I feel like air is being slowly taken out of the balloon with all these injuries, even prospect Arroyo out for the year. I wonder a bit if the super aggressive approach of the Reds is leading to some injuries too. They want to be known as a tough, speedy, aggressive running, diving team…I love that approach, but maybe it’s over the top a bit.

    Just really a bummer though. I think it puts a lot more pressure on De La Cruz to be pretty good too. I’m not sold on De La Cruz yet being a solid MLB hitter.

    There’s a chance this team could actually not be very good if things kind of snow ball and be a 73 type of win team. I think the Twins a few years back after a really good year were terrible the next year.

    All that being said…I like this Espinal trade. Krall is trying to which I give him credit. They’ve still got a lot of exciting pieces on this team. The pitching to me really comes into the spotlight more so now, maybe they can carry the Reds a bit, that would be nice to see.

    • Jimbo44CN

      Yeah, let’s have a team full of Manny Machado’s, ( ” I’m not Johnny Hustle”). No, no thanks, you play like you practice, and unless it’s shagging flies on an off day, you go after it like it’s game time, and they should.

      • Jeremiah James Grissom

        I want the guys hustling rather than not hustling, but I think not getting injured often is an underrated athletic trait people don’t talk about as much. Part of the greatness of the all-timers such as Tom Brady for instance is having that intuition when to make a slight movement hear or there to avoid injury.

      • greenmtred

        Brady was a phenomenon, no doubt. Different sports confer different risks, though. Anytime an outfielder chases down a liner at nearly full speed and dives to catch it, he’s risking injury. I’ll share a thought I had after reading comments about not diving for balls (or, presumably, crashing into walls) in meaningless spring games: you could make a good case that outfielders shouldn’t do this in any game: Losing Friedl for weeks and weeks very likely harms the Reds’ chances more than having him cut it off and not dive for it would, even in a game that matters. I’m not at all certain how I feel about that: baseball played all-out is magnificent to watch.

  12. Reaganspad

    Sorry but Barrero would have fit perfectly here had we not waived him in the first week of spring training. I try to not be too critical of management but that move was truly a tooblan by management.

    • Redsvol

      I totally agree here. Reds tries to get cute by putting barerro thru waivers early – thinking no one would be watching waiver wire this early in spring. It almost worked too ( WS champs claimed him).

      I hope Krall learned a valuable lesson there – don’t let depth go until the last able minute.

      and what’s with all the diving injuries? This is 3 players now hurt while diving – arroyo, McLain, and Frield.

      We’ve lost a lot of our athleticism and ability to steal bases with these- plus marte- losses. The pitching is going to have to be better than it has looked this far, or it’s going to be another long season.

    • AllTheHype

      Barrero -2.7 WAR in MLs vs Espinal 5.4 WAR.

      Barrero has done nothing to prove he would ever be more than a prospect, including winter ball this year, and Spring Training. He just doesn’t have a bat in MLs, nor power. Let some other team try to get that out of him.

      • Jimbo44CN

        If there was a thumbs up icon avaliable, I’d give you one.

      • MBS

        @All, yes exactly. Barrero was a project at best, not a solution.

      • Mauired

        Hype it’s interesting how you compare Barrero’s career stats but then leave out the fact Espinal has nearly 1000 MLB abs. Exactly what many people have expressed Barrero should have before given up on as a bust.

      • AllTheHype

        @Maui, if you want to go by Espinal’s first 447 PAs in MLB by all means, let’s compare apples to apples.

        Espinal first 447 PAs in MLB: 3.3 WAR
        Barrero in same: (negative) 2.7 WAR

        Again, if Barrero had shown any sort of indcation that he might be progressing in MLB, or figuring it out. Any sort of hit tool, or power tool at all, maybe he warrants a longer look. But he didn’t, and folks that want him to get 1000 PAs are just beating a dead horse.

    • greenmtred

      Barrero would fit perfectly had he demonstrated an ability to hit MLB pitching. He might learn elsewhere, but he would be a project, and the Reds–prior to the recent injuries–are in win now mode and may still be, albeit with a certain amount of anxiety. They don’t need a project on the MLB roster and Barrero is out of options. I wish him well.

    • JayTheRed

      Sorry I would take Espinol over Barrero every day of the week. Some reds fans need to except he Barrero is gone, and he isn’t coming back. The only area I see Barrero being better at is defense.

  13. Marion’s FInest

    Reaganspad nailed this one. Why did Barrero occupy a 40 man roster spot all winter just to be given away. If this is truly a business; then bad business management. We spent all this time on Barrero and Senzel then just gave them away. I also thought we still had a few more days before we had to act on Kemp and Harrison. We will not be over 500 this season and David Bell will play these injuries 100 as an excuse. He is not a good manager. He manages too much like a computer Too many platoons and plays Middle Aged mediocre veterans too
    Much. Amazing how he continues as manager while Jack McKeon and Dusty Baker were held to a hired standard

  14. Oldtimer

    1B CES 2B India SS ELDC 3B Candelario C Stephenson/Maile DH Ford INF Espinal OF Steer Benson Fairchild Fraley Martini is a pretty decent group of 13 position players.

    Friedl back in June. McLain (if surgery) back in July. Marte back in July.

    • Melvin

      First time I’ve heard McLain back in July. Hope that’s true if he has surgery.

      • Redsvol

        No one knows because it depends on the type he will have.

        Regardless, any shoulder surgery is usually major. And even if he does come back in 3 months he won’t be same until an off season. Real bummer.

    • AllTheHype

      Yup Oldtimer, and pitching mostly intact and ready to go. Nothing to be overly concerned about. It will be like getting McLain and Marte at the trade deadline.

      Time to play ball.

      • Mauired

        Reds just lost 3 of their biggest bats for half the season (maybe more for McLain) in a week. Nothing to be concerned about? When the offense is sputtering and on the bottom of run production in the NL central you might be concerned. Friedl and McClain were a devastating one two punch at the top of the order. Now we have Espinal and Fairchild instead in the lineup? I’m concerned.

      • AllTheHype

        Teams don’t go injury free. They have to use their depth. Last year, Elly, CES, Marte spent DL times early in the season. They weren’t contributors to ML team at that point in their careers yet, but just saying. It happens.

        Reds lost major time from all the starters throughout the year, Greene, Ashcraft, Lodolo. They still won games. Now the starters are mostly healthy.

        So no, not overly concerned because injuries happen for all teams and this is why the FO acquired depth. Reds must adapt and have the depth guys step up.

      • BK

        @Maui, I understand and share your concern. However, this is why the depth acquired over the offseason was critical. The Reds have seven legit starters for the eight non-catcher positions. Espinal and Fairchild will not often be in the lineup–both are legit MLB role players. The Reds are not as well off as they were three weeks ago, but the team still has more available talent than the one that finished last season.

      • Oldtimer

        MauiRed, lineup more like this:

        2B India
        SS ELDC
        LF Steer
        1B CES
        C Stephenson
        3B Candelario
        CF Fairchild
        DH Fraley
        RF Benson

    • JayTheRed

      There is no way McClain will be back in July. That is not possible if he has surgery.

      • Harry Stoner

        Also depends on the July.

        I recall the RLN medical staff downplaying Stephenson’s surgery with highly optimistic (and dead certain) predictions of his return.

  15. Still a Red

    Hopefully the Reds can stay in the mix within the division until some of these injuries heal. Not sure which other Central teams could start strong…hopefully not the Cardinals. Maybe Counsel’s Cubs. But none seems like they can run away with it for the full season.

  16. Dan

    The trouble is that these are not the only injuries we’re going to have. By the time the currently injured guys are coming back, there will be 5 or 10 or 15 more guys banged up and/or on the IL. That’s my rational statement.

    And from my gut… I’ll say that the mojo on this team just feels SO bad right now. And I don’t mean the vibe between players. I mean I don’t remember a torrent of injuries like this before, to KEY players – and not even pitchers, mostly! – within like a week or two. It’s nuts! And it’s only the very beginning of spring!

    • Jeremiah

      Good point, there’s bound to be more injuries. I’m also not sure the chemistry of this club how they’ll respond to these obstacles, the mental toughness per se. I do think the core of this team could still be good, but maybe really relying on the veterans such as in Candelario, Fraley, India, Steer (sort of a veteran ha)…but I worry about the mental mindset of this team, and Bell’s team’s have collapsed majorly at times in 2021 and last year. I think the talent is still there to eke out a Division title, but it remains to be seen on the intangibles I think.

      Just on the talent level though, I worry this team is going to struggle getting on base. Frield, Mcclain and Marte I think were our top 3 OBP guys.

      It does open opportunities and maybe more clarity on who plays where which could be a good thing for guys like India, CES, Benson I think. So maybe that will some of those guys be more comfortable knowing they are going to play a lot, not sharing the load necessarily, especially India now I would think he’s about an everyday guy again.

  17. old-school

    Former promising Reds right hander Dauri Moreto underwent TJ surgery and is out 14-16 months. He was the guy the Reds traded for RLN fan favorite Kevin Newman. Injuries are everywhere.

    • old-school

      SoRrY, thats “rLn FAn FaVOriTE, KeViN nEWmAn”

    • greenmtred

      Under these trying circumstances the Reds should attempt, without fail, to get Newman back. I’m sure that you agree, Old-School. The groundswell of demanding opinion starts here and now!

      • old-school

        Ill let LDS handle that one, GMR, lol.

      • Jeremiah

        Hey I’d take Newman! I think when the Reds had that 12 games winning streak he had some good games, I’ve got good memories of him.

  18. JayTheRed

    Going to tell you as a Big Blue Jays fan this trade was really good for the Reds. There have been so many times with Toronto this guy has filled in and filled in well. He won’t give you homerun pop very often, but low strikeout numbers and good solid contact hitter. Last year he was still pretty good. But the two years prior he did a great job for Toronto. The Reds basically gave up very little to get a guy who can play all over the infield and with all the injuries, Reds needed this. He will be with the team for at least 3 seasons unless traded away. So many games I watched this guy drive in runs with his solid hitting for average and on base.

    Love the pickup.
    Go Reds.

    • AllTheHype

      Thanks for the synopsis, frankly I am surprised the Reds got him so cheaply in trade. He’s better than any utility types the Reds have signed in recent years.

      Like the moves Krall has been making for a couple years now.

  19. Matt McWax

    A good move by Krall here. While I don’t expect any offensive surprises from him based on his consistent batted ball numbers, he might fare slightly better in the NL and then provide legit defense. A healthy Arroyo would probably be better right now but in the circumstances, this is a solid short term pickup.

  20. LWBlogger

    This appears to be a very solid trade and one that was needed considering the injuries to the Reds infielders. Unfortunately, I think it means that it is more likely than not, McLain will need surgery. That is a very, very bad thing for the Reds as some players take over a season to get past shoulder surgery, depending on what exactly is needed.