After entering the season expected to finish as one of the majors’ worst teams, the Reds got off to a hot start and then hung around .500 through late May. But since holding a 19-15 mark on May 11, the Reds have lost 24 of 34 to fall to 29-39 and plummet to last place in the National League Central. Now, with the trade deadline approaching, they look like surefire sellers.
Zack Cozart, SS | Salary: $5.325MM
There are questions regarding how much demand there will be for shortstops at this year’s deadline, which could hinder the Reds’ efforts to net a quality return for Cozart. Nevertheless, the impending free agent has done his part to drive up his value. The 31-year-old served as a roughly league-average player from 2012-16, but he’s now in the midst of a shockingly great season. Cozart has slashed .320/.404/.562 across 255 plate appearances. Thanks to that output and his typically effective work in the field (four Defensive Runs Saved, 8.5 UZR/150), he’s tied with three established superstars – Joey Votto (his teammate), Bryce Harper and Mookie Betts – and Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks for fourth among position players in fWAR (2.9). That figure represents a career best for Cozart, whose trade value could increase if interested teams feel he can play another position. The Red Sox, for example, are set at shortstop but have a glaring need at third base. Cozart has spent his entire career at short since debuting in 2011.
Drew Storen, RP | Salary: $3MM
Realizing they weren’t going to compete this year, it’s fair to say the Reds signed Storen with the goal of flipping him at the deadline. The 29-year-old has pitched well enough this season to make that a real possibility, having recorded a 2.45 ERA, 7.67 K/9, 3.99 BB/9 and a stellar 54.1 percent ground-ball rate in 29 1/3 innings. Storen’s velocity has continued on a downward plane, and his ERA estimators aren’t nearly as kind as his actual run prevention numbers (3.82 FIP, 4.00 SIERA, 4.71 xFIP), but it’s a good bet that some playoff hopeful(s) will want the former closer.
Scott Feldman, SP/RP | Salary: $2.3MM
As with Storen, Feldman has seemed like a very short-term Band-Aid for the Reds since the minute they took a cheap flyer on him in the offseason. While Feldman, 34, has emerged as the ace of the Reds’ staff this year, that merely indicates how poor and injury plagued their rotation has been. To Feldman’s credit, he has performed like a bona fide back-end type, with a 4.29 ERA/ 4.28 FIP, 7.18 K/9 and 3.13 BB/9 over 77 2/3 frames. Feldman’s probably not going to interest playoff contenders searching for mid-rotation starters, but he could garner looks from teams that want someone to competently soak up innings from the rotation and/or the bullpen down the stretch. That was the case at the deadline last year, when the postseason-bound Blue Jays sent a teenage pitcher, Lupe Chavez, to the Astros for Feldman.
Controlled Through 2018
Devin Mesoraco, C | Salary: $7.325MM in 2017; $13.125MM in 2018
Mesoraco broke out in 2014, hitting .273/.359/.534 with 25 home runs, leading the Reds to sign the offense-first backstop to a four-year, $28MM extension. Little went right over the next two years for Mesoraco, whom injuries limited to 106 PAs and a woeful .158/.245/.500 line with no homers. Mesoraco became somewhat of an afterthought as a result, but the 28-year-old has quietly rebounded this season to slash .235/.343/.518 with six homers and career highs in walk rate (12.1 percent) and isolated power (.282) across 99 trips to the plate. That’s an admittedly small sample, though, and it’s debatable how much in-season trade value he’d have as a somewhat expensive player fresh off a couple of lost years.
Blake Wood, RP | Salary: $1.275MM in 2017; arbitration eligible in 2018
The 31-year-old righty was decent last year, his first with the Reds, and has contributed respectable production again this season. The hard-throwing Wood entered Sunday ranked ninth among relievers in grounder rate (60.9 percent), and he’s currently running a career-best 3.63 ERA through 34 2/3 frames. Wood has also registered acceptable strikeout (9.09) and walk (4.15) rates per nine. With all of that considered, it’s easy to imagine a bullpen-needy playoff contender with a capable infield defense and/or a small ballpark having interest in the grounder-heavy, inexpensive Wood.
Joey Votto, 1B; Raisel Iglesias, RP; Billy Hamilton, CF; Adam Duvall, OF; Scott Schebler, OF; Eugenio Suarez, 3B; Anthony DeSclafani, SP; Brandon Finnegan, SP; Scooter Gennett, IF/OF; Michael Lorenzen, RP; Wandy Peralta, RP
Votto, who inked a 10-year, $225MM contract extension in 2012, is both the Reds’ most expensive player and the crown jewel of the franchise. The potential Hall of Famer is enjoying yet another all-world season and would improve most (or all) big-spending contenders’ situations at first base. Votto has a no-trade clause, though, and suggested over the winter that he’d like to mimic retired San Antonio Spurs superstar Tim Duncan and the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady by playing his entire career in one place. Before that, Reds general manager Dick Williams stated he hadn’t had any discussions with Votto about waiving his no-trade clause. The reality is, Votto’s not going anywhere.
The rest of the Reds’ longer-term assets are probably safe bets to at least last the season in Cincinnati. Of course, there was interest this past offseason in Hamilton, whose fading team control (he’s signed through 2019) could make him a legitimate trade candidate soon. The 26-year-old has continued his light-hitting ways this season, but the baserunning brilliance and defensive excellence that have made him valuable throughout his career remain intact.
Hamilton’s outfield mates, Duvall and Schebler, are much different players than the speedster. But the two sluggers have turned into real finds for Cincinnati and emerged as viable regulars. The 26-year-old Schebler isn’t even eligible for arbitration until 2020, while Duvall (28) won’t go through the arb process until 2019. Given both their cheap control and production, the two corner outfielders would likely warrant quality returns in trades, but there’s no indication the Reds are interested in moving either player.
Similarly, both Suarez and Gennett have been solid pickups for the Reds, with the former in the midst of what could be a breakout year and the latter having recently turned in the first four-home run game in team history. That was an anomaly for Gennett (as it would be for any player, but especially one who has never been much of a power threat), who’s nonetheless in the midst of a nice season and previously put up a couple league-average campaigns in Milwaukee. Although the 27-year-old Gennett joined the Reds via waivers at the end of March, he has probably at least built some trade value since then. The utilityman’s affordable this season ($2.525MM) and controllable through 2019. Suarez is under wraps through 2020 and currently on a near-minimum salary ($595K), but the 25-year-old seems a lot likelier than Gennett to be part of the Reds’ long-term core. Assuming Cozart doesn’t stick around, Suarez could shift to shortstop (his previous position) when highly touted third base prospect Nick Senzel eventually comes up to the majors.
Elsewhere, the Reds have several young starting pitchers, but DeSclafani and Finnegan stand out as the most promising. A sprained ulnar collateral ligament has kept DeSclafani out all season, however, and he might not debut until August. Finnegan, meanwhile, has been out since April on account of a shoulder issue. While he’ll be back sooner than DeSclafani, the Reds aren’t going to sell low on either of these two this season.
Conversely, the Reds would be selling high on some of their top bullpen assets – Iglesias, Lorenzen and Peralta. Iglesias has turned into a premier reliever since shifting from the Reds’ rotation last season, and the 27-year-old signed a very reasonable contract with the club in 2014 after fleeing his native Cuba. Of course, Iglesias only went to the bullpen in the first place because of shoulder problems, so there’s a case to be made that Cincinnati should at least listen to any offers that might come in for the dominant righty prior to the deadline. While Lorenzen and Peralta aren’t on Igleslias’ level, they’re good and cheap. The former won’t hit arbitration for the first time until the upcoming offseason and the latter is a pre-arb player through the 2019 campaign. Each of these 25-year-olds would intrigue teams looking for relievers, but there’s nothing to suggest that Williams is going to put either on the block.