Over here in the baseball department at RealGM, we’re currently working up our annual year-end rankings of all 30 teams. It won’t surprise you to learn that the Dodgers are fairly high up said list, given that they’ve been to the World Series in back-to-back seasons, and will enter the 2019 season with mostly the same players who are still mostly relatively young.
It also won’t surprise you to learn that the Reds are not ranked quite so highly, given that they won 67 games last season, and have had a .412 winning-percentage over the last four.
It might, then, surprise to you learn that Friday's veterans-for-prospects trade between Cincinnati and Los Angeles went down in a non-traditional way. It’s the Reds receiving three veterans in outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, and pitcher Alex Wood, along with a younger, light hitting catcher/infielder in Kyle Farmer and a little bit of cash ($7 million). Headed to the Dodgers are two prospects, pitcher Josiah Gray and infielder Jeter Downs, as well as pitcher Homer Bailey, who has been quite bad for four seasons running, and functions clearly as a salary-offsetting component of the deal.
Even if it’s not exciting, we can’t even really talk about this deal without talking about the money involved. At the end of the day, the Reds are adding about $7 million in salary, in exchange for a a trio players who are almost certain to provide far more value than that figure. For the Dodgers’ side of the trade ledger, the deal seems to more about clearing up taxable salary, which will make it easier for them to make further commitments this year without going over the luxury tax threshold, or at least reducing their liability a bit if they do go over.
At this point, we probably have to assume that the Dodgers have more in the works for this offseason. Wood was a valuable pitcher last year, even if he was in the bullpen by the end of the season and the Dodgers have a lot of pitchers. Puig was a valuable outfielder last season, even if the Dodgers have a glut of outfielders and need to make room. If they don’t do something else big this offseason, though, this certainly seems like a weird move to make just to clear up salary. If they’re signing Bryce Harper, then, yeah, sure, why not?
They also have a couple of new interesting prospects, and they made room for other players already in their system or yet to be acquired, such as Harper. But they got rid of some players who were quite helpful in earning those repeat World Series appearances over the last couple of years. Those prospects might be useful in a few years, which is important if you’re going to keep the competitive machine well oiled and running, but it’s nonetheless a strange move by a contending team if we take it on its own. And so we probably shouldn’t.
Grade for the Dodgers: Incomplete (B- for now)
The Reds gave up a couple of interesting prospects, but they didn’t give up any of their best prospects that are close to the majors (Gray and Downs were drafted in 2017 and 2018). The Reds’ biggest problem last season was pitching and they’ve already added Tanner Roark via trade and now Wood should help out as well. They shouldn’t be done at this point, but Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto were an excellent start to an offense last year and the Reds had already found their way quite a bit higher up our year-end rankings even before they made any of these moves. Now, if the Reds can pull off a couple more smart moves this offseason, they’re certainly in the mix for a postseason spot next year, which is important because Wood and Puig are only around for another year.
In a world where the American League is seemingly predetermined before the season even starts, it’s certainly refreshing to see the National League turning into an absolute free for all. Sure, there are going to be more unhappy teams than happy ones once October rolls around, but at least a lot more fans get to go into a new season with dreams of contention and not just fantasies about lower-level prospect development. Only time and the rest of the moves made this offseason will tell whether these were the right moves for either team, but I, for one, am thankful for the fact that these fancy new faux salary cap related moves can actually be truly interesting sometimes, especially after last year’s offseason of doom.
Grade for the Reds: Incomplete (B+ for now)