The Reds have fallen out of contention and with the All-Star Game in Cinncinnati in the rearview mirror, many feel the Reds are ready to begin their fire sale. The Royals have been rumored to be one of the "most aggressive" suitors for Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto, a frontline pitcher they could sorely need, and may have interest in other Reds players available for trade. Brandon Kraeling, editor of Red Reporter, talked to us about what the Reds might do at the July trade deadline.
A lot of people seem to expect the Reds to be sellers at the deadline. Do you expect them to be sellers, and how aggressive will they be? Who will be made available?
Brandon Kraeling: I expect them to be sellers at this point. The word lately has been that ownership still thinks they can snag a wild card spot (despite Fangraphs showing a 0.1% chance of that happening at the All-Star break), but even now they seem to be coming to the realization that 2015 may not be the Reds' year. I'm holding out hope that they'll do the sensible thing and capitalize on expiring assets like Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, and even consider shedding a few luxury pieces like Aroldis Chapman who still have years left.
I think you could make a sound argument that they could capitalize on the current seller's market and go full rebuild, similar to what the Astros did a few years ago. At least, you'd start with the expiring guys like Cueto, Leake, Brayan Pena, Manny Parra, and Burke Badenhop. There seems to be a lot of rumblings about Jay Bruce being available, as well as Chapman who expires after 2016. If they go full rebuild, I think they could get a haul back for Todd Frazier, as much as he's loved here, and if they can find someone to take either Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto, I think the Reds are listening.
Johnny Cueto will be one of the most coveted players at the trade deadline. What do you think the Reds would like to get in return for him as far as position and quality of prospect?
Brandon Kraeling: I'm a bit more pessimistic than most about what the Reds could get for Cueto. I've seen people point to Jeff Samardzija as a comp, but there was another year on his deal and the Cubs threw in another pitcher. I'd guess a package centered around a 50-75 prospect, and that might even be a little bullish. Personally, I'd like to see him packaged with someone like Chapman, and then see an elite prospect come back in return.
Jon Heyman reported that Jay Bruce may be made available. Why are the Reds looking to shop him and what kind of return do you think they would want for him?
Brandon Kraeling: I think the Reds are feeling the pressure from the fanbase on Bruce. A lot of the fanbase has soured on him in the past few seasons, as he came up as a top prospect and never really materialized into that 40 HR, 120 RBI superstar people thought he would be. For all of the talent he has, he's become prone to cold streaks and his defense has fallen off of a cliff in the past few seasons. At this point, he kind of "is what he is", which is a .250/.340/.470 guy who could use a change of scenery. I think he'd command more than people think. He's on a team-friendly deal ($12M this year, $12.5M next year, $13M team option for '17), and that would certainly drive his price up, and he could crack the middle of most lineups in MLB as a lefty power bat. Maybe you're not selling on him as highly as you could have 4-5 years ago, but he's still going to command a nice return.
The Royals have been rumored to be interested in Mike Leake as well. What kind of pitcher is he and what kind of return would you expect?
Brandon Kraeling: I'd describe Leake as an innings-eater type, but not with stuff that'll blow you away. He came up under the tutelage of Bronson Arroyo, and I think that's a pretty good comparison. He's been durable his whole career, will get you to the seventh or eighth in most games, and keeps the ball on the ground and (usually) in the ballpark. He's the kind of guy who you don't really pay attention to when he's pitching, and you look up and he's given up one run in seven innings.
He doesn't throw too hard, but his breaking stuff is good and he mixes it up well. I think if the Reds do trade him, they won't get as much as they will for Cueto, but it'll definitely take a nice package of prospects. The Reds will need to be blown away to an extent, and I could absolutely see them not seeing the value they're expecting on the trade market and holding on to him for the offseason to try to get an extension done.
You can follow the latest Reds news at Red Reporter. Many thanks to Brandon Kraeling for his help.