Reds acquire Kemp, Puig and Wood

Some brief musings on the big trade announced last night.

In case you missed it, the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers announced a blockbuster trade that sent outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, starting pitcher Alex Wood and utilityman Kyle Farmer to the Reds in exchange for starting pitcher Homer Bailey and prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray.

For the Dodgers, the intent is obvious. They wanted to shed some salary and open up roster spots. (Someone named Bryce Harper is available. You familiar? You can read my breakdown of Harper on Patreon.) The Dodgers aren’t losing anyone they can’t live without, and ultimately if Harper ends up in Los Angeles, this deal makes plenty of sense. If they end up with someone below his level — maybe AJ Pollock — the deal feels more like an oddly-timed salary dump.

The Dodgers remain one of the best teams in the National League despite two frustrating World Series losses. Clayton Kershaw is still quite good and given the Dodgers’ considerable financial resources, they should certainly pursue Harper. This deal simply makes that easier. They can still win the World Series.

Downs and Gray are both years away from being factors on the field for Los Angeles. Downs — did you know he’s a shortstop? His name is Jeter. Isn’t that neat? Ask every major baseball writer if they think it’s worth noting — has a higher ceiling but given how often the Dodgers swing trades, who knows if either guy sees the field for them.

The Dodgers have already cut Bailey, who has been either terrible or hurt since signing his big contract a few years ago. He’ll probably fight for a rotation spot somewhere in spring training.

For the Reds, other than shedding Bailey (who had become a bit of a pariah amongst fans) the goal here seems to be avoiding the 90-loss plateau again. After a run of playoff appearances in the early-to-mid 2010s, the Reds have been glued to the bottom of the NL Central the last four seasons. Not pretty. A run of rough front office decisions hasn’t helped matters.

That said, without question, the 2019 Reds look considerably better now than a week ago.

Alex Wood might be the best pitcher on the staff now, depending on how Luis Castillo pans out. Wood isn’t a dominant arm by any means, but he’s consistently good.  Sometimes writers and fans alike get worked up dreaming about the Klubers and the Corbins while ignoring backbone starters like Wood. The Reds were one of the worst pitching clubs in baseball last season, mind you. He’ll help them.

Yasiel Puig is a tremendous glove in the outfield and a pretty solid hitter, although likely as a platoon bat against righties (he of the reverse platoon split). He’s drawn plenty of attention for some of his antics, but Dodgers players seemed to like him and his clubhouse behavior has been lauded.

Oh, and bat flips. He’s really good at those:

puigCredit MLB on GIPHY

Given that Great American Ball Park is, um, a bit more hitter-friendly than Dodger Stadium, Reds fans should become acquainted with Mr. Puig’s flips next summer.

Kemp doesn’t have near the platoon split of Puig, but he’s a defensive liability and fell apart in the second half last season. Luckily the Reds have enough outfield options to rotate Kemp around, but he probably shouldn’t be a consistent starter.

The bigger question for Cincinnati isn’t the strength of the return or even what they gave up, but rather how the front office views the team. The Reds are perhaps a distant playoff contender now, but given their dismal pitching situation, it’s not certain. So why do this? Are they going to give up a bunch of prospects in a bid to acquire someone like Kluber? Maybe, but unless they want to spend the money to keep Puig and Wood around (both are free agents are in 2020) it’s risky. There isn’t a truly great free agent pitcher to add, either (No, waiter, I’ll pass on the Dallas Keuchel and his plummeting peripherals, thanks).

But credit to the Reds for the effort. Teams tend to either focus on winning 100 or losing 100, but baseball flourishes when teams across the spectrum are trying to compete, regardless of the best way to profit. Even if the Reds aren’t good enough to make October, they’re trying. A few things go their way — Castillo emerges as a good starter, prized prospect Nick Senzel kicks down the door — and maybe things will look pretty solid in the Queen City.


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