The Trade Deadline
For baseball fans across the country, July is the most entertaining and stressful month of the season, outside of October of course. For buyers, the question is what deadline acquisition will push their team to the next level, but for sellers, it is all about what prime prospects they can get to help them in their future. Teams that do not see winning in their immediate future, like the Orioles, may have to say goodbye to lifelong stars in Baltimore, such as Manny Machado and Zach Britton. It is difficult to watch players that brought so much joy to a city leave, but it is a business and deals must be made to improve the club for the future.
Normally, most last-place teams will always sell. However, in Cincinnati, it is not that simple. The Reds are in a strange place between selling or keeping their roster intact. After the first month of the season, it looked like a fire sale would happen come July. Since the 3-18 start, this team looks ready to compete, altering the way the front office will handle July 31 and the days leading up to it.
How to Handle July 31 in Cincinnati
Every July there are writers calling for Joey Votto to stop wasting his Hall of Fame career in Cincinnati. Votto himself has made it known he does not plan on leaving Cincinnati, so any rumor of him leaving is just that, a rumor. So while the player who analysts think the Reds should trade to a contender will remain a Red, there are a few that might switch jerseys before the season ends.
The obvious candidate to leave the Queen City is the Cincinnati Native. Scooter Gennett has produced outstanding numbers while in Cincinnati that the average baseball fan would laugh at if you told them this two years ago. Since coming to Cincinnati, Gennett has been a top-three second baseman in the league, and one could make an argument that he has been the best overall. There are two teams that have come out to be the most likely to involve themselves in a deal with Cincinnati.
Possibilities in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Dodgers have expressed interest in Gennett. The Reds should be open to trading him, but that does not necessarily mean they should execute a trade. Gennett is under control through 2019, a year the Reds believe they will compete. If the Reds are serious next season, then Gennett could be a crucial piece to the puzzle Cincinnati has not solved since 1990. However, their minor league teams are stacked when it comes to infielders, specifically second base.
If the Reds deal Gennett, their focus should be pitching. The Dodgers boast a bevy of pitching prospects and rookies that would benefit the Reds. If they decide to trade with the Dodgers, young stars such as Walker Buehler, Mitchell White or Dennis Santana need to be involved in the trade. With one of those three as the centerpiece, a trade would make sense because they are already, or at least on the cusp of being Major League ready. If they are not able to land one of those three young guns, they need to look elsewhere. The Reds and Dodgers have enjoyed trading with one another, with deals hauling in Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler, and recently sending Dylan Floro and former Dodger pitcher Zach Neal to Los Angeles for James Marinan and Aneurys Zabala.
Possibilities in the Capital
The Washington Nationals are another team that has been linked to the Reds. According to Jon Heyman, Raisel Iglesias and Matt Harvey are the targets in D.C. The Nationals need another starter and Harvey could fit the bill. They are also considering converting Iglesias to a starter as well. When the Reds acquired Harvey, their hope was to turn him into a legitimate trade chip before the trade deadline. Since arriving in Cincinnati, Harvey has done everything asked of him and is turning out to be a legitimate trade chip. His ERA has been under four and has shown that even without the velocity he once had he is worthy to start for a contending team.
Whether the Nationals could convert Iglesias to a starter or keep him as a reliever, a pitcher of his talent will instantly improve any Major League team. Iglesias was originally thought of as a starter in the Reds organization. Since Iglesias was moved to closer in June of 2016, he has performed at an elite level boasting an ERA under 2.50. While he may have missed out on the 2018 All-star Game, there is no question he could easily have made the roster.
The Return from D.C.
If the Reds decide to deal either Harvey or Iglesias, they need to be positive the return is worth it. Harvey will not demand the biggest return, but can still bring back some formidable players that can contribute in the future. With Iglesias, if they do trade him, they need to demand quality talent that can contribute to the Major League club next year. Relievers are not often thought of as a position that demands a great return, but Iglesias is not your average deadline piece.
Iglesias is under control through 2021, at a very affordable price at that. Most deadline deals involve players that will be rentals for the remainder of the season, or perhaps with one extra year. The longevity and price of Iglesias’ contract places him in a rare breed of deadline potentials. If the Reds deal both Iglesias and Harvey as a package deal, the return needs to bring back a prospect that can contribute as soon as possible. Juan Soto would be ideal, but a player of his caliber might require more than a closer with the potential of a starter and former ace finding his way again. The Nationals’ number four prospect, Seth Romero, could be the centerpiece of a deal involving Iglesias and Harvey, despite his off-field issues.
Regardless of the possible returns, the Reds may get from any trades, the focus has to be for what can help next season, not projects that may remain in the minors for years. After the 2018 deadline, the time for rebuilding is over. Whether that means retaining their top trade candidates or dealing them for future pieces that will make the Reds contenders again, the time to compete is upon us. If they do not feel the offers are significant enough to rid the team of these stars, then keeping them in their lineup for the following season is the answer. Gennett wants to stay in Cincinnati and Iglesias is under control for several years.
There is no way to tell what the right move to make is, but the Reds are in a position to succeed, and after July 31, there is no looking back.