Maybe it's just what we're accustomed to in trades or the internet. We see a trade and immediately have to pick a winner or a loser off the cuff. We did it with the Wil Myers/Shields trade for better or for worse. When the Diamondbacks traded Touki Toussaint for essentially cash they were declared a loser in the trade. Sometimes there is a clear winner (in which case it's noted immediately), but often times there isn't. One team doesn't have to lose for another to win. Trades aren't a zero sum competition necessarily.
In trading Johnny Cueto the Reds traded away an asset. An asset they only had a short term control over and were unlikely to retain for the next several years. Their choices were almost binary:
- Don't trade Cueto, try to re-sign him (unlikely) offer a Qualifying Offer, receive a draft pick of unknown return.,
- Trade Cueto, control your return.
The Reds obviously chose the latter option and it's the safer play with more upside. By all accounts they aren't going to re-sign Cueto in the winter. If they held onto him they could have offered him a qualifying offer (which he by all accounts would turn down) and received a draft pick in the 25-30ish range as compensation. That draft pick at this time is a complete unknown and even the pool amount of the pick isn't known either.
Instead the Reds chose the road that's most often traveled, and it's a road that's paved a lot smoother. The Red traded their arguably best chip for Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed. Immediately they know to some extent what they are getting. This is several times over better than the unknown of the draft pick.
Often we label teams buyers or sellers, but often times teams are both. The Reds were both in this trade. They bought long term assets with short term ones. I think that means they were more sellers than they were buyers in the traditional sense, but they still sold something and bought something in the exchange. The Royals were also sellers too in this trade as they sold long term assets at seemingly a market value worth.
Make no mistake I feel this is a great deal for the Royals and one I liked immediately. This doesn't mean that I don't also like it for the Reds (if I were a Reds fan that is). The Royals lose three pieces, but not necessarily pieces of impact current towards future value as we know. The risk is on the Reds as the team that got prospects, but unlike the Wil Myers trade, the Royals didn't lose immediate impact really.
I liked Finnegan (ranked him our fourth best prospect), I still like Finnegan but it seems like there is some haze in the fog, for better or for worse. I was truthfully lower than most on Lamb (24th) but the bad I saw in Lamb doesn't stab as deep as others might see it. I ranked Cody Reed 16th as I was hesitant to buy in to him, but by different rankings (see: smarter) he was likely or is a top 10 prospect for the Royals before the trade.
But these are all pieces the Royals can part with, much like Cueto was for the Reds. The Royals clearly weren't giving innings to John Lamb in the major league rotation, and they clearly haven't made a decision on what to do with Finnegan. What the Royals lacked in choice could be the Reds gain, and that's okay because somebody doesn't have to lose.
For the Royals it's a feeling recently unknown, being buyers instead of sellers. This is arguably the biggest move of Dayton Moore's Royal career given the potential impact and circumstances for the future, and the cost was palatable. None of the traded players were really in the Royals 2015 plans, and maybe not even in their 2016 plans either.
Maybe I should have been more analytical here, or given a breakdown of the prospects the Royals traded, but I'm more compelled to be content or happy. At least, I'm as content and happy as can be in regards to how baseball impacts my life. It's impacted my life negatively for many years prior, and that's a burden on the shoulders of Royals fans. There are so many things in life you can control, but this thing we're so attached to is so far out of our hands yet has so much control over us it stings. This is a feeling that hasn't emerged often enough for Royals fans. It was there last October, and god willing and the creek don't rise it will be back this October too, but without the bitter taste to end the meal, and higher happiness, if there is such a thing.