Now that this week’s All-Star festivities in Cincinnati have come to a close, the Reds are prepared to trade right-handers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Both longtime Reds hurlers are eligible for free agency at season’s end.
While Morosi’s report is not necessarily unexpected news — many reports over the past few months have indicated that Cincinnati was loath to sell major pieces prior to hosting the Midsummer Classic — it does serve as confirmation that the team won’t deviate from its expected course. The Reds currently sit eight games under .500 at 39-47, placing them 15.5 games behind the Cardinals for the NL Central lead and 7.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race.
Cueto figures to be among the most desirable trade chips on this year’s summer market, if not the most desirable trade chip. The 29-year-old is as appealing a target as one could hope for in a rental — a pure ace that is enjoying an excellent season and signed to an affordable contract. Cueto’s worked to a 2.73 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 118 2/3 innings this season. He’s earning a relatively modest $10MM salary in 2015, of which about $4.37MM remains.
Leake, 27, is not as high-profile a target but still carries a good deal of value to teams looking to stabilize the middle or back end of their rotations. The former No. 8 overall pick is sporting a 4.08 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 53 percent ground-ball rate in 114 2/3 innings with the Reds this season. His collective work over the two most recent full seasons has been impressive; despite pitching half his games in the hitters’ paradise that is Great American Ball Park, Leake has worked to a 3.54 ERA and averaged 203 innings, helping to establish himself as a solid mid-rotation cog. Leake is earning $9.775MM in 2015, and he’s still owed about $4.27MM of that sum.
Given the willingness to part with Cueto and Leake, it would stand to reason that other impending free agents are also available in trades as well. That could include Marlon Byrd (who has a vesting option for 2016), catcher Brayan Pena and lefty reliever Manny Parra. More interesting, however, are right fielder Jay Bruce and closer Aroldis Chapman. Both have been rumored to be available and could potentially return a significant haul for what appears to be a rebuilding Reds club. Chapman’s controlled through 2016 and could see his salary clear $11MM this offseason, though that’s unlikely to give pause to many of his suitors. Bruce is under control through 2016 for a guaranteed $13.5MM, but a club option means that he could be controlled for $25.5MM from 2016-17 (plus the remaining $5.25MM on his 2015 salary).