An Early Breakdown of the Cincinnati Reds' Best Trade Bait
If the Cincinnati Reds are going to pull off a trade during the 2014 MLB season, pitcher Alfredo Simon is one of the few trade chips that they will be able to dangle on the market.
After making a couple of big trades in the past few years, the Reds don't have much to offer teams now. There is some talent in the lower levels of the minor leagues, but there aren't many players with trade value at Triple-A.
One player who could be an interesting trade chip is Daniel Corcino. He impressed in the lower levels of the minor leagues, but he had a rough 2013 at Triple-A and got rocked during spring training this year. Some team could still view him as a top prospect. If that's the case, he could be part of a midseason trade.
Unfortunately for the Reds, they don't have much payroll flexibility to pull off a big deal. Any trade the organization makes this season will have to be minor.
Let's take a look at some of Cincinnati's best trade chips.
*All stats are via MLB.com as of 4/27.
RHP Alfredo Simon
Alfredo Simon has been a valuable reliever the past few seasons, but his trade value has soared now that he has shown he can be a very good starting pitcher.
The 32-year-old hadn't been a starter since the 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles. He posted an earned run average close to 5.00 that season, so expectations were low for him as he filled in for Mat Latos. Through four starts, he has been nothing short of spectacular.
Simon is 3-1 with a 1.30 ERA this season. In his lone loss, he allowed only one run over eight innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. He has gone at least six innings in every start and has yet to allow more than two runs in a start.
The right-hander has shown the ability to be an effective starter and reliever since coming to Cincinnati. He posted a 2.66 ERA in 61 innings in 2012, and he put up a 2.87 ERA in 87.2 innings last season. When he first joined the Reds, he served as the team's long man out of the bullpen. As he became more effective, he was used in more important situations.
He dealt with hamstring issues in Baltimore, but he has been extremely durable with Cincinnati. He showed his ability to handle a big workload by appearing in 63 games last season.
Another reason the veteran pitcher is good trade bait is his manageable salary. According to Baseball Prospectus, Simon is due to make $1.5 million in 2014. For the numbers he is currently putting up, that may be the best bargain in the league.
Now that he is off to a great start, Simon has become the Reds' best trade chip. If the team needs to make a trade, Simon would probably fetch the most value. However, a team can never have too much pitching.
INF Neftali Soto
Neftali Soto has the makings of a solid hitter, but he's going to have a tough time getting playing time in the majors if he remains in Cincinnati.
The 25-year-old made it to Louisville at the end of the 2011 season and has been there ever since—until he made the Reds' Opening Day roster this season. He hit .261/.315/.410 with 30 home runs and 51 doubles in just more than two seasons at Triple-A.
The right-handed hitter's main weapon is his power. He has topped 20 home runs twice, including 31 in 2011. He has also hit at least 20 doubles in a season five times in his seven seasons in the minors.
Soto has played first base more than any other position. Unfortunately for him, that's not an option for him in Cincinnati because of some guy named Joey Votto. Soto has played other positions, but he is best suited for first base. He has played third base in recent seasons, but he hasn't played shortstop since 2008. He has played 10 games at catcher and one in right field. That's not a lot of experience at other positions.
Although he isn't receiving much playing time in the majors this season, Soto is getting a chance to show what he can do. He can replace Votto late in games if the situation is right, and he can fill in for Todd Frazier at third base. If necessary, he also serves as the team's emergency catcher.
In eight trips to the plate, he has recorded the first hit, double and RBI. He has even picked up the first stolen base of his career. This comes just one season after he went hitless in 12 at-bats.
Unless Frazier doesn't pan out, Soto doesn't have much of a future with the Reds. They could try to convert him to a catcher or a left fielder, but other teams may have more use for him at first base. His bat could be a nice bargaining chip around the trade deadline.
OF Donald Lutz
Like Neftali Soto, Donald Lutz gives the Reds a powerful bat to use in trade proposals.
Lutz, unlike Soto, does have some experience in the majors. Last season, Lutz was called up from Double-A when Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick were out with injuries. He received quite a bit of playing time and earned good reviews.
The left-handed hitting outfielder notched 14 hits in 58 at-bats. Although he has a lot of power, he didn't show much of it off with the Reds. He recorded only one home run and one double during his first stint in the majors.
He had at least 20 home runs and 23 doubles in both 2011 and 2012. He isn't the fastest guy, but he has some speed for a guy his size. The 6'3", 250-pound outfielder had 29 steals and 21 triples through the first six seasons of his minor league career. He added two stolen bases with the Reds last season.
Cincinnati decided that Lutz would be better off working on his game in the minors. He was sent back to Double-A in late June and started the 2014 season there. The results have been good so far. He is hitting .370/.418/.726 with five home runs, seven doubles and two triples in his first 18 games this season. It's his third stint at Double-A, so he could be on his way up to Triple-A if he continues to hit the cover off the ball.
Lutz could be used as trade bait, but he could also be part of the team's future. Ludwick's contract has a mutual option for the 2015 season, so left field could be up for grabs either next season or in two years. If Ludwick returns next year, that would give Lutz one more year to develop in the minors before competing for the starting job in left field.
If Lutz continues to swing a hot bat, he will be a very attractive asset on the trading block.