By: Chris Larson
The Hot Stove has sure become hotter over the last few days, as teams compete some unfinished business, before the highly anticipated holiday break that should commence over the next five days-to-a week. Yesterday, not only were there rumors that Manny Machado could be close to signing with a new team, there were also three trades completed, one of which was a massive blockbuster trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds.
The trade between the Dodgers and Reds sent OF Yasiel Puig, SP Alex Wood, OF Matt Kemp, C/3B Kyle Farmer, along with $7 million dollars, to Cincinnati in exchange of SP Homer Bailey, 2B/SS Jeter Downs, and RHP Josiah Gray. Leading up to yesterday, the Dodgers and Reds had both been in contact on numerous different occasions trying to set up various scenarios and those talks continued during the Winter Meetings all the way up until yesterday, when the deal was officially announced.
For the Dodgers, they have now cleared a lot of payroll space and really put themselves in a position to go down a number of different potential avenues. Los Angeles could ultimately elect to jump into the Bryce Harper sweepstakes because they now have the payroll space, as well as room in the outfield, for a bat like Harper and he would be the perfect compliment to their lineup. All winter long there has been speculation that Harper could land in Dodger blue and those chances just went up exponentially over the last 18 hours.
The one cautionary thing about the potential of signing Bryce Harper is the fact that the Dodgers seem set on staying away from a long-term deal and one that is going to hamstring their payroll moving forward. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted out yesterday afternoon, the ideal situation would be for the Dodgers to ink Harper to a deal that spans 4 or 5 years and includes a larger Annual Average Value (AAV). Essentially, that could pose a serious problem as Harper has made it known that he wants to cash it in this winter and come away with a huge payday.
In addition, the offers that Harper receives from other potential landing spots, such as with the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, or Chicago Cubs, could exceed the monetary value that the Dodgers are willing to pay. Los Angeles is a pretty easy location to sell (close to the beach, ideal location with plenty of restaurants and shopping, etc.), but it comes down to money at the end of the day and that could force Harper to sign elsewhere.
Furthermore, there have been rumblings all winter long about the Dodgers aggressively going after catcher, J.T. Realmuto of the Miami Marlins, and starting pitchers, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians. Ideally, the Dodgers could afford to upgrade at both spots of their roster and they still possess a good enough farm system to do just that. While the exact asking price or what prospects have been talked about hasn't necessarily been reported, there have been a couple of reports about what the Marlins and Indians might be looking for in a return.
For Realmuto, there were reports that Miami inquired about first baseman/outfielder, Cody Bellinger, to which the Dodgers quickly hung up the phone and said no to. On the other hand, Corey Kluber has been connected to the Dodgers more so than Trevor Bauer and in talks about Kluber, the Indians had been looking at a package of Alex Verdugo, Yasiel Puig, Dustin May, and potentially another major/minor league piece or two. Now that Puig is off the table, it remains to be seen if the Cleveland Indians are still interested in making a deal with the Dodgers for Kluber, but it would not be surprising to see Cleveland shed more payroll and trade one of Kliuber or Bauer, prior to Opening Day 2019.
Switching over to the Cincinnati Reds now, this trade was one that sort of looked complicated on the surface, but made a bit more sense when you start to dig into the reasoning behind it. Realistically, the Reds are still probably two years away from being a true contender, amid an increasingly competitive National League Central division, but have done enough to their roster where they could be more competitive than originally thought. While it still probably doesn't mean a trip to October this coming season for Cincinnati, it's good to see the Reds being serious about making upgrades to their current 25-man roster, following four consecutive seasons of finishing in the cellar of the NL Central.
Essentially, in making this trade, the Reds added more money to their payroll, brought on three players who are in their walk years, and gave up prospects from their farm system, who could have been building blocks for the future. That doesn't make a lot of sense for a team that is expected to finish in the bottom half of the NL Central, but it could become interesting following the 2019 regular season. When that time rolls around, the Reds could elect to give all three (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood) qualifying offers and if each of those three players decline their offers, then Cincinnati would receive compensation draft picks in return.
If that ends up happening, then the Reds could have multiple picks in the 2020 draft, which would further supplement their farm system and potentially make up for the loss of prospects, Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, who they gave up in this trade. Both Downs and Gray have been highly talked about in the scouting world and many scouts believe that both possess very high ceilings. However, the Reds might have had a different evaluation of both prospects internally, which could have been why they were made available in the right trade.
One interesting aspect of this trade is that Turner Ward, who was the former hitting coach for the Dodgers, is now the hitting coach for the Cincinnati Reds. Ward knows Yasiel Puig extremely well and is very familiar with Matt Kemp which gives Cincinnati an advantage. Over the past few seasons, the Reds have done very well offensively and by adding Puig and Kemp into the mix, their lineup just got that much deeper and stronger.
Furthermore, Cincinnati added Alex Wood to it's starting rotation, which has been a need for the Reds over the last couple of seasons. The Reds have struggled for a while with getting quality innings out of their starting rotation and by adding a few veterans to the mix in, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood, Cincinnati has now put themselves in a better position to hopefully receive better results from their starting rotation. Also, it's important to note that Reds President of Baseball Operations, Dick Williams, noted yesterday afternoon that this wouldn't be the only upgrades that Cincinnati would make before the offseason concluded. The team is still on the lookout for ways to make their team better, which would presumably, include continuing to cast a wide net for starting pitching help.
In the end, this blockbuster trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds was one that has been in the works for weeks now and helps to meet the needs of both teams. Now, we all just have to wait and see where Bryce Harper ends up signing, something that has become much more realistic for the Dodgers now.