Reds general manager Nick Krall has said that his team has at least looked into some trades that would involve the Reds and another club swapping young, controllable players. Providing further detail to Krall’s comments, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal hears from a rival executive that Cincinnati is looking to acquire a young outfielder in exchange for a younger shortstop prospect, and that the Reds “are aggressively pursuing” such deals.
Over the last year, the Reds turned into rebuild mode by trading multiple veteran players (i.e. Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Tyler Mahle, Wade Miley) in order to reduce payroll and restock the system with minor league talent. On paper, the early steps of this plan have worked quite nicely — back in August, Baseball America placed the Reds fifth in their rankings of each organization’s minor league talent depth. Both BA and MLB Pipeline have five Cincinnati prospects listed in their current top-100 rankings, with shortstop Elly De La Cruz sitting at the top of the pile. Pipeline has De La Cruz as the 14th-best prospect in the sport, with Baseball America placing De La Cruz 20th.
With De La Cruz as the crown jewel, the Reds already had a good amount of infield prospect depth even before their moves at this past summer’s trade deadline. Cincy landed Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo from the Mariners in the Castillo trade, and Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand were then acquired from the Twins as part of the Mahle deal. Marte and Arroyo both sit firmly within the top 100 rankings (Pipeline has Marte 17th, not far behind De La Cruz), while Steer already made his MLB last season and is likely headed for more regular playing time in 2023.
Steer is more of a second baseman or third baseman than a shortstop, and Encarnacion-Strand is more firmly a corner infielder. It also remains to be seen if Marte will necessarily remain at shortstop, or if De La Cruz might even be moved to a outfield role — as Rosenthal notes, the Reds have been experimenting with several of their young infielders at various positions around the diamond and on the grass to try and find playing time for everyone.
That said, while some of these prospects may eventually wind up in the outfield in the future, the Reds seem interested in simplifying the matter and dealing from their infield surplus to find some true outfielders. Adding to the intrigue is that many of Cincinnati’s prospects are knocking on the door for their MLB debuts, as De La Cruz, Encarnacion-Strand, and 2021 first-rounder Matt McLain could all get their first cup of coffee in the Show in 2023.
With high-caliber prospects to offer, the Reds can explore plenty of possible trade options around the league. In regards to their focus on outfielders, the Diamondbacks seem like a logical trade partner, and Cincinnati is naturally one of the many clubs interested in the group of Daulton Varsho, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas, Pavin Smith, and Dominic Fletcher. All of these players except Fletcher have already debuted in the majors, and since the D’Backs are prioritizing players who can help them immediately, Arizona might prefer a more established player rather than another up-and-comer from Cincy’s farm system.
It is probably safe to assume that whatever trades the Reds consider, their blue chip prospects are less likely to be on the move, and a burgeoning star like De La Cruz is virtually untouchable. A month away from his 21st birthday, De La Cruz has quickly gone from being an anonymous international signing to one of baseball’s top prospects over the last two seasons, and even a possible five-tool talent. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer recently spoke with minor league players, coaches, broadcasters and scouts about De La Cruz, and the shortstop garnered rave reviews across the board. According to one AL scout, “He’s the most athletic player I’ve ever seen. I could throw out some legendary names of athletes, but I’d rather not because I don’t want to put extra pressure on a kid. But I’ve never seen anybody even close with his athleticism to be quite honest.”