Predicting in-Season Trades the Cincinnati Reds Will Need to Make

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2013

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  Jeff Niemann #34 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during the Spring Training game against Pittsburgh Pirates on February 23, 2013 in Port Charlotte, Florida. The Pirates defeated the Rays 3-2.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds have one of the most complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball. 

The Reds return largely the same team that won the National League Central division last season. 

On top of that already-talented roster, the Reds were able to trade Drew Stubbs to Cleveland in exchange for a superb leadoff hitter in Shin-Soo Choo

The Reds now have very few weaknesses this season. The outfield is deep and there's decent depth in the minors as far as the bullpen and both middle and corner infielders are concerned.

However, with Aroldis Chapman officially set as the team's closer, the Reds have a distinct lack of major league-ready pitching depth.

The Reds had five pitchers make 161 of 162 starts in 2012 and the odds of that happening again in 2013 are astronomically high.

While many fans would point to the minor leagues, where the Reds have three of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects waiting for their shots with the big league team, it's unclear as to whether any of the three are ready to assume full-time starting duties at the big league level.

If that is in fact the case, the Reds may look to trade for a starting pitcher.

If the Reds take this route, there are a few options for players who can fill out the back end of the rotation. 

 

Jeff Niemann

With all the young talent flowing through the Rays' pitching staff, Jeff Niemann has become expendable. 

The Reds and Rays were linked frequently last season in trade rumors that had James Shields coming to Cincinnati. However, this season could be the one in which the Reds and Rays strike a deal.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Niemann will be pitching out of the bullpen to start the season, and the Rays may look to move him in favor of cheap, younger talent.

Don't be fooled by the fact that Niemann didn't make the Rays' rotation; the 30-year-old righty is still a very serviceable starter.

Over the course of his five-year career, Niemann has made 92 starts to the tune of a 4.06 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP. Niemann also contributes solid ratios as a starter including 6.7 K/9, 8.6 H/9, 2.93 BB/9 and 2.28 K/BB (per Baseball-Reference.com).

Niemann does have a tendency to give up the long ball (1.1 HR/9). However, he allowed 1.10 GB/FB last season and has averaged 1.22 and 1.32 GO/AO over each of the last two seasons.

Niemann pitched well this spring, allowing a 2.92 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 24.2 innings pitched. 

It wouldn't take a lot to pry Niemann, and a package including Neftali Soto and a mid- to low-level prospect could be enough to bring Niemann to Cincinnati.

 

Ricky Romero

The Reds do not currently have a left-handed starter.

The Toronto Blue Jays recently demoted 28-year-old lefty Ricky Romero to Single-A and he could become available in the near future.

Romero had a dismal season in 2012, posting a 5.77 ERA with a 1.67 WHIP and 6.2 K/9, 5.2 BB/9, 9.8 H/9 and 1.18 K/BB. All of those figures represented career worsts for the young left-hander.

Though 2012 was an utter disaster, it was just two seasons ago when Romero appeared to be the ace-in-waiting for the Blue Jays.

In 2011, Romero made 32 starts with a 15-11 record, a 2.92 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and ratios of 7.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 7.0 H/9 and 2.23 K/BB.

Romero is clearly unhappy with his current situation, as evidenced by his recent statements on the demotion (per CBSSports.com).

Obviously I was disappointed, in no way, shape or form do I want to be here, and I don't have to agree with the decisions they make. But at the same time, you've got to do what you've got to do, you've got to maintain that attitude of got to keep working, because the goal is to go up there and help the team win. A lot of the stuff I did this whole spring I felt like got blown out of proportion, I couldn't even look to my right or look to my left because it was getting written about, or talked about. I feel like it's disappointing, this is not where you want to be.

A change of scenery may be just what Romero needs, and Cincinnati could be a great landing spot in the event of an injury in the rotation.

Romero could be acquired in exchange for prospects Dan Langfield (RHP), Ryan Wright/Henry Rodriguez (2B) and another mid-level prospect.

 

Chris Capuano/Chad Billingsley

The Los Angeles Dodgers' starting rotation is filled with talent.

Offseason acquisitions Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke will accompany Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett in the starting rotation, leaving one spot up for grabs.

Currently, Chris Capuano is occupying the fifth spot in the Dodgers' rotation, but that could change when Chad Billingsley returns from a finger contusion which landed him on the 15-day DL (per Baseballprospectus.com).

Capuano would be the best-case trade scenario, as he is left-handed and, aside from his 2014 mutual option, is a free agent following the 2013 season.

Billingsley, on the other hand, is under contract through the 2014 season with a mutual option for the 2015 season.

The price is steep for Billingsley and he's slated to earn $11 million and $12 million, respectively, over the next two seasons. Even Billingsley's buyout in 2014 comes with a hefty $3 million price tag (per Baseballprospectus.com).

Age favors Billingsley, who is only 28 years old, while Capuano is entering the latter stages of his career, having celebrated his 34th birthday late last season.

Here's how their past three seasons stack up against each other.

Player Name GS IP ERA ERA+ WHIP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9 K/BB
Chad Billingsley 88 529.1 3.79 100 1.34 7.7 3.4 8.7 0.6 2.88
Chris Capuano 73 450.1 4.10 92 1.29 7.7 2.6 9.0 1.2 3.00

 

 

 

To a an extent, the numbers favor Billingsley, as he bests Capuano in ERA, ERA+, H/9 and HR/9.

It seems clear from basic comparison that Billingsley would be the more attractive trade target. However, given the Reds' financial track record, that is not the case. 

The Reds are freeing up a lot of money when Bronson Arroyo's contract comes off the books this offseason, and adding Billingsley's sizable contract would negate that completely.

If the Reds go looking for a starter, look for the team to approach the Dodgers on the availability of Billingsley and Capuano.

Capuano could be acquired in exchange for middle infield prospects like Henry Rodriguez or Ryan Wright and a mid- to low-level prospect.

Billingsley will cost more and would require Rodriguez/Wright, a higher-level pitching prospect like Daniel Corcino and a mid- to low-level prospect.

 

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Trade suggestions or comments on my choices? Chime in through the comment box below.