Breaking Down the Most Likely Trade Partners for the Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds' activity at the 2014 trade deadline could make or break their season. The club has been treading water to this point and own a 39-38 record, despite playing without key players like Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips for various portions of the year.
In short, they're in need of a shakeup. The team could use upgrades in left field, at shortstop and also in the bullpen. Upgrading the shortstop position seems like a bit of a pipe dream, as the price on players like Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez will be quite high.
The Reds can settle, however, and should look to upgrade left field and/or the bullpen.
Throughout the remainder of this article, we'll break down four different teams that appear to be the Reds' most likely trade partners moving forward. I'll give suggestions on players the Reds should look to acquire and even suggest a few prospects the ballclub could give up in order to begin a possible trade dialogue.
*All stats are current through play on June 25, 2014, and come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Tampa Bay Rays
Back on June 20, in an article about the Los Angeles Dodgers and the possibility of them acquiring David Price, FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal noted that Ben Zobrist could also be a potential trade target for the Dodgers. But what if the Reds pursued Zobrist instead?
The 33-year-old is having a bit of a down season—with a .242/.326/.363 slash line through 65 games played—but his track record speaks for itself. In addition to an impressive resume, he boasts numbers that suggest he may have been unlucky through his first 65 games.
Zobrist is the owner of a career BABIP mark of .290—.303 over the last three season—but he currently holds a .268 mark here in 2014. In addition to his low BABIP, Zobrist has worked to a 17.1 percent line-drive rate this season, about two and four percentage points lower than his 2012 and 2013 marks, respectively—he slashed .270/.377/.471 and .275/.354/.402 in those two seasons.
The nine-year veteran has the ability to move all around the field and has played at least one game at every position not named pitcher or catcher. More importantly, though, Zobrist's best positions happen to be three of the Reds' trouble areas—second base and shortstop, and he also has the ability to play left field
Zobrist profiles well as a bounce-back candidate for the rest of the 2014 season, and the Tampa Bay Rays are likely looking to sell.
If it looks like a buy-low opportunity and sounds like a buy-low opportunity, it's a buy-low opportunity.
After top-prospect Hak-Ju Lee, the Rays farm system is light on position players, and a package including one of Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker or Yorman Rodriguez would be a nice place to start.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are kind of a mess right now.
After missing out on the final wild-card spot by nine games last season, the Diamondbacks were expected to take a step forward in 2014 and compete for an NL West title. Unfortunately, those preseason expectations couldn't be further from reality, and they find themselves with the worst record in the National League and the second-worst mark in all of baseball.
With that understood, it's safe to assume the Diamondbacks could be selling at the trade deadline.
As noted by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the team could look to move a number of players, including left-handed relievers Oliver Perez and Joe Thatcher, as well as outfielder Gerardo Parra.
With the loss of Sean Marshall in the team's bullpen, the Reds should look to add a left-handed reliever in order to shore up what has been, at times, a shaky unit. Perez and Thatcher fit that mold, and both are in the middle of outstanding seasons.
Parra is another option for the Reds. The 27-year-old is under club control through the 2015 season, and although he's having a bit of a down season, he could be had for a reasonable price. He would provide the Reds with a clear defensive upgrade in left field—Parra is a two-time Gold-Glove winner—and the team would lose very little, if anything, on the offensive side of things.
Perez and Thatcher would be the cheaper of the three options, while a package for Parra could start with a mid-level pitching prospect like Ismael Guillon, Daniel Corcino or Sal Romano.
In ESPN's Jim Bowden's recent piece (subscription required), he assigned a very high possibility to the Texas Rangers trading outfielder Alex Rios. Bowden also notes that Rios would be a nice upgrade for a team like the Reds.
He's not wrong. Over 77 games played, the Reds' left fielders own a .253/.304/.365 slash line with five home runs, 17 doubles, 27 RBI, 26 runs scored, a 69:19 K/BB ratio and three stolen bases over 288 at-bats.
The team's mainstay in left has been Ryan Ludwick, whose .269/.325/.407 slash line is somewhat disappointing. His lack of power (15 total extra-base hits and five home runs) and his run-producing skills (22 RBI) have also been totally underwhelming.
Enter the Rangers and Alex Rios.
Rios currently boasts a .312/.345/.451 slash line with three home runs, eight triples, 16 doubles, 34 RBI, 34 runs scored, a 53:17 K/BB ratio and 13 stolen bases.
Rios would provide the Reds with a substantial offensive upgrade, and although he's played just one game in left field over his 11-year career, he should have little difficulty shifting over and being an adequate defensive replacement for the mediocre Ludwick.
The Rangers would be willing to part with Rios, because, as Bowden notes in his piece, the team is comfortable with the idea of top prospect Joey Gallo playing right field in the future.
Rios' contract situation makes things a bit difficult, as I'm sure the Reds would be apprehensive to take on his $13.5 million salary for this year and his $13.5 million team option for next year, which comes complete with a $1 million buyout. His contract situation could also help the Reds, though, as they'd have to give up less in the way of prospects to get the 33-year-old outfielder.
If the Rangers are willing to eat some portion of the $27 million remaining on his contract, he could fetch a prospect package that includes Nick Travieso and Junior Arias.
If not, then Rios' value diminishes significantly, and a left-handed pitching prospect like Ismael Guillon could be a great starting point for a deal.
For two teams in the same division, the front offices of both the Reds and the Chicago Cubs have a pretty good relationship with one another and have been able to work out deals in the past. The Sean Marshall deal comes readily to mind, for example.
For that reason, and the fact that the Cubs will be looking to ship off some of their less-desired players, it makes sense that the two clubs could hook up again at the trade deadline.
James Russell, a left-handed reliever out of the University of Texas, could be a player the Reds covet. Russell was rumored to be available last season, but the Cubs wisely chose to hold on to him for another year.
The 28-year-old has blossomed into one of the better left-handed relievers in Major League Baseball and, unlike Sean Marshall before him, is able to neutralize right-handed batters as well as lefties, with a .143/.262/.171 slash line allowed to righties in 2014.
The Cubs are looking to get younger, and their rebuilding effort could come to a head soon, as some of their top prospects appear poised to make a run at the big league level as soon as September.
Acquiring Russell will cost a little bit more than the previous suggestions of Oliver Perez and Joe Thatcher, but it would be a price worth paying. Russell is arbitration-eligible through 2015 and figures to be a piece the Reds could lock up with a long-term deal.
The Cubs' farm system is stacked with top-tier hitting prospects. They have some solid starting pitching prospects as well, those being C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, but there's some question as to whether or not Edwards' slight frame—6'2", 155 pounds—will hold up over a full season of starting.
The Reds could have Russell for a package of slightly lesser value than the one they sent in return for Marshall.