The Cincinnati Reds are in a position to buy at the MLB trade deadline. The July 31 deadline is rapidly approaching, and although the Reds are not in need of any major changes, one name is continuously tossed around by fans looking for a big shake-up.
That player is Miami Marlins outfielder, Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton is a feared hitter capable of putting up gaudy home run and RBI totals. Beyond Stanton's incredible talent, though, is the fact that he's just 23 years old and under team control through 2016.
Hitting fourth in a lineup like the one Cincinnati possesses would set Stanton up to be one of the most valuable players in all of baseball, but is he really a possibility in Cincinnati?
We'll start with how well Stanton actually fits in with the Reds' current roster.
Stanton is a right fielder. In fact, he's played just one game away from the position in his big league career. Therefore, acquiring him would require the Reds to shift him to a new, unfamiliar position.
While there's little doubt in my mind that Stanton could adjust to left field, it is a concern given the outfield depth the Reds already possess. Stanton would have to slot in to left field for the time being, or at least until Ryan Ludwick returns from the DL.
If and when that time does come, the Reds would have to bench Ludwick in favor of Stanton. Although this is an easy decision from a production standpoint, it's a difficult financial bullet to bite.
The Reds have never been the type of team to dole out big contracts to non-essential players, but they did this past offseason when they signed Ludwick to a two-year, $15 million contract ($7.5 million of which is owed to him next season).
Ludwick would be relegated to a bench role for the rest of the 2013 season, creating a grossly overpaid backup outfielder. This now brings us to next season.
Shin-Soo Choo will likely move on to another team, creating a void in center field. Ludwick will still slot in at left field, leaving Stanton and Bruce to fight over center field and right field.
Bruce is the most likely candidate for a position change given his experience in center—205 minor league and 35 major league games at the position. But are the Reds comfortable doing that? Possibly.
The Trade Package
Fitting Stanton into the order isn't really the big issue here. The trickiest part of any deal for the young slugger would be assembling a trade package that could actually bring him to Cincinnati.
The problem for the Reds in this scenario is that they may not have enough high level prospects to nab Stanton.
Consider the Reds' top 10 prospects, their rankings within the system, their positions and their current/future 2-8 overall scouting grades (per cincinnatireds.com).
|1. Billy Hamilton||CF||5||6|
|2. Robert Stephenson||SP||5||6|
|3. Nick Travieso||SP||5||6|
|4. Phil Ervin||RF/CF||4||5|
|5. Jesse Winker||LF||4||5|
|6. Michael Lorenzen||RP/OF||4||5|
|7. Daniel Corcino||SP||5||6|
|8. Ryan Wright||2B||5||5|
|9. Sean Buckley||3B||4||5|
|10. Sal Romano||SP||4||5|
Players with a future grade of six rank above average, while those with a grade of four or five are considered below average and average, respectively.
The Reds have several prospects with high floors and high ceilings—e.g. Hamilton, Stephenson, Corcino and Travieso. They also have mid-level prospects like Wright and Winker who could be everyday contributors on a big league team.
Factor in newcomers like Ervin and Lorenzen, and the Reds have an intriguing mix of prospects.
The problem here though is that, outside of Stephenson and Hamilton, none of these prospects have star potential. Hamilton himself is no guarantee, and although he's shown signs of life over his last 20 games at Triple-A, one has to worry about his disappointing showing this season.
Corcino is in the midst of a wildly disappointing season, and his trade value has never been lower. As for Stephenson, he's enjoyed a superb season with both Low-A Dayton and High-A Bakersfield.
Travieso is only 19 years old and has yet to progress beyond Low-A ball. That's no knock on his ability, but the Marlins would be looking for players who could contribute at the big league level in 2014 or 2015, at the latest.
As far as prospects are concerned, the beginning point of any deal for Stanton would have to be Stephenson and Hamilton. If Hamilton is able to get on base at a .350+ clip at the major league level, he'll be a star in this game. On the flip side, if he were to continue upon his current path—.307 OBP at Triple-A—he'd be no better than a Dee Gordon-type player.
Stephenson's upside projects to a one or two starter, and he could be a valuable asset for the Marlins. Beyond that though, unless the Marlins see potential in Corcino, there aren't any big-name prospects who could solidify this deal.
Enter Aroldis Chapman. The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Erardi tossed around the idea of trading Chapman and even pondered as to whether or not the Marlins would be interested in him.
The Marlins could very well be interested in Chapman, but they already have a very talented closer in Steve Cishek. For that reason, the team's interest in Chapman could hinge on his willingness to transition into a starting role.
The Reds tried to convert Chapman last offseason, but the resurgence of Mike Leake, coupled with Chapman's desire to remain a closer, led them to return Chapman to the back of the bullpen.
Perhaps more importantly than Chapman's willingness to start, however, is the Reds' willingness to trade him.
If Chapman goes, then the Reds need to decide on a new closer. Generally, this wouldn't be an issue, as Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton could step in to fill that void. However, neither of the two are healthy at this juncture, and J.J. Hoover has yet to prove that he can limit his walks in clutch situations—4.0 BB/9 this year.
Some final food for thought here: Consider another trade the Marlins made back in 2007. When the Tigers decided to cash in on the potential of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins received a major haul of prospects.
Now, while that prospect haul amounted to what can now be looked at as a whole lot of nothing, consider what the Marlins thought they were getting at the time (prospects obtained via ESPN.com).
- CF, Cameron Maybin (Baseball America's No. 6 prospect pre-2007)
- SP, Andrew Miller (Baseball America's No. 10 prospect pre-2007)
- P, Eulogio De La Cruz (Tigers' No. 6 prospect pre-2007, per-Baseball America)
- P, Dallas Trahern (Tigers' No. 8 prospect pre-2007, per Baseball America)
- SP, Burke Bradenhop (N/A)
- C, Mike Rabelo (N/A)
To sum up the prospect haul, the Marlins received two top-10 prospects from Baseball-America's Top 100, two prospects within the organization's top 10 and two additional prospects.
A comparable package from the Reds—including Chapman—would look something like this.
- RP, Aroldis Chapman
- CF, Billy Hamilton (MLB.com's No. 19 prospect mid-2013)
- SP, Robert Stephenson (MLB.com's No. 20 prospect mid-2013)
- SP, Sal Romano (Reds' No. 10 prospect mid-2013, per Cincinnatireds.com)
Props to my fellow Featured Columnist Kyle Newport for suggesting this comparison.
A package including Chapman, Hamilton, Stephenson, Romano and Soto would be a great starting point for Stanton. However, there's no telling how much it will take given the stance Marlins GM Jeff Loria has taken on trading Stanton.
The Reds could use a power bat to put them over the top. While Stanton would do just that, it doesn't seem like there's any way for the Reds to pry him away from Miami without completely raiding the farm system and the back end of their bullpen.
Even then, it still may not be enough to land the biggest fish in Miami.
All stats come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted and are current through play on July 25.
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