The Reds have acquired closer Archie Bradley in a last-second deadline deal with the Diamondbacks, per announcements from both clubs. Utility man Josh VanMeter and outfield prospect Stuart Fairchild are headed to the D-backs in return for Bradley, and Arizona will also reportedly kick in $100K to help cover Bradley’s remaining salary.
Bradley, 28, is in his second season as Arizona’s primary closing option and has been a quality member of the ’pen for the past four years now. The former No. 7 overall pick was long one of the game’s most highly regarded pitching prospects, but he struggled in 34 big league starts before finding a home in the D-backs’ relief corp. Dating back to 2017, Bradley has pitched to a strong 2.98 ERA and 3.17 FIP with averages of 10.1 strikeouts, 3.2 walks and 0.7 homers per nine innings (despite pitching in a hitter-friendly home park).
Controlled through the 2021 season, Bradley agreed to a $4.1MM salary in arbitration this past winter. That’s been prorated to about $1.48MM in this year’s shortened schedule, and roughly $617K of that sum remains to be paid out. He’ll be eligible for arbitration once more this winter.
Bullpen help has been a major area of need for the Reds throughout the 2020 season, as their relievers have combined to post a grisly 5.48 ERA and 5.20 FIP. Closer Raisel Iglesias has struggled to an ERA north of 5.00, while some of his top projected setup men, Michael Lorenzen (6.75 ERA) and Pedro Strop (designated for assignment) have not risen to the occasion. Cincinnati has received strong showings from Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone, but an established arm has long looked a sensible addition as they look to tread water in a disappointing NL Central that has seen the Cubs pull away from the pack for the division lead. The Reds, Cardinals and Brewers are all sub-.500 clubs vying for a second-place seed and perhaps a Wild Card spot.
As with most of the Diamondbacks’ trades today — Arizona also sent Starling Marte to the Marlins, Robbie Ray to the Blue Jays and Andrew Chafin to the Cubs — they’ll pick up an MLB-ready asset who can jump right onto the roster in VanMeter. The D-backs also added lefty Caleb Smith in the Marte swap and lefty Travis Bergen in the Ray deal. Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen and his staff have regularly chosen to prioritize controllable MLB pieces as the returns in their trades rather than pure prospects, and that trend carries over to the Bradley swap as well.
VanMeter, 25, is out to a 2-for-34 start in 2020 but posted a .237/.327/.408 slash in 260 plate appearances last year. He’s also a career .287/.353/.536 hitter in 573 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, pointing to potential for growth at the plate. Beyond his minor league track record, VanMeter possesses plenty of positional versatility, which is another hallmark of D-backs players under Hazen’s watch. He’s primarily been a second baseman in the big leagues but also carries experience at all four corner positions (plus 810 minor league innings at shortstop).
That said, Fairchild is very arguably the bigger get for the D-backs in this deal. A second-round pick in 2017, he’s regarded as an above-average runner with an above-average arm and the ability to play all three outfield slots. Fairchild posted big numbers in two very pitcher-friendly leagues last year, slashing .258/.335/.440 (130 wRC+) in Class-A Advanced and .275/.380/.444 (142 wRC+) with just a 12.8 percent strikeout rate in Double-A.
Fairchild was generally ranked in the Reds’ top 15 prospects, landing 10th at Baseball America, 11th at MLB.com, 13th at FanGraphs. That there’s not a more highly regarded prospect within the deal likely speaks to several factors: the team’s opinion of VanMeter and Fairchild as well as some possible pressure from ownership to reduce payroll.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the deal (via Twitter). John Gambadoro of 98.7 Arizona Sports reported the return (Twitter link). The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan added that the D-backs were sending $100K to Cincinnati as well.