During the Winter Meetings, there were rumblings that the Dodgers were trying to move some salaries and some outfielders. The Cincinnati Reds were one team named as a potential destination, as Jay Jaffe discussed at the time. Included in that post is the following tweet by Ken Rosenthal.
In one variation of this deal, #Dodgers would take back Homer Bailey from #Reds and his remaining $28M commitment as a way of buying prospects. Bailey’s CBT number (average annual salary in multi-year deal) is $17.5M. Deal complex, still in discussion, not close. https://t.co/y3yVs5Rpsf
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2018
A little over a week later, Jeff Passan was the first to report that Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp are headed to Cincinnati, while Homer Bailey and more would be going to Los Angeles. Bob Nightengale is reporting that Reds prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray are bound for the Dodgers. Joel Sherman is reporting that $7 million is going to the Reds. And Jon Heyman has indicated Kyle Farmer is heading to Cincinnati as well. Based on what we know right now, the trade looks like this.
- Yasiel Puig
- Alex Wood
- Matt Kemp
- Kyle Farmer
- $7 million
- Homer Bailey
- Jeter Downs
- Josiah Gray
It’s not just the players who are changing hands but the money they are owed as well, so let’s add in their contracts, including the amount the Dodgers likely care about for competitive balance tax purposes.
- Yasiel Puig ($11.3 million MLBTR arbitration estimate)
- Alex Wood ($9 million MLBTR arbitration estimate)
- Matt Kemp ($21.75 million owed, $20 million tax hit)
- Kyle Farmer (Pre-Arb)
- $7 million
- Homer Bailey ($28 million owed, $17.5 million tax hit)
- Jeter Downs (prospect)
- Josiah Gray (prospect)
The Reds add $6.8 million in salary; the tax amounts are irrelevant. The Dodgers remove $6.8 million in salary, but $15.8 in taxable salary. Their current taxable payroll projects to around $180 million. They can’t add Bryce Harper and stay under the $206 million tax amount, but they can comfortably add Harper and keep their tax bill to around $2 million. Or they could add Harper and say, Corey Kluber, and pay under $10 million in competitive balance taxes.
On the field, the Dodgers had too many outfielders and a few extra starting pitchers. With Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Kenta Maeda under contract, and Julio Urias and Ross Stripling behind them, getting some value out of Alex Wood, who put up a solid 2.6 WAR last season but got a little worse each month and eventually moved to the bullpen in September, makes sense. Wood is still young, turning 28 years old in January, so it isn’t as though his $9 million expected salary is a bad value, though he will be a free agent at the end of next season. For the Dodgers, losing Wood is losing depth at a fairly high cost.
In the outfield, the Dodgers were returning Puig, Kemp, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and Enrique Hernandez as well as a major-league ready Alex Verdugo. Kemp got off to a great start last season, but was an average hitter in the second half, and even the hot first half was only good enough to make him an average player when combined with the 34-year-old’s defense. Going into 2018, Kemp wasn’t expected to make the Dodgers’ roster after Los Angeles conducted a big money swap with Atlanta about this time last year. If Kemp were a free agent today, it’s hard to see him getting more than six million dollars, so this is mostly just a salary dump.
Puig still have value, though his final 2018 numbers ended up looking a lot like Kemp’s. A 123 wRC+, combined with better defense, make him a better player than Kemp; his three-win projection for next season suggests the same. Add in his age (he turned 28 years old earlier this month), and the fact that, following a short stint on the disabled list at the end of April and beginning of May, Puig had a 145 wRC+ the rest of the way, and it’s easy to see why a team would want to acquire him. As the most expensive outfielder with trade value, it made sense for the Dodgers to move him to clear up space for younger, cheaper options. As for Farmer, he’s a major league-ready backup catcher, and with the Dodgers surplus of good catchers in the minors, he’s an extra piece to free up a roster spot.
The Dodgers are giving up decent players, but coming out a little ahead in the dollars paid and by even more when the competitive balance tax is considered. They also receive two prospects in Downs and Gray. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel recently completed the Reds’ top 33 prospect list. Downs was ranked as the Reds’ eighth best prospect, with a 45+ FV, and they had this to say about his future:
He’s a bat-first middle infielder who has a non-zero chance to stick at shortstop, and he’s likely to continue to see time there until he reaches the upper levels of the minors, at which point the Reds will make a decision as to where he fits best. Scouts in other orgs think it will be second base or the outfield. Most of Downs’ physical abilities hover near average but he does a little bit of everything, which, so long as he stays on the middle infield, gives him a good chance to be an average everyday player.
Downs is just 20 and a ways away from the majors, but he does have some potential. Gray came in 13th and received a 40+ grade:
Because of the strike throwing, fastball efficacy, and ability to spin the breaking ball give him a good shot to play a big league role, and we’ve moved Gray up beyond where we had him pre-draft. The athleticism, small school pedigree, and position player conversion aspect of the profile indicates there’s significant potential for growth as Gray gets on-mound experience. He projects as no. 4 starter, with a chance to be more because of his late-bloomer qualities.
These are hardly non-prospects the Reds are sending to Los Angeles, but they are projects who will likely need time to develop and come with considerable risk. If the Dodgers use the newfound payroll space to make a significant addition and one of the two prospects pans out, they are going to look really good, but they paid a pretty high price to make it happen. Both Wood and Puig project to have decent on-field value in 2019, and would have provided the Dodgers with depth in a season in which they are trying to compete.
As for the Reds, they just got a three-win upgrade in the outfield, to go with a one or two win upgrade in the rotation, while only adding about $7 million in payroll and not giving up any of their top prospects. It sounds crazy to say, but right now, the Reds are pretty close to the Phillies and Brewers on paper. The team is in a really tough division, and face a competitive NL Wild Card field as well, but they aren’t that far away from having a chance at a playoff spot. The team still needs more starting pitching, but the Reds aren’t as far away as last season’s 95 losses make them seem.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.