The Cincinnati Reds made a few trades in the offseason prior to the 2019 campaign. Some of them worked out a little bit differently than others. Today we are going to take a look back at the first one that happened – the trade between the Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Who was in the trade?
The Cincinnati Reds received: Kyle Farmer, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, and cash.
The Los Angeles Dodgers received: Homer Bailey, Jeter Downs, and Josiah Gray.
This trade had several parts to it. Homer Bailey and Matt Kemp were basically just contracts that were traded for each other to balance out the budgets. Bailey was immediately released and went on to sign with the Kansas City Royals before being traded to Oakland and helping the Athletics reach the playoffs. The Reds probably had some hope that Kemp could help them out in some role on the field, but it didn’t work out and he was released five weeks into the season.
The other part of the trade was Cincinnati sending two prospects, Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray for the Dodgers group of Kyle Farmer, Alex Wood, and Yasiel Puig.
The thought process behind the trade
For Cincinnati the deal was made to strengthen, in a big way, the team for 2019. Yasiel Puig projected to be a well above-average hitter that could be somewhere in the middle of their lineup. Alex Wood projected to be a guy who could match up with just about any pitcher in the league. Kyle Farmer was a toss-in that had a little bit of upside as a utility player who could also catch.
For the Dodgers it was pretty simple: They had other options that they felt were just as good as the ones they were sending away. Make the trade and try to get players to help in the future, all while not feeling like you’re harming the team today.
How the trade turned out
Depending on the kind of person you are, you’re going to judge a trade very differently than someone else. Me? I’m a guy who will not say this was a bad trade. It’s a trade that I would make 100 times out of 100. But it’s also a trade that didn’t work out for the Reds. Both of those things can be true.
Yasiel Puig failed to be anything remotely close to the guy he had been in the past, or was expected or projected to be. His 95 OPS+ with Cincinnati was the worst of his career. He was eventually traded as part of the Trevor Bauer deal, though he was more of a toss in than the main piece in that deal.
Alex Wood missed most of the season. With pitchers there’s always that risk. But in what feels like “well, that’s the Reds luck, again….”, Wood’s injury wasn’t even the kind that typically takes pitchers off of the mound. His injury was with his back, and it just didn’t get right. When he was finally healthy enough to take the mound, long after the season had already been over for all intents and purposes, he struggled to perform. And then he missed the final month of the year, too. His ERA over his handful of innings was 2.51 runs higher than his career average was coming into the year.
For the Reds, they were looking to get quality, above-average production from both Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood in 2019. They didn’t. And really, it wasn’t all that close. The idea behind the trade was great. The results of the trade were terrible.
For the Dodgers, they didn’t have a whole lot to lose in the deal. But even then it worked out well for them because both Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray improved during the year. While we are going to have to wait a while to ultimately see how their careers turn out, the fact is both are more valuable today, by a decent amount, than they were the day that the trade went down.
You can make informed decisions and still have the results not work out. Both teams in this trade made, what I believe were good decisions for their organizations. For the Reds it simply didn’t work out in the end. For the Dodgers it has.
The two prospects that were traded away would most certainly rank inside the Reds Top 10 prospect list. Neither would be the top prospect at their position, though. That’s less of an issue with Josiah Gray, who has a much larger set of roster spots he could eventually take because he is a pitcher. Downs, if you would prefer to call him a second baseman, would top that position – but may not exactly have a spot open in the Majors in Cincinnati if he had stuck around for a while depending on what happens with Nick Senzel in the long run. At shortstop, he’d still be behind Jose Garcia.
Of course, that’s only a part of the equation. The two players, even if blocked long term would still have trade value. And that is worth plenty because as we saw, you can use that to try and fill other areas in the organization. The Reds came out on the losing end of this trade, even if it was one that made a lot of sense to make at the time.