The Cincinnati Reds made a trade on Wednesday afternoon, moving infield prospect Jose Acosta to the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder Scott Heineman. The deal was first reported by C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic.
Jose Acosta, while unranked among the Cincinnati Reds prospects on any top 25 or 30 list, isn’t someone to just brush aside. The 2019 Cincinnati Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year Award winner hit .395/.481/.579 between his time in the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Rookie League in 234 plate appearances. He also stole 26 bases in 27 attempts that season. Unfortunately he didn’t get a chance to follow up on the breakout season this past year as the entirety of the minor league season was wiped out before it even got started.
It was one of the more impressive seasons that we’ve seen from a Reds minor league player in a while at the rookie ball level. Trading him away while he’s still so far from reaching the Major Leagues isn’t necessarily something that should be called into question. Unranked prospects who haven’t made it out of rookie ball don’t exactly have a great track record of reaching the big leagues in the future. Sometimes you trade players that you like in order to acquire other players that you like and ones that fill a need.
But, the timeline for Scott Heineman’s availability in the last two weeks leaves us with a question or two. On December 2nd the Rangers non-tendered Heineman, making him a free agent. His free agency didn’t last long as he quickly re-signed with Texas the next day to a Major League deal. But if he was on the Reds radar today, because he was placed on waivers earlier this week, he should have been on their radar two weeks ago when he was non-tendered. A phone call could have been placed at the time to see if he was willing to sign a big league deal with Cincinnati, which they clearly believe he’s worth since they just acquired him.
It’s certainly possible that they did make that phone call and whatever deal was offered wasn’t as good as the one offered by the Rangers, or for some reason Heineman felt better re-signing with Texas where he wouldn’t potentially be looking at being 7th on the outfield depth chart entering spring training with very little chance of breaking camp in the big leagues.
Either way, though, a player who was a free agent and likely signed for the most basic of big league deals just two weeks ago, was just acquired in a trade for a prospect coming off of a year in which he hit .395. That feels like a bit more than what one should go for given the timeline of events, and that he’s likely a 7th outfielder who will be heading off to Triple-A and only see any real playing time if he does something very unexpected in 2021 in the minors, or the team suffers several injuries to outfielders all at the same point in time at the big league level.